OMG! Are you AOK for CRM?


Date: 14 July 2010

It seems ours is a world littered with TLAs. Sorry, perhaps you’ve not come across that particular TLA before – it stands for Three Letter Acronym. As the number of management theories and business technologies expands exponentially, those seeking to describe them have resorted to apparently simple TLAs to hide the literally breathtaking number of syllables they comprise. An example; printers used to be, well, just that — printers. But then someone combined them with a fax machine and a scanner. Such devices are thus labelled ‘multifunctional printer / fax / scanners’. Or multifunctional products. Or, better still, MFPs. Now I ask you, is MFP really an improvement? Business theory humdingers At least you can usually break technology-based TLAs down into their constituent chunks. That’s not so true of TLAs representing business theory. For every good one there are some real humdingers. For example, TQM might mean Total Quality Management and ERP Enterprise Resource Planning — but to an outsider, exactly what these theories involve is hard to guess. Good thing that SMEs rarely have time for such stuff. Like SME, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a relatively young TLA trying to make its way in the world. You might assume that such an awfully long phrase embraces a bewilderingly complex system of databases, training, communications technology and marketing nous. In fact, while you could quite happily spend your way into an off-the-shelf or bespoke CRM system to do all of that, it’s the  ‘nous’ that’s most important. The blindingly obvious The reality is that CRM is much more than the software. In fact, CRM should first be seen as a formalised, systematic approach to the blindingly obvious – keeping your clients happy. Weaving that into your business infrastructure should come first, and then — only then — should you bring in the CRM software to help implement it. No system, however functional and customisable, can replace sound marketing logic and planning. So don't let salesmen tell you different — but hey, seeing as it's a salesman, why not pick their brains? After all, they're dealing with all sorts of businesses every day and they'll be happy to talk. Why not ask them what it is the best companies do to successfully introduce CRM? And what do those who blow it get wrong? It's an excellent way to figure out what needs to change — your management structure, maybe your product, even your business plan. Once you've done all that, choosing the right CRM software should be the easy part. As easy as ABC, in fact. Related links A detailed 8 part guide to CRM for small businesses: A good breakdown of the different options when deciding on a CRM system:

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