Part Five of the Series is coming soon.
by Spenser Segal
In my last post we discussed the signs and signals associated with deciding to take the Journey to CRM Success. Now comes the process of selecting the right CRM for your organization, another important decision along the journey. Just like selecting the right vehicle for your transportation needs, your CRM choice can make it a challenging or pleasant ride. Let’s get started…
Which CRM to Choose?
Following a thorough business readiness evaluation, it is time to begin the platform selection process. Platform specialization, budget, and functionality (i.e. contact and activity management, templates, workflows, and sales management) are a few of the considerations in this early part of the journey. With a seemingly endless supply of good CRM options available on the market, sorting through the potential solutions requires a rigorous process and well defined criteria.
There are several high-quality CRMs that are focused on the wealth management space. Industry-specific solutions tend to be better bets since ongoing product development will benefit from a critical mass of like-minded customers requesting similar functionality (i.e. integration with financial planning software and portfolio management software). The end result is a product with superior out-of-the-box functionality and integration with other software solutions within the wealth management industry.
Next, is the balance between budget and functionality. We break functionality into two categories, essential and advanced. Essential functions include Contact Management, 360° Client Management, and Activity Management. Advanced functions include: Templates, Checklists, Workflows (Process Automation), Sales Management, and Mass Communication. First, determine what functionality you want in a CRM system today as well as anticipating your future needs for the next five years. Then sift through the options balancing functionality needs with budget to narrow down the options.
Get outside opinions!
At this stage of the journey, leveraging the knowledge and experience of others is the best thing you can do. Just like any trip, advice from those who have been there is irreplaceable. Get referrals, talk to independent third parties, read reviews and reports to get as much information as possible before making a final decision. Access free resources like the ActiFi CRM Software Key Insights Report.
CRM vendors and third party implementation partners can be great resources as well. Successful implementations and happy customers are in their best interest, so most are willing to share a plethora of useful information with potential customers. Most of the industry specific vendors do an excellent job of help prospective customers determine if their solution is a good fit for the advisors needs.
Get your team onboard
Platform selection is a prime time to make sure there are key internal voices at the table. Ensuring that input from all parts of the organization that will use the system is gathered and considered will make the rest of the journey significantly more comfortable and productive for everyone.
Leaders and project champions will set the tone internally for everyone else who is eventually touched by the project. If leadership and project champions are fully on-board with the software selected their behavior will be significantly more positive and drive much better results.
Once you have selected your platform it is time to finalize preparations for your Journey to CRM Success. In my next post I will discuss the planning, data review and set-up required for success – a little like packing for a successful vacation.
by Spenser Segal
In my last post we discussed a bird’s eye view of the Journey to CRM Success. Now it is time to start diving into greater detail on each of the stops along the way, starting with making the decision to adopt CRM. Making the decision to implement CRM is a big one. Before embarking on the rest of the journey, there is much to be considered, and here we will talk in depth about making the decision to move forward toward the platform selection process.
When Does CRM Make Sense?
Business goals, growth projections, process efficiency, scalability, risk tolerance, human capital and many other factors play into the decision to move forward with CRM. For a CRM to be successful it must enable you to achieve an important business goal. A business that has aggressive growth plans and enough human capital to properly support development, implementation, and training for CRM will almost certainly realize its benefits.
Undertaking the Journey to CRM Success will be most attractive to companies where there is a driving need to change the current situation and achieve an important business objective– for instance, goals for growth in the coming years or improvements in profit through increased efficiency. Because implementation of a CRM represents an investment in both money and time, its implementation is most often undertaken by companies that have the time and resources to support it through the early phases of the process before direct benefits can begin to be realized.
Human Capital in particular is critical to finding success with CRM. From the very beginning of this journey, having team members that deeply understand the needs and operations of the business and can bridge those needs to what CRM technology can provide (with the assistance of vendors and an implementation partner) will significantly improve the odds of success. Carrying forward throughout the implementation process and the lifetime of the CRM program, these people are the ones who will provide leadership and support for the rest of the organization. As a best practice we recommend each firm have at least one (ideally two or more) champion who has a deep level of understanding and responsibility for CRM adoption.
