Confessions of a Small Business Owner
Full disclosure: I am terrible at purchasing technology. I make snap decisions based on being ticked off about something that is not working in my business and it always leads to having to redo the process at least three times before I get it right. In other words, I am like most small business owners who have to wear multiple hats in their companies and are typically strapped for time and money.
I just recently went through a 24 month exercise of implementing three different CRM systems (Client Relationship Management Systems) for my business to support our sales process. Here's what I learned (the hard way):
- Being a hothead gets you no where. Full stop.
- You must engage your whole team in the process.
- Technology vendors don't care about your business. They care about selling software.
- Doing the work properly always takes more time and money than you think. (Cheaping out means redoing work multiple times.)
- Thinking that the technology is the starting point.
Let's start with #1
I get frustrated easily when I can see that things are not working in my business. I know what needs to happen but understanding how to fix it is often just out of my reach. My whole quest for a CRM tool started when we decided to implement marketing automation for our business and quickly realized our sales data was lacking. We had been using our email marketing platform as our CRM system (bad idea) and when we hired sales help, the system was un-usable for a sales professional. It didn't track anything correctly with respect to sales process, lead qualification or next steps in the sales process and this was not obvious to me until someone else had to enter data and report on pipeline. It's fine when it's in the CEOs head but not so fine when you are trying to manage sales resources.
Because I wear the VP of Sales hat as well as the VP of Marketing hat and the title CEO, I thought I had the bases covered and didn't need input from the team. I knew the sales and marketing process and had most of the sales interactions with prospects and customers. What did I need the team's input for? Bad idea. Your team are the ones delivering for customers after the sale has been made and they understand things about what was sold and who needs to do what down the food chain. Their input was invaluable to understanding what the process had to be and without a documented process, there is no point purchasing technology. You are just setting yourself up to fail.
Issues 3, 4 & 5
My apologies to all software companies out there, and I have worked in marketing with many technology solution providers, but you don't care about my business. You care about selling software. If you cared about my business, the first step when I land on your website should not be "book a demo". This only serves as an opportunity for you to show me your software. Your first step should be, "download this important guide to get yourself prepared for purchasing technology". This guide should be a step by step outline of:
- How to gather requirements from your team
- How to involve your team
- How to document the changes you want to see after the software has been implemented
- Listing the resources who will be needed to execute the change and what the resource budget should look like to do it properly
- An articulation of what should happen 12 months after the technology is implemented and if goals have not been achieved and people don't like the solution, what happens next?
This last point is HUGE. How many technology companies ask you before you buy the software, "what happens if you don't achieve your goals at the end of 12 months?"
This question is a killer for any business. In our case the answer, should someone have asked me, was:
- We don't achieve our lead generation goals, therefore our sales will tank.
- We have to spend twice as much time and money putting in a new solution.
- We will be even more angry about the solution then when we started.
Our journey sucked but we are finally on the road to redemption
Ask any of the Marketing CoPilot team members if our technology journey for marketing automation and CRM success has been any fun and the answer will be "NO". The good news is that we are now on track and after having implemented an expensive solution and then a cheap one, we have now discovered the RIGHT solution. Don't lead with the technology. Lead with the business objectives, goals you want to achieve and process you need to follow.
We have just recently returned from Inbound 2017 where we met some amazing HubSpot people and industry partners and learned some amazing new things. Having recently signed up as a HubSpot Agency Partner (who asked the "what happens if...?" question by the way) we are implementing the marketing automation and CRM tools for ourself first before we sell it to clients. We think we are really well positioned to share our experience as a small business team.