Are You Rising to the Opportunity of CRM?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Matt Lehrman, Audience Avenue LLC. 

Matt Lehrman’s consulting work is focused on helping arts & cultural organizations build their audiences. I thought this blog post was a great perspective of someone who sees our industry from a slightly different vantage than I do.

– Gene Carr, CEO Patron Technology

As with most things in life, “wanting” and “having” are entirely different situations.

As leaders of arts & cultural organizations, we aspire to the order, efficiency, accountability, durability, and rational decision-making promised by customer relationship management (CRM) technology. There is, unquestionably, virtue and value from being able to unify and systematize every facet of patron engagement.

For organizations that have not yet taken steps to explore or deploy CRM technology I bluntly ask, “What the heck are you waiting for?” If you’re not willing to strengthen the ways in which you serve relationships to your donors and audience members, there are countless other businesses, causes, and communities that will gladly (and vigorously) step in to take your patrons elsewhere.

Simply put, there is no good reason to not want a CRM system.

Yet there is a very good reason to NOT have a CRM system: Don’t buy the tool if you’re not willing to use it.

CRM is not merely “fundraising” or “marketing” software. It’s unlike accounting or project management software that serves only a few specialized positions. I advise my consulting clients to recognize CRM as their organization’s new “operating system” – the central technology by which staff assigns and organizes tasks, collaborates, and communicates.

It’s easy to be misled by the word “customer.” But when you appreciate that “customers” can be both external and internal, it becomes clear that the power of CRM technology is “Relationship Management” — how a technology framework drives communication, productivity, and accountability.

So, are you willing to inject that much rigor into your organization’s administrative process? Do you possess the personal diligence to write up the substance and takeaways of all your customer encounters — and expect every other member of your team to do the same? Are you willing to assign (and receive) tasks through this technology? How committed are you to training and sustaining the engagement of your entire team on your CRM platform? What specific outcomes make your organization’s investment in CRM worthwhile?

Yes, these are tough questions. And yes, I actually AM trying to scare you away. I’m doing that because I know how badly you want, how much your Board wants, and how much your organization needs to achieve all the value and benefits that a CRM system can offer. (I’ll even go so far as to suggest that organizations that resist CRM today will find themselves out of business in the not-too-distant future because the competition for patrons is only growing fiercer.)

But wanting CRM isn’t enough. It may be easy enough to buy the tool, but success at the discipline of CRM requires a willingness to transform the way you work as an organization, as a team and how each member of your team works individually.

Wanting CRM is easy. Having CRM takes work.

About Matt Lehrman

Matt Lehrman, the principal of Audience Avenue LLC, provides consulting services to arts & cultural organizations of all sizes and genres in the areas of audience development, marketing, fundraising, and strategic planning – including hands-on guidance in rising to the opportunity of CRM.

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