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  • October 1, 2016
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

Why Isn’t CRM Adoption Higher? CRM Vendor Execs Weigh In

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Zvi Band, CEO and cofounder of Contactually, agrees, saying that “the majority of CRM platforms require you either adapt to their baked-in process, which may not be comfortable for the org, or invest significant resources in adapting to their specific use case. Ease of use and customization is key, which is not natural for an enterprise-built CRM.” InfusionSoft’s Hicks adds that when vendors are designing CRM offerings for small businesses, “it’s critical to create solutions with a consumer mind-set. Small-business owners are passionate about their business, not yours. So the simpler we can make things, the easier it’ll be for business owners to adopt them.”

SMBs LACK FOCUS AND STRATEGY

The vendors say they have their work to do, but they also feel SMBs have work to do as well, particularly when it comes to strategy development and overall organizational focus. “The biggest reason some SMBs still haven’t implemented CRM-related technologies in 2016 is due to challenges related to executing tactics and strategy,” says Act-On CEO Andy MacMillan. “In most businesses, especially SMBs, the biggest challenge is trying to accomplish the strategic because of the tactical.”

Contactually’s Band also sees a lack of direction stymieing CRM efforts. “The biggest challenge facing SMBs implementing CRM successfully is that they lack the organizational focus on compliance over utility that is necessary for most transactional CRMs—with limited or split time, end users need to rapidly and effortlessly get an answer to ‘What do I do next?’ instead of continual data entry.”

CRM NEEDS TO BE THE FOUNDATION OF CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

As I was having the conversation with Augustin, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the low adoption that CRM and related technologies still have. But as G2 Crowd’s Weissman shared, “Many of us take for granted that businesses are familiar with the wide variety of software available. The B2B software industry is massive, and understanding all the tools available is a job in itself.” And as you see from all the executives’ responses, there are a variety of reasons why we are at these adoption levels; we’ll need to see a realignment between vendors and SMBs to accelerate things.

Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s CEO and cofounder, says, “We are at the beginning of a major shift in the CRM industry from tools focused on helping the vice president of sales track sales to tools helping the sales rep make sales. This shift will greatly benefit SMBs.” This theme echoes Augustin, who finished our conversation at SugarCon with this:

“CRM is more important than ever before, and has evolved from the tool the VP of sales uses to manage their business and people to the platform on which a company manages the customer-facing part of their business.”

For Augustin to be proven correct, the areas pinpointed by these vendor executives—both the ones they’re directly responsible for, and the ones under the SMBs’ control—need to be addressed immediately. If they are, this time next year I may no longer be wondering why CRM adoption is so low.


Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsize businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.

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