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Avoiding a disastrous CRM implementation

by Randall Craig on May 20, 2016

Filed in: Blog, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet,

Tagged as: , ,

CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems are known for two things: the promise of driving sales, and the almost inevitable disastrous implementation.  And the same is often true of other big tech projects.  But does this really have to be the case?

Here are 12 key items that can make a difference between a successful implementation… or a costly mistake:

  1. Executive Sponsorship:  This isn’t just a question of leadership buy-in to the concept, but also their active involvement in the implementation process itself.  The more active this group appears to be, the more buy-in there will be from both the rank-and-file, and middle management.
  2. Blueprint:  This is an in-depth marketing, sales, data, and business process review.  Contrary to what is said on vendor websites (and by vendor salespeople), there is never a plain-vanilla simple implementation.  Every organization has a unique history, strategy, structure, processes, and legacy systems. The blueprint defines the what, how, who, and when; it is more than a “requirements document”: it identifies gaps, opportunities, defines the to-be state, all while addressing the functional and technical integrations.  Building a house uses a blueprint: a strategic system implementation needs one too.
  3. Journey Mapping:  This occurs during the Blueprint, and identifies all touchpoints that prospects go through during their journey from awareness through to commitment.  Not only is this important during the implementation, but it lays the foundation for a common vocabulary throughout the organization.
  4. Lead Source Identification:  This will surface opportunities for integration with other systems (Marketing Automation, Web, etc.)
  5. Account Planning and Strategy:  This is a sales 101 requirement for any organization.  The trouble is that most organizations either haven’t formalized their account planning process, or they do have a process, but it is inconsistently used, or it hasn’t been looked at for quite a while.  It makes zero sense to automate an inconsistent or out-of-date process.  A successful CRM requires successful account planning, and often, significant change management.
  6. CRM Configuration:  This means customizing the system for the organization’s processes, setting up workflow, reporting, dashboards, etc.
  7. Integration with other systems: The CRM should never stand alone – it needs to be connected to other systems: Financial, ERP/Fulfillment, Marketing Automation, Social Media, Web, etc.  And then these connections need to be tested.
  8. Integration with real-world processes:  Whether it is a field sales organization, outbound call center, service processes, or with events, CRM (and all digital transformation technologies) need to be hooked into improved real-world processes – not just other technologies. 
  9. Data:  One of the primary reasons users don’t adopt a new system is that it surfaces defects in the organization’s (and specific individual’s) data.  Information that might have looked just fine beforehand (or was well-hidden beforehand), suddenly doesn’t look so good. Well before implementation, existing data needs to be reviewed, cleansed, and then migrated.  Post-migration it typically needs additional review and cleansing.
  10. Training:  This includes CRM concepts, the tool itself, and how the CRM plays a part in the organization’s processes.
  11. Building Front-line Buy-in:  If the implementation plan does not include specific steps to ensure that the system actually gets used the way that it is expected to be used, then you guessed it… the system won’t be used.
  12. Monitoring: This means everything from the data quality, staff behavior, enforcing accountability, and personal participation by the senior executives.
  13. Training:  There is no limit to the amount of training that will be necessary.  Whatever training you were considering, double it.

This week’s action plan:  With some minor changes, this framework can be used to implement just about any technology project.  This week, consider your latest project: what is missing from this list?  And is it too late to retrofit that missing piece?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders



In the first part of this post, we consider the importance of growing all channels – not just email.  In this post, we look specifically at growing your email list – 11 different ways of doing so:

Plug the leaks:  Sometimes a list is growing just fine, but the growth is negated by people who leave.  While some of the “leaks” (bounces, for example) are to be completely expected, the two biggest causes of list contraction are mismatch, and content quality.  Mismatch refers to a mismatch between what you are sending and the expectations of the recipient.  It may mean sending irrelevant content at the right frequency, or sending relevant content at the wrong frequency.  Content quality, on the other hand, is often the elephant in the room.  Poor editorial planning, poorly written content, and always-happy stock photos are but just a few examples.

Existing clients or members:  Perhaps because of history, or perhaps because no one has asked, many real-world stakeholders (existing clients/ members/ partners/ suppliers) may not actually be on your list.  Ask them, and then make sure that your process for anyone new coming into your ecosystem includes a sign-up to your list.  These people are your strongest advocates, and have the greatest influence – see organic growth, below.

