Finding the right CRM partner

A question that often come up is what things people should look out for if they’re looking for a CRM partner or someone to work with on a project.  How do you pick who is right from the many people out there?

Your relationship with the team who will work with you on our CRM is vital so its a great question to ask.   

Let’s start with language

The term ‘consultant’ is often a loaded one for many – perhaps not quite up there with tax inspector – but a word that challenges some.  Your reaction to the word will be based on your own experiences (we’re all grown up enough to know there’s good and bad in all professions), and what you’ve heard from others.  While you might engage a CRM consultant, we prefer to think of the term in a collegiate way – we’re the colleagues you haven’t met yet.  And the term we prefer to use for this relationship is partnership.

There’s a really important point behind that for us – success is based on trust, honesty and integrity from both sides and in working together.   Your project – be it CRM, CMS or anything else – is not one sided.  Its your project, who you hire is there to help you and be on your side.

Its just like online dating (ish)

I’d like to say that finding a partner to work with on your CRM programme is not at all like finding a partner via an online dating site, but as I think about it, there are some similarities.  Not the kind of similarities that cause the most entertainment and horror thankfully (though you might find the odd out of date photo on LinkedIn!) but a few all the same:

  • It can take time – in the world of online dating, if you want a partner or long term relationship, you have to be committed to the search. You have to put the time in to search and find someone who is right for you.
  • Find out what’s on offer – check out who or what is out there by doing research in all the usual ways. Google is your friend.
  • Likes and Dislikes – let’s assume we’re not shallow and aren’t *just* interested in the photos or brand identity. When you dig around online you’ll find lots of info about what a potential partner is interested in, talks about and delivers.  You’ll know if that is interesting to you or not and if there’s a synergy with your team and organisation.
  • Gentle introduction –  a bit of ‘this is who we are and what we need – who are you?’ will help you to find out how a potential partner replies to you – are they friendly and welcoming?  Helpful?  Do you like what you hear or read?
  • First date – nothing like a date really, but you’re both trying to find out the same kind of things – does what I read match the reality?  Do they know what they’re talking about?  Is there synergy and energy?  Plainly and simply, do we get along?  Something to think about for organisations is that your CRM partner may pose difficult and challenging questions as your relationship develops – how do you think you’d handle that? That’s all this first meeting is really about – what are you looking for, what are we the partner looking for, do we get along and want to take this further.
  • The ‘relationship status’ chat – once you’ve worked out if you can work with a CRM partner, it’s time to have the chat about the terms of the relationship.

Some would say it’s all a PR exercise, and to them, I’d suggest it might well be if: 

Do all the R’s: 

  • Research – ask around, look around and listen to what’s being said about partners on the market. Find out what you can via You Tube, Google (other search engines are available of course!), LinkedIn and more.
  • Reach-out – chat to a few likely prospects to find one you feel an affinity with
  • Rationalise – be rational about your expectations. Is anyone really perfect?  Are you? If there are niggles in your mind about a potential partner, ask them the questions so you can work them out and be rational about what you’re expecting them to deliver with you in the time and to the budget you had in mind.

 Don’t do the P’s:

  • Panic – you’re not the first organisation to be bamboozled by how to find a CRM or a partner to implement it. But if you have a clear goal and strategy it’s easier to find a system that will support you to achieve your objectives. Knowing what you’re looking for and why puts you ahead of the game already!
  • Procure – don’t procure a system with tick boxes and paperwork. A tender isn’t likely to pluck something unexpected and perfect from obscurity for you. Quite the opposite in fact – because of the investment of time and effort in completing a paper exercise lots of supplier partners just don’t respond so you may miss out on a good match.  Take the time to do some research and make some calls rather than relying on good people finding your RFP buried online somewhere. By all means, use a procurement process to satisfy all the boxes you need to tick – but after you’ve had some meaningful conversations with providers who have taken time to understand what you need and why.
  • Pontificate – well, not too much. Procrastination is the enemy of action. The sooner you find a partner, the sooner you can gain the benefits of a new CRM to help you deliver your tasks and goals.  Stay focused on the end result throughout – that focus will help you ask the right questions and find the right people to help.

What we learned on Tour

A few weeks ago*, along with 14,000 other people, we jollied along to the Salesforce World Tour London. We’d planned ahead  and were pre-excited  (or perhaps more properly, anticipating the experience).

We learned a *lot*. We went to a lot of sessions. We met people. A *lot* of people. And it was all good.

