The biggest mistake that companies make when they choose a CRM is that they spend so much time evaluating vendors and trying on different functionality that they miss their actual business needs and priorities.
These days, it is almost impossible to function without a solid CRM system at the heart of your tech stack (although you would be shocked at the many businesses that still do). As an independent consultant, the largest problem I see with most technical solutions is that companies spend so much time investigating and evaluating what is deemed to be the 'best on the market' solution, that they miss the valuable exercise of ensuring functionality enables the outcomes that align to the business strategy. So here are my top tips to ensure you pick the right CRM solution.
1 - PAIN POINTS: What are the most inefficient processes in your business you would like to improve?
This doesn't have to be solely focused on your CRM, as often, the symptom is not the cause of your pain. Having some wider conversations about your processes and technology will add much more focus to where a CRM can add value and what functionality within it might be important to look for. What's more, it shouldn't be solely focused on just sales or marketing but a wider view of the painful operational processes. Even if the documented pain points sit outside of a CRM solution, you will have some idea of where to go next.
2 - TOUCHPOINTS: What operational processes and workflows do you lack and need to add?
Once you're been through your list of pains, you can also create a list of desires. It's much easier to know clearly what you want once you know what is causing you the most pain. Again, think broadly and use this time to dream big. You may not be able to satisfy all of it, but you might also bring up a game-changing requirement that is simple to deliver.
3 - USERS: Who in your business is going to use CRM? How many users do you need?
No matter what solution you pick, there will be license types and decisions to make. Deciding on license numbers and (in some cases) license types has the largest impact on your budget. It's important to know how many users, in what teams, what tasks they will perform, and in what frequency to create a clear picture of your user personas. When it comes down to license negotiations with a vendor, you will be glad you did this.
4 - INTEGRATIONS: What other tools do you need/want to integrate with a CRM system?
Right now, there are marketing operations teams all over the globe with Frankenstein Martech stacks. With nearly 9,000 tools available to the modern marketeer, you need to be very clear from the get-go how your CRM will interact with your existing system and your future plans. Some CRM's have incredible native integration capability and some have complex API structures which will likely need development support. Start by documenting your tech stack alongside your customer journey. Be clear on what tool does what so you can decide where data should and should not be shared.
5 - COST: What is your budget? What does that include?
Another common pitfall I see is the lack of thought given to 'total cost of ownership'. Your budget needs to stretch much wider than just the year 1 license fee. You may need external support to help implement and train your CRM, or to integrate it into your tech stack. You might need to recruit a specialist to use the tool within the business. You may want company-wide training and adoption. Whilst all of these items are optional, make sure you know what is in your plan so you don't end up selecting a great tool that you can't deploy successfully.
6 - ALIGNMENT: How does this process help you achieve your business strategy?
Do not lose sight of your company goals and I really encourage you to write down why this CRM system will help you to achieve your business strategy. Make a short and memorable statement and keep referring to it through your selection process and project. This will not only help you when selecting the tool but will also enable you to promote the project internally by getting behind the bigger picture and building capability that supports the business needs.
If you are selecting a CRM, or indeed any other piece of Martech and are unsure if you are doing the right thing, I implore you to get some help from experienced consultants. Selecting technology often seems a simple exercise but it has wide-reaching implications of cost, resource and efficiency if you get it wrong. Put some focus in at the beginning and you will be glad you did.