In CRM investments bigger isn’t always best; Cheaper isn’t always better value; Best isn’t always most appropriate. It should go without saying that appropriate business choices must benefit the business. They must pay back. It is important when considering a CRM investment to pause and consider what ‘appropriate’ means.  In simple terms it means understanding yourself, your needs, your payback possibilities. Meet those and you’ve got a good business decision. But, sadly that’s not the way every organisation  approaches business purchases today, so it’s little wonder that the CRM success rate of 25% of projects pleasing their owners with acceptable benefits has remained unchanged for 20 years. And CRM shoppers this is for you; the chances of you getting it ‘right first time’ are slim. Business hasn’t yet come up with a successful process for ensuring good CRM decisions. For many, the ‘brand leader’ is the no-brainer choice. It used to be said that if you don’t understand what you are doing you won’t get fired for buying IBM. Why is CRM so difficult? I believe that one of the reasons is that people think it should be easy. Delegating a software purchase to the staff sounds like good participative management. It seems democratic. Knowing the CRM business as I do, and with 20 years experience watching people fail and helping some to succeed it looks unwise. Why? Well for a start, a staff committee can’t know what the business needs to do to transform customer relationships into business growth. Lesson one: Business growth is a senior management job.

For years we have been encouraged to believe that business purchases can be managed using the same skills we learn when shopping at a major trusted supermarket.  And we are all aware how we demand immediate gratification. Go to the right aisle select the best you can afford, put it in the shopping basket; Job done! We also know that with so many excellent products to choose from we can quite rightly say ‘If it isn’t on the shelf, I can’t buy it’. If it was rubbish, Tesco (or other) would not allow it on the shelf. Of course you could always try some other similar outlet or web shopping, and the answer would only be slightly different. In a well-behaved market, there is little risk of getting it wrong. I know this is not yet sounding like a lesson in how to buy CRM, but stick with me. If you go shopping for CRM in the belief that you can’t get it wrong you might just skimp on the diligence with which you examine how the benefit will materialize and deliver to the ‘bottom line’. If you want coffee you want coffee, so go to the coffee aisle and make your choice. But do you really fancy tea, or both? Or what about a bottle of wine. Maybe you need some fizzy drink? Now your choices are not in the same aisle; maybe you are not in the right aisle. Unfortunately there is no CRM aisle. There is not a ‘hot drink CRM’ and ‘cold drink CRM’ aisle separation. You are not prevented from looking at rubbish. CRM developers proudly tell you that their system does everything that the others do (and they probably believe it). You don’t have time to taste every coffee in the shop or every wine so you revert to judging the packaging. With CRM it’s a little more complex (you have almost 1000 options judging by There is CRM for SME, corporate, hosted, cloud, strong in sales support, marketing module or customer service. Lesson two: In fact the market that calls itself CRM is a fiction.

At face value it may seem sensible to study the feature list of interesting CRM products, selecting the longest 6. To understand them better, have demonstrations, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The following week bring the team together (because people are too busy to meet the day after) to discuss presentations that were un-memorable and virtually identical. It is very easy to see why companies often select the product that presented second, just after coffee. Does that sound too cynical? Is it perhaps too true? There is great danger in investing huge investigative effort into product assessments and ‘best choice’ using a score card (features) designed by system vendors. In all probability this process at best weeds out the chance of investing in a rubbish CRM. Your attention however is too easily directed away from your organisation’s score card. Lesson three: The organisation’s score card is bottom-line.

One customer recently told me they had filtered out 20 products before shortlisting. for demonstrations. One director I spoke with believed that they had chosen a good CRM product but had an implementation failure. In a year or 2 you’ll know if you’ve wasted your money and you can start again. But for the next CRM project  the organisation will have learned many more ‘real world’ lessons about CRM in their organisation. This can be a very powerful driver for the next project. Falling off a bike is a great teacher! Perhaps starting with an inexpensive bike would be wise? I wish you every success in your CRM Journey!!! I hope your next CRM investment is an absolute winner!!