Successful CRM Implementation Plan: 10 Step Strategy

Last Updated:Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Quick Summary:

Dive into our ten-step strategy for CRM implementation to enhance business efficiency and customer engagement. This article covers essential steps from initial planning to post-implementation review, ensuring businesses can effectively integrate CRM systems for improved operations and customer relationships.

Did you know that 75% of CRM implementations fail? And yes, even though this failure statistic is high and might be discouraging, you will not end up as one of those companies if you’re equipped with a good CRM implementation strategy.

Our guide demystifies the CRM integration process, providing you with actionable that will help you avoid common pitfalls. Gain insights into selecting the right CRM, ensuring its successful integration, and achieving adoption across your team.

So buckle in for this CRM Implementation Plan: 10 Steps to a Successful Strategy. Let's roll!


What is CRM implementation?

CRM implementation isn't the same as CRM integration, and one often hears talk of it as something like subscribing to a new system, doing a bunch of data migration, and getting all these new apps. 

But choosing the right CRM platform, plugging in the correct customer data (and other CRM data), and doing proper CRM training after rollout isn't always a piece of cake. There are specialists in CRM implementation, and perhaps your business would do best to hire one. But it's unnecessary and might be too pricey for smaller operations on a budget.

CRM technology is only as complex as one makes it, and the level and degree of user adoption may vary. Hopefully, this article will show you a CRM implementation plan that will save you time and money in the long run. After all, great things follow from great plans, and this CRM implementation plan is no exception.


How proper CRM implementations impact your business

CRM project planning affects your business in many ways. Having the right CRM implementation plan means saving time, having the most accurate and valuable data, and getting all your staff on the same page and using the same information. 


Save time in choosing a new CRM vendor.

Choosing the right CRM platform is one of the first things regarding CRM implementation. There's a lot of good research and reviews online, and most CRM systems have free trials or free versions.

When you take this step seriously, you'll have a CRM system up and running faster and with fewer onboarding steps, which could be costly. 


Making the most of your CRM data

If CRM systems are like well-coordinated machines, then CRM data is the engine fuel that keeps them running. Improper CRM data can gravely impact your business, leading to customer mixups, inefficient sales teams, and clueless CRM users.

Before CRM implementation, ensure your data is clean: Remove contact duplication or old and invalid information.


Giving your CRM users the best CRM tools

You have to consider who will be the end-users of this CRM software: your sales managers and sales reps, your marketing team, or your customer support agents.

The best CRM has functionalities for all these departments, and it impacts your business by ensuring that every team member works smoothly with the others, regardless of departmental siloing.


What makes for a successful CRM implementation plan?

A successful CRM implementation doesn't have to cost a million dollars or take a year. CRM implementation strategies abound online, and our step-by-step plan is based on the best intel the CRM world offers. Whether you are a startup, small business, or enterprise looking to combine CRM with ERP software, these CRM implementation strategies will surely boost your uptake ability.

Here's the 10-step strategy for CRM implementation:

  1. Map out your specific needs

  2. Shop around for the best CRM apps

  3. Think about integrations

  4. Select a CRM implementation team

  5. Set out your metrics, KPIs, and goals

  6. Plan a comprehensive budget

  7. Clean and prep your CRM data

  8. Onboard your CRM users

  9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage

  10. Analyze your data and get feedback


How to implement a CRM system: 10 vital CRM implementation steps

The CRM implementation process isn't necessarily a strict one-at-a-time set of rules. You have some leeway in how you go about this, especially if you parcel out the initiatives to different people involved in the CRM implementation phases. 

There are many ways to stay organized during the CRM implementation process. You can use a spreadsheet, an app, or just a whiteboard. Spreadsheets and apps, however, are better because they are accessible remotely.  


1. Map out your specific needs

The first step of our CRM implementation process is the most high-level work you'll have to do through understanding your needs and thinking hard about how you expect a CRM system to meet them.

You'll need to consider your company size and industry, how many of your team members will be using the CRM, and which departments: marketing, the sales process, or support, among others.

