CRM Planning

4 ways to ensure your CRM system doesn't fail

4 ways to ensure your CRM system doesn’t fail

By Paul Pitman, Solutions Architect at Collier Pickard (Maximizer Elite Certified Solution Partner)

CRM can be a costly and time-consuming endeavour. But it’s one that, if successful, can increase your business’ revenues by between 5 and 15% according to research organisations such as Aberdeen, Forrester and Gartner. If it isn’t successful though, then you’ve wasted a lot of time, money and effort for no return.

As an independent CRM consultancy and a Maximizer Elite Certified Solution Provider, Collier Pickard is often selected as a partner of choice by businesses struggling to repair CRM systems before they fail completely. Although the reasons why the CRM systems are failing will be different from organisation to organisation, they can be grouped together into four key areas:
1. The CRM system is not used or maintained by anyone in the organisation
2. The project sponsor who acted as the driving force behind the original implementation of CRM has moved on to pastures new
3. Users within the organisation want to use the CRM system, but are let down by the technology itself
4. The CRM system does not deliver all of the functions required

Whilst a simple solution to any of these problems may not be available for your organisation there are some key tips that may help you get your CRM system back on track. Let’s address each of the four areas in turn:

The CRM system is not used or maintained by anyone in the organisation
Most people probably don’t set off to work in the morning intending to fight the system… hopefully. But if your users aren’t making use of your CRM solution it’s important to try to find out why. Simply prodding and berating staff into using CRM is unlikely to have the desired effect.

In our experience, a lack of management support for CRM is often the root cause of this issue. If users feel that their hard work updating and maintaining CRM is not appreciated or utilised by top brass then they’ll abandon their efforts in short order. If the management in your organisation refuse to use the CRM system themselves, or still insist on seeing reports in Microsoft Word or Excel then they really shouldn’t expect to reap the benefits that CRM can bring. The leaders need to lead by example! Everyone in the organisation must be committed to using CRM for it to stand a chance of success.

The project sponsor or driving force has moved on
It’s not uncommon for changes in management to signal changes in CRM systems. Users who were experienced and happy with an existing CRM system may struggle to adapt to the new approaches and requirements found in a new solution. Users who are struggling with the current system can now legitimise their lack of attention to CRM by referencing the upcoming change.

The solution to our first point applies here to. Management must lead the way.
Will replacing your CRM solution cost more than the original implementation? How will you migrate data from one system to another? Is the data even of a good enough standard to warrant migration?

Whilst these questions may not change the decision to replace a CRM system they may well assist in developing a more precise approach to the project.

Finally, try to identify the driving force behind the CRM system. At Collier Pickard, we frequently find that committed sales administrators and marketing assistants are behind the success of CRM systems.

Users are let down by technology
The most common issues here are connected to speed and ease of access to the CRM system. The software developers themselves haven’t set out to produce a bad platform so the issues are unlikely to be related to buggy software, but if your users can’t access the system whenever and wherever they are then you have a problem. As soon as your users start resorting to other methods to capture data your CRM system is in trouble.

By making sure your CRM solution can be accessed anytime, anywhere, you are taking a step in the right direction for your CRM project.

The CRM system doesn’t deliver all the required functions
Changes in management or reporting requirements or more fundamental changes in the business might be responsible for this. Typically this issue first appears as a potential Business Intelligence requirement. The organisation decides that it needs to integrate all of the systems that surround CRM – from quote creation, to web store integration, to accounts. Requirements that weren’t anticipated in the original CRM project spec create additional silos of data outside of the core CRM system. Without intervention at this point, the organisation will rapidly lose its ability to identify the “single view” of the customer that CRM promised to deliver.

Forewarned is forearmed so keep these points in mind when reviewing your CRM solution. Remember that prevention is better than cure!

