As a small business it can be challenging to determine the best way to invest in your company’s success. You can add people, add new technology, advertise more, start new marketing campaigns or hundreds of other things that, depending on the day and time, may be higher on the priority list. Even after deciding on a particular direction, there are still more questions to answer, relating to proper strategic planning and the tactical implementation. Picking a new technology is not any different, you still need to identify your overall goals, build a strategy for accomplishing them, and define an execution strategy to implement the new technology.
A very important goal for growing small businesses is creating scale. If you have this on the radar for this year, it is worth considering CRM as a strategic tool to help you along the way.
Using the Right Tool for the Right Job
There is no doubt, scaling a business is difficult. There are challenges in finding the right people, managing delivery, managing quality, maintaining revenue, managing expectation and experiences, both external and internal, and even controlling costs. This can be even more challenging for a small business, as most of these efforts are determined by available cash flow and not necessarily by strategic relevance and importance.
These challenges are exactly what CRM was intended to help solve for small businesses. The implementation helps to build a structure that can scale, and the day to day operation of it helps identify resource and process bottlenecks that would normally be hidden from sight. The trick is to make sure you design and implement your system correctly to take advantage of its power.
Planning and Implementation
When utilizing a CRM system for Scale, you need to make sure you integrate the system into as many of your internal processes as possible. The goal of CRM is to be your process management vehicle that allows you to create workflows and automate process, while also keeping delivery and quality consistent. To accomplish this, you need to make sure you properly plan out your implementation. The more time you spend doing this portion, the more control you’ll have over the system once implemented, and the more buy-in from your users. Follow the process below to get started.
- Identify system advocates: The first step is getting the right people on the bus. If CRM is important for the organization, you’ll need help planning and implementing it. Start with identifying the individuals in the company that can help and can further act as advocates for the solution. This group will most likely be made up of executes, managers and end users. Usually the more technically savvy the individual, the more they will help advocate for change within the business. You’ll also need individuals that are very familiar with the interworkings of the business. Department or line of business managers will most likely be on the team.
- Get organized: This means it’s time to start mapping out your internal processes, or at least the ones you are most interested in scaling. Normally product and service delivery, sales, marketing and customer support are on top of the priority list. Once you’ve determine the specific processes you will be starting with, write them out step by step (or use a tool like MS Visio). The managers and end users you’ve added to the team should help you get a very thorough understanding of how these processes are working today. This can take a lot of time and effort, but is an absolute must to enable scale. Here are some tips to help. We’ve also found handing out post-it notes to your front-line employees to document their processes, can help uncover current ways things are being done.
- CRM Integration Points: Next it’s time to identify all of the areas CRM will plug in to your current processes. In this phase it is important to document all of the specific areas for which you intend to use CRM, from sales and marketing to customer support. Make note of all of the specific integration points, and describe the intended interaction your users will have. It is okay at this point if you do not know what CRM you will be using, or specifically how users will interact with the system. You are just trying to document the intent of the interaction, what you expect will happen. This will help to create use case scenarios that will help you chose the right tools later on.
- Create use scenarios: Create a list of very specific actions you know users in your business will regularly need to accomplish with the new system. Examples could be adding a new lead, adding a new opportunity, creating a customer account, creating and updating contacts, handling a support call, etc. You do not need to create a scenario for every situation that could come up, but do your best to capture the ones you think are the most important for each department. The scenarios should include the specific situation, and the specific steps and actions the user will take based upon your process maps.
- Evaluate different tools: Now is the time to evaluate different CRM tools. Start by running through some test scenarios that result in data being entered into the system. For example, create some test leads and walk through your sales and marketing processes up until you have create test customer accounts and contacts. From there you can run through the scenarios that have to do with delivery and customer support. Your goal is to have at least a couple people run through each scenario and take notes; were they able to complete the action following process, were they able to complete if they broke process, were they not able to complete, etc.
- Collect feedback: Collect all feedback from the tests and review. This should help you select your CRM tool. If a particular tool requires you to adjust your processes, it is not always a bad thing. Use this as a rule of thumb, if the process that needs to change is a core process (a value-add process that helps define who you are as a company), do not change it. If the process that needs to change is a supporting process (non-value add, behind the scenes: entering leads into the system, or notifying accounting of a change) it is okay to adjust. Keep in mind though, changing processes may require additional training. As well, if the change makes things more complicated, you will most likely have some user adoption issues. On the other hand, if the change makes the process easier to perform, it could help with user adoption.
- Simplify and update your processes: It’s now time to take all of the feedback from your user testing and integrate into your processes. If you’ve selected a system that will allow you to work as you have, there is not much updating necessary. On the other hand, if you have selected as system that requires a lot of process adjustment, now is the time to update your process maps. Once complete you will need to update all of your use case scenarios again to make sure you have a testing framework for user training, and post launch testing.
- Implement: Implementation of CRM systems can be a series of articles all by itself. The key is, start small if you can. Some companies start with treating the CRM like a master contact list. First get users to move all contacts to the system, and update them via the system. From there you can roll-out different initiatives in each department until your users are following process via the CRM tool at each of the predefined interaction points. Make sure you use your use case scenarios to help new users get on board with the new system.
Once you have properly documented your processes, and successfully implemented a CRM tool that helps your users adhere to them, you are then ready for part two, amplifying scalability.