How to Create a CRM Strategy (Step-by-Step Guide)

Customer relationship management is the process and tools through which your company grows and maintains a long-term relationship with its clients and customers. Since it is a process and there are several tools on the market, it’s important to craft an intentional CRM strategy, taking into account your unique business needs. Moreover, creating a CRM strategy should be a cross-functional endeavor that involves IT in the implementation process. 

How to Choose CRM Software

B2B vs B2C

CRM in B2B vs. B2C are both complex in their own ways. In a B2B setting, you’re juggling multiple stakeholders, and it takes time and savvy to know whom to contact. In fact, the purchasing group at any given company contains an average of 6-10 people, according to Gartner. Given that there are often multiple people to please and convince, the length of time for tracking, negotiating, and finalizing contracts in B2B is also longer than CRM processes in the B2C environment.

The purchasing group at any given company contains an average of 6-10 people.

At the same time, B2C has its own level of complexity. For starters, B2C sales are often repetitive and cyclical, so analytics that provide detailed insights into consumer purchasing patterns will be a key feature to seek in CRM software. There are far more customers in this selling environment, making lead management essential in your CRM software of choice.

Whether you do business in a B2B or B2C setting, you’ll want to focus on CRM software that can handle the level of intricacy unique to your selling environment.

Business Size

If you’re running an SMB, you’ll want CRM software that automates common sales and marketing activities, so you can focus your energy on other essential business functions. Furthermore, CRM software for an SMB is going to be simpler, containing fewer features. As your business grows, however, you’ll likely need a wider range of solutions that scale up with your business.

Such solutions would include automation, analytics, forecasting, sales enablement, and more.  A bigger business will require a bigger investment in CRM, but it will be worth it to build and sustain long-term growth. Regardless of business size, analytics, automation, API integration, and cloud-based services for easy mobile access will play prominent roles in selecting CRM software.

Read more on project-management.com: CRM Strategy & Uses for Small Business

Industry

Consider the type of industry you conduct business in because it influences how you interact with clients and customers and, in turn, influences your CRM strategy. 

For example, in the healthcare industry, the collection, storage, and accessibility of data involves multiple parties — physicians, patients, pharmacies, insurance companies, etc. It will therefore be necessary to have, for instance, a robust document exchange component to your CRM. In the same vein, CRM software for the healthcare industry would need to be HIPAA compliant to keep sensitive medical information secure.

Security

Depending on the type of data you’ll collect in your CRM software, you may consider CRM software with varying levels of security and access control. Returning once more to the healthcare setting, given the multiple touch points at different locations, opting for CRM software that encrypts data will be important. CRM software also often features two-factor or multi-factor authentication to fend off any potential hackers.

Depending on your industry, you may be held to state or federal laws that are meant to protect sensitive information. If your company is in the financial industry, for example, be on the lookout for CRM software that will keep your company compliant in protecting banking information, credit reports, and other personal data.

Read more on TechRepublic: How to Choose the Right CRM Software

CRM Implementation Process

  • List the tasks that need to be completed to ensure a smooth transition, such as data back-ups and migration.
  • Plot out a timeline for carrying out these tasks, including a series of training sessions to educate users and stakeholders in the weeks or months leading up to rollout day.
  • Assign hard deadlines to tasks to keep the CRM software transition on schedule.
  • Have a team of IT professionals on standby — whether in-house or from the vendor — who can assist with software issues on rollout day.
  • Solicit feedback from users at every stage of implementation, including post-implementation.
  • Track KPIs along with user feedback in subsequent months to see if your company needs to reevaluate its CRM strategy and/or software.

Once you choose the right CRM software, the implementation process is another matter of deliberate planning. 

CRM Software Adoption: How IT Can Help

CRM doesn’t just involve sales, marketing, and customer service teams. Building a diverse implementation group increases the chances of successful CRM software adoption. Each member will bring expertise and questions related to their respective functions within the organization.

Building a diverse implementation group increases the chances of successful CRM adoption.

Approach the implementation process in a cross-functional manner that includes IT at every step of the way. The IT stakeholder or group will assist with data back-up and migration in the weeks or months leading up to the switch. During and after implementation, IT will monitor for and address technical challenges. Psychologically speaking, it may put users at ease to know that IT is there for support during the change.

Read more: What Is IT Change Management?

Why It’s Important to Develop a CRM Strategy

Putting a CRM strategy into place is not something you can rush into. Rather, it necessitates careful, cross-functional planning. Consider the type of business and industry you’re working in and map out tasks and a timeline for completion.

Finally, cultivate open and frequent communication with diverse stakeholders beyond the immediate CRM software users — such as sales, marketing, and customer service. Taking these steps ensures a higher rate of buy-in within your company, and thus also a smooth transition.

Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, covering IT strategy and trends, enterprise networking, and PM software for CIOInsight.com, enterprisenetworkingplanet.com, project-management.com, and technologyadvice.com. When she's not writing about technology trends, she's working out or spending time with family.

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