12 key tips to successful user adoption

12 key tips to successful user adoption

User adoption is vital to any CRM project’s success and I’ve known plenty of highly qualified technical directors and CIOs that, though able to pull the system apart and put it back together with their eyes closed, have a failed CRM solution to their conscience due to the one factor they haven’t controlled – the users!

And, it’s not just high level technical staff that commonly overlook users – financial, sales and marketing senior management all regularly make the same mistake of implementing a perfect CRM system in theory, but forget to involve the people who make it work in practice.

So, to remedy this common pitfall, use the 10 tips below to help you achieve a fantastic rate of user adoption and a return on your CRM investment:

1. Get the actual users involved!
If the staff are happy with the software they’ll be using then you’ve won half the battle. To facilitate this you must ensure users are involved at every stage of the selection and installation of the CRM solution.

By doing this you are actively involving the people who carry out the tasks which make your business tick and which your CRM software will affect the most. If you rely on only senior management, then you may be omitting critical knowledge of your business processes’ finer details and how they function in reality.

2. Ensure all departments are equal
CRM has the ability to revolutionise the entire company, from finance, to customer service to dispatch and more.

When highlighting your key areas of improvement which inform your CRM software choice, reinforce the ideal that all departments are equal in their right to be heard and understood, regardless of size or revenue contribution.

It can happen all too often that a CRM software solution offers an amazing set of features for sales or marketing which can blind management to the fact it has little to offer those in customer service or dispatch.

A good CRM provider will not force you into disproportionate areas of functionality and should be flexible enough to provide all your departments with the tools they need.

3. Plan you data
Though all departments should be involved, be aware that they will all have their very own department-centric approach to CRM and may lack knowledge of the details of other department’s business processes. If you aren’t diligent this can lead to processes conflicting and data not being utilising properly.

A good way of avoiding this problem is mapping out the paths data will take through your various departments’ processes and more importantly how it will flow from one department to the next, in a way which allows everyone to utilise it properly.

4. Target proponents
Within your user groups there may well be people who have had experience with CRM before. Find out who these people are and get them heavily involved in the decision making and give them extra software training.

This allows you to install these people as proponents of the new CRM software, having been motivated by their level of engagement. In addition, due to their extra training they can act as local knowledge holders, speeding up the adoption of the rest of their department.

5. Future proof your system
There are few worse tortures than going through an implementation, which is successful, being adopted and is producing great results, only for a new vital application or piece of technology to come out which the CRM software doesn’t integrate with. Fine examples would be social media and the rise of the smartphone and tablet.

Though it’s impossible to know what’s around the corner, the functionality your CRM vendor can currently provide you with, how long it’s been established and how often they update their software, can provide valuable signs as to whether they are going to be able to keep up with what lies around the corner.

6. Make the sale to your users
Any CRM system you employ should make the lives of your staff easier. You can use time saving features, automation and new processes that make their lives easier as leverage to effectively ‘sell’ the system to users.

7. Training efforts
Don’t fall into the trap of attempting to teach your users everything your new CRM solution has to offer in one intensive burst. A top CRM system will offer a vast amount of functionality as standard, which I find is always much less daunting and easier to learn if the training is broken down into what they need to know and what they would like to know.

By covering the critical information first they will be able to carry out their everyday tasks with ease and by introducing the more advanced features of your CRM software at a later date you are making them far more receptive.

In addition, I promote the idea of producing your own instructional resources. Though all CRM software should have general help directories included, such material is generic and users respond to training material when it’s applied to how you want them to use the software. For example, good CRM systems will let you customise the functionality to fit around your own specific needs, including the changing and editing of labels, which make it more difficult for the user to compare the software’s original instructional materials to the system they use.

8. Keep the key entry points simple
In many cases users will be busy and possibly under pressure when entering data into the CRM. For this reason it is imperative that the initial forms needed for data entry are short and summarised. For example when qualifying a lead, a sales rep won’t take to the system if he or she has to hike through a 20 field ‘paxmanesque’ questionnaire of the lead’s entire history on this earth.

