Below is a guest blog by Gene Marks, a CPA, author, columnist, and owner of The Marks Group. Gene writes every day on small business for the Washington Post; twice a week for Forbes and weekly for Inc, & Entrepreneur.
When considering a customer relationship management (CRM) system for one’s business, most people devote their time to evaluating an application’s features, cost, customizability, scalability, and how quickly it can be implemented. It’s all good and important stuff. But it’s not as important as something else: a look in the mirror.
CRM is not for everyone. For sure, a good CRM system, if implemented the right way, can benefit any business of any size and in any industry. But sometimes a company just doesn’t have the culture for CRM. This is not a fault of the company. In fact, I’ve come across many great, profitable and growing organizations that – for reasons I’ll dive into below – are just not able to succeed with a CRM system. Is this your company? To find out, you should ask yourself these three questions. If the answers aren’t positive you might want to consider whether or not a CRM system is right for you.
One: Do you have the right resources?
In the end, your CRM system is just a database. But it’s a database – if used the right way – that will be accessed by most, if not all, of your employees and it will help them significantly improve productivity, profits, and sales. Like any asset, it will require an investment and, like any investment, it will require resources – both time and money.
Sure, you’ll have to subscribe to the software. But the software cost will be just a small part of your overall investment. To get your system off the ground, running smoothly, and then growing with your company, you will need people to be involved. You may need to hire external partners, consultants, developers, integrators, and specialists in the application. You will definitely need your employees to spend time on the system. You’ll want to assign user and database administrators. You’ll need some IT support. You’ll want to organize training.
All of these activities take time, and time is money. This is time that your people will be spending that will be taken away from their normal jobs. It may require overtime. It will definitely result in questions, frustrations, challenges, and pushback from some – it’s all normal human behavior. Regardless, it will require resources and you’ve got to make sure they’re available.
Two: Is there a clear way to evaluate your return on investment?
If you’re going to spend $1,000 or $1 million on a CRM system, you’re choosing to do so in lieu of investing in another asset. Is this a good investment? Would your money be better spent on a piece of equipment, or some inventory, or hiring a new customer service representative? Or maybe just sitting in the bank collecting interest? To justify whether you need a CRM system initially, and whether or not the system is generating a satisfactory return on investment in the future, you need a clear-cut way of evaluating your ROI.
It’s not as hard as you might think. You’re in business to profit, so a CRM system – like any investment – should be helping you generate more profit. There are really just two ways to generate more profit: increase your sales and/or decrease your expenses. It’s just math.
Think about sales. How many opportunities have you lost in the past couple of years because you didn’t follow-up on a task or something fell through the cracks? How many dollars are you overlooking because your people aren’t asking the right questions of your existing customers? How many customers did you lose because you didn’t keep a close relationship with them?
Now think about expenses. Will a CRM system help you improve productivity? Answer calls faster? Respond to problems quicker? Get more things done with less people? Can you quantify this?
Before getting started with this system, create these profitability metrics and then closely measure during and after the implementation. If you find yourself unable to do this, then you might want to reconsider your investment – because this is how you’ll satisfy yourself that your investment is worth it.
Three: Are you resolute?
A CRM system can be a tremendous benefit to your company, but it can also take a tremendous amount of work. While it’s just a database, it can be a powerful database. However, for it to be useful and productive the data needs to be accurate and complete. If the data isn’t good, your system is a waste.
So how to make sure you have a great database? People need to be trained. Internal controls over the data need to be established. Specific rules and processes need to be created – and then enforced. Everyone will need to modify what they’re doing, throw away those spreadsheets, stop making notes on the back of an envelope, enter information after calls and appointments, and really spend time in this system that they were previously not spending their time in. All of this takes effort and it requires change. People generally don’t like change, particularly when they don’t see the big picture or how the change is helping them.
So that’s your job. Once you’ve decided to go down this path you – as a leader – must be resolute. You cannot look back. You will be positive. You will not give in to the few (and there will be a few) who complain or want to go back to the old way of doing things. You will hear people out and make adjustments and ensure that problems are fixed. But you will commit to making your system a success.
The reality in 2018 is that there are many great CRM systems that will, if implemented the right way, contribute much to a company’s profitability and value. But there’s no such thing as the perfect system. So your job is to choose what you think will be best for your company and then make sure – by providing the right resources, having clear metrics to evaluate its return on investment, and then steeling yourself to get the job done over the long term – that the system ultimately meets and exceeds everyone’s expectations. When I hear of companies that failed with a CRM system, it’s usually because they never asked these questions before they got started. Now you know!
We’d like to invite you to continue the discussion and learn more about making the right CRM choice for your business. Join us for a webinar on April 26th, “3 tips for choosing the right CRM for your business.” Register for free.