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Sep 27, 2021 11 min read

Step-by-step guide: Crafting a CRM strategy

A custom configured CRM solution will change your mind about CRM, marketing automation, and customer service software.

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John Chlopek

John Chlopek
Principal, Business Solutions Practice

Traditional CRM: Getting in the way of sales and marketing

Sales and marketing teams are expected to wear a lot of hats, and success is driven by tools and solutions that meet business needs and help build great customer relationships. Why then are so many teams struggling to get traction with customers and address strategic goals, even with the support of today’s customer relationship management (CRM) software?

Getting derailed by administrative tasks, managing leads and campaigns manually, and reviewing accounts to spot opportunities and red flags isn’t a good use of anybody’s time, and it quickly destroys sales and marketing ROI. Unfortunately, many CRM systems expect teams to do all that, and more. It’s time somebody simplified CRM – eliminating the hassle of data management, and delivering both flexibility and essential functionality, so salespeople and marketing teams can get back to the business of building and nurturing relationships!

What CRM should do to support sales and marketing

One of the biggest ways CRM solutions can support sales and marketing efforts is through automation. By streamlining common processes and reducing the opportunity for human error, an automated CRM system makes it easy to:

  • Identify target customers

  • Generate qualified leads

  • Provide more visibility into customer experiences and behaviors

  • Monitor the customer journey through the sales funnel

  • Manage communication with customers efficiently across all channels

  • Develop and improve long-term customer retention and relationships

  • Streamline customer information and project management

With all this information at hand, your sales team can pursue the right opportunities at the right time, or collaborate with your marketing team to deliver targeted and useful content to your prospects. As a result, selling becomes a more personalized experience that’s focused on the customer.

Benefits of a CRM solution

Any team within your organization that interacts with customers can greatly benefit from utilizing a CRM solution, including your sales, marketing, support, and management teams. A custom configured CRM solution delivers a high-definition look into your customer data, removing blind spots, eliminating busy work, and shattering roadblocks to business success.

At Highland, we deliver implementation strategies and custom configured CRM solutions that centralize data in one place, increase collaboration and standardization throughout your sales process, and craft a solution that’s built to help you sell more, faster.

Is your CRM solution at risk?

According to a study by CIO Magazine, CRM implementations fail on average about 30% of the time. Several respondents indicated that their failure rates were as high as 69%! As a result, team members lose opportunities and revenue.

Is your CRM solution at risk? It could be if:

  • The database isn’t flexible enough to adapt to your business processes

  • It lacks the scalability required to meet your business growth plans

  • Nobody has defined support processes or identified existing gaps upfront

  • End users are poorly trained, under-resourced, or make common mistakes

To avoid adding to this CRM failure pile, start with a solid plan to get you from idea to execution to success. Let me walk you through our step-by-step guide to crafting a CRM strategy.

Step 1 - Establish your CRM goals

First, think about what you want your CRM to achieve in order to deliver the value you need. Setting high-level goals will provide a benchmark to help you understand how CRM success will be measured.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of the top five business team needs organizations want from their CRM investment:

  1. Improved customer insight - A single, 360-degree view of each customer

  2. Better reporting – Detailed data on customer behavior to fuel better business decisions

  3. Automated workflows – Streamlining recurring tasks to make people more efficient

  4. Increased lead generation – Fueling the pipeline for sales and marketing

  5. Enhanced customer service – Build loyal, long-term customer satisfaction and relationships

Once you have your goals in place, prioritize them so you can more easily build out a roadmap that is relevant, realistic, and meets your needs around budget, resources, and timelines.

Step 2 – Identify integration requirements

Now take a look at your current IT infrastructure and decide which applications and tools will need to work with your CRM. These might include:

  • Marketing automation tools

  • Email platforms

  • Business Intelligence software

  • Web forms

  • External databases

  • ERP systems

Step 3 – Identify end users and how they will utilize CRM

While most understand how sales and marketing teams get significant and measurable value from a successful CRM implementation, nearly every other cost center can benefit as well.

A CRM system streamlines processes for sales associates, giving them a centralized resource to guide customers through the sales cycle, putting contact information, purchase history, internal notes, conversation logs, and more at their fingertips.

Marketers use CRM platforms to create targeted customer lists, track campaigns, and automate communication in a multi-channel environment. When an activity has been completed, marketers can utilize CRM data to track information like customer feedback, campaign effectiveness, and metrics.

Operations organizations—particularly customer service and fulfillment teams—are key to keeping CRM data relevant and valuable, keeping records updated with customer interactions, order updates, and other information that extends the insight into a customer’s relationship with a brand.

Human resources
While the connection might not initially seem intuitive, HR managers can use CRM platforms to monitor employee performance over time, tracking KPIs that can inform employee reviews for functions including sales, marketing, customer support, and fulfillment.

Finance uses CRM reports and data to identify departments that can benefit from cost optimization. In addition, having easy, direct access to revenue forecasts and other financial data enables finance teams to quickly get the real-time data they need for financial planning and strategic decision making.