So, if you were unsure how to choose CRM for your company, now you know what is the crucial first step.


2. Think about integrations

Step 2 of our CRM implementation guide involves envisioning the ecology of business software and where your CRM will fit among it. Large businesses often use ERP, so consider how you'd like those to work together.

Some CRM platforms do it all. Many great CRMs work as add-ons and extensions with other significant tools, like Google and Microsoft products. E-commerce operations should especially consider which integrations they'll need for pricing and payment modules.


3. Shop around for the best CRM apps

Time for CRM implementation step 3: shopping around. Just as you want to create an incredible customer journey for visitors to your shop or site, so do the best CRM tools out there want to do for you as their potential customer. 

Look at feature lists, compare pricing models, and read outside reviews. Often, CRM systems will give you free trials so that you can give them a try. Check out open-source CRM software as well, as it is most often free of charge.

Also, there are plenty of cheap CRMs for small businesses that larger companies can use if you're on a limited budget. Of course, too many free trials might add some unwanted extra time to your CRM implementation process. 


4. Select a CRM implementation team

Step 4 of implementing CRM is about choosing the right people for the job. Three good roles to consider are advocates, who convey the importance of CRM to your team; experts, who know how to implement and use it and can teach newbies; and those who work hard, who'll do things like data migration.

Communication must be rife among everyone. Clear messaging on obstacles or setbacks can minimize time wasted.


5. Set out your metrics, KPIs and goals

In step 1, you made the grand plan for your CRM system. In step 5, it's time to get down to the details and numbers. This step is also essential in the final step, as any new business process is cybernetic: implement, get feedback, adjust, and repeat.

You might consider metrics such as CRM cost versus sales or profits. CRM can measure marketing campaigns against new contacts and leads, analyze customer support issues, and determine resolution times. Many types of CRM have great dashboards for instant reporting.


6. Plan a comprehensive budget

With step 6, we talk about dollars. Of course, an excellent CRM system will make you more efficient and save you money in the long run. Up front, however, there will likely be a down payment.

However, sometimes, not even the best free CRM software versions may be enough if your business aims to scale. When picking a plan, ensure your budget remains safe even if you need to upgrade for some reason or other suddenly.

Also, integrations can be cost-saving or costly if the numbers are not added up first.


7. Clean and prep your CRM data

On to step 7 of CRM implementation. If you've never used CRM software before, chances are your customer data is on spreadsheets and other media. You'll want to go over it, discard out-of-date stuff, and look to merge duplicate data. You can also do some data segmentation ahead of time.

If all you're doing is merging your data from an older CRM to a new one, the best CRMs come with tools to do it for you. Otherwise, you get simple tutorials. If need be, you can always hire outside specialists, either from the vendor you subscribed to or a 3rd party specialist.


8. Onboard your CRM users

People often overlook step 8 of implementing your CRM, which gives your team ample time to get to know the software. You can't just install it and expect everyone to understand what it can do and why you've implemented it.

This means expecting downtime from their regular work tasks. You might even hold training sessions outside the usual workspace. There will be holdouts who don't like new things but communicate clearly how CRM is a tool to help their work, not add to it.

Finally, ensure your specialists are still dedicated to helping everyone for some time.


9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage

Step 9 of your CRM implementation brings us closer to the end because it fuses implementation with initial usage. When you finally start using your CRM, consider a probation period: two weeks or a month.

The idea here is to manage expectations. There will be bumps in the road, so you can come out unscathed as long as you don't hit that road running full speed. This also eases the pressure on your team to become CRM user experts instantly, which takes us to our final step.


10. Analyze your data and get feedback

So, what is the last step in CRM implementation? It follows naturally from steps 5 and 9. Now that your probation period is up take a step back and measure its success rates against those KPIs you set in Step 5.

What's more, this is the opportunity to do the most essential thing: Talk to your team about how they feel about the CRM software. Hear their pain points out and look for solutions together. Feedback from users is invaluable to proper CRM implementation.

Once you've assessed the results and heard the feedback, you might want to change your plans to adjust. That might mean how you use the CRM, what you expect, or even if you have the right plan with the right tools.

