Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finding the Time for CRM

Continuing last month’s thought on when is it right to move to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, another item that prevents the jump to CRM is the time needed.  Many feel that they simply do not have the time to commit to design, the meetings, the training, and the other factors that create the downtime used for the implementation.  In short, all of this is for lack of a better term, “time that we’re not making money” and it can be a roadblock when deciding which CRM to implement.

When making the jump, you need to decide what type of path you want to take in consideration of time.   I’ll use my “buying a house analogy” to clarify.  Consider the house to be your CRM where the data is the furnishings that you need to put in there – and find room for much of the time.  If you want to hold off on moving in to your new house, until everything is perfect (refinishing floors, walls, redoing kitchens, etc.), there are CRM systems out there for you.  You’ll spend a lot of time planning, covering all bases for data, reports, completing all customizations so that all is perfect and ready for launch.  Let’s just say that awkward “where are we going to put all our stuff?” conversation won’t be needed. 

However, some like to just move in, get dirty and fix it as you go (that’s more my style to be honest) which can work very well, allowing for changes as your staff adjusts their techniques and processes to coincide with the technology.  In the beginning, you will end up accounting for the necessary processes and data imports (and customization), knowing that add-on products, other changes and further training will be needed.  This is like storing that extra stuff in the basement until you know exactly there you’ll put it (if at all).  However, as the comfort level of the team increases, the space and time for advanced training and enhancement also increases. 

Then there are the “install and walk away” type implementations.   A little server work, some brief training and away you go on your way to selling and using your CRM.  Customizations will inevitably come later, but at least the initial time spent is very little.  You and your team will need to learn and pick up things quickly, but companies realize that they need something and are satisfied with the out of the box as it is better than what they had before.  Remember moving into your first house and you thought, “How will I fill up all this space?” You had a couch, a bed, and a TV and the house seemed sway too big.  However, within no time you filled it up albeit leaving that dining room empty for a couple of years.  

A quick side note, keep in mind that beyond the initial implementation, you have to take the future enhancements and training into account for time spent.  You’re very rarely “finished” with a CRM implementation as with any sales process that evolves and changes, your CRM system also has to adapt to those changes.  Consider your home – are we ever done changing it, improving it, or renovating?  There is always maintenance which comes with the territory, but keeping the value of any home (or CRM system) requires some upkeep and changes throughout the years. 

All that being said, this time spent during the implementation (training, design, configuration, and testing) as well as future design and enhancements is a cost.  It’s not as easy to calculate, but it’s a cost and something to consider when discovering the best option for you and your company.  As I said in my last post, you’ll never really be ready, but the smart business person realizes they have to invest the money to make the money – consider all this time to just be part of that initial investment.  Find the software and consulting team that will work with you based on not only your budget restraints, but your time requirements, another cost that is often overlooked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Am I Ready for CRM? How Much Can I Afford?

In my travels and life as a CRM guy, I hear it a lot.  “We’re just not ready to invest in a CRM (software that tracks everything that’s been done with prospects, leads, customers, etc.).  We don’t have the time, the money, the staff, [fill in the blank here].”   I’m going to use this opportunity to start a series of articles where I address each of these items and others.  The bottom line here is that you’re never ready.  I equate the jump to CRM to becoming a homeowner – you’re never really going to be ready, but one day it will sneak up on you and you’ll have to find the means as you’ve outgrown the apartment (or your parents place).  As with CRM, these needs jump out at different times, some much sooner than others (was never huge on living at home personally).

This article I will touch on cost, only as I’m always sensitive to budget constraints and there’s no better comparison between homes and CRM – how much can I afford?  Good news here is that you’ll actually see the return on your investment much sooner than buying a house.  Like houses though, CRM’s come in all shapes and sizes, different prices, and needs – can you move right in or do will we need some construction?  This of course allows you to find the home/CRM that works best for you and best fulfills your needs.  There are starter CRM packages out there for the new owners as well as the expert packages that have been saving a long time (yup, I’m going to beat this house theme into the ground).  In either case, after careful analysis (and some help) you should be able to find the package that is right for you and meets your needs.  Consider the experts Realtors for your CRM.