Here is a list of critical questions to ask before embarking on the journey to CRM:
All that has been discussed here is about getting ready to make the move out of No CRM Land – deciding to take the Journey to CRM Success. If you answered yes to all or several of the questions in the chart, you are ready to begin the process of CRM selection. In my next post I will discuss the process of selecting the right CRM for your organization, another important decision along the journey. Just like selecting the right vehicle for your vacation, your CRM choice can make it a challenging or pleasant ride.
by Spenser Segal
If there is one thing that has been proven time and again through our years of consulting on CRM projects with advisory practices, it is that it is most certainly a journey. From the planning and preparation it takes to get up and running to the effort it requires to maintain progress and reach successively greater levels of usage and integration, there is a road to be navigated and there are users who need to be guided.
Our journey begins in the land of No CRM. As with any journey, there are many stops along the way. Deciding you want to go to CRM Land is just the beginning and it isn’t just a 1 week trip. Done right, it is in fact one that will last the lifetime of your business – evolving as your business grows and changes over time.
In today’s discussion I will introduce the concept of the CRM journey overviewing each step of the way as presented in the illustration below. In the coming weeks I will expand on each topic in greater depth. Let’s get on our way now to “No CRM Land” where our journey begins.
When Does CRM Make Sense?
The journey begins with the decision to adopt CRM, and it is a big one requiring a great deal of consideration. Business goals, growth projections, risk tolerance, human capital and many other factors play into the decision to move forward with CRM.
Following a thorough business readiness evaluation it is time to begin the platform selection process. Platform specialization, budget, and functionality (i.e. contact and activity management, templates, workflows, and sales management) are a few of the considerations in this early part of the journey. With a seemingly endless supply of good CRM options available on the market, sorting through the potential solutions requires a rigorous process and well defined criteria.
Planning, Data and Set-up
When commitment to getting on a CRM program has been made and a specific platform has been selected. The next phase of the journey is one of planning & preparation, which is the critical foundation for long-term success. This is a continuation of the pre-implementation phase of the journey.
A clearly defined implementation plan is key to success with any CRM. Laying out every step of the way from No CRM Land to CRM Land with clear ownership for completion is an absolute necessity. This is the only way to keep the project on track and users apprised of what is coming and when.
Now is also the time to review the data that will go into your new CRM. The cleaner and more complete the data is when it goes into the system, the better your results on the system will be. Of course there are a few cases where getting data into the CRM can actually enable data cleansing that is difficult in the system it is coming from – although that is an exception to the rule.
With a plan in place and data prepped and ready to move to the new CRM. Setting up the new system, configuring it for your organization, and converting the data are all part of this step. Depending on the complexity and the skill set and availability of your staff, this can be completed by your in-house team or, as is often the case, you can work with a third party implementation partner.
User Journey Essentials
Guiding users along the journey to CRM is important throughout the process. Letting them know what is coming and when and providing training for each step of their onboarding will improve the speed of acceptance and overall system usage. This is one part of the journey that will repeat over and over as your system matures and expands over time. Even when the system remains static, refresher training can have a notable impact on the degree of overall CRM success you are able to achieve.
Tech & Owner Essentials
Technical and Business Owner stakeholders in the CRM journey have their own unique set of needs and responsibilities. Both are highly focused on business and functionality perspectives of CRM and must be closely aligned in terms of expectations. Both must also be solid proponents of the system, their commitment to the CRM system must be firm and set an example for users to follow. Lacking visible commitment from either of these parties can have a negative impact on the rest of the organization’s willingness to accept the new CRM system.
Contact Info & History and Tasks, To-Dos & Reminders
Now that the system is in place, you are definitively into CRM Land. Contact information, tasks, to –dos, reminders, and history are the first functions you will take advantage of in any CRM system. When it comes to building and improving client relationships, these functions are core to everything else that can be facilitated through CRM.
Templates, Checklists & Workflows
Taking the CRM journey farther will bring you into the realm of templates, checklists, and workflows. These are all ways in which you can begin to deepen the impact of CRM. Templates enable consistency, Checklists timeliness, and workflows automate simple and frequently repeated tasks. Taking the variation out of how and when things are done leads to greater organizational effectiveness.
Sales & Pipeline Management
The ability to project future revenue is an important capability of a CRM. Through CRM you can effectively monitor your sales pipeline and associated activities. Better yet, CRM provides a means by which you can evaluate the pipeline and learn about timing and activity effectiveness. Dedication from leadership and consistent use by the sales team are two ingredients required for this functionality to provide true value to the organization.
This journey into CRM Land will continue throughout the life of your business. As your business grows and changes from year to year, so might your needs in all of the areas covered above. An acquisition or divestiture, client growth, advisor turnover, product additions, and many other events can significantly change the scope of your business. Understanding the CRM set-up that fits today might not fit several years from now is an important part of achieving CRM success. The willingness – and ability – to flex over time will ensure a platform that truly fits your needs well into the future.