The plenary session

We had a moment of excitement at our twitter activity appearing on the tweet wall right at the start as the intro session segued into the ‘main event’. It only encouraged us, so we went a bit twitter mad. And found some very funny comments frm other twitterati, too.

The plenary featured a James Bond style arrival at the venue (some very creative minds in Salesforce events!) of the VP delivering the main session – which covered a lot of stuff about cloud software, market share and new products and services. If you want the juice, its best to watch it back to be honest,  but there were two main non-profit highlights were that:

  • Billie Laidlaw, CIO of RSPCA shared how they are starting to adopt cloud technology to support a range of their services
  • Salesforce Foundation donated £200,000 to CoderDojo, an organisation offering coding schools for young people around the world – these are brilliant, do check out the site –

And there our en-masse Purple presence broke up to follow the many tracks and options available and learn as much as possible to support our clients to use Salesforce.

Some highlights from other sessions

The biggest news for non-profits at the World Tour was the launch of NGO Connect (and Advancement Connect for higher ed). This new non-profit app is to take over from the non-profit starter pack and serve the needs of larger organisations. It’s in use already in the US, and coming to the UK and Europe in the autumn. This was really the first sneaky public peak – though Purple Vision are partners on this service and we’ve already been trained and are ready to support implementations when the time comes.

The main features are around constituent management, fundraising and event management – with features for Gift Aid and Direct Debit being developed now for the UK. The events module is impressive with a graphic interface seating management option, and campaign options.

To be really honest, you couldn’t see masses in a 40 minute slot – if you are curious, check out our game changing apps flip book or ask us for a demo, we’ll be running them frequently from September and already can deliver them on demand.

Salesforce 1 Lightning
Lightning is the app builder that links with Salesforce – its quite impressive by all accounts with our technical team exclaiming over the drag and drop functionality that is on offer among other features. They’ve all bookmarked this tool to look at further, and hopefully share more in the future

Salesforce Wave – the Analytics Cloud
Wave is the new Analytics offer from Salesforce. It was impressive. The word amazing was used. The tools presented as easy to use, intuitive and flexible and showed impressive results from the data used.  It was usable on any hand held device and data didn’t have to be held within Salesforce to use the tool either – a big selling point for charities with data in multiple sources.

Our take on this is that this is one to watch – we’re not yet sure how the pricing model is going to work (though of course Salesforce Foundation discounts will apply to non-profits). We’re also not sure until we’re able to play with it how much it will be able to play with classic non-profit modelling like RFV (recency, frequency, value), attrition rates, lifetime value and so on. And we know you’d want us to know that before we say more to you, so we’re checking it out.

Marketing Cloud
Marketing Cloud is all about content, audiences and personalisation – principles at the heart of most non-profit comms goals and approaches. Who am I talking to, what do they want/need vs what do we have to deliver, how can I make sure we recognise and build on their preferences so they have a truly unique experience of our services? The tool goes beyond smart email (journey builder is a dream!) and into integration with social listening, customer care (I am not sure that our American colleagues have figured out that when they say social care we infer a different meaning than customer care via social!) web and video.

There are smart integrations with the Service Cloud to deliver really holistic customer service, too. There are features like being able to switch someone out of planned marketing activity if they have an open case with customer care (who wants a marketing email when you’re in a dispute, right?). Not all of this super functionality will be relevant for all non-profits but I like the flexibility to be able to buy bits of the tool, play around and then add more later if you want.

Our Purple attitude is always to future proof and use tools that will grow with you – this delivers that option. I suspect you won’t have heard the last of this from us.

HR Employee and Engagement
The focus for HR professionals remains engagement and the benefits of employee engagement – yet many tools have a very transactional focus. Salesforce shared some customer success stories from employers using a bundle of apps to form an employee engagement solution. This approach echoes Purple Vision’s own ‘palette’ approach which we recommend strongly to our clients.

Change Management
The key message for change management and technology is clear – and one which the Purple team has been advocating for some time – you cannot simply develop and deliver great systems and expect people to use them – you have to facilitate the process. Deloitte identified the three top reasons why IT projects fail as:

  • Resistance by employees (82%)
  • Inadequate sponsorship (72%)
  • Unrealistic expectations (65%)

Projects must now focus on stakeholder management, business readiness, communications and training, and the success of a project measured by the value it delivers.

