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3 Questions To Ask When Assessing Your CRM

Nothing in life is static, not personally and not in business.

The financial priorities and goals you have as a single person change considerably once you get married, and even more dramatically once you start having kids. Which mix of stocks, bonds, cash and other investments will help you achieve an always-fluid set of goals requires frequent assessments and recalibrations.

The very same commitment to regular and rigorous assessments of whether or not you have the tools and resources in place to achieve your business objectives is also critical. Indeed, companies moving from the startup phase to a business much larger often find they not only need more employees, but also often require new enterprise software systems to make the jump smoothly.

On the menu of tools that manufacturers should consistently assess is their CRM software. As with most businesses, CRM software has become an absolutely essential tool for manufacturers, providing a sophisticated way to manage everything from customer interactions and sales leads to marketing assets and actual contracts. But the features and capabilities a manufacturer needs from its CRM are far from static. As a business evolves to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing marketplace, a manufacturer’s CRM must be able to respond accordingly.

Getting a handle on whether or not your current CRM is fueling you to meet or inhibiting you from achieving your business goals requires asking a few questions. Here are three things to know when you begin the process of assessing your CRM software:

What Are Your Business Goals?

In an ideal world, there is never a gap between a manufacturer’s business goals and the CRM it uses to achieve them. But in an industry as fluid and fast moving as manufacturing, it’s unlikely that any alignment between business goals and software solutions will last forever.

For example, some manufacturers may need to focus for a time on getting new products from the concept phase to delivery as fast as possible; later, they may need to emphasize product quality and improved customer relationships. It’s more than likely that for many manufacturers, their existing CRMs aren’t doing exactly what is most needed to drive immediate success.

Indeed, a recent survey by this publication found that a third of manufacturers have CRMs that are between six and 10 years old. The same survey found that more than three-quarters of manufacturers are currently operating multiple platforms to handle everything from sales to marketing to customer service. No matter what a manufacturer’s business goals are, this sort of siloed approach inevitably leads to inefficiencies, redundancies and, sometimes, data quality problems that can cascade across an organization.

What Are Your Benchmarks?

Given just how hectic and pressure-filled the typical business environment for manufacturers is, it can be tempting to evaluate a CRM’s value based only on whether or not its technology and feature set is on the cutting edge. Avoid that temptation.

Though it takes more effort, a full analysis of whether or not your CRM needs a refresh is vital. Doing that is only possible by comparing your CRM’s performance against specific benchmarks; it’s the only way to establish the kind of reference point needed to see if your software solution is able to achieve your current business priorities.

The most effective way to benchmark is to choose the specific key performance indicators that reflect your current business goals. Common KPIs in the manufacturing industry include customer complaints and satisfaction; demand forecasting; cycle time; production forecasts; revenue targets; and monitoring of predictive maintenance. Gathering data about each of these KPIs and comparing your own performance versus what you’ve achieved in the past or what’s considered industry standard is a good way to understand if your CRM needs to evolve. It may turn out that your system seems to be performing well and that your business performance in key areas is improving. But, even if you believe your CRM is functioning as you would hope, comparing yourself against industry averages may highlight areas for improvement.

You can still do benchmarking even if you haven’t tracked KPIs by identifying potential pain points. For example, look at metrics like whether or not your CRM marketing automation is targeting the correct audience or whether or not it’s providing highly qualified leads to the appropriate person.

Are You Regularly Talking to Your CRM Vendor?

Too often, software companies get so involved in running their businesses they never take time to make sure that their technology is actually helping you run yours. Which is why it’s so important to work with a software vendor that stays in close contact with their manufacturing clients. Often times, a manufacturer and software vendor will work collaboratively to implement a CRM. When that happens, there is usually tight alignment between a company’s business objectives and its CRM.

Inevitably, though, a gap between business objectives and the CRM develops the more time passes after implementation. To ensure those gaps don’t get too wide and begin negatively impacting a manufacturer’s performance, it’s important to have regular meetings to review KPIs and take proactive steps to ensure the CRM is functioning the way it should. One powerful hint that something is amiss is if CRM usage declines significantly. Working closely with your vendor is a key step to make sure your CRM remains a tool to help your company achieve its objectives, no matter how they may change.

Mickey Patton is President and CEO of Clear C2.

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