I find a good limit is 5 text fields with a further 5 drop-down, combo box, fields. This will give most departments more than enough data to utilise effectively and allows the user a relaxed amount of time to enter the data needed, plus good CRM solutions will have shortkeys to make life even easier.

9. Get what your company needs not what it wants
Bells and whistles can be useful but can complicate things, especially when included within your CRM software. If the system is too daunting, it will most likely sit unused, resulting in a very expensive waste of time and money.

A decent CRM vendor will allow you to add functionality as and when you have the need and most important, when your staff are proficient and ready to use it. The benefits of a staggered approach are two fold; a graduated introduction encourages staff to become comfortable with the basics before introducing advanced functionality and it ensures avoid paying for functionality you think you may need.

10. Lead by example
The entire senior management team need to be actively using the CRM system. In fact I would suggest giving them extra training and heavily encouraging them to champion the new CRM system, not only in what they say to staff, but through using it in their reporting, emailing, task setting, etc.

11. In it to win it
Combining staff targets with elements of successful CRM adoption act to reinforce the motivation already put in place via the methods outlined thus far.

12. Keep issues open and public
It can sometimes happen that despite participative selection, training and active championing of your CRM software, some will remain derogatory. This can originate from anything – a genuine bug-bear about a particular aspect of unsuitable functionality to resentment at a change of business process.

Regardless of the underlying reason, it’s critical to get these people coming forward openly. If you leave these issues to ferment they can influence new joiners to the company and spread across departments dragging down adoption. By bringing genuine issues with your CRM software into the light you can address it directly and everyone within the department or company can assess its validity, limiting any damage done to user adoption or motivation.

12-Point Plan for Successful CRM

A 12-point plan for Successful CRM

For more than 25 years Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have been helping businesses to increase revenues, generate high quality leads, raise productivity and delight customers. CRM is now firmly established as an essential component in the standard suite of business software for entrepreneurs, small businesses and large organisations. Yet a surprisingly high percentage of CRM implementations fail to produce the expected results and ROI and are delivered over-budget, late, not to specification or, at the extreme, are even abandoned completely. Reviewing independent published research of CRM failure rates over many years clearly shows the size and tenacity of the problem.

2001 Gartner Group: 50%
2002 Butler Group: 70%
2002 Selling Power, CSO Forum: 69.3%
2005 AMR Research: 18%
2006 AMR Research: 31%
2007 AMR Research: 29%
2007 Economist Intelligence Unit: 56%
2009 Forrester Research: 47%

Although relatively few CRM projects become complete write-offs, partial failure is common with the software failing to meet unrealistic expectations together with users complaining that the system is overrated or useless. No matter how good the CRM software, it is never going to be a the panacea to company sales, marketing or customer service problems that is often expected of it. If the company does not clearly understand and act upon the changes in business processes, the risk of good technology going bad is pretty high. The following 12-point guide aims to provide a brief and simple list of how to avoid some of these potentially costly pitfalls and disastrous mistakes when choosing, implementing or upgrading a CRM system which should hopefully be of some benefit to any organization. The guide is not exhaustive and as with any project of this nature it is recommended that assistance is sought from a qualified and trusted advisor.

#1 Have a clear idea of what you want
Don’t put the cart before the horse and start evaluating CRM solutions before you have worked out what business problems you are trying to solve. You should be able to translate your needs based on your business methodology and priorities into the technology requirements. Clarify, define and document exactly what business goals you want your customer relationship management system to deliver on. Do you want to optimise your sales process, enhance and track your marketing initiatives, improve customer service, or all three? Ideally these objectives should be specific, measurable and realistic. This is also a good opportunity to evaluate and document your existing business processes and the quality of your existing data. If necessary, seek the assistance of an independent CRM specialist. Do not underestimate the amount of work involved at this early stage!

