December 16, 2016

6 Ways to Prepare Your Small Business for a CRM Implementation

Strategic CRM implementation can ensure benefits for both your business and stakeholders

Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, particularly for small businesses, is not always easy. It’s a comprehensive process that, while ultimately benefiting your operations and customers in a variety of ways, can quickly become frustrating.

But it doesn’t have to be. If you approach your CRM implementation strategically, you can ensure a successful process that ultimately benefits both your business and your stakeholders with minimal friction. To help in that process, here are 6 ways to prepare your small business for a CRM implementation.

1. Understand Your Goals

As any strategic process, planning your implementation has to begin with goal setting. Exactly what do you want to get out of the new software? Try to stay away from general answers such as improving business practices, and get specific instead. Which processes could and should be automated? Which current problems do you face in interacting with current and potential customers?

To succeed in this step, we recommend following the SMART goals framework. Each objective of the CRM implementation should be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and set within a specific time frame. Only once you understand exactly what you are looking to get out of the software should you proceed with the implementation.

2. Examine Your Current Processes

Implementing your CRM will likely include at least some process automation. A core reason why businesses take this step is to move away from manual outreach to potential and current customers, or hand recording of relevant information about this audience and their interactions with your brand. To ensure lasting success, examine what exact processes you are currently undertaking, and how they are structured.

For example, you may send a weekly email newsletter to current customers with coupons and other loyalty-based promotional items. You may also have a lead nurturing strategy in place that helps you increase your contact-to-customer conversions. In the course of your CRM implementation, you can automate these processes, but only if you know exactly how they are constructed. Examine the processes you look to implement, in order to smoothen the project as it occurs.

3. Strategize Your Timing

There is no perfect timing for a major software implementation. The long-term benefits of a CRM are significant, but that doesn’t take away from the resources and efforts you will need to get it up and running. There is, however, a least bad time for your implementation. Don’t start your project without first understanding when that time would be.

For example, you would not want your employees occupied and sales systems down during the holiday season. Most businesses experience lulls in revenue, which tend to be great opportunities to divert resources that may be difficult to give up in the short term, but encourage long-term growth. You should also keep in mind the employees who will need to spend time on the implementation, and whether their time is needed elsewhere during your suggested frame.

4. Choose the Right Product

A large part of your implementation preparation should be dedicated to finding the right CRM software, and validating that you have made the right decision. A number of competitors will vie for your attention online, and cutting through the noise to find actual benefits is crucial.

To accomplish that goal, get in touch with organizations comparable to yours that are using one of the systems you’re looking to implement, and get their unbiased opinion. You can also match your business needs with product capabilities. Unbiased sources list benefits of quality products like Microsoft Dynamics. Its Outlook and Office integration, for example, make it a perfect fit for small businesses like yours.

5. Get Your Stakeholders On Board

Another invaluable step preparing for a successful implementation is to take stock and try to shift stakeholder sentiment. We’re naturally resistant to change, which means that a major project like new CRM software will not be universally celebrated by your employees and management.

Nonetheless, you can take steps that ease the process. Outline the benefits of a CRM, and show tangible examples of how everyone’s work can be eased through the new software.

Benchmark statistics, such as the fact that each dollar invested in a CRM on average brings a $5.60 return on investment, can be persuasive particularly among budget-focused managers. Sales professionals, on the other hand, may be more convinced by a demo walkthrough of the software to show how their daily jobs would improve as a result of the implementation.

6. Leave Time for Testing

New CRM software is complex. The implementation will take time, and not everything that works in theory will be just as smooth in practice. That’s why, when preparing for a CRM implementation, you should plan in regular testing periods where you can take stock of what you have built, and whether it works as intended.

If you don’t leave this time, you risk a situation in which an email intended to current customers shoots off to all contacts in your database, simply because of a false line in a workflow filter. Only thorough testing of everything you built can ensure that’s not the case. Instead of burdening your team with a massive quality assurance task at the end of the implementation, testing on an ongoing basis can improve your success rate significantly.

Most of us don’t want to admit it, but 75% of all software implementations fail. The reason is often simple: a lack of preparation. The benefits of CRM software for your small business will remain theoretical if you don’t approach it strategically, with specific goals in mind. Through the above steps, you can make sure that your CRM implementation is successful, and your business can benefit from the software for years to come.

If you have struggled with CRM implementations in the past, or if you are considering CRM for the first time, why not talk to the experts at INTELLAM?  We will be happy to provide you with a complimentary consultation.