Your customer list is your business

by Jeff Rutowski on April 16, 2013

Your customer list is the lifeblood of your business. In fact, it IS your business. You use it for email marketing, direct marketing, customer recognition programs, sales tracking, product management and more. Choosing the right customer relationship management system (“CRM”) can have a huge impact on the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

As you are implementing your list building programs, you want to be sure that your CRM is ready to make the most of those efforts.

When you are looking for a customer relationship management application, there are choices. Do you go open source or do you out-of-the box? How much power do you need? How large is your customer base? What are your growth plans? These are just some of the questions that you may have. Proper planning will prevent poor performance and will save you time and money in the long run. Before you trash your current system that you are using for managing your customers, make sure that you plan at the appropriate level of detail.

Here are some CRM planning considerations.

1. Make sure you know what your requirements are. This means that you need to go through every department or aspect of your business that touches your CRM. How do they use it? What do they use it for? What do they need it to do that it doesn’t? What features do you need to improve your day-to-day processes?

2. How much do you want to spend? If you go open-source, you may find that you have to hire programming staff to help you maintain it. The cost of an out-of-the box system may be higher up front but there may be long-term savings in terms of support.

3. Create an implementation project plan. Your plan should identify each of the modules that you will need and the departments or functions that you want to implement. Your project plan will also form the basis for your testing plan.

4. Conduct a pilot program for the implementation. Identify a couple of super-users–if you have them. Install a limited version of the CRM and have your super-users bang on it. This pilot program will help you create the larger implementation plan and also help you identify particular areas of focus during the full implementation. Be sure to establish a structured process for collecting information on issues and comments from your super-users.

5. Review the results from the super-user testing and plan updates and changes to the application or its settings. Then test again.

6. Create a full implementation checklist. This will be a time-consuming, detailed task but it is also one of the most important elements of the process. Each step of the installation and subsequent testing and go/no-go decision checkpoints must be carefully plotted and considered.

7. If you will use your CRM for email marketing, be sure to thoroughly document all aspects of email marketing that are currently being used and map those over to your new system.

8. You will also want to be sure that your sales system can feed your CRM and that your CRM can effectively support your products and services.

These are just a few of the steps and considerations that should be followed when you are considering implementing a new Customer Relationship Management System. The time you take to plan and test will not be wasted.

Previous post:

Next post: