There is a growing number of marketing technology firms – not just in the field of CRM who describe themselves as partners; rather than suppliers. This repositioning changes the relationship dynamic. By partnering you are forming a supportive alliance, a company that will work closely with you, almost as an extension of your team and will deliver strategic long-term benefit based on a thorough understanding of your commercial needs.
This is the ideal scenario. Most end-user companies do not want to be simply supplied with a technical platform, given cursory training and then be left to fend for themselves. So what characterises a CRM provider as a good potential partner?
- Understanding your business and processes
The most important success factor in any CRM project is that the resulting solution is designed to fit your business, so it delivers the benefits and return on investment promised at the onset of the project. Key to getting the right solution is your CRM Partner’s understanding of what you do as a company and what you are looking to achieve by utilising a CRM. Software providers today should blend business-focused advice with product knowledge, helping customers to harness the full value of their system to solve pain points.
- A CRM System that will scale and adapt to your growing business
An all too common mistake with an initial CRM project is to bite off more than you can chew. Mixing simultaneous implementations across multiple teams is a sure fire route to failure. Think about phasing your CRM project over a longer term to ensure benefits are attained at each step of the way. Your Sales Department is often a good place to start, then phase in Marketing and move on to Services over a series of smaller projects. After initial set-up, your provider might identify that you could automate more processes and they can show you how to use the system to improve efficiency.
- Is your success their success?
Your provider must be open to feedback and react positively to it. In practice, this means listening to you – ideally in regular sessions designed to proactively check on your progress and satisfaction.From these meetings they can then feedback any new requirements into their product development process. If one client comes up with a feature that would help their business, it is likely that other customers could benefit from it too.
- What does the price include?
It is usual for there to be various payment packages, including pay-monthly or pay-upfront arrangements, with prices based on type of business, number of users and scope of the system. A partner should help you to assess which option is most suitable to achieve your objectives without paying for features you don’t need.
- How secure is the system?
Data protection is paramount, and any CRM system should mitigate your organization’s risk against data breaches and cyberattacks. Alongside the basics of password protection, there should be a permissions-based function where users only have access to certain levels of data, and change auditing capabilities to create a transparently activity log. Backup solutions to enable data access are worth considering in the event of a cyberattack or systems outage.
Some product considerations
- What customer support is available?
As we mentioned earlier, a partnership approach requires an ongoing relationship, and that is exactly what is required with your CRM provider. Firstly, what training will be given and how will it be delivered? If you have questions post-implementation, do you know how you’ll contact the provider? Across which channels? Support is vital to ensure that you get the most from the system.
- User-friendliness / ease of set up
The best way to assess whether a system is user-friendly is to test it out via a one on one demo followed by a pilot implementation with your own data. It is vital that key users must perceive the software as intuitive, easy to navigate and suitable for the platforms on which it will be used, whether desktop or mobile for instance. If a system feels difficult to use, this may be a red flag as it could swallow up unnecessary time and effort.
- Is it easy to integrate and customise?
How easily can the new software be integrated with your existing systems and can the software be customised for your needs? This is especially important to help you retain some capabilities of your existing system rather than start totally from scratch, it also keeps the costs down. You should certainly ask about how much data migration is required particularly in relation to your contact management system, which underpins CRM.
- How secure is the system?
Data protection is paramount, and any CRM system should mitigate your organisation’s risk against data breaches and cyberattacks. Alongside the basics of password protection, there should be a permissions-based function where users have access to certain levels of data, and change auditing capabilities to create a transparently activity log. Backup solutions to enable data access are worth considering in the event of a cyberattack or systems outage.
The right CRM system will bring invaluable operational and strategic benefit to your business, so it’s vital to consider technical credentials as well as attitude and approach when choosing your partner.
About Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson - Managing Director, Maximizer EMEA
As Managing Director (EMEA), Mike is charged with leading and delivering the marketing, sales, service and operational strategy for the EMEA region, alongside the management of the Certified Solutions Provider network.
Mike joined Maximizer Software in 2000, by which time he already had extensive experience in key operational roles in IT infrastructure, engineering and systems management.
Since then he has headed up several areas of the Maximizer EMEA to gain a full perspective of the business, its functions and processes, as well as an incredible depth of knowledge of Maximizer CRM and the value CRM can bring to business growth. Through this he has gained a true understanding of how to help other SMEs grow and succeed through the use of CRM.
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