Maximize the ROI of Your CRM Solution: Learn How to Get the Most for the Least

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If you're reading this, it's likely you've already been successfully evangelized. Converted into the hosanna-singing faithful flock of the evangelical ministry of CRM. And why wouldn't you be?

In just under a decade, adoption of customer relationship management solutions has nearly doubled. A recent study by CSO Insights found that CRM use has increased to 82.9 percent from just shy of 50 percent 10 years before. Companies are looking for CRM to do everything from streamlining their workflows to expanding and deepening their customer base. And as CRM becomes a more pervasive part of the sales interaction, CRM-enabled interactions are becoming less an invisible tool and more a necessity for meeting customer expectations in even the most minor of transactions. Customers who wouldn't know to call it CRM are aware—from the ads that are targeted to them to the conversations they have on the phone—that their behaviors and transactions are being tracked and optimized. As such, their expectations are increasing.

No one needs a soapbox for CRM anymore; the business case is clear—if also expensive. The question then for many is not should they implement CRM, but how to get the most out of it once they have it. There are a number of issues and best practices that anyone using CRM needs to consider, but before we dive into that, let's lay the groundwork.

Defining the terms

There are two major questions that CRM systems answer to help deliver a return on investment in a good implementation: who are a company's customers and how are its resources being spent to attract and service them. Both of these sound almost poisonously straightforward, but often the answers aren't obvious. A company's way of understanding its customers might actually be losing it potential business.

Mark Wollen, senior vice president for cloud marketing and sales cloud at Salesforce.com, points to the financial services sector as a prime example.

"Traditionally, the customer and the financial account were synonymous," he says. "But am I my account? I may have multiple accounts and policies, but I may also have a spouse. A family. They may have their own banking and insurance needs."

Understanding what those needs are and anticipating them, making the right offer at the right time to make the rest of that family customers, and then identifying needs before they fully express them, upselling them products they may not have been aware of, and deepening their value is what ROI in CRM is all about on the customer side. In short: preserving or padding revenue.

On the structural side, CRM is about cost savings. A good solution will help a company identify where value comes from within its portfolio and reduce costs where it does not.

"Say a company wants to increase new leads by X percent," offers Vishrut Parikh, director of product marketing for NetSuite. "If the marketing organization's system is tied into the CRM [solution], you can see the cost per lead and you can see where they're coming from. Is it the Web? Is it emails? You can focus on the source of the leads. And you can also measure the value of the leads you get from 

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