Organic growth:  Organic list growth doesn’t happen by itself: if you want existing list members to bring others along, you will need to ask them to do so for you. Note that the stronger the affinity your list has to you, the more likely the list member will pass along your message.  Alternatives range from a footer that asks the user to share with a friend, a one more thing ask, perhaps as part of the PS, or a purpose-written email explicitly asking them to recruit/share with their connections.

Event-driven collection: Very often the goal of events is to generate leads for sales follow-up.  Instead, construct two “funnels”: one as usual for leads, and one that collects contacts who may not yet be ready to commit.  This second group might be ripe for a long-term nurture marketing automation sequence, or perhaps a 4-6 segment educational sequence.

Traditional marketing data collection:  Too often when looking to grow our lists, we forget about the traditional marketing tools that have always been available: from PR, to traditional advertising, to the use of direct mail, to even the simplest marketing collateral.  A simple question: does everything that you currently have now drive the user to a place where they can sign up? (Even your business cards?)

SMS-based collection:  Particularly at events where you may be speaking, why not ask all of the attendees to take out their cellphones, and text their contact information to you?  Your technology can then pluck that info from the text message and automatically add each person to your mailing list.  Not only is this slick, but it also saves hours entering people’s contact information from business cards.  Bonus tip:  This same technique can also work when you are delivering a webinar.

Online lead generation forms:  Usually accompanied by an ethical bribe of a free ebook or diagnostic checklist, lead gen forms are a very common way to collect contact information.  What is forgotten, however, is that lead gen forms can (and should) appear on almost every page, with an ethical bribe relevant for that page. Note that CASL restrictions apply to this approach: you can only send people what you promised.  Bonus idea:  Use pay-per-click ads and social media posts to generate traffic to a landing page with a lead gen form.

List purchase or rental:  Many lists are available from traditional direct mail houses.  Depending on the quality of their list, the price can vary significantly.  If you go down this road, ensure that (1) all recipients have opted in to receive commercial electronic messages (eg a CASL-compliant list), and (2) that the list hasn’t been sold so many times that there is user fatigue.

Partners:  Partners are critical to a list-building strategy; the goal is to put your content within their newsletters, interviews, webinars, speeches, and your “products” on their shelf.  Generally, the deal is a 50-50 revenue split on any products or services sold by you as a result of your inclusion or participation in front of their audience.  Partners can be suppliers, clients, anybody or any organization, but they must meet two criteria: Their distribution (email and/or blog) must be vast, and their audience must be precisely your target audience.

Guest blogging:  The goal of this strategy is to gain exposure to another group’s audience – it is a variant of the partner strategy focused on blogging, and often with a less commercial aim.  The host blogger gets new “friendly” content, while the guest blogger gets a chance to gain new followers.  If the blog post is connected to an offer (ethical bribe, special service or product offer, etc), contact information can be collected. If the blog reader doesn’t sign up, they may still follow your link back to your blog site, and become a follower there.  There is nothing wrong when a user chooses one of your channels (your blog) to consume your content over another (such as email).  The goal is to generate connection.

Web scraping:  This is the unethical (and usually illegal) process where you use a program that scans a list of websites – or all websites – page by page.  Whenever it finds an email address, the program “scrapes” it from the web site, and puts it into a list for you.  The shady people who do this will often scrape a number of sites, and then re-sell the list over and over again to different customers.

This week’s action plan:  While there are a ton of additional ways to grow your list, which of these (beyond scraping) have you never done before, or perhaps with less intentionality? This week, grow your list by doing something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Growing Your List (Part 1)

by Randall Craig February 12, 2016

Almost every organization has a list – or several.  The list is used for service and event updates, for marketing, sales, and then billing.  It is used to recruit, it is used for retention.  And because it is so central, it is also the subject of a critical marketing question:  “how can we grow our list?” […]

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Nine Key Marketing Automation Sequences

by Randall Craig July 31, 2015

Back in the dark ages of the internet, building “the list” was a best practice for email marketing. The theory was great: send a monthly ezine, sales offers, and any other buzzworthy content down the pipe and a certain percentage of people will “convert.” Money automatically transferred into your account as the list was monetized. Today, however, […]

