Building A CRM Foundation

Building A CRM Foundation

When Courtney and I came up with the title for our book, “CRM or Die,” we knew it was pretty dramatic, but we also believe that if we as marketers, business owners, and executives, don’t pay attention to what’s happening with our clients, or manage our client data appropriately, then yes we’re going to fade into irrelevancy with our clients. So how do we avoid that? How do we achieve the best results with our CRM? You can achieve better results by building your CRM implementation (or re-implementation) off of four key parts: 

• Foundation

• Preparation

• Utilization

• Thrive. 

In this blog and the next three, I’m going to dive into each of these key areas. Let’s start with building a good foundation. Part of building a good foundation is first documenting your CRM process as it is today. If you don’t have a CRM, start drafting out how your firm manages your client relationships. No matter where you are in your CRM journey, it starts with having a good process and great documentation to back up that process. 

Unleashing the Power of Your CRM Starts with the Why

When building a strong foundation, it’s important for you and your firm to understand the why. We’ve all been victims of a bad implementation where something’s just rolled out and we’re just kind of told it’s time for you to do the CRM thing, or it’s time for you to use this new project management software, or whatever it is. Usually, the why is not included. At the core of implementing and using CRM software, is the desire for an organization to serve its clients better. To leverage information across departments, cut across silos, and serve a firm’s clients in a way that is seamless. Great data makes nourishing and serving those relationships easier and that’s where a CRM can help. 

The reason knowing your why is so important is because it defines how people will interact with your CRM. If people understand why it’s important to capture good data, the employees doing the data entry to get information into the system will get better because they’ll understand why they’re doing it. 

In a Ted Talk by Stacey Abrams, Stacey does a fantastic job of outlining three questions she asks before going after anything she wants:

1. What do you want? 

2. Why do you want it? 

3. How are you gonna get it? 

If you’re not sure where to start on your why, I think these questions can help you get there. 

In addition to having a good why, having leadership buy-in is critical. If you or anyone you know has ever tried to implement a system before when senior management wasn’t on board, it tends to go nowhere fast. After working on hundreds of CRM implementations, this has been proven to me over and over again. One of the key factors for a successful CRM implementation was leadership buy-in. If this was present, the implementation went smoother and adoption was faster. 

Attitude is Everything When Implementing or Improving Your CRM 

Using a CRM is more a lifestyle than a diet. We’ve all tried a diet program, and as you know you can get a nice result for a short period of time. But for a long-lasting health strategy, you have to work a little harder at creating some good habits. The same goes for your CRM and the process you use to manage it. If you and your firm want to do a good job of capturing that data it has to be a lifestyle change. It has to be something that you as an organization decides is important. It must be something that you can commit to and you all work on it as a team. 

The Big Psychological Shift: A Culture of Data Stewardship

When a firm commits to using a CRM, the next step is to look for ways to incorporate or create a culture of data stewardship. When a culture of data stewardship is present at a firm, every single team member has a data role. Some of you may find yourself having several roles (it depends on the size of your organization). The key is, making sure that everyone at your firm is aware of what their role is. 

The Roles and Where to Find Them

  • Editor – This person is generally good at finding mistakes in the information. May already have an administrative role at your firm.
  • Auditor – You may have another person that is really good at running reports and they are great at finding issues with data on a large scale. This person might be in an accounting role at your firm.
  • Consumers – People who are just using the information. Might be the CEO or a Business Developer.
  • Analyst – This person has an aptitude for finding trends in data. This person may be a CFO at your firm.
  • Leader – The leader makes sure that everyone understands the importance of using the CRM and holds people accountable for using it. Can be the Marketing Director or the CEO. In a perfect world, it would be both.
  • Officer – Supports and upholds the leader’s focus on company data. Can be a CEO, CFO, or any executive leader within the organization.


Carly Fiorina (the former CEO of Hewlett Packard) says it best, “The goal of a data-driven leader is to turn data into information, information into knowledge, knowledge and insight and insight into a competitive advantage.” When everyone at your firm is working as a team to gather client data, turn it into knowledge, and then insight, then you can confidently say your team is well on its way to becoming a leader in the AEC industry. If your firm focuses on developing a why for your firm before beginning your CRM journey and identifies roles within your team of how each member can contribute to a culture of data stewardship, then you will be well on your way to creating an effective strategy to unlock your firm’s CRM potential.