Originally published in: Martech Advisor
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems frequently sit at the center of an organization’s digital marketing tech stack for one simple reason: customer experience. CRM technology can optimize marketing strategies, improve customer relations, and help manage the sales cycle. But how do you measure the ROI of CRM systems?
A 2019 Nucleus Research study showed that businesses with integrated CRMs experienced growth of about 20% to 30%. Some of that growth is thanks to increased productivity across not only sales teams but also marketing, customer service, and operations departments.
But here’s the catch: CRM technology can’t do anything on its own. It requires a clear strategy, change-management process, and data to drive business. It also needs other marketing technologies that offer niche solutions, such as loyalty programs that reward distributors or chatbots that supplement customer support.
In other words, you need a strategy before you need technology. And what do you do with any other business strategy? Determine its return on investment. Otherwise, you’ll never know whether you’re getting full value from your CRM system.
Show Me the Money
When measuring the ROI of your CRM system, you’re trying to assess its impact on the sales process (i.e., money). Many B2B solutions, however, are sold through disparate and diverse channels, making it almost impossible to tie a specific sale back to a specific marketing tactic or activity.
Nonetheless, high-level data is better than no data at all. Use a pilot program to focus on what’s available, measuring as many lifts over the baseline as possible.
Say, for example, your sales and marketing efforts focus on trade shows. Your pilot program could start with an info grab about one trade show’s attendee demographics or the expected value of a booth. You’d then identify your physical or digital touch points, ensuring you’re able to measure every time an attendee engages with your brand.
If you can automate this data capture and connect it to your CRM system, all the better. If not, then you can manually input data into the CRM system. From there, it’s all about coordinating follow-ups, keeping prospects engaged, and responding to inquiries.
As far as measurements go, compare pre-show, at-show, and post-show data. If your marketing efforts have a fighting chance of shortening the sales cycle, you should see a lift in top- and mid-funnel metrics in three weeks. From there, measure your follow-ups and sales close rates at three, six, and nine months as you optimize your top- and mid-funnel marketing tactics.
Did the number of marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads increase? Did your sales team schedule more follow-up meetings and pitches? Did they close them in under six months or the baseline?
4 Elements of a Worthwhile Test-and-Learn Pilot Program
The look of your pilot program will vary depending on your business goals, but there are a few common elements to include when measuring the ROI of CRM systems. You should implement the following:
1. Set achievable goals-against basic metrics.
Before starting a pilot program to measure ROI of your CRM, establish a baseline objective. If you have Tableau, Spotfire, or a similar business intelligence dashboard, you can integrate your CRM data into that tool to correlate it with your sales data in a single view.
If not, configure one of your out-of-the-box CRM reports to get an idea. Some of the basic metrics to measure ROI on CRM could include prospects, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, closes, or cycle duration (i.e., the number of days between sales qualified leads and closes).
2. Agree on how to quantify the cost of CRM.
Measuring the ROI of a CRM platform is an investment in the future. It’s meant to ensure the time, money, and other resources you spend on martech will drive growth and revenue for your company.
In that vein, involve the people measuring the effort in your discussions to determine whether you’ll quantify the expense based on just the licensing costs or with the inclusion of internal costs. Remember, the insights and data from your test-and-learn pilot program and other marketing strategies will reveal future opportunities to integrate additional apps to optimize the data flowing through your CRM.
3. Schedule regular reviews.
Aside from measuring the ROI of your CRM, you’ll want to monitor the progress of your digital marketing efforts. Consider arranging biweekly or monthly check-ins to review the results of your marketing efforts, issue updated forecasts for the test-and-learn pilot program, and discuss rollouts with key staff members.
Be sure to tie those results back to your original strategic objectives, though. Use any insights to inform next steps and determine what specific activities might look like when you scale them.
4. Start today with what’s available.
You probably already have a CRM system, and you’re probably already using it. But have you proven ROI? Or are you trying to make a case for licensing another piece of software to enable more sophisticated experiences powered by machine learning and AI? Maybe you have seen a fall-off in either your sales or customer experiences.
Whatever the situation, start as soon as possible. Test-and-learn pilot programs can serve several objectives, but the purpose is the same: to show the impact of the strategy, process, and tactics being executed through your CRM system against pre-CRM days.
Once you figure out the process for calculating the ROI of your CRM system, you don’t have to stop there. You can apply the same tactics to other technologies to determine the value they provide your sales team, your customers, and your business as a whole. In many ways, the effort to learn how to calculate the ROI of technology is yet another investment in the future.
Tessa combines her marketing and software product management experience with agile principles to execute Tenlo’s rapid marketing testing, which focuses on identifying and forecasting clients' most effective experiences and sales channels for scaling successful products or launching innovation.
Tessa Burg, VP of UX & Technology Strategy