Step 4 – How to select a partner for CRM custom configuration and implementation

When you are evaluating potential CRM partners, it’s a given that you check references, research the partner’s business history, and make sure that key personalities mesh on both sides. A few additional things to keep in mind include:

  1. Do they have experience with companies your size? If you’re a medium to small to medium-sized business (SMB), partnering with a solution provider that focuses primarily on enterprise companies could be a mistake. While they may bring a lot of impressive bells and whistles to the table, they may offer much more than what you need and may not be able to understand typical small business needs and goals. You will likely also find that the cost is significantly out of your range.

  2. What is their discovery process like? For a successful CRM deployment, your implementation partner must take time upfront to truly research your business and understand it from the inside out. Make sure the partner you choose has a CRM implementation process that includes a comprehensive Discovery Phase. This phase includes learning about your business strategies, goals and objectives, business challenges, company culture, and the end users who will be working with the CRM system daily.

  3. Is open and clear communication part of their culture? Nobody likes being in the dark when making a CRM investment. Ask about their process for status updates, how they communicate about complex technical concepts or issues, and what their average response time is for questions and concerns.

  4. Is their consultation or demo relevant to your business? A partner who truly understands (and wants) your business comes to the table with a consultation and a demo that’s been tailored to what you need and how you will use your CRM technology. Make sure to get hands-on experience with what they provide (data migration, CRM features, custom fields, etc.) so you can see for yourself how it stacks up on ease of use compared to others you’re evaluating.

  5. Does their solution work with your legacy infrastructure? The only way to get value and ROI for your CRM investment is if it works seamlessly with your legacy apps, tools, and software. Don’t sign on the dotted line with any provider until you confirm this.

  6. How do they handle technology gaps? Often a solution implementation project uncovers gaps in your existing infrastructure that will impact the outcome of your CRM rollout. A true technology partner brings the experience and resources that will enable them to outline not only a scope of requirements, but also deliver an actionable roadmap for bridging those gaps to ensure the results you need.

  7. Do they have the resources to not just get the job done—but also to scale? In order to deliver as promised, your CRM partner must have the technology and personnel to meet the requirements of your project, but that’s not enough. Make sure that this is a partner who can scale as your business evolves and with whom you can work in the long term.

At Highland, we specialize in the design and implementation of custom configured CRM solutions for the SMB and Enterprise market. We offer more than 10 years of experience delivering unparalleled expertise in leveraging CRM software to help our clients build extraordinary customer relationships.

Step 5 - Plan and approve your new CRM design

When working with a CRM partner, be proactive in fueling the functional spec for your solution. Information to share with your partner might include:

For CRM software

  1. Provide a detailed outline of the tasks and goals that your CRM system must help achieve

  2. Incorporate the input and needs of your end users

  3. Build with an eye on competitive advantage using cloud, mobile, and social

For CRM dashboards

  1. Understand how departments will use CRM, and build custom configured dashboards for each unique discipline

  2. Keep it simple, with customizable views: Too much information on a screen is distracting

  3. Listen to user input and feedback, and fine-tune dashboards based upon their preferences

Step 6 – Top 5 ways to drive user adoption

When it comes to your new CRM system, the bottom line is this: If it’s not getting used, it’s not generating value. Adoption and sustained use are critical to ROI.

In any organization, there will always be some amount of resistance to a new software or solution. Having a clear adoption plan in place and executing on it before configuration begins, will make it much easier to get the traction you need with CRM users after deployment.

Here are the steps to take to generate awareness and adoption within your teams:

  1. Ask for input – Make sure users understand the business objectives driving the CRM project and ask for their input as you work to gather requirements.

  2. Highlight the value – Ensure it is clear to end users how the new CRM solution will address the business challenges they’ve been having.

  3. Align with departmental influencers – Get buy-in and onboard department heads and high-profile staff with the solution early to help drive use in their organizations.

  4. Provide training and support – Offer initial training on the new system, and also make additional training available for new hires and users who may need more help mastering the system

  5. Revisit and adjust - Remember to check in with users after deployment to record their feedback and make any related adjustments.

Step 7 – Checklist: Best practices for CRM deployment

Your new CRM is built and ready to deploy—or is it? Download our checklist that highlights best practices for rolling your new CRM system out to users.

Custom configuration is key to CRM success

While CRM platforms provide an excellent platform foundation, they need to be custom configured in order to meet business needs and truly deliver the greatest value to your business. This requires a talented team like the CRM strategists, designers, and implementers at Highland.

Our team aims to deliver what you and your customers really want and since our introduction, we’ve helped hundreds of companies successfully implement a CRM solution that transforms the way they do business.

Frustrated with your CRM?

A custom configured CRM solution will change your mind about CRM, marketing automation, and customer service software. Our CRM experts at Highland are ready to help you transform your sales and marketing with a custom configured solution that will save you time and money, and build the long-term, loyal customer relationships you want.

We don’t help you download new technology and press, “install.” We help you adopt a brand new-way of thinking: of a customer being at the heart of business and all information kept in one centralized database. It’s a strategic business approach that unites technology, internal processes, employees, across the entire organization, with an aim to attract and keep customers.

Have questions about CRM custom configuration? Let’s chat!