Finally, repeat that last step every so often. Stay agile to your shifting business needs and the concerns of your team using the implemented CRM.

How long should a CRM implementation strategy take?

Before you set deadlines for total CRM implementation, remember that not every organization or CRM system functions identically. 

Startups and small businesses will likely implement their CRM in about two weeks to 2 months. Larger companies should bank on anywhere from 1 to 4 months. 


CRM implementation project plan template

A six-months CRM implementation plan timeline

Image source: Slideteam

Working with a CRM implementation plan template is always a good idea. There are many great resources online where you can view, copy, or download such a template. What's important is to find a template or plan that is right for your timeframe and budget when it comes to CRM project planning.

Otherwise, you and your team can create your CRM implementation project plan template.

Critical considerations for CRM project planning should focus on selecting a template that aligns with your specific goals, available timeframe, and budget constraints.

Here's an example of a template you can use:

1. Preparation Phase:

  • Define business objectives and CRM goals.
  • Identify key stakeholders and form an implementation team.
  • Conduct a thorough needs assessment.

2. CRM Selection:

  • Research and evaluate potential CRM systems.
  • Choose a CRM that fits your business requirements and budget.

3. Project Planning:

  • Establish a detailed project timeline.
  • Outline clear milestones and deliverables.
  • Allocate resources and define roles and responsibilities.

4. Data Migration Strategy:

  • Plan for data cleaning, mapping, and import processes.
  • Test data migration to ensure integrity and accuracy.

5. Customization and Integration:

  • Customize the CRM to fit your business processes.
  • Integrate with existing systems and software.

6. User Training and Support:

  • Develop a training program for users.
  • Provide resources and support for troubleshooting.

7. Testing Phase:

  • Conduct system testing to identify and rectify issues.
  • Validate the CRM setup with end-users.

8. Go-Live Preparation:

  • Prepare a launch plan and communication strategy.
  • Ensure all technical and support systems are in place.

9. Launch:

  • Go live with the CRM system.
  • Monitor performance and user adoption closely.

10. Post-Implementation Review:

  • Gather feedback from users and stakeholders.
  • Make necessary adjustments and provide ongoing support.

Selecting the suitable template should offer a solid framework that can be customized to reflect your organization's unique processes and customer relationship management needs, paving the way for a smoother transition and tremendous success in your CRM endeavors.


Key takeaways on successful implementation of customer relationship management

Now that you've all read up on CRM best practices for implementation, it's time to implement customer relationship management into your business process. Just remember the key takeaways:

Consider your specific needs and who in your organization will use the CRM. Ensure they have a say in choosing the CRM system and are involved in the implementation and onboarding.

Know your bottom line. This means having a firm sense of your budget, how long your operations can slacken while your team adopts the CRM system, and what kind of ROI you expect from a well-implemented CRM.

Gather data and analyze it. Make regular reports on the CRM's efficacy and adoption rates. Ask for feedback from CRM users often, and don't hesitate to change courses.

That's about it for now. Good luck with the CRM implementation.


CRM Implementation FAQs

What are the 5 phases of CRM implementation?

The five phases of CRM implementation include planning and strategy formulation, system selection to meet specific business needs, project design detailing CRM's architecture, implementation and customization for business alignment, and finally, training and adoption to ensure effective use across the organization.


What are the six steps of implementing a CRM?

Implementing a CRM involves defining clear business objectives, choosing the right CRM system that aligns with those objectives, planning the implementation with a detailed project plan, customizing and integrating the CRM into existing processes, training the team on effective usage, and continuously monitoring and iterating based on feedback for improvement.


What are the four types of CRM implementation?

Four main types of CRM implementation are operational CRM, focusing on automating customer-facing processes; analytical CRM, dedicated to analyzing customer data for insights; collaborative CRM, aimed at enhancing inter-departmental collaboration; and campaign management CRM, which combines operational and analytical aspects to manage marketing campaigns.


What CRM means?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It's a strategy and technology businesses use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, aiming to improve relationships, retain customers, and increase sales.