In the next post I will discuss in depth the first leg of this journey; “When Does CRM makes sense?”
by Mark Nahlovsky
Even if you select the right CRM for your business, configure it to your exact specification, and convert all of your data flawlessly; if people don’t use the solution you are guaranteed to get a 0% return on your investment. Effectively training yourself and your team on how to use the CRM is critical!
As you think through the best training approach for your organization, consider these options:
- Vendor training – most will offer a base level of training with purchase and additional modules, depth, format and frequency options for an additional price. The benefit of training from the vendor is their depth of product and functionality knowledge.
- Internal training – an internal champion learns from the vendor and other forums and then handles training the rest of the team. The benefits of an internal trainer include cost control, accessibility, and long term support capabilities.
- Training Partners – a third party partner who is an expert in your chosen solution provides training for your team. The benefit of working with an independent training partner is the real-world experience they bring from working with other clients.
Most organizations leverage a mix of vendor and internal training for the basics and then enlist a third-party partner for the configuration of advanced features that tie to practice management concepts (workflow, reports, templates, etc.). Following a staged approach will not only conserve resources and investment, but it will also ensure you do not overwhelm your organization with too much information at one time.
As part of our research for the CRM Key Insights Report, we explored the level of training required to successfully leverage system features. Advisors have specific expectations on how they need to be trained and the highest value training is that which is conducted in the context of the trainee’s specific situation.
The key takeaway is that training is one of the most important aspects of your CRM implementation. Making it part of your plan right from the beginning will make all the difference in use, adoption, and success.
by Mark Nahlovsky
In my last post we looked at the total cost of ownership when it comes to a CRM with the conclusion that licensing costs are just one component. Smaller and mid-sized advisory practices seeking to embark on a CRM journey on their own receive varying degrees of sticker-shock at each phase. Over the past decade, institutions that serve advisors (custodians, broker-dealers, etc.) have developed programs to help defray these costs and more recently to help advisors harness the full benefit a CRM has to offer. The following are just a few examples of how institutions have “partnered” with advisors when it comes to CRM:
- Access to leading CRM products at reduced prices (i.e., discounts)
- Pre-built integration points (data, functionality, etc.) between leading CRM systems and themselves
- Training and support programs (tailored training curriculum, etc.)
- Practice development content, configurations, and support (embedded processes & templates, break-out sessions, etc.)
As the challenges advisors face as business owners increase, their expectations of their institutional partners will continue to rise as well. My opinion is that discounts and basic data integration will become an expectation and not a differentiator in the eyes of advisors. What advisors are really looking for is guidance on selecting the best CRM to solve their present needs and assistance in achieving their long-term goals and objectives. Once the best CRM is selected and installed within the advisory practice, advisors will expect their institutional partners to provide a roadmap to fully leveraging it in the form of processes, templates, and training programs tailored to their exact needs.
The good news for advisors, is that leading institutions and CRM vendors are investing heavily in helping you run a better business! Advisors that are about to embark on a new or revamped CRM journey should check with their partners about is available to them as they do not need to do this on their own.
by Mark Nahlovsky
The last four topics in this series focused on what a CRM can do – now it’s time to get to the heart of matters and take a look at what a CRM program costs. Before I begin, I want to clearly point out that I purposely referred to this as a program because when you talk about cost you should take a look at more than just the software!
Cost of Ownership – Out-of-Pocket Expenses:
The line items we suggest advisors account for both in year one and subsequent years are outlined below:
Year One Out-of-Pocket:
- New hardware or software (most cloud-based solutions have eliminated this)
- License Fees (some are per user while others are charged on a per organization basis)
- Set-up / Initial Configuration
- Data Conversion
- Initial Training
Year One Internal:
- “How to” Support on the Basic Functionality
- On-going Data Clean-up
- “How should we do it now” Conversations on the Advanced Functionality
- License Fees
- Advanced Configuration
- On-boarding New Employees and Advisors (this is how we do it here)
- Continued “How should we do it now” Conversations on the Advanced Functionality
Saving a few dollars – a few key questions to ask:
With the total cost of ownership ranging from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands per year, knowing where you can save a little money can help a lot. A few basic questions you and your vendors can address are as follows:
- How many people will need to use the system – does everyone require a license?
