How do I implement a CRM?

When you are ready to make a change in your business, I know that the enthusiasm can be hampered by the overwhelming sense of ‘where do we start?’

It is important to note that properly implementing a CRM (or CMS or Project Management software) will take time. If you want to make sure that your business is set up for future growth and is not throttled by an ill thought out and hastily rushed job, you will need to undertake a few steps first. I do not say this to overwhelm or dishearten you at what is quite frankly such an exciting time in the growth of your business. I say this because I am passionate about reducing waste. Wasted energy, wasted resources, wasted time and wasted money. If you are going to do this, I want you to do it right the first time...and so this is where this guidance comes in.

1. Write your customer journey map

What do I mean by a customer journey map? Here is a video to explain and there is an image of the sort of map that I work with my clients to create for them. This will require you and everyone on your team to get involved to understand all of the touchpoints, information and miniscule details that go into the way that a client interacts with your business. This blog looks at some of the questions that you might ask yourself to help you complete the map and this blog post looks at the different stages of the journey to consider.

It is imperative that you include anyone in your team in this step (including freelance members of staff and contractors like a bookkeeper, VA etc.) so that you can make sure that you have a full picture of how everyone works and you ensure that there is no duplicating across job roles.

2. Write a list of requirements

When you go to google and type in ‘which CRM is best’ you obviously get 5000 pages of CRM suggestions. As usual, Google is not exactly the best place to start with such a broad question. It’s noisy and it’s confusing. Do not start your research at this point.

Write down the must-haves out of this software, it could look something like:

  1. Native integration with mailing software

  2. Integration with accounting software

  3. Customer profiles

  4. A client sharing area

  5. Forms

  6. Calling software (or integration with calling software)

  7. Varying team permission levels

Then you may also have a list of nice-to-haves which could include:

  1. Timeline view of projects

  2. Internal live chat feature

Once you have this type of list you can easily eliminate options out from all of the 'best and easiest CRM' choices that are out there.

3. Ask for recommendations

This is now the opportunity to ask around your network for recommendations. It is not that I don’t think that recommendations aren’t valuable, I just believe it is important to fully understand what you need from the CRM before you go out and get them.

When you go to your network, online, offline, colleagues, clients etc. whoever you choose to ask, be consistent about what you ask them. So ask for a recommendation, what they like and don’t like about the software. Make sure to keep a list of all the options that people give you (no matter whether you outright dismiss it.) Keep a spreadsheet in one place and keep a track on all the information that people give you. This is a key part of the research as all the names will start to merge into one so don’t allow this time and effort be wasted by not tracking the information that people send back to you.

4. Write a shortlist

From the list above you will now need to whittle the list down a bit so that you can do more in-depth research. It is likely that cost will be a key factor in your choice but most mainstream software is at a similar price point but can vary based on the size of your team. So you’ll probably start by immediately dismissing based on some of the feedback you have already received, then you’ll take a quick look at Google and dismiss some on price or other features.

Don’t be swayed by the list of amazing features that all software has. I recommend looking at the price tables, such as the one below and looking at the plan that fits your price bracket and (usually) team size, and asking yourself whether you can do without the features that are NOT included on the plan. The features table will also help you to build upon your ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ list.

5. Schedule time to trial

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is signing up for free trials and then not making the most of it by engaging with support or having the time and headspace to make the most of the trial.

So make sure you are clear on the trial time and that you put time aside to trial the...trial. If you have a couple of front runners, don't start the trials in tandem as you could get confused about the features. Try one at a time and arrange a call with the sales or support team (usually this will be a screen share) and run through your list of must haves. This will take an hour or so but is far quicker than muddling through the software and help topics. This will also give you a great idea on how good their support team is, which is an essential consideration to any software purchase.

6. Diarise free trials ending

Finally, make sure that you diarise the trial end date to push you into using the software and making a choice! You may have to go back to the shortlist and review other options but at least you can systematically review the software out there in like with your actual needs and requirements.

Try to be methodical about tracking the conversations that you have with the support staff to make sure that when you come to making a decision, you are clear on what software offers what.

This is the tried and tested process I undertake when researching CRM / CMS / Project Management software for clients to implement as part of their onboarding process. If you want to explore how we can work together on this, please get in touch.


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