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How to persuade the board to spend more on CRM

31st Mar 2015
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Customers are the lifeblood of any commercial organisation. If people aren’t moved to buy and continue to buy your products and services, you haven’t got a business. So why are the people in the boardroom often unclear about how to ensure the well never runs dry?

It’s the job of the marketing department, and frequently the CRM specialists within it, to explain the value of a business-wide data strategy to the leadership team. Building the case is no easy task. Good customer data management takes time, requires investment and can be impenetrable even to senior figures, if IT infrastructure or the matter of ones and zeroes do not fall under their aegis.

Yet when they take a step back from the detail, and they can be told of the value and impact, the board can be compelled to invest in customer insight and analytics. Here are five things that we as a data-driven marketing agency consider in conjunction with the CRM owner before crossing the boardroom threshold to pitch for budget:

  1. What motivates the board? First of all, it’s important to understand who’ll be in the room. What are their remits and challenges, and who else can influence them on a day-to-day basis? Some figures are more engaged than others; some also have vested interests that apply only to their own departments or reputations, not the needs of the wider organisation. CFOs concern themselves with cost and risk. CTOs may say they have invested before and been burned. That might sound stereotypical, but gleaning information about people will make it much easier to position the proposition in terms that will makes sense to them. They’ll want to know what makes it manageable, useful for them and, in truth, why they should care.
  2. What does good look like? This is a key question to consider to correctly manage the expectations of all stakeholders. Thinking about desired outcomes, does the business require efficiency or increased revenues – or, more likely, both? Is a whole new technology platform actually needed? Set out how the new solution would translate into cross- and upsell opportunities for the business, giving you the ability to demonstrate ROI. It’s vital to frame your proposition as an essential driver of change, not a perfunctory add-on just to prove you’re busy.
  3. How can I quantify quick wins? The centrepiece of your presentation is contextualising the benefits. This is as much about proving your personal value and experience as it is about selling the strategy itself. Play on the credentials you have already gained in the industry, helping the board to feel they will have limited and controlled exposure to risk if they buy into the proposition. Selecting an agency partner with a track-record of success is key. 
  4. How do I keep everyone interested? The truth is you won’t all of the time, as organisations have complex problems to solve, but that doesn’t mean the board needs to sit through a CRM history lesson. This is about demonstrating how the work will happen quickly, correctly and bring rapid value to the business. Steer clear of talking about projects; manage risk by carving the solution into chunks, allowing you to highlight value at key points during the journey. Moreover, be open to fielding questions from people who have previously had bad experiences. Teaming up with an expert supplier can create a more convincing argument and help you break down the proposition – and in our case the technology – into components that prove their own worth through their speed of results.
  5. What’s the punchline? None of the strategies above will be worth the paper they are written on if you ultimately don’t give your bosses a compelling reason to sign off your work. The line to use can be as simple as, “Do this today and you will have competitive advantage tomorrow”. If you leave the room having convinced the board their only alternative is to watch revenues flatline, you’ve done your job.

Walking into an occasionally unwelcoming or disinterested environment can appear to be scarier and more challenging than any obstacles you may face during implementation. But if you treat your time with the board less as a cap-in-hand occasion and more as a chance to help salve their pain points, they might just open the company cheque book.

Neil Evans is managing director, Occam – a St Ives Group company.


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