Playing the Match Game: How to Successfully Select a CRM Vendor Partner | Part 1: Getting Started

This is a three-part blog to educate and assist you in successfully choosing a CRM vendor partner. Part 1 covers the basics of CRM and getting started. Part 2 will focus on preparing your organization for finding a partner, identifying what to look for in a CRM partner and understanding the wide array of vendor capabilities. Part 3 is a case study on Memorial Healthcare System and their journey to select a CRM vendor partner.

PART 1 – CRM: Getting Started

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) refers broadly to practices, strategies and technologies that organizations use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data across the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, facilitating customer retention and driving revenue growth.

A marketer’s ability to report return on investment (ROI) – key in the C-suite – increases exponentially if CRM is employed in the right manner. CRM automates key work processes and provides the ability to track marketing performance and productivity like never before.


  1. It starts with strategy: articulate your vision and goals for CRM. Possibly the worst reason to implement a CRM system is because “everyone else is doing it so I had better do it too.” It’s extremely important for healthcare marketing teams to spend the time it takes to be able to clearly articulate the goal of CRM for your health system. Additionally, having a well-articulated strategy will assist you in appropriately finding the right vendor to accomplish those goals.
  2. Set clear and realistic expectations at the outset. Expectations can be set way too high…or on the flip side, may not even be set at all. Be realistic about your expectations and look at the long game. The RFP process alone can take six months. And according to a recent survey by Corrigan Consultant’s business partners Klein & Partners and, the time it took to implement and reach a largely functioning CRM was 7-12 months for 27% of respondents and longer than 12 months for 20% of respondents. (Find the full whitepaper “The 3rd Annual State of Digital Healthcare Marketing Report – 2017” here.)
  3. Educate, educate, educate. This cannot be stressed enough! From the C-suite on down, educate everyone on what it means to employ CRM, what new things will be happening, and what old things will change. Education is not a one and done – it will be an ongoing process.
  4. CRM is a commitment. Be all in or get out.
  5. Timing is everything. The resources required to implement CRM can be significant not just for marketing, but also for your internal partners like IT and Finance. If the organization is in the middle of an EMR implementation, will CRM get the priority and focus required to drive a successful implantation?
  6. Cultivate a team of champions and create an engaging process. Who will be there with you? How will you get them excited about the process? How will you keep them engaged? Consider IT, Finance, Revenue Cycle, Business Intelligence/Decision Support, Strategic Planning, Business Development/Sales, Legal, Purchasing and Population Health integration – these are the people you’ll need on your team.
  7. Find a vendor that meets your needs. There is no one right answer when choosing a vendor solution. It’s a matter of finding the right match for what you want to accomplish in your organization and having a good business partnership with a vendor that is a good fit. Go through a due diligence process!
  8. It’s never too early to start planning for content to drive CRM. It should be a parallel process and needs to be integrated into your planning – what are you going to do with this and where are you going to go? While you may be focused on data integration, it’s important to also start thinking about the implications for landing page design and the content required to support conversion. Linking to a generic content page on your website is not going to get you the results you are looking for.

We’re not the marketers we were ten years ago. We’re taking the tools we have in front of us and are constructing them to be more targeted. CRM is the foundation for the way we’ll do marketing in the future. CRM is not a tool or a vendor – it’s a mindset.

CRM is about extreme customer management that starts with putting customer needs, wants and experiences at the center of decision making. As you think about CRM, build a business case for it and remember that CRM is a mindset for the entire organization. Marketers must work to create strategic partnerships within their organization in order for CRM to be a success. And shifting an organization to a CRM mindset is NOT easy.

It’s a long and sometimes bumpy journey. Buckle up! Be all in! Forge new partnerships! Make it successful for your organization! CRM will change healthcare marketing forever. More importantly, it will make a difference in our overall ability to help grow a prosperous business through engaging relationships with customers.