CRM: How to decide where to invest

By Charles @ Marketing Yeah!

Working client-side in CRM today feels a lot like being a child in a candy store. Everything looks amazing, but you can’t eat it all. How do you select and prioritise use cases and then build them up into a full-blown CRM strategy?

For the past few months, most of the ideas for this blog have come from conversations with colleagues in my close network. It’s been a great hunting ground for problems to solve and issues to tackle, but it’s time to open things up a little.

A few weeks ago I asked LinkedIn to send over struggles it was experiencing with marketing technology, CRM, marketing automation etc. The results were fantastic.

Albert Vogelaar, Global Digital CRM manager at TNT responded first. Albert wants to make use of new martech entering the market today (including predictive modelling and AI) but is finding it difficult to prioritise which use cases to tackle first. As Albert put it:

Working client-side in CRM today feels a lot like being a child in a candy store with a huge amount of money. Everything looks great and smells even better, but you can’t eat it all. How do you select and prioritise use cases and then build them up into a full-blown CRM strategy including predictive modelling and AI?

So firstly how do you prioritise which use cases to tackle first? And secondly, how do you avoid investing in a series of narrow projects that don’t support a wider strategy?

Prioritising Use Cases

With so many possible ways to invest your resources, taking a use case based approach can be a sensible way to break down what you want to achieve into bite-sized chunks.

The first step in prioritising your use cases is to capture them all.

This is not an exercise you should do on your own – you should involve your whole team. I spent at least half a day off site with each of my teams to run through their ideas for the future. We captured these in a spreadsheet. For each use case we defined a few things clearly: the potential returns, any internal and external resource required, the estimated time to full implementation and whether we could use the tech we already had or needed something new. We did this to get some sense of risk versus reward.

Then we started to prioritise.

We always took an objective-based approach: what are our business goals and objectives and which use cases will help us achieve them.

We tempered anticipated returns with the complexity of delivery. For each use case, we considered which factors would impact our ability to implement: budget, resource available from the rest of the business (especially technical), management’s approach to risk etc.

It’s easy to believe that you can choose which use cases you tackle. In reality external factors have ruled many out for you.

Sometimes this meant that the fun project we wanted to work on got dropped, but usually it meant that we ended up with a balanced set of use cases to tackle over the next 12 months. The key word there is ‘balance’. We chose a range of use cases deliberately: from quick wins with average returns all the way through to some real punts with potentially stunning results.

Just like a prudent investor, we tried to create a diversified portfolio of use cases to tackle. At the very least, it needed to contain enough quick-wins to ensure we met our targets with a few speculative initiatives thrown in for good measure.

Tackling riskier use cases

Some of you may be thinking that this all feels very ‘safe’. Where is the drive to deliver some game-changing project that will transform the way your organisation competes?

Well this option is open to you, but usually you need a big budget and a leadership team with an appetite for risk.

It also helps if you’re working for a younger company; battling with ancient IT infrastructure is no fun at all.

If you’re committed to taking the leap, consider the following:

New technology – If you’re going for some new fangled tech (especially predictive modelling and AI), do as much due diligence as you can. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to be caught out. Speak to other customers as a minimum. Roll out a proof of concept before you invest. And if anything, anything, doesn’t work correctly first time around, make sure you really understand why and why this won’t be an issue when you roll out in full.

For predictive modelling in particular, make sure you have enough data to obtain meaningful results. Have direct conversations with the people actually doing the modelling and ask for an honest opinion on the likely outcomes.

The right partner – It goes without saying, but working with the right partner can make or break your project. This is basic stuff, but make sure you speak to at least three suppliers before committing. Ideally do a proof of concept with each. It’s really easy to get caught up in the hype and be oversold. Make sure you’re under no illusions when it comes to what you expect from them. In hindsight, you can easily read the same quotation in two different ways.

Check your numbers – Finally, check your numbers. Make sure you model exactly what you expect this initiative to add to your bottom line. Use real data in your workings. Triple-check your numbers and work with your accounts team if you need to. Be really honest with yourself.

We look at how to model the financial returns from marketing automations on our Advanced Training Course.

With your due diligence done, get ready to invest all you have into managing the project through to completion. Now is not the time to sit back on the promise that your partner has it all in-hand. Remain deeply involved and manage it through. Acting as the go-between between internal and external teams is a necessary pain.

From narrow use cases to coherent strategy

Albert’s last question is really important. When they don’t gel well together, working on narrow use cases can lead to a disjointed customer journey.

To avoid this, you need to develop a clear customer journey strategy before deciding which use cases to tackle. Use cases should be used to support this strategy and not the other way around.

Taking this approach to planning your CRM activity helps create a consistent customer journey throughout. Use cases can be used to support each stage of the journey until a complete end-to-end customer journey is built out over time.

In conclusion

A lot rides on how you invest your resources over the coming year. There are lots of attractive new tools and technology on offer, but marketing success will come not from the tools themselves, but how you choose to use them. In selecting which use cases to tackle, you need to balance potential returns with the risks associated with delivery, while keeping one eye on how this initiative supports the customer journey as a whole.

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