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It's never too late to re-think your CRM Strategy

The other day an acquaintance of mine advised me that he was upgrading his aging CRM System. When I asked him what he was doing to replace the system, he gave me a strange look as if the answer was obvious. "I'm going to find something cheap with a low total cost of ownership" he said. The answer was remarkable mainly because the existing CRM system that he and his colleagues were using was not well liked. But even more remarkable was the fact that the criteria to select a new system were not linked to any sort of CRM Strategy.

CRM not a Tactic
When I mentioned this little fact, he replied that CRM is a tactic, and that all required processes such as automation are included as part of the software package. With all due respect, I think my friend missed an all important point. CRM strategy is much bigger than that. It is a vision to create more value for the Customer, and profitability for companies, and we ignore it at our peril.

Taking the CRM Risk
It is sometimes very easy for most companies to take a tactical approach when looking at CRM, especially after a failed CRM initiative, where we all may be tempted to ignore the risks and focus on areas such as efficiency or cost-cutting. But there are big rewards to taking the plunge by placing emphasis on the customer and developing a related strategy.

The true CRM Focus
One of the keys to developing a CRM vision is to change the company’s emphasis from Products & Services over to Customers. Admittedly it is natural for companies to focus much of their attention on their product and services. Eventually though and as the company matures they hopefully develop a customer-centric focus.

Looking into the Mirror
When writing a strategy, it is also important to have a realistic look at the strengths and weaknesses of your company. This includes external entities, partners, suppliers, etc.

Evolving your Strategy
A CRM Strategy can always evolve. That is why benchmarking is very important. This is the part of the strategy that helps to ensure that your company is on course to achieving its vision and intended destination. There are many tools to use for this including  Deming's PDCA.

Putting the plan into action
Once the strategy and vision is in place, it is necessary to have alignment throughout the organisation. For example, if your strategy involves an online store, then it is necessary to work with your CIO to determine how this goal is best achieved. This form of envisioning starts with the customer experience, and ends with details such as response times. Often times it will help if your technology team has a strong ITIL focus.

As you can probably appreciate, building a strategy takes a lot of hard work. But in the end, it will be well worth the effort.

Getting back to my acquaintance, I spoke with him about the need for a CRM Strategy, and told him that the best place to start would be with his Managing Director and possibly the Board. He has since discovered that changing from a tactical approach over to a strategic one provided him with the right focus to fix not only his tactical requirements but at the same time being involved in a more well-rounded/company supported CRM strategy and vision. 

Summary: 3 Key points to remember when working on Strategy:

1. Think "Customer-Centeric"
2. Know your Strengths and Weaknesses
3. Always measure your progress.

If you are looking for ideas on how to start, please see the links below:

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Tim Lambert

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