- What will each user do in the system and how frequently – do lower-cost license options exist for “light” users?
- How extensive does the initial data conversion and training need to be – can we do anything to defray this cost?
Cost of Ownership – Internal and On-Going Costs:
In all subsequent years your total cost of ownership will vary depending on your needs and what you are willing to invest. Here is a list of the most common variable costs you are likely to encounter over the life of your CRM.
- Training – will depend on who you tap for training, how often you do it, and the format.
- Support – could be contracted, could be purchased ad hoc, could be done in-house
- Customization – as your business grows and changes your system will likely need to evolve as well. Depending on the skills of your internal team and the flexibility of your system, some customization can be done in-house, other times it may be necessary to get assistance from the CRM vendor or another outside partner.
- Updates/Upgrades – The CRM system you choose today will continue to evolve over time. This may result in occasional updates and or upgrades to the system. Some will occur on a periodic basis and will require not action, others could be simple downloads covered in the fees you already pay, while others may be optional and require an additional payment.
- Add-ons – Many of today’s systems have a variety of add on functionality or programs that can be added to your existing CRM platform. These may have costs associated with purchase, implementation, and use and may or may not require the use of a third-party firm.
More in-depth discussion of CRM pricing can be found in our recent CRM Software Key Insights Report.
It is one of the factors impacting institutional partner involvement in CRM offerings, and their increasing attention to CRM will be the topic of my next post.
by Mark Nahlovsky
Now that we have covered types of CRM programs and their Essential and Advanced functionality in my last two posts, it’s time to start tying the pieces together. Welcome to CRM – your new technology hub!
In any business increasing efficiency is a continual challenge. No matter how much we are able to get done in a day, there always seems to be more that we should do and fewer resources to do it with. Through continued investment in integration points with other systems and tools, CRM solutions have emerged as the primary technology hub for advisory practices.
What you need to know about integration
Although integration between CRM and other advisory and productivity tools continues to expand, the depth of integration between tools varies greatly. In other words, not all integrations are equal and advisors need to look beyond a listing of partners on a vendor’s website to understand what the benefits (or lack thereof) will be.
At ActiFi we rate the depth of an integration on a 5-point scale, as the level increases so does the seamless feel of the integration between programs. The table below provides descriptions and examples of this 5-point integration scale.
|1||Password token is used to provide a seamless sign-on experience from one application to another. The experience is not as smooth as it could be as the user may need to continuously re-authenticate.|
|2||Single sign-on exists eliminating the need to “log into” both applications. The experience is seamless, but the applications function independent of one another. Alternatively, no single sign-on exists, but some data is shared between applications so users can avoid re-typing information (e.g., client data passed to Financial Planning tool).|
|3||Single sign-on exists in the context of a particular record (e.g., client or account) and detailed data is shared between applications. Alternatively, no single sign-on exists, but detailed data is shared between applications so the user can avoid using two systems (e.g., Portfolio Management data available in CRM).|
|4||Deep integration exists between two systems with single sign-on, data sharing and seamless functional interoperability. The end user is able to perform functions in both systems with little to no disruption in their business process.|
|5||Cross application workflow automation exists. Using the workflow functionality of the CRM a user can automate tasks across multiple applications.|
In our CRM Software Key Insights Report we discuss the emergence of ecosystems of solutions, advances in existing integrations, and the tension between expected and realized business value. Understanding this content and leveraging the ActiFi integration scale above, will allow you to set your expectations of what integration will mean to your practice appropriately. Visit www.actifi.com/CRMselection to download your copy of our report.
In my next post, we’ll face the topic of cost.
by Mark Nahlovsky
CRM programs have been in existence for decades with the emergence of electronic rolodexes in the 80’s and flexible databases you could literally buy off the shelf in the 90’s. With the advent of cloud-computing, the number of options and extent of functionality has grown rapidly. In my last post we covered three different types of CRM solutions. Now we’ll get into the details of functionality.
To help advisors better understand what they really need to buy, we’ve tried to simplify functionality into two broad categories of Essential and Advanced. When we work with advisors on an individual basis, the number of categories and the exact definition of each will change to meet their unique needs, but this is always our starting point.
Here is a breakdown of each:
Essential Functionality – The following are functions that must be there for the software to even be considered by an advisor:
Contact Management: The management of contact information, history tracking, managing relationships, and reporting on this data. Also the ability to extend the system to meet a practice’s unique needs.
