During a recent chat with one of our CRM consultants, he mentioned concerns about customer perceptions of CRM. “Sometimes I worry they don’t see the full picture,” he said. “CRM is an ongoing investment. As a business grows, the CRM must grow too. They assume once the CRM is purchased and the team knows how to use it, the software journey is over; but there’s a lot more to it.”

He’s right. There is a lot more to the CRM journey. An easy comparison is to think of your CRM like a puppy. You don’t just buy the puppy and let it run free, right? You invest in its training, food, annual veterinary visits, toys, and other accommodations. As the dog grows, and your lifestyle changes, you adjust accordingly. Your CRM is no different. Successful companies recognize the need for periodic assessment of the CRM and budgetary foresight for integrations, enhancements, maintenance, and add-ons. How do you know the right time in your CRM journey to look in to these things? Why are they important? Every business is different, but you can use this general timeline to get you started:

Year 1: Acquire CRM, train your teams, and implement any customizations.

The first year of CRM ownership is a time to streamline the system to your business processes with customizations. Adding the custom fields & functions early means team members can be trained on using them.

Year 2: Consider integrations with your ERP, marketing automation, social programs, and email.

Integrated CRM is proven to increase the ROI of your investment because A.) the combined data creates pathways for more accurate analysis, forecasting, and planning; B) it reduces duplicate data entries, which boosts productivity; and C.) it reveals cross-sell and upsell opportunities that would otherwise be hidden by segmented information.  

Year 3: Investigate helpful add-on products.

Want to create document templates that can auto-fill with your CRM information and be sent instantly for an eSignature? Could your sales team use some guidance on the ideal contact to reach out to for an upsell or repeat sale? Would your life be easier if you had an omnichannel contact center for customer service? All these things are possible with CRM add-on products. Add-on products are not very expensive and come pre-configured to work with your CRM system. These tools help your CRM keep pace as your company evolves.

Ongoing: Upgrade your system and maintain clean data.

A CRM filled with useless data and outdated functions will do the opposite of streamlining your business. It will slow down your teams and, in some cases, cause so much frustration that it deters employees from using the system altogether. Keep track of your CRM’s next release date and plan accordingly. If you can’t find time for data cleanup before the update, coordinate a bi-annual assessment meeting with department heads.

CRM isn’t a static investment, and that’s a good thing! It has the flexibility to evolve and maintain relevance to new business processes and procedures. Your CRM is like a puppy – it thrives by having the space to grow and change. Watch this video we made on how CRMs are like puppies to learn more. 

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