Habits and hacks for Salesforce Admins
The goal of this session was very practical and focussed on short-cuts for admins to take in making the most of the system. I think this advice is helpful regardless of the system you use, but is particularly apposite for Salesforce of course

  • Think of your Salesforce users as clients – engage, get feedback offer 1:1 and hands on sessions and user chatter to support users to learn more for themselves
  • Get into ‘good habits’ – such as daily, weekly or monthly tasks to keep the system in tip top shape and keep everything manageable
  • Use resources wisely – the App Exchange has great dashboard packs for admins, LinkedIn and other user groups post updates and feedback
  • Update – share new developments and updates with your ‘clients’ – prepare them if there is an update that may change how they view a system, share new apps and of course for admins, update your certifications each year, too.

Thoughts on the day

These notes are really only the tip of the iceberg from the day – we saw much more besides and you’ll no doubt hear more form us as we go.

Salesforce World Tour London was certainly a ‘full on’ day – its an extravaganza and very American in its style and approach. A cynical Brit (moi?) might find it a bit overwhelming but its actually pretty infectious – and you will find yourself saying ‘awesome’ at some point during the day, even if you actively try and resist it.

The passion of the people behind Salesforce really does come through.  Its not just the tech – though this was beautifully showcased – but its the investment in  customer journey and customer experience too that shines through.  You do genuinely feel that Salesforce cares that you have a great time and want to bring tech to life for real users, not just our more technically minded colleagues.

I think we’ll come back on this experience at some point, and reflect more – and be able to share more, too.

Upgraded URLs in Google Ad Words

Back in February, Google announced the launch of mandatory upgraded URLs in its ad words scheme.  I am ashamed to say I missed this at the time.  I’m making up for that by making sure our charity clients didn’t miss it, too.

I’ll ‘fess up. I missed it.  My excuse is that I am not hands on managing an adword account right now.  I know about this now because a charity I volunteer with has recently started looking at using their Google Grant (all charities should look at this if they can – there’s not much in life for free, but this is a good one for non-profits!) and having experience of setting up accounts in the past, was asked to wade in and help.

Upgraded URL’s – what?

In basic bullets:

  • Where you once added one bit of info – the URL you want the ad to link back to – you now need to add two
  • The first is the landing page you want the ad to direct people to – all good, this is what you have so far.
  • The second is the tracking information you want to gather – which can be at local or account level.
  • Up til now, every time you wanted to track an add you had to add a piece of tracking code on the page you were directing people, allowing the cookies to collect the info for you
  • Now, when you want to change info you track on your ads, you can do it via the ad not via clumsy manual changes

Why this is great news

Lots of people don’t use tracking in ads because of the hassle of trying to get the web master to add a tiny piece of code – or multiple tiny pieces of code – to a web page.  The reasons I used to hear were varied – ranging from security, through to lack of time.  In the main, with non-teccie people the reason was usually quite simple – they didn’t know how or where to add the tracking data, and for the sake of a tiny bit of info, didn’t want to screw up the whole site.  That’s fair enough. I hate code and am more of a ‘clicks’ kinda gal, so feel that pain.

In ‘paid for’ content management systems (like Sitecore) the user interface often had helpful places to add the code so they were inserted in the right place.  In ‘free’ systems (like WordPress) you could either gamble on getting it in the right place or use a plug in (some of which are better than others) to manage your ad extensions.   Since more of us in charity-world use the free stuff, you can kind of see where this is going.

So the change is good because:

  • its way easier to add the code to the ad and start to get more metrics on your ads, tracking keywords, landing pages and site behaviour as a result
  • it tells you more about your visitors so you can build journeys and personalise their experiences
  • it tells you how much of your ad-words money you might be wasting, allowing you to redirect it or manage your ads so your donated cash is spent more effectively

And just how do I do this? 

Google as ever have made this nice and simple to do.

As well as the web page which explains using upgraded URLs, there’s a handy video too that shows you just how to do it.

There’s always a bit of bad news.

Well, yes.  In this case if you haven’t already done it, it does mean you’ll need to go in and update your ads.  But do it once and in one place for your ad, and with clicks rather than coding … so it’s not all bad news.  Just something else for the list, that’s all.

Getting started

If you haven’t started with Google Adwords yet to use your Google Grant, you may want to think about it.  Look into what other charities are doing, and think about how – and who – will manage the account before you say yes though.  It’s very easy to get into quite a muddle, and hard to undo!

You also have to stay on the ball about updates and developments, and as I confess at the start of this post, even though this stuff is part of my portfolio, I missed this.  So make sure there’s time for training and reading round even after your original set up time, or you may miss money and time saving upgrades like this <hangs head in shame>