Technology Can’t Help You Without A
Technology helps us increase productivity and save time. Wisely
used, it decreases our costs and increases our profit.
This is, in fact, our own sales pitch when recommending computer telephony or other
information technology purchases.
Yet, I believe technology companies are even more prone to the misuse
of technology in its application, and especially in its development. There
are new software and hardware products continually developed
with little customer input. They are not based on customer demand; rather,
engineering design and innovation takes place around perceived needs.
Several of my clients are currently focused on using the Internet to improve business opportunities and
efficiency. This focus led me to question the introduction of
technology to improve the sales and marketing process, and the
customer relationship management (CRM) segment in particular.
Two main themes emerged that are applicable to all technology deployments,
not just CRM.
1. If you don’t have an effective strategy, technology can’t
save you from eventual failure.
Most businesses lack specific strategies regarding the application of
new (and even not-so-new) technology. Those mesmerized by new technology
tend to first ask, “How can we use this leading-edge technology in our business?”
rather than "Do we need this technology?" This leads to subsequent tactics born of the desire to utilize the
technology, rather than any clients really requesting it.
A more logical approach is needed: First, set your goals and
objectives. Then, ask how you can best reach them. Finally, research what
technology exists to help you reach your goals.
When the fax was introduced it wasn’t long before there was marketing
via broadcast fax. Let’s stop and think. How many faxes do you just
throw away? The technology got the message to you, but the message was not
appropriate. This is indicative of a poorly
planned marketing campaign and a poor strategy.
The point here is that if we don’t
have something attractive or we’re not serving our prospects’
interests, then it won’t work as a fax, e-mail, or direct mail.
This holds true for your Web site strategy, as well. Unless you plan out where you
want people to click and what you want them to read and do, it will not
work. Again, the technology works but not your methodology. If you don’t
have a target market and speak specifically to them, your sales will be
flat. I like leadership guru Stephen Covey’s analogy of the
insignificance of the height and strength of your ladder if it is against
the wrong wall.
2. Start with -- and stay with -- your objective. Don’t get caught
up in the process.
Don’t buy technology just because it’s the latest trend and you
just have to have it. I spoke with Charles Cyna, co-founder of Avante
Solutions Inc., for his views. Avante is a leading implementer of CRM
solutions in North America. With my personal interest in CRM software, I
wanted to learn some of the common mistakes made when sourcing this kind of
technology service and support.
Cyna says he sees organizations spending too much time and money
investigating the purchase of their new CRM systems. Then, when a tool is
finally selected, a panic ensues from the realization that the original
deadline for implementation had passed months ago and this
"thing" needs to be deployed yesterday. Classically, this is
being swept away in the process of implementing the technology, rather than
reaching your business objectives (such as customer retention).
This scenario often leads to project failure, well before the first
user reaches for the keyboard. Cyna offered six common pitfalls your
should be aware of when remedying a situation with technology:
- Do not investigate too many or cross-tiered technologies.
If you are looking at tools that cost $200 a license with ones that
are $2,000 -- stop immediately. Something is wrong. This normally
suggests that requirements have not been fully defined. Organizations
should consider three or four technologies during evaluation to avoid
taking only a
superficial glance at many applications.
- Do not treat the evaluation as part time.
CRM technologies can literally revolutionize how your company
thinks about its customers. By not taking enough time to investigate
it is difficult to assess whether all the requirements of your
business case can be met. This is all about your return on investment
-- the more time you put in, the better fit the solution you choose
- Choose you evaluation team carefully.
If it is their first exposure to technology, think about adding
someone technical to balance the team. Team members each offer
specific knowledge of departmental processes to reach common corporate
- Don't let your evaluation period extend too long.
Cyna recommends three months as more than adequate to select a
tool. If you let it drag on for too long, the software and hardware being evaluated
will be upgraded and your evaluation team will have to redo research.
- Have strong management support.
CRM should not be a grass roots initiative -- its accumulative impact on the entire
business is too great. Senior management needs to
be on board, visible, and taking leadership of the project.
- Have clear business requirements and objectives.
If your organization cannot communicate real deliverables of a tool,
it is more than likely that the implementation will fail. Only clear
objectives will limit the scope enough to allow the implementation to
In conclusion, no matter what the technology is and no matter how well
it works, it must be applied in the right place, at the right time, and to
the right people. In short, create a strategy. Cleary
understand your objectives and seeks the tools to support your efforts to
reach that goal. Avoid getting stuck in the selection process.
A mentor of mine who advocated a simple, direct approach to problem
solving always said, “The easiest way to dig a hole is with a shovel.”
I think he was wise. My personal addition is, “Why not make sure that
there is a good chance of striking gold or oil while you’re digging?”
Martin Wales, the Customer Catcher, is a business development
specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on
CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator
focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing
resources. Contact him at email@example.com.