A guide to creating the perfect CRM strategy for your business

CRM projects are notoriously difficult to implement; The Harvard Business Review produced a great piece on why CRM projects fail, and ways to make them more successful - diluted focus and the lack of a clear strategy were cited as key reasons for failure. 

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to create the perfect CRM strategy for your business. Before we continue let’s look at what The Harvard Business Review concluded.

They came up with three key reasons why CRM projects fail:

  1. Your CRM tool exists to increase revenue: the article is emphatic that sales personnel should use the CRM to make more money. This point should be broadcast to relevant stakeholders, and form the basis of the CRM strategy.
  2. Integrate sales and marketing: the CRM strategy must focus on how to integrate sales and marketing functions. These two teams are notorious for blaming each other so a CRM strategy that holds both teams accountable and supports activities is essential.
  3. Managers should be coaches: too often a CRM is used as a stick to beat sales teams with – it’s no wonder that sales reps often find a way to manipulate figures. A successful CRM strategy will involve managers working closely to coach employees on best practice. 

What are CRM strategies?

A CRM strategy is critical for a business looking to deploy a CRM; it’s common for a business to jump straight into implementation without first considering the strategy.

Check out our complete guide to CRM requirements to determine your CRM goals for your strategy

A CRM strategy encompasses a company’s plan to deploy a CRM. It normally covers overall strategic goals and specific actions. A good CRM strategy will link back to overall commercial goals and articulate how the CRM will support those goals.

Typically, a CRM strategy relates to sales or marketing activity, but modern CRM’s can encompass a range of other disciplines like finance or customer service.

A CRM strategy will normally cover:

  • How the project will support business goals.
  • Implementation timeframe. 
  • Key stakeholders.
  • CRM selection. 
  • CRM feature requirements. 
  • CRM implementation success metrics.
  • Budgetary considerations. 
  • Training and onboarding for staff.

Richard West of Red Flag Alert developed a five-point strategy for building and implementing a CRM system. 

  1. Objectives: quantify what company goals the CRM is deployed to achieve, whether this is client retention, sales conversion or growth, be specific on how the CRM strategy will support the outcome.
  2. Requirements: once you have defined the commercial value proposition and the necessary process, consider what functionality the CRM needs to deliver your outcomes. 
  3. Measurement: this part is difficult; you need to evaluate how your CRM usage impacts your business goals. For example, your CRM may facilitate outreach to clients at the optimal time which increases sales conversions. 
  4. Data: many problems that arise from CRM projects are due to poor data. Aligning the right data and then continually updating it can become so burdensome that a CRM project is scrapped. You need to plug your CRM into the richest most up-to-date intelligence and automate the cleaning process. 
  5. Training: your team needs more than simply the technical how-to manual, they need to understand why the CRM is necessary and how their input impacts the business as a whole. Of course, ensuring the team understand the best way to use the CRM is also important.

CRM strategy framework

The most effective CRM projects use a framework to ensure success. A framework codifies how the CRM will interact with the business goals and add value; it is often a graphical representation but can be a written document.

A good framework acknowledges the key tenets of a successful CRM and guides CRM project managers to make sure they address these points. CRM strategy frameworks are continually evolving and many are kept private.

A good framework will outline the key areas for success (data, training, customer journey, etc) and how these facets interact – for example, the importance of data in delivering an effective customer journey.

The final element is the interaction with business goals; all of this activity should make a measurable impact on outcomes.

How you can improve your CRM strategy

The million-dollar question – how do you build a great CRM strategy? Here are five critical elements for successful implementation of a CRM project. 

#1 Set a goal

This may be starting to sound a little repetitive, but not doing this will lead to a range of problems - the primary problem being that you have no idea whether your project has been a success. 

You don’t need to be too granular here, priorities will inevitably change over time but you should have a high-level view of what you are trying to achieve with your CRM project. 

For example:

  • Within 24 months of deploying CRM our revenue per sales rep will increase by 35%.

This will be measured using a CRM dashboard that tracks:

  • Sales rep key actions per week.
  • Time spent interacting with key prospects.
  • Conversion rate from lead to close.

#2 Setup for success

Most businesses use CRM for some type of resource allocation, whether this is where to focus time or what customers to prioritize. 

Whatever the priority for your business, ensure the CRM is set up to support you. For example, a key goal for your CRM project may be generating more revenue from the top 15% of engaged clients – work out how you will achieve this and what part the CRM will play.

For example:

To generate 10% more revenue from our most engaged 15% of clients we need to:

  • Meet them more often.
  • Discover more tactics for how we can sell products to clients.
  • Get to know more people in those businesses.

This may convert into a set of CRM-specific targets:

  • Add four people from target organizations into the CRM every year.
  • Add three new sales opportunities into the CRM every quarter.
  • Provide ten new quotes for that customer every year.

Check out our top 10 CRM features that bring the highest ROI for more on specific targets and benefits

Once you’ve defined the key metrics the CRM can be set up to ensure they are simple to track.

# 3 Keep it simple 

Taking on a new set of working practices is difficult for teams; the day-to-day reality of the job combined with learning a new system can cause immense stress. Once teams become disillusioned it can be very hard to roll out a CRM project.

There are a few simple tactics that can help you integrate a CRM into your working practices:

  • Run a beta test: it’s difficult to predict how users will react to a new system, so if possible roll it out to a small subset of users first. Closely monitor the pain points and think about how these can be avoided when you roll out to the wider team.
  • Stagger the rollout: where possible introduce features to your team in manageable chunks. Make sure everyone is capable with the basics before demonstrating some of the more advanced features – a gradual roll-out helps users feel in control.
  • Provide support: it’s best to presume that at least some team members will struggle so put provisions in place for training and support.  Make sure everyone has a contact they can rely on to help them with any questions on the new CRM.

#4 Constantly evolve

The work is never done.

When you roll out a CRM project you will immediately think of improvements. This is common, but don’t expect to get it right the first time. See the first rollout as the first phase and expect the changes to be ongoing.

Changes in the business and new technology will mean that your CRM doesn’t stay static for very long. You can address this with periodic reviews that ask whether the CRM is achieving its purpose and whether there are any improvements that can be made.

Alongside the longer-term strategic reviews there will be bugs, data issues, integrations, feature requirements and training to manage. It is important to make sure someone in the organization is responsible for the successful deployment of the CRM. 

A sensible schedule may look like:

Every year: staff training on new features and refresher on best practice. 

Every six months: review CRM success metrics and review long term CRM roadmap.

Every three months: review operational effectiveness with operational management teams.

Every two weeks: update on new system improvement projects. 

Ongoing: a helpdesk to support problems and technical queries.

#5 Get your data right 

Part of your strategy must focus on data.

Without the right data your CRM will fail; here are a few key points to consider in your data:

  • Setup: consider how you will import data into your CRM, it’s likely there will be challenges around formatting the data to fit your new system. This process will probably include a bespoke element so be prepared for a time and financial cost.
  • Data hygiene: CRM data decays fast, estimates vary but 22.5% per year cited by Hubspot feels like a realistic rate of decay. You need a process to ensure data is updated by staff at every opportunity and where possible automate your data updates by plugging it into a business intelligence dataset that updates in real-time. 

Getting your CRM strategy right is a challenge, recent research shows that 70% of CRM implementation projects fail to achieve the expected outcomes - if you can get our strategy right the prospect of failure is considerably lower.

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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