Are You Asking the Right Questions When Buying a CRM System?
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 do you find works well with the current system?
- What do you find difficult with the current system?
- What features would you like to have automated?
- What are the overall goals you would like to achieve with the information?
- What are must-have actions you need the system to perform?
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.
- Form a “committee” of key user / stakeholder groups. To ensure you meet the needs of all key users and stakeholders and end up with a product everyone agrees upon (or at least to limit finger pointing afterward) it’s a good idea to include a representative from each group.
- Get a list of “must haves” from each member. Viewing CRM from a marketing perspective, my main requirement of a CRM system is the ability to create fields by which I can segment contacts. A salesperson, on the other hand, may need to integrate Outlook “touches” with the system, and the IT staff may be concerned about technical aspects, such as the process for importing/exporting contacts. Still others may have entirely different needs and concerns. Be careful to cover all of these when choosing a CRM system.
- Develop a shortlist of systems and use the must haves as a checklist. Once you have a shortlist of systems (ideally, 3-4) to review, each committee member should analyze each possible system against their criteria and check off the list.
- Come to a mutual agreement. Once you’ve gone through this process you will likely have one or two systems that suit the needs of all members. Now, it’s time to reconvene and come to an agreement. My suggestion is to do this in an open forum where all questions / concerns can be aired.
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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