As a B2B marketing consultant, I know that a well-maintained client and prospect database (or lack thereof) can make or break a marketing campaign. More importantly, the right CRM system allows marketers to measure the ROI of a series of “touches” via long-term client development strategy. That said, a CRM system serves different purposes for different departments and it’s important to include a collaboration of all stakeholders.
I was recently involved in a committee to help choose a database/CRM system for a client. Now, my expertise lies in marketing strategy and execution, and I admittedly know very little about databases. However, I did know what my needs were as a marketer, and that made all the difference in the world. I was able to contribute to the team, learn a good deal in the process, and help find a CRM solution that fit the whole firm.
Choosing the right CRM system comes down to asking the right questions:
Who Are The Users?
In order to satisfy the needs or every department, first consider who will collect/enter the information, who will use the information, and who will handle the technical aspects of maintaining the database system. In a larger firm, this may include administrative staff, marketing, sales, and IT. For a smaller firm, it may just be a few individuals that wear many hats. Knowing which (and how many) people will use the CRM system can help in determining the budget and ensure that everyone’s needs are fulfilled.
What Are The In-House Capabilities?
Knowing the technical capabilities of your current IT equipment and staff helps determine whether a self-hosted or cloud-based solution is best for your firm.
What are the needs?
Start by asking some broad/high level questions to key staff who will be using the database and its information. These might include:
What is the overall budget?
Establishing a budget before starting research is key in saving time.
What systems are others in your industry using?
With the multitude of systems on the market, you could really spend months investigating all of them. I’ve found that it’s helpful to conduct an informal survey of others in your industry. Try to learn: what systems they use, what they like and dislike, an average price range, what the cost structure is like, and what they would choose now if they could do it over. Posting your queries on industry-specific LinkedIn groups is a great way to gather such insight.
Once you’ve identified your firm’s needs, wants, and other considerations and identified a few contending systems, it’s time to enter the analysis process.
Being involved in the process of choosing the right CRM system has been a bit trial and error overall, but the steps outlined above are the takeaways I’ve collected that have helped to streamline the effort for successive projects. We’d love to hear any other tips or best practices you’ve found in choosing a CRM system. Please share them in the comments section below!
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