For those people out there who work at the boundary of IT and sales and marketing there can’t be a more dreaded phrase than “we need to develop a CRM strategy”.  When I was a box fresh consultant the idea of doing a client’s CRM strategy would fill me with excitement and hope.  Here’s a company that knows the right way of going about things I would think.  Get the CRM strategy right and everything else should just fall into place. Thankfully I’m a heck of a lot less naive these days.  The reason I have become cautious when hearing the call for a CRM strategy is that (here’s the controversial bit) I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing.  Now, I’m being a bit provocative for the blog but hear me out.  I’ll explain why there may be no such thing but I’ll also explain what you should do in it’s place.  How you can connect the demands of business back to the systems and processes of the IS organisation.

It’s always about the definition

Our first challenge is trying to find out what a CRM strategy really is.  Here’s a string of words; channel, marketing, brand, customer.  If you place strategy at the end of each of those words you have some of the building blocks that may/could/should form part of any strategy that impacts the relationships you have with your customers.  There are a number of other components that could also get included in the mix as well.  Unlike any of the component parts I don’t think that there is one accepted set of components that could be part of your own CRM strategy.  So everyone will see CRM strategy in a different light.  At one end from the perspective of narrowly defined technology decisions (i.e what’s our strategy for selecting a CRM system) .  At the other end from the perspective of what our whole engagement approach to customers needs to be from who they are to what we will do with them.    So when the phrase CRM strategy is bandied about – try and make sure everyone has got their definitions right.  Get it down on paper and make sure everyone is clear.  I would suggest that your first attempts at getting consensus won’t be easy.  You’ll need a process to go through that brings people together; sets out a framework and allows them to fill in the blanks.

Using the business model canvas

So my go to technique or tool is to use the business model canvas.  This is a tried and tested method for development of business models and future ways of operating for many organisations.  It has a nice structured model and method for generating what I consider to be some of the key components of a CRM strategy.  It can allow you to be clear on your customer segments (or at least help support you in finding an approach to defining these).  Likewise you will be able to connect these customer segments to your value propositions; and help you be very clear on what your value propositions are (do people say USPs these days?).  Where it also comes in handy is in the development of your high level stories that will support you in development of your system requirements.  It’s a mistake to go too far and too fast into defining your requirements at a detailed level.  Start with the broad brush strokes of your intent and slowly work down from there until everyone is clear and comfortable with what everyone else is trying to achieve.

There is also another adapted version of the business model canvas that I like to use that places the concept of the customer and the value statements at the start of the process.  This one is based upon the a focus upon the user experience.  Set aside the term user and substitute customer and you have a better understanding of why it will work well for you.  Imagine getting different teams of people from across your company and you can have some great conversations around who and how your processes and systems can help deliver a better customer experience.  What also works well is that once you’ve gone through a few iterations of the model (and you will need those iterations) you have a really useful artefact to print out and take around your company to help explain how things are going to be done.

And from this to development

Now, another tool I’ve also started to use a lot is here.  The Canvanizer allows you to remotely but collaboratively develop all sorts of similar canvasses but ones that are tailored to your specific needs.  Customer journeys etc that may require a slightly different approach.  And what I really like about this one is that once you are all happy with the content of your canvas you can use it to push straight to your Agile tool like Jira or somesuch.  You’ll be able to connect your strategy down to your EPICs and then beyond in a nice connected electronic form.  It will make life much easier for your development team to understand how what they are doing connects back to your company strategy and how it is not always the detail that matters in the success of failure of a project.

There’s a lot here to get you started and working on.  Comment to share ideas or questions on how these could help.  If you have other ideas or tools you’ve come across I’d love to see these.