crm success
Successful CRM Implementation Isn’t About Technology – It’s About the People Using It

Communicate “Why” to the People Using the Technology to Find Your CRM Success

Studies have found that 40-60% of CRM projects fail – with a leading cause due to lack of user adoption. Looking deeper, when asked about CRM, people simply don’t understand what all the fuss is about. They don’t understand why they’re being asked to do the things they are. “Things have worked good enough to get us here” is a common response. That’s the clue we need to understand – that the people don’t understand their importance in the plan.

With all of the fancy technology in the CRM marketplace today, it’s no wonder people have a tough time keeping track of it all. I’m talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented/virtual realities, voice, and all of the other buzzwordy marketing topics we read about. The problem many marketers are facing is that the sharpest tools we have available are being left in the proverbial shed – and those are our people.

Technology, in a simple definition, is supposed to help us do more, better, and faster by applying knowledge in our industries to processes. The reality is that often technology gets in the way, becoming more of an ever-changing hindrance than a tool driving the organizational growth we’re all after.

How often have you heard of the CRM project that cost many thousands of dollars, only to flounder and lose traction because “nobody uses it?” Or the big upgrade to the shiny, new platform that results in few of the benefits originally stated as the main reasons for the move in the first place? Where are the sales increases? The customer satisfaction lifts?

What is often missing is the deep understanding, by all stakeholders, how everyone fits into “the plan” and what, exactly, is their expected contribution. Today’s marketing plans are highly integrated across multiple channels and rely on each component to operate in coordination with one another to work properly. The people working the system need to understand how their actions contribute so the entire team, and the organization as a whole, succeeds.

What appears to a salesperson as someone digitally “looking over their shoulder” is actually a key ingredient so Operations has a sense for what kind of order volume to expect next quarter, and for Human Resources to staff the Customer Service department appropriately. Smart CRM programs inform many parts of the organization. Many of our people are unaware and won’t take the time to do it right, because they just don’t know.

The 2001 business classic, “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins, explains the “Flywheel Effect” as what drives some companies to greatness, while other remain flat – or worse.

“No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop.” – Jim Collins, NY Times bestselling author of “Good to Great”

The idea of slowly turning a big, heavy flywheel, one painstaking turn at a time, until the flywheel begins to gain momentum on its own, is one that we should all adopt when implementing CRM programs. The perception that a CRM program is a silver bullet that is going to solve all of the organization’s problems in one fell swoop is flawed. It takes slow, steady progress over time to reach greatness. To gain the type of sustainable flywheel momentum we’re seeking takes power – people power – which takes inspiration through understanding.

The key to inspiring the team is to communicate early and often. Engage stakeholders to help define the objectives and processes to reach them, and setup a framework for open two-way communication throughout. This will foster a sense of inclusion that will create real engagement and program buy-in from everyone involved.

The good news is that consistent engagement with all stakeholders doesn’t have to be complicated. You can boil it down to these key steps:

  1. Daily Standups: Short, quick hits with the team with each member top-lining three items to spark relevant discussion in a round-robin format:
    1. What I accomplished yesterday
    2. What I will work on today
    3. What obstacles or challenges I face
  2. Weekly Status: This is a longer meeting and is run by the team leader with one person designated to take notes.
    1. Project status update with workflow KPIs to inform on overall progress of key project components
    2. Priorities should be discussed to let everyone know of any potential changes
    3. Resources are reviewed to make sure everyone has what they need to accomplish their personal objectives
    4. A “Parking Lot” discussion covers items that are not relevant or can’t be addressed in the short term due to other priorities, but that the team agrees should be addressed at the appropriate time. These get tackled over time.
  3. Monthly Planning: This meeting is mainly about planning future work at a higher level.
    1. Remind and review how this project fits in with higher organizational objectives.
    2. Project status update with project KPIs to determine if you’re on/off plan.
    3. Review and discuss long-range goals and objectives.

Don’t overthink these meetings. Just get them in motion to start gaining some momentum with your flywheel. You’ll learn plenty along the way. And once you have this in motion, the technology part is easy.


Dan Dawes is Co-founder & CEO of Response Labs, a digital CRM marketing agency in Baltimore and Seattle. Response Labs is a Salesforce, Marketo and Sitecore Partner that helps Fortune 1000 clients “Make Every Message Matter.” Response Labs is a proud AMA Baltimore sponsor.