#2 Appoint a champion
A CRM project needs a strong champion with full, active and continuous commitment from the management team. A strong executive-level champion will be able to make difficult decisions autonomously while keeping the best interests of the organisation at heart. Ideally the champion should be a business leader rather than someone from IT – CRM is more of a business initiative than that of a technology one. The champion will need to create and manage a CRM implementation plan and budget with a specific schedule of events for actually deploying the chosen solution. The champion must also ensure personnel – especially key users like sales people – are able to see real value in the CRM system and can communicate its benefits to users.

#3 Get buy-in
The three chief components for CRM success are: people, process and technology. Lack of user engagement is the number one reason for the failure of CRM systems. Unlike back-end IT software, successfully deploying a CRM solution requires substantial user engagement to drive their adoption. Users need to be engaged early on and often during the system planning and implementation phases so that they understand ’what’s in it for them’. CRM has to be perceived as simple, quick, easy to use and more convenient; otherwise frontline users will circumvent it and continue with business as usual. Make sure you get buy-in from all the decision makers and users, because without their buy-in no CRM system will work for you. User engagement is your biggest hurdle – gain acceptance in order to reduce resistance to change as much as possible.

#4 Are the salesman’s expectations realistic?
“EDS settles lawsuit with BSkyB over botched CRM project for $460M”. This headline from early 2010 marked the culmination of several long years of a bitter dispute and can provide a valuable lesson in matching customer and supplier expectations. To avoid these issues always select the partners to provide your CRM with care. Use a well established company with a history of successful, relevant implementations. Check references from existing clients and choose a company that you feel comfortable dealing with, listens to your needs and can identify with your business processes. Has the supplier or software provider worked with similar industries before? Can you talk to people at reference sites? Bear in mind that implementing a CRM solution is a long-term project and you may have to work with them for some time.

#5 Remember – installing software is only part of CRM
A ’vanilla’ implementation of CRM software can be installed in days, if not hours. But it is not an out-of-the-box panacea for all your business woes. For long term success, a full implementation plan with timelines is essential. This should include numerous aspects such as: process design, hardware, software, product configuration, data integrity and migration, integration, testing, customisation, training and roll-out. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Large initiatives are more complex and have higher failure rates. Keep it simple to start with – it’s generally best to phase projects. Don’t try to include too much functionality and run a pilot if appropriate. If you have chosen the right software provider they should have the experience to help and guide you with this. Otherwise an independent CRM specialist should be sought to assist you.

#6. Customisation – does it do what you want it to do?
Every organisation is unique and all CRM systems will require some tailoring if they are to fit with the way you work. What other systems and functions does the CRM need to integrate with – accounting packages, access for remote workers, corporate mobile phones? Check the software to see how much customisation can be done by internal users or administrators and how much will require costly external developer input? There is a growing sector of third party applications that offer enhanced functionality for some CRM systems. If your CRM software does not meet your needs with its core functionality, see if these provide an off-the-peg solution to your problem. But check to see at what cost. If customisation or special integration is needed, ask for examples of previous work that your CRM specialist has undertaken and if appropriate talk to these end users.

#7 Document the project
There’s an old adage worth remembering: “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. Do not try to implement CRM with only a vague idea of what you are trying to achieve, or what the final solution will look like. During the project there will be new requirements that will emerge, putting pressure on time and resources – and soon budgets are blown. Put a ’stake in the sand’ formalising roles and responsibilities and listing specific measurable metrics that are documented at the beginning of the process. This gives a clear picture helping vendors to provide accurate timelines and costs, and helps eliminate any nasty implementation surprises. It also allows you to measure the success of the CRM and assess ROI.