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Nurture Marketing: No or “Not Yet”

by Randall Craig March 20, 2015

Have you ever put in a proposal, or answered an enquiry about your products or services, and then waited patiently for their answer about the next step? While images of pulling petals off a daisy might come to mind (“He loves me, he loves me not”) the words that ultimate come back are either yes […]

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Three types of emails

by Randall Craig January 30, 2015

Look into your inbox, and you’ll see emails that others have sent to you.  Look more closely though, and you’ll see three types.  From a marketer’s perspective, each has its own place, and each has its own purpose. Used incorrectly, they often will have the opposite impact: annoyance, disengagement, unsubscribes, and complaints. Three types of […]

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Social ROI: Connecting Community to Commitment

by Randall Craig October 10, 2014

Do you have a creeping feeling that you will never get an adequate return on your Social Media investment?  If so, you’re probably right. To improve Social ROI requires three key ingredients: the first reduces costs, and the second and third improve return. Improve program efficiency: Swap out experimentation and opportunism with goals, persona-based editorial […]

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Insight: Omni-channel experience

by Randall Craig June 28, 2013

How often do you research a product online, and then purchase it at the store?  Or, check out the product at the store, and then use the internet to make the purchase?  If so, you’re not alone. These newer consumer behaviors are both the new reality for retailers – and a special challenge.  It even […]

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Generating ROI: The other 95%

by Randall Craig May 31, 2013

How do you determine the ROI on your marketing and sales investments? The standard formula is simple: divide the return, less investment, by the investment. A marketing campaign costs $1000, and reaches out to 1000 prospects. Five per cent of these respond, generating $1000 profit, for an ROI of zero: (1000-1000)/1000.  If the profit is […]

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Viewpoint: Email, R.I.P.

by Randall Craig July 12, 2012

Picture this scene from a few decades ago: you’re working in your office, and your assistant bursts in, with an important announcement:  You’ve received… a FAX!  The correspondence was critically important – and you were too. Then a few years later, the FAX was replaced by AOL’s chirpy voice, announcing to all, “You’ve got mail!” […]

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Social Effectiveness: Not about me

by Randall Craig July 5, 2012

Maybe you also have seen this TV commercial. After a service encounter, an attractive business woman (an actress, no doubt) faces the camera, smiles and says, “It’s all about me.” If someone said this type of comment to you, what would you think? If everyone had this type of attitude, we wouldn’t have volunteers, mentors, […]

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Your Daily Social Media Routine

by Randall Craig June 14, 2012

How do you spend the first 20 minutes at the office each day? If you were in the 1970’s, you would spend the time reading the newspaper, then organizing your inbox (the box on your desk), and finally looking at your calendar before “starting” your day. In the 1980’s, you would be doing the same, […]

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Three Marketing Models

by Randall Craig June 6, 2012

Model One: One of the most powerful real-world networking techniques is called “give-to-get”. You  meet someone, find out what they’re interested in, and then find a way to give it to them. If you do this periodically, eventually they will return the favor. Model Two: To compete, an organization must do so on Price, Expertise, […]

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Social Choice: Ignore, Listen, Join or Host

by Randall Craig May 31, 2012

Think back to when you last bought a book – did you check the reviews on Amazon? When you last booked a hotel – did you check the hotel rankings?  There is an incredible conversation happening on the social web, and for the first time in history, there is transparency: these conversations are available.  The […]

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Social Customer Service Strategy

by Randall Craig April 26, 2012

Ever feel slighted, ignored, disenfranchised, “sold to”, taken for granted, or just plain commoditized? For many prospects, these feelings are what prevent a sale from taking place. They prevent repeat sales, prevent referrals, and encourage negative word-of-mouth. Clearly, great customer service – supported by great training and great management – are fundamental, but how can […]

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Viewpoint: Is the Cloud for the Birds?

by Randall Craig September 1, 2011

If you read the business or technology press, you’ve probably heard about “the cloud”.  And if you believe the ad copy, just about any problem can be solved merely by “putting it on the cloud”.  Can this really be true?  Is the hype even close to reality?  And what is this cloud, really? The cloud […]

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Social Media Geography

by Randall Craig May 24, 2011

At one time, were you riding high with a ton of “Friends”?   Then you realized that many of your Friends were there in name, but had zero engagement?  Or you maintain a presence on one platform (MySpace?), and realize that it no longer meets your needs?  Or, you started a Facebook Group and now […]

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