CRM Association Retools for 2004

The CRM Association (CRMA) has been building a network of not-for-profit membership chapters nationwide since 2000, each striving to bring together executives and business users responsible for making CRM work in their organizations. With membership and participation steadily climbing, the association recently took steps to reaffirm its mission, as well as to better manage its member relationships by implementing its own CRM system. The national organization recently adopted Salesforce.com to help manage communications with members in various cities. CRM Essentials of Roswell, GA, assisted in the implementation. "One of the issues the CRM Association was facing and is still facing is growing pains; there are a lot of entrants, and one of the things [CRMA founder] Ginger Cooper wanted was something that could allow the growth to happen and still be on top of everything going on in the organization," says CRM Essentials partner Brent Leary. CRMA chapters use the Web-based system to organize member contacts, guest relationships, and assets like white paper subscriptions. "It made it a lot easier for the national level to understand the membership of the different chapters," Leary says. Meanwhile, the Atlanta chapter of CRMA -- the group that launched the organization in 2000 -- has restructured its activities to get away from vendor-dominated dialogues that were sidetracking the mission of the organization. Now, the organization's general meetings are attended only by CRM practitioners. Vendors and consultants who belong to the organization still have access to annual meetings, but their day-to-day role is being curtailed to open up the floor to the people working with their own CRM systems on a daily basis. "The original premise was to be a public forum where end users could share ideas, share successes and failures, so that everyone would learn from it," says Doug Isbecque, vice president of CRMA Atlanta. "Over the years it became more vendor-heavy. We're happy to have vendors there...but it wasn't a true educational event, which is what we wanted to be." Quarterly meetings are now led by one of the special interest groups in the chapter. In addition to clearing the air to encourage a pressure-free environment for business peers to exchange information, CRMA Atlanta also hopes that the move will encourage sponsorships to support the non-profit organization. "Vendors had a problem because they were promoting to other vendors," Isbecque says. Much of the inspiration for the new model came from CRMA Canada, a similar but unaffiliated organization that organizes its activities in similar fashion. There are currently eight U.S. chapters of CRMA and one international chapter, in Dublin.
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