#8 Does the CRM meet your needs, now – and in the future?
Test, test and then test again. Once your CRM is installed you need to check and ensure that it does what you expect. This can take a surprisingly long time as it involves staff from each department. Plus, any problems and bugs detected in the first round of testing will require re-testing and it’s not uncommon for ‘fixes’ to not be effective or even break other previously working areas of the system. Beware: as implementation gets underway, key data can turn up in salespeople’s laptops, spreadsheets, handwritten notes and legacy systems. Testing also highlights additional requirements, which were not originally specified. It can also provide valuable insight into future development for the CRM. Is the system scalable? If your customer base grows or you want to add functionality (e.g. manage email campaigns), can the system cope with expansion?

#9 Look at the total cost of the system
Whatever type of CRM system you choose (on-premise, hosted, etc.) other costs need to be included to give a true picture of the total cost of ownership. Does the software come with all the sales, marketing and customer service functionality you need? Or are there the additional costs of purchasing modules required for functions such as web access, mobile CRM or to run marketing campaigns? What about data storage or adding new users: how will costs escalate? Customisation can significantly boost the overall cost and greatly add to integration expenditure. Are there any recurring annual fees – if so, how much? Don’t forget to factor in training. A simple, intuitive system will be quicker and easier to learn than larger, more complex systems.

#10 Are you supported?
If you are going to implement CRM effectively, listen to experts who know how to do it in a way that gets results. An unsupported CRM solution will fail. Always ensure that you have the correct support option from your supplier and renew this when appropriate. Review and escalate this if necessary when your system grows or develops beyond your original implementation. Confirm what exactly is covered by support; is some training and/or some customisation included? Check what Service Level Agreement (SLA) is provided. Does the software have a reputation for being robust and is the original software manufacturer dependable with a reliable history?

#11 Ensure there is adequate training
After investing time, effort, and cash in your CRM system, it makes sense to get the very most out of it. Effective training of frontline staff, in addition to Administrator and IT personnel, provides the knowledge and skills to allow you and your staff to exploit all of its full functionality and to get the maximum benefit from your system. In addition, with good training and support users will rapidly integrate the new system into their working life and more readily accept the new ideas, customs and ways of doing things. This helps to drive user adoption and ultimately the success of the CRM. Training can often be tailored to your exact needs, take place at your site on your own system or via the internet and other multimedia channels. It is also good practice to periodically revisit training to refresh, update and re-invigorate both the user and use of the system.

#12 Your fully operational system is only the start
CRM should allow your company to expand and become more successful. It should enable you to retain more customers and to identify and target new customers cost effectively, resulting in greater revenues and profits. It will continue to grow and evolve as you, your business and the markets change. Be ready for bumps in the road though and refine strategies, revise goals, re-set metrics and learn from feedback. CRM projects are rarely completely successful from the outset, but follow these 12 tips and you wil be in a much better position to avoid the most common mistakes when selecting and implementing CRM.



By Lisa Witepski
(The following article appeared in an edition of Future Marketing)

It’s a simple enough concept: treat your customers with care, and your bottom line will feel the benefits. So why aren’t more companies making customer relationship management (CRM) work for them?

There’s a big difference between having a CRM philosophy in your business and actually making it work, says Mark Annett, general manager of Camsoft Solutions: CRM. “You can have all the right CRM methodology in place, but you also need the tools to make it work, and this is where the right software for the job really makes the difference”, he points out. “CRM as a concept is nothing new, after all. It’s all about how you look after your customers, which has been relevant ever since the time when humans discovered that they could sell products or services to others who didn’t have them but would find them useful”, says Annett.

If your customers are important to you, it makes sense to keep them happy so that they continue to do business with you and tell everyone else how well they get looked after by you organisation. It goes without saying that it typically costs far more to find new customers than it does to keep on generating revenue from existing ones. There are several aspects of CRM to consider, however, before you can start smiling all the way to the bank. CRM has a role to play in each of your organisation’s activities. A good CRM system will not only be able to inform you of business opportunities with your existing customer base and prospective customers, but should also be able to tell you how long that customer who has just lodged a complaint has been doing business with you for and what they are worth to your company.

