It would seem at every turn in this modern world we're constantly bombarded with the message that 'machines are the future' and 'automation will set us free'.

But despite what the omnipotent architects of this mechanical revolution might say, it would seem not everybody agrees, especially when it comes to the complicated world of Customer Relationship Management systems (or CRMs for short): the all-powerful sales and marketing platforms which promise to make millionaires of all who succumb to their seductive promise of providing unrivalled marketing automation and solving the problem of stubborn prospects once and for all

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Here are the top 5 reasons our customers mention when they tell us just why they hate CRMs:

  1. Badly executed automation
  2. Poor Data quality
  3. Time investment
  4. System Cost
  5. Excessive learning curve

1. Automation is alienation

Anyone who’s ever received a marketing email addressed to ‘Dear FIRST NAME’ or ‘Hi [insert name of prospect here] knows first-hand how badly executed sales automation can make customers feel like a cheap, expendable commodity.

Yes, automation can free sales teams from mundane admin tasks, but when used incorrectly it can also ruin hard-won relationships and endanger your companies growth. Businesses need to remember that even though a robust CRM allows them to send a killer mailshot to their four thousand contacts at the click of a button, behind every one of those email addresses is a real person who doesn't want to think they’re just a money tree waiting to be plucked. The twenty-first-century customer wants to be loved, and if you want to make the most of your CRM then you need to make sure you put in the time and effort to connect with the real people rolling around its database.

2. Fuelled by poor data

Much like a finely tuned engine, if you want to get the most from your CRM then you need to make sure it runs on premium fuel: clean, reliable, GDPR friendly data.

Even the most advanced CRM system will cough and splutter if you don’t input and maintain the customer data it commands on your behalf. Yes, a CRM can improve workflows and ensure more of your customers receive engaging content relevant to the correct stage of their buying journey, but in order to do that, it must always know what to send to whom and when.

The catch? Most salespeople, particularly those driven by commission, rarely want to be sat behind a computer performing monotonous data entry. An effective CRM is like a see-saw; to make it work you need an effective balance between enhancing your customers’ buying journey and streamlining your company’s sales process.

Data is useless without a sales team: a sales team is useless without data.

3. Input doesn’t equal output

To get the most out of any CRM requires the investment of time to understand how it works functionally, how it impacts strategically, and how it can adapt to a changeable customer base or volatile markets.

Which CRM you buy impacts on how much training your team will need. For example, opt for HubSpot and the training is relatively minimal (depending on how much functionality you need). But choose a heavy-weight platform like Pardot and not only will you need to invest heavily in training, but you’ll also likely need to recruit a dedicated technical resource to optimise its complicated back-end (or at least be willing to outsource the work to a third-party).

4. Cost

CRMs, good ones anyway, can be expensive. Yes, there are some passable ‘free’ versions out there, but as your company grows there is no getting away from the fact you’ll eventually need to put your hand in your pocket and upgrade to a more muscular platform: money many new businesses would likely benefit from spending elsewhere.

But even if the initial return on investment a CRM offers is just too appealing to turn down, you should always  remember you will need to factor in disruption to your BAU activities during the implementation phase. And not only that, the more complicated CRMs can also require a significant further investment if you want to unlock their advanced functionality. Likewise, many also come with hefty price tags for additional technical support if anything goes wrong.

5. Do they even work?

Do CRMs even save that much time? The steep learning curve and constant maintenance of CRM data is arguably negligible for those companies who feel agile enough to react to their customer base using more traditional methods. Likewise, integrating an effective CRM into your business can also be disruptive for any business trying to navigate the hectic world of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) or low cost/high traffic B2C. If you need to adapt quickly to a changeable market, a cumbersome CRM could stunt your company growth if it limits your ability to adapt.

Why even bother?

This may all sound like an unfair attack on the inoffensive customer-friendly CRM (and out of Six & Flow character considering we champion the CRM on so many levels).

But the truth is if you want to grow a business, then you’re likely going to need a CRM at some point. Think of it like insurance: you begrudge the initial outlay but you’re happy when you reap its rewards.

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