Playing the Match Game: How to Successfully Select a CRM Vendor Partner | Part 2: Finding a CRM Partner

This is a three-part blog to educate and assist you in successfully choosing a CRM vendor partner. Part 1 covered the basics of CRM and getting started. Part 2 focuses 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 will present a case study on Memorial Healthcare System and their journey to select a CRM vendor partner.

PART 2 – Finding a CRM Partner

So you think you’re ready to implement a CRM system, but are you sure? There are a few things to consider before you begin your search for that perfect CRM vendor partner.

  • Do you have a well-articulated strategy and set of goals? This is essential!
  • Have you created a multi-disciplinary project team? This team will help you guide the evaluation and selection of a vendor partner.
  • Do you have well-defined functional requirements? You don’t have to be an expert from the beginning, but having well-defined functional requirements will help you to be more successful.
  • Do you have an equal emphasis on technology and process (work flow)? Do you understand the timeline? When acquiring CRM the emphasis is on the technology, but you also need to be thinking about how your internal marketing processes will change once you have the tool up and running. How will you use the data to enhance the marketing planning process? What insight can you bring to service line meetings to focus the conversations on growth opportunities versus promotions?

Revisit our Part 1 – CRM: Getting Started post which covers the above points in greater detail.

Armed with a well-articulated strategy, a multi-disciplinary team and an understanding of a timeline, you’re ready to begin considering a CRM vendor partner. Here are nine important components to consider:

  1. Expertise – a CRM partner understands your goals and has the resources and expertise to help you succeed. Look for strengths in your system. Really KNOW your organization and articulate that to a potential partner…and see if their expertise will play to your strengths and help overcome barriers to success.
  2. Data – your organization should have its data act together before you implement CRM – understanding where the data sets are going to be coming from, who you’re going to have to work through, and which existing vendors you’re going to have to work with are key pieces of information. Your CRM partner should have a clear project plan and process to support:
    • Initial database build
    • Data validation
    • Integration
    • Maintenance.
  3. Tools & Capabilities – your CRM partner should have robust tools to support the following:
    • Targeting and segmentation
    • Reporting
    • Modeling.

When you look at case studies, make sure you understand EXACTLY what it is that those example organizations purchased. What is an add-on? What comes out of the box? What comes with it and what doesn’t?

  1. Marketing Automation – your CRM partner should possess the expertise and track record to support:
    • Lead nurturing
    • Digital marketing campaigns.

Make sure you understand what the tool will look like on your end. Is it easy to manage?

  1. Training & Support – a good CRM Partner will have the expertise and resources to support:
    • Training
    • Implementation
    • Adoption of effective practices for systems and processes to optimize CRM utilization.

So when you feel like you don’t understand…can your CRM partner help? Will it cost more or is support included? These are important things to understand in the selection process.

  1. Ongoing Services – you’ll likely have a CRM point person. What happens if your point person changes jobs or goes on maternity leave? Will they offer a way to fill the void if your point person leaves for some reason?
  2. Work Team & Chemistry – this is so important. Spend time with a potential CRM vendor. Try to discern if they will be a vendor…or a true partner. Does it “feel” like a fit?
  3. References & Case Studies – a potential CRM partner is not going to send you a “bad” case study. They’re going to give you their best examples! So, yes, read any provided case studies, but also be prepared to do some research on your own. You’re selecting a vendor who will partner with you for YEARS. When you’re entering into this kind of relationship, you want to do your research and your due diligence.
  4. Pricing Models – this is important to understand so there aren’t any surprises down the road. What all is included? What is considered an add-on? Again, it’s important to really understand the pricing models.

Not all CRM vendors are created the same. There are healthcare-specific vendors or cross-industry solutions. There are proprietary solutions or universal broad platform solutions. There are vendors who serve very large clients and some who serve small. Some CRM vendors offer an array of peripheral products or services while others do not.

Be sure to understand as much as possible about the vendors out there – again, do your homework! How big is the vendor? What have they done? Who have they worked with? What other third-party providers or consultants are out there who can perhaps help you through this entire process?

Corrigan Consulting’s business partners, Klein & Partners and, recently released a study (download the whitepaper here) where they noted healthcare marketers are losing confidence in their CRM efforts. While healthcare marketers feel their social media, web and digital strategies are improving, or at least holding steady, they reported their CRM confidence was sliding – from a 2.75/4 rating in 2016 to a 2.5/4 rating in 2017.

Selecting and implementing a CRM system is a complicated undertaking. Unfortunately it’s not simply buying software and flipping a switch. It’s a big project. You’re looking for a true partner. It’s a significant investment of time, resources and dollars. Don’t rush the process. Do your homework. Take the time to do it right from the outset, and your hard work will pay off in the long run.