It is in situations where you need to understand your customers’ needs better that a good CRM system proves invaluable. As the name implies, customer relationship management is about managing all aspects of a customer’s experience with your organisation. Using an effective CRM solution will enable you to do this by providing employees with the necessary permissions in the organisation with a global view of all the customer interactions. Whether in marketing or sales, you will have instant access to records such as how many times and what the customer has made enquiries for, what they have historically purchase from your business and in what quantity as well as any other information that you consider important in understanding your customer better. “The implications of maintaining a good understanding of your customers goes beyond improving efficiency – it can only benefit your customers too. Who doesn’t enjoy doing business with a company that views them as an individual and not simply an addition to the bank balance?” Annett asks.

Of course, just as companies provide different products and services, so they require different information about their customers. Fortunately, CRM solutions providers are aware of this and are eager to understand how a customer can improve their systems. “Previously, solutions were fairly rigid and pretty much based on what CRM solutions providers considered customers would need, rather than their actual unique requirements. That’s all changed for the better now though. Solutions providers are keen to gain a full understanding of what makes a particular company tick and are responding by providing CRM solutions that are user-friendly, more robust and reasonably priced,” maintains Annett.

CRM has come a long way since the days of contact management which enabled you to keep track of basic information on a customer as simple records in fields and notes associated with the customer. With CRM came marketing, sales opportunity management, customer services such as a helpdesk, data mining and sophisticated reporting. “All of this functionality can be found in best-of-breed CRM solutions such as Maximizer Enterprise which has the added benefit of having evolved with business needs over the past 20 years and continues to be a leader in CRM”, comments Annett.
Getting it right

Clearly, CRM holds huge rewards for those who get it right. But how can you be sure your company’s investment will produce the desired results?
“The implementation of any CRM solution should be based on a lot of planning,” Annett advises. Before consulting a CRM solutions provider, a company’s management usually has to address some important internal questions before they can start defining their own CRM strategy, such as: Why do people buy our particular product?; How are we different to our competitors? What can we do to improve our marketing?; How effective is our current marketing effort? How effective is our current marketing effort? How should we go about increasing sales?; What makes our best sales staff successful?; What market should we be targeting?; How are we measuring our current performance?

This raises another important point. Many CRM strategies fail because they lack the support of an organisational leader. The strategy must be driven by someone who can influence company thinking and who can encourage staff buy-in.” This can be one of the biggest challenges, because change is very often resisted because of the unknown so good communication at all stages is of the utmost importance. But show employees how the CRM strategy has the ability to increase their revenue they will be sure to see its value.

It is also a lot easier to win employee buy-in when implementing a CRM solution if the new way of working is user-friendly. Similarly there would be no point in investing time, effort and money in a new, improved way of doing things if the very people expected to make it successful view it with suspicion and wariness due to ignorance. Adequate training on a CRM solution is therefore essential and will ensure that the company gets the most out of their investment from the start. Training shouldn’t also necessarily be a once-off endeavour. After all, new employees join the business over time and a good CRM solution should be flexible enough not to stop growing. As soon as you’ve reached your initial CRM goals you should evaluate what you have achieved and set further goals rather than rest on your laurels. It also makes sense to appoint a CRM consultant who can be tasked with improving the company’s CRM experience by providing the amount of consultation that the company can afford and feels is appropriate.

How will you know when you’ve found the perfect CRM solution? “It’s simple really– you will start seeing bigger profits as a direct result of increased customer satisfaction,” says Annett who firmly believes that we are only beginning to realise the value of this important tool.

Importantly, use of CRM software will also become more widespread. Most companies already have a CRM philosophy of some sort in place, but very often they lack the tools to convert their philosophy into everyday practice. This is a pity because great ideas can get lost by the wayside and it’s less likely the company will thrive as well without a proper customer management strategy. “Every company – no matter how small – should really have some form of CRM solution,” Annett opines. One of the reasons they don’t, he adds, is because of misperceptions surrounding the price of CRM systems. “Although large sums are often bandied about for an over-the-top solution, a small company can install an adequate CRM solution for less than
R10 000-00.”