360° Client Management: Access to client financial information, alignment of teams to clients, and management of segmentation and service models. Reporting on this data is included.
Activity Management: The creation, assignment, delegation, and escalation of tasks, calendar management, and reporting on this data. Integration with productivity tools such as email and telephony is also included.
How well each solution performs the functions listed above varies. Any CRM that does not offer these essential functions is not considered a viable option by ActiFi.
Advanced Functionality – Advisors that have their core client data organized and clean and are managing day-to-day activity in their CRM are in a position to reap the benefits of advanced functionality as described below:
Templates, Checklists, and Workflows: Management of email, mail, and task template text, plus the creation and execution of checklists and automated processes.
Sales Management: Management of leads, prospects, and opportunities from both a sales execution and management perspective.
Mass Communication: The execution and tracking of campaigns/events and the distribution of mass emails.
With an agreed upon business process and a commitment to leverage the CRM as the platform to execute it, the functions listed above can turn your people-dependent practice into a systematized business.
Why you should care?
The biggest mistake I see advisors make when evaluating CRM programs is to become enamored with advanced functionality that they are in no position to use. There is nothing wrong with daydreaming on the showroom floor, but if your existing client data is contained in spreadsheets, Outlook, and people’s brains, you need to start at square one and make sure you know how you are going to go from chaos to organization and then from organization to repeatable systematization. If your organization’s idea of business workflow is shooting emails back-and-forth or yelling over the cube walls, then you need to focus on the blocking-and-tackling that is CRM activity management.
My advice is always to start with the essential functionality that your staff will use 80% of the time and only then dive into the advanced. Along with showing you the full potential of their solution, a good CRM vendor will also slow things down so you can understand the best way to get started – even though it is not the most exciting thing to do.
We’ve just scratched the surface of each of these considerations. For more in-depth coverage and a look at the vendors we’ve evaluated, visit www.actifi.com/CRMselection.
In my next post we’ll take a look at how leading CRM vendors integrate with other advisory tools in an effort to become your technology hub.
by Mark Nahlovsky
CRM as Platform, Tool, or Module?
Because technology continues to be a hot button topic for advisors, it the launch point for our recently launched Advisor Success Series, which begins with an in-depth look at Client Relationship Management programs (CRM). The acronym “CRM” can mean many different things depending on one’s role within an organization and the size, structure, and focus of the organization itself. When it comes to CRM for financial advisory practices and firms, we have simplified the options into three broad categories described as follows:
- CRM as Tool: Advisor-specific CRM solutions that integrate with a multitude of advisory software (Portfolio Management, Financial Planning, etc.) and are maintained by a firm that “gets” financial advisors. The primary benefit of this category is in the expedited “time to value” an advisory firm can achieve.
- CRM as Integrated Module: Advisor-specific CRM with embedded portfolio management and/or data aggregation capabilities. These solutions can integrate with other advisory software, but their strength is in the integrated experience they provide through a common database.
- CRM as Enterprise Platform: Enterprise CRM solutions that can be configured to the exact needs of an advisory firm or that have been configured for advisors by a consulting firm or overlay partner. Advisory firms that have been successful with this option rarely if ever need to say “no” to a business request – where there is a will there is a way!
Why should you care?
The cost difference between the options listed above can range from a few hundred dollars per year to tens of thousands of dollars per year depending on what you need. When you factor in the amount of “care and feeding” a more flexible platform may require, the cost differential only grows larger.
CRM success isn’t about paying more to get a better system, there are great solutions at every price point. It is about choosing the solution that best meets your needs and fits within your budgetary appetite.
The first step I always tell advisors to take when figuring out where to start the CRM selection process is to ask themselves whether they are bringing in CRM as…
A tool to complete certain tasks, if the answer is yes, then learning more about what functionality is available is the next logical step and what matters is whether or not it can do what you want it to do now and in the foreseeable future. Anything beyond that is not worth the additional investment.
A module integrated with another program, if so, then your investigation should center on the programs that you use or plan to use and ensuring compatibility. Understanding the user experience is a critical investigation point in the CRM as a module approach.
A platform to run their entire business, now the next question is just how unique your business model really is and how much flexibility do you need. As you can probably guess, the more unique your needs, the more flexibility you will require and the more likely it is that you really do require an enterprise platform.
The good news is that you’re travelling down a path that others have gone down before. You can learn from your peers, leverage a myriad of industry resources, and leverage firms like mine to go down this journey with your eyes wide open.
My next post will provide insight into breaking down CRM functionality.