To battle the cost idea, an example comes to mind which happened to one of my favorite clients.  He had some hesitation to the cost of implementing a CRM package, but knew he needed to do something.  The costs were daunting – new server (this happened to be an on premise package), software licensing, training time, consulting costs for configuration, import of data, etc.  However, we created workflows in his CRM to automate some of the tasks that he was really bad at.  Essentially, he was bad at following up with clients and he knew this – he needed something/someone to do it for him.  We created a simple process to automate an email for those that had an overdue balance, sending out an automatic email in the morning, nothing huge, just a friendly reminder.  He told me two weeks later that the single process of sending an email to those clients had single handedly paid for all of his CRM costs including my time with him, his server, and licensing.  People appreciated the friendly follow up, didn’t realize that they owed a balance, but more importantly, they wanted him to come back out and do some more work for him.  Why I love the follow up with any system is that you’re reminding clients that you’re still there which in further reminds them of other needs they may have.

Will this example above be what happens to everyone?  I wish, but unfortunately no.  However, the returns will come.  Better tracking of sales and what’s coming in the pipeline, never losing track of the communications between you and your customers, being able to market directly to the right clients based on interests, industry, or existing products – all these items may not have a solid dollar amount to track against your investment, but it is there.  As with your old apartment, you’re going to outgrow that yellow pad of paper with all your “to-do’s” and you’re going to simply need something more to move you to the next step.

Monday, March 19, 2012

LogMeIn - The New Force in an Old Space

There have always been a few serious players in the desktop sharing arena.  Ranging in price and features, these different companies have dominated the online seminar (before we called them "webinars") and the remote desktop support/access space as soon as the ability to have virtual meetings was available.  However, new players have joined the space and crept in slowly to take that market share.  For their protection we'll keep them nameless for now as I don't mean to knock any existing product, only promote the newest to the group of GoTo's and Ex's.

I say new to the group but that's probably a misconception.  LogMeIn has been around for about 4-5 years now, playing a huge role in IT support.  For years we have had LogMeIn Free and Pro versions where individuals across the land have been able to access servers and desktops from anywhere (including Smartphones) for free.  That might be worth repeating -- free I say, free.  Knowing this company for years now, supporting them and being a frequent if not daily user, I've often wondered how they're making money.  Not for me to ask though as I never look a gift horse in the mouth.

I guess the real reason that I say they've finally hit the big time with beating the competition is their newest addition (been around for a little under a year now) in Join.Me.  I had thought that LogMeIn and LogMeIn Rescue was enough, but they decided to even go down the road of the webinar.  Taking advantage of the fun domain registries in Montenegro, they've got an amazing product which is amazingly easy to use and again, free.  Hardest part is getting to the website, but they have made that easier redirecting www.joinme.com to the Join.Me URL.  A simple screen prompting to Join or Share is all you need.  One person shares, one or more will join to watch, and there's even the ability to take control or pass control which makes remote desktop support even easier.  I personally use this little web application several times a week for either an online demo or to support my clients.  Are there some limitations?  Sure there are -- you can't copy and paste, certain key strokes aren't captured, and file transfer isn't there.  However, for free, can't we get over those little things?  If not, don't worry there's a pay version where file transfer and other features are enabled at a pretty reasonable cost.

To be fair to the company, I'll also mention LogMeIn Rescue which is most likely their true cash flow product.  A little pricey for the occasional support guy, this one is priceless for any tech support organization.  I'll let them do their own marketing piece here, but if you need a remote support tool (for a call center), do NOT skip this one in your analysis of products that are out there.  There are a slew of other products as well such as LogMeIn Central, Hamachi and LogMeIn Backup as well which are worth checking out.

Usually I write towards trends in the IT world and I want to be clear that's what I'm doing here.  While this is promoting a particular product line (and no, I don't get anything from this), I guess my true point here is beware to the dominant players from yesterday and bravo to the new and inventive players of today and tomorrow.  If anything LogMeIn is keeping the other guys on their toes and making them look towards innovation to keep clients.  Isn't that what better business is about?  A month from now we might be talking about another player in this space, but for now, we've at least got another biggie continuing to challenge all, even themselves.