How Membership Organisations can build a business case for a CRM Project

Janine Chasmer
Janine Chasmer

For membership organisations, the key to sustained relevance and growth lies in embracing digital transformation.

Upgrading from poorly maintained – and potentially siloed – databases to a centralised Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system allows organisations to make the most of their available data, garnering invaluable insights for future products and services, whilst offering more personalised value for members.

Despite the undeniable benefits that transformative technologies offer, however, CTOs and other staff members responsible for membership numbers often find themselves in a tug-of-war, tasked with securing investment for innovation despite being met with scepticism and hesitation from the Board. The reason? Cost.

With digital transformation, you’ve got to spend money to make money. As such, the only way to tackle this predicament is to come in armed with knowledge, statistics and strategic insights to back up your business case.

The price of progress

First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge stakeholders’ concerns. Yes, implementing a CRM system costs money. However, far from a frivolous expense, it will actually generate considerable returns, with Nucleus Research estimating an average ROI of $8.71 for every $1 spent. By framing your plans as a lucrative opportunity, stakeholders are much more likely to listen to the many other benefits the right CRM has to offer.

Indeed, for membership organisations, CRM technologies can be key to unlocking engagement – the currency of success. It’s, therefore, important to communicate that not embracing a CRM could therefore prove much more costly than any initial investment in the long run, allowing the organisation to be overtaken by the competition.

Building a business case

Building a compelling business case very much centres around potential ROI. Nevertheless, it’s equally as important to extend your proposition beyond numbers, ensuring you also present a plan that resonates with core organisational goals. There are several steps that can help with this:

Speak their language:

Ensure you understand both the priorities and pain points of those you present to. They might not care about the latest technical features, but they will care about the member acquisitions that these will translate to. Incorporating insights into revenue growth, operational efficiency and membership retention is a great way to capture stakeholder attention, tailoring your pitch to align with whatever their objectives may be.

Approach risk head on:

A comprehensive risk-mitigation strategy also goes a long way towards addressing concerns. Find out what’s putting your stakeholders off, then use your assessment to show you have planned for these factors and are ready to overcome them with tangible steps. If scalability is a concern, for example, talk about how the CRM you have selected can be upsized or downsized flexibly in alignment with your growth. Likewise, you may wish to outline the security features you will put in place to assuage any fears of data breaches.

Don’t forget to address the human factors in this, either, remembering that fears of obsolescence can thwart digital transformation efforts just as easily as budgetary constraints can. By outlining how team members will continue to play a key part in the future, you can ease these concerns.

Educate and empower:

Remember that investment stakeholders aren’t immune from skills concerns, either. By providing C-Suite with high level training or clear information that outlines key system functions and the benefits this will deliver , you can empower them with the skills and knowledge they need, not only to use the CRM effectively but also to approach the topic of investing in it with more confidence. By fostering a culture of continuous learning for all, you not only alleviate employee apprehension but cultivate a sense of ownership and enthusiasm throughout the transformation from investors as well.

Use early wins to demonstrate value:

Finally, rather than just telling investors how great your plans are, show them. Pilot programmes and phased introductions are a great way of demonstrating immediate value, with a taste of success proving a powerful catalyst for broader adoption. Key examples include an increase in staff and user adoption rates together with improved member engagement.

Beyond the Business Case

Once your senior leaders are convinced, it’s time to tackle employee resistance. It’s now widely acknowledged that 70% of change initiatives fail due to reluctance from team members, with Oak Engage’s latest report revealing that 41% of employees lack confidence in their leaders to successfully make change.

Skills fatigue is another significant problem, with workforces that have been forced though high levels of change tiring of new systems and solutions, often causing them to revert to legacy solutions. By engaging employees early on, initiating active discussions to involve them in the process, leaders can combat this, furthermore providing training to address any skills shortages that may be of concern. Reassuring team members that they still have security in their jobs also ensures that your plans will be met with success, allowing you to deliver the results you promised to investors.

Ultimately, building a successful business case for a CRM boils down to presenting plans from various stakeholders’ perspectives, focussing not on IT but on tangible organisation and workplace benefits.

Think you could benefit from some expert support? Contact a member of the Equantiis team today to book a non-obligatory chat.

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More about the author

Janine Chasmer
Janine Chasmer - Principal Consultant

Janine’s career includes 10 years in the not-for-profit sector, specifically within membership, and she leverages her industry expertise and first-hand experience with a wider range of clients, including Membership and Charity, where she provides consultancy on a range of areas including Business Strategy, Customer Experience improvement and process optimisation. In recent years, Janine has applied these consulting skills to the Education sector, supporting HE and FE institutions to improve their applicant and student experience at key phases such as application, enrolment, Clearing and progression. Other projects include Digital and Data Strategy, process and automation, and Student Journey optimisation. She has also worked as a SRM Functional Consultant, using this unique insight of both sector knowledge, and enabling technology to achieve transformational outcomes. Janine is also a regular event speaker and creates and shares industry and sector insights with her network.