How are you handling the data you are compiling with your CRM program? The challenge for industry firms is not just the old “garbage in garbage out” dilemma, but also how to process the data that has been collected. I realize that most of the programs used today can process the data and create fantastic reports. Since it was sold to you as the answer to your prayers, has it done just that?
The data collection process seems simple enough. Project managers, management, accounting, marketing and business development staff enter data whenever something changes. There are two roadblocks to the process: People who neglect to enter the data and similar data entered by different people that are in conflict.
CRM is like planting a beautiful garden. The piece of dirt is not beautiful when you plan the garden but is beautiful in your vision for what it will be. The garden is a process from dirt to beauty in the summer sun. The middle is the difficult part for both the garden and CRM. The middle is called maintenance.
If we let the garden go for a few weeks in the summer when we go on vacation, we are greeted with weeds that are taller than the flowers upon our return. The same is true when we put our CRM on autopilot.
Remember that the more data you collect, the more you will have to maintain. The initial investment in resources for the new CRM platform can be dwarfed by the on-going resources needed to maintain it. Since these are fixed costs and not new capital investments, management can often overlook their impact on the bottom line.
One important resource is the time and effort of staff who are closest to the client and can pass on information after their meetings. If staff doesn’t see what is in it for them, they are unlikely to be cooperative in contributing to it.
Therefore, CRM should not be considered a project, but rather a process. If your firm has moved from one marketing initiative to the next in hopes of finding the magic formula for increasing the number of clients and projects, you might have neglected what is needed to be done on an on-going basis. Although you invoice clients once a month, your CRM process needs to be evaluated at least once a week. Marketing meetings should include time to review what your staff has put into the database since the last meeting. It is the only way to insure you have a business development culture in your firm. Be sure to include success stories that resulted from accurate and timely data collection to show the staff what is in it for them.
Since you are about to begin laying out your 2014 marketing plan and budget, you are starting to think about the resources you need, what will be available and any new initiatives that will result in measurable improvements to your bottom line. This year, you should start by asking these questions:
· How do you measure staff time related to CRM data entry?
· Who is in charge of CRM quality control (garbage in garbage out)?
· Do you chart CRM data entry by individual?
· When do you seek client feedback and in what form?
· What clients will you lose in 2014?
· How many new clients will you need to fill the leaky bucket?
· What is the most important firm need?
· What should be eliminated from the marketing plan
What is the big deal about the time staff spends entering data into the CRM system? First, you want to know whether time is being spent and whether it is done when the information is still fresh. Second, and more importantly, you want to let staff know that you recognize the effort. If someone spends 15 minutes a day on the CRM at the end of the year, they will have spent a week entering data. What is that week worth to your firm? This is about uncovering the hidden resources you are spending on marketing your firm’s services.
The other questions are just a way for you to look at the development of the annual marketing plan from a different perspective. It doesn’t mean you abandon the process you have used in the past, but supplement it with the questions.
As someone who has pulled a lot of weeds out of gardens in his lifetime, I know the sooner you get started, the easier it is to showcase the beauty of the garden. What is your firm vision for 2014? Will the path to success be lined with business as usual or will you ask some new questions?