Why IT Managers Need Marketing Training To Make CRM Software Projects Successful

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Do you have trouble getting business users to adopt your new software and systems?

You need a stealth internal marketing plan!  Looking back on my career as an IT Project Manager, I wish I had known more about marketing, sales tactics and their power of persuasion.

Does this story sound familiar?

The IT group spends 6 months and over $100K working with a contractor to design and implement a new technology initiative like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.  This system should save the company time and money because it automates day to day work, and reduces data entry or manual paperwork processes. 

But when the system is deployed and the users are trained, all that happens is you get complaints from users about how the system does not address a specific issue.  Users are slow to adapt to the new system, and the return on investment is not realized.  This results in the contractor and IT management team looking bad, and the CFO complaining he is not seeing the payback expected in the financial reports and yearly budget.

Many times users will become fixed on what the system will not do instead of the problems it solves.  They may ask where to put specific data which is not included in the system default fields.  Sales people are notorious for not wanting to share information, let alone input their information to a system like a CRM where everyone with access can see their client details. 

Often the issues raised by the users are instances which only come up one in 50 or one in 100 times.  But because the problem occurs immediately after system implementation and initial training, the users focus on the negative versus the positive results.  The old 80/20 rule is at work here.  You spend 80% of your time on the 20% (or less) of the problems.

What can IT do to prevent this scenario?

Take some examples and training from marketing program planning! 

After all, a marketing program, or campaign is a specific plan to change everyday actions and behaviors.  Usually directed toward consumers, but easily applied within a business environment.

Do what the customers are asking for!

Marketing often uses customer feedback, surveys and other data gathering mechanisms to prioritize their next program.  They plan what to focus on when they implement it, and use the information to draft their customer message and content.  IT can do the same thing!

Was the system implemented due to user complaints or unsolved Help Desk tickets?  Or, was the new program a company goal directed from the top down? Perhaps the system implemented improves something internal to the technology department (this is the toughest scenario)?

In any of these cases, the implementation team should spend some time to translate the benefits of the system into user terminology and examples.  Identify clearly how it addresses day to day user issues.  For a CRM system in particular, which will be dependent on sales people entering information about clients, gaining their input early in the project will provide big payback at implementation time.  Find out their current pain points and what information it is difficult for them to find or keep track of during a sales cycle.  Add these marketing message tasks and actions to your project plan, and designate a resource to solicit input from users and draft ideas for ‘selling’ your system.

Example System Implementation Reasons -

1 - Upgraded software which adds additional functionality the users have been requesting.  This can include streamlined data input fields or default data settings which reduce keystrokes, and therefore input time.

 2 - Implement a new CRM system because the company goal is to increase sales leads, sales and eventually profits.

 3 - IT stops supporting an old software version which many users are dependent on because the manufacturer no longer supports it (like the browser Internet Explorer 6).

The best results are usually from user requested and initiated software or hardware implementations (like Example #1).  These specifically address a user request or pain point so most of the users want the change, and have some incentive to fully support the implementation. 

But not all users may have the same pain points.  The change may affect all users, but only a few had submitted that Help Desk request.  In any case, for this example you will still want to make certain that you draft some communications which make all of your users feel there is something in it for them.  What new functionality will save all of the users’ time or effort?

In the case of Example #2 -

Look for ways to bring the benefits of the system into specific work requirements in the user’s day to day activities.  The CRM system may support growth in sales leads, but it probably also means less data entry into multiple systems by various users.  If a user can check the new system for the last update for client address information before actually doing the data entry, they may find the data entry is not required because the update was already done.  Or, they may find that the client address updated automatically after the client subscribed to a new lead generation tool which collected that address data.

Another marketing tactic coming from the surge in social media and gaming shows companies are including ‘gamification’ into their CRM software.  These add-on’s encourage user adoption, data input by sales people and friendly competition.  This article at CFO.com describes the scenario and some of the possibilities because “roughly half of all CRM implementations do not provide the value they promised because users do not input adequate data”.  Specifically, Cole Systems (a MS Partner) has created Spark for MS Dynamics CRM, and there are other companies providing add on game modules for the CRM system with SalesForce.com.

Example #3 where the IT group is making a system update to achieve internal technology goals is the most difficult to translate into business user benefits.  Any internal change which affects your company users or creates downtime for work (at all!) may negatively impact their perception of the technology group.  So, for this type of situation, you may have to try a little harder and brainstorm with some business subject matter experts to find selling points. 

Try to link some existing user requests or pain points to the functionalities provided by the upgrade.   The users may see an improvement in system response time or elimination of repetitive, time consuming log in requirements.

If you have a marketing staff, enlist their help in drafting your communications.  Build excitement about the improvements for each user’s day to day work in order to sell your new system to the users. 

Put on your ‘consumer’ mindset and think about how your new system might be similar to some of the best technology companies’ marketing campaigns.  Can you create a comparison of the old system to the new one, like the famous Mac versus PC commercials?  What system capabilities can be used to play up the user’s desire for the ‘shiny new thing’ like the next, great cell phone or gaming system?

Are you starting to see the possible marketing tactics application for your system implementations?  Great!  Training for project teams in some of the latest online marketing methods can be applied to a variety of your project phases.  These tips and training will increase the probability of a successful implementation, happy business users and accolades for the IT group!

There are many more aspects of marketing tactics which can apply to how, when and where to communicate your 'IT marketing' message.  Marketing ideas and communications will help make your new technology system change management requirements fun and creative!

By Guest Author: Lane Sennett – B2B Technology Content Writer and Marketing Consultant Supporting the Microsoft Partner Community



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