CRM Defined

I spent a couple of very interesting days last week participating on an expert panel exploring how CRM might help conservation organizations. The expert panel was brought together by Agren, a private consulting firm dedicated to helping agriculture find profitable solutions to environmental challenges. I commend Agren for their innovative mindset and chutzpah to tackle a topic like this. They are blazing a new trail in how they think about conservation work.

Reflecting back on the two days we spent together, perhaps the biggest challenge for the group was to define and understand what CRM is and how it can be used. With several expert voices in the room, I wonder if the waters didn’t get muddier instead of clearer.

CRM, Customer Relationship Management, is at least a strategy, a business process a technology and a culture.

First CRM is a strategy.

Who are your customers? What is your plan (i.e. strategy) for interacting with those customers? Do you want to communicate with them? When? How? Do you want to provide service to them? What level of service to which customers? Do you want to sell to new customers? How? What solutions?

To be successful in anything, including CRM, you need to have a goal, to know what you are trying to achieve, you need to know what success looks like.

Second CRM is a business process and an ENABLING technology

Once you figure out you strategy, how are you going to operationalize it? How do you keep track of leads? Communications? Service calls? When should you follow-up? Which sales and marketing tactics are working? Which trade shows are generating more leads that you should sign up for again? What technology will enable the users to do their job better? Faster? With more impact?

It is critically important to remember that CRM technology enables and supports your business processes.  If you haven’t sorted out how you want to do follow-up, distribute leads, or how you want marketing and sales to together it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible to get the value you should out of CRM.

Third CRM is a culture.

CRM is not an 18-month project, after which you can go back to business as usual.  CRM is not a magical technology that will transform sales reps behavior (or anybody else’s) by itself. CRM is a cultural shift starting at the top of the organization and commitment to listen to customers and drive business decisions based on information about your customers.