Other stumbling blocks which have traditionally stood in CRM’s way include outdated IT infrastructure, which sometimes proves unable to support the latest operating systems, let alone additional applications such as accounting software or CRM applications, and the high cost of telephonic communications. But these obstacles pale in comparison to the threat of competition, says Annett, “Your competition will always be there, and the only way to keep ahead is by continuously improving the way you go about doing things.”

Tips for implementing a good CRM strategy

Before investing in a CRM solution, Camsoft advises that you:

1. Plan, plan, plan. Be sure of your strategy before you invest.
2. Appoint an organisational leader to drive the strategy and ensure staff buy-in.
3. Do your research, so that you can be sure that what you are wanting to do can be achieved.
4. Consult a reliable solution provider that has experience in CRM, and remember that the most expensive is not always the best.
5. CRM is a long-term investment and while you might experience some initial teething problems as employees become acquainted with the system, it’s worth the effort and ultimately the results will speak for themselves

Avoid CRM promises: ensure you get the functionality you require

Avoid CRM promises: ensure you get the functionality you require

By Mike Richardson, Managing Director – Maximizer Software EMEA

Recently I published a blog titled ‘Are you getting what you asked for?’ in which I reviewed the importance of understanding which functionalities you require and then researching and trialling different products. In the article I even encouraged readers to avoid ‘free’ online options because they usually lead to extortionate implementation and integration fees – but I’ve now discovered you lose more than money with ‘free’ options!

Like most Managing Directors, I spent the last week of March locked up in the conference room with my Heads of Sales, Marketing & Business Development reviewing our Q1 stats. Yet like any good Managing Director, I always expect more, so I decided to undertake some desk research to see what my competitors are up to.

In doing so, I was pleased to find that our marketing efforts provide customers and prospects alike, with detailed information to help them make an informed decision. In short, at Maximizer, we are practising what I was preaching in my previous article. But unfortunately I cannot say the same for some of our competitors.

Don’t be tricked By CRM (Covert misRepresentation Marketing)
Now I have strong views with regard to berating the competition to win a sale. In my opinion a good product should be able to sell itself, which I believe Maximizer does. However, I do feel it is important to highlight some of the marketing traps that are being set to ensure companies get the CRM they want and need.

What I am referring to is false advertising. As a part of my research I signed up for a free trial of a competitor’s system and I have to admit, I liked it! Good functionality, usability, multi-access etc etc. In fact, I was puzzled as to how this solution could be offered ‘free’ when the product development costs would have been significant. So I began to investigate…

After nearly an hour of clicking through the website, an email to customer services and finally a phone call it turned out what I trialled was the fully-functional premier edition, but what was available ‘free to download’ was the significantly limited version, in which over two-thirds of the functionality had been removed.

I went back to the website and read through everything relating to the trial and the free download and there was nothing to state that the trial product was different to the ‘free download’. In fact, if it hadn’t been for my industry experience and digging, I would have assumed that what I was trialling was what I could download!

How to avoid such marketing ploys
In a world of instant gratification, 24/7 customer service desks and online trials, what I suggest may seem a little old-fashioned but my advice to avoid such traps is to slow down. More than half of the investment in a CRM project is hidden in the time it takes to train you and your staff, so don’t waste time in the initial decision-process by purchasing an unsuitable solution, follow these four steps.
1. Identify your must-have functionalities.
2. Then, once you have identified the edition you require, call back and ask for a trial of that edition, if it is not available ask for a 1-2-1 demo so you can review what you will receive
3. And finally, if there is a ‘free’ online version that meets all your requirements, call the Provider again and double-check the costs associated with implementation and integration.
4. It is true that nothing in life is truly ‘free’ so avoid test driving a Ferrari but driving away in a Fiat by following the simple steps above.

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