Internal Promotion

Because the success of CRM projects depends in great part on user adoption, it's a good idea to promote the system to its future users during the implementation. It doesn't need to be a sophisticated marketing campaign and it doesn't need to take a lot of time or resources, but it should be done. There are two opposite mistakes to avoid when doing internal promotion. One is to do none, which, since no one likes surprises, won't do much for your adoption rate. The other is to hype the system to the moon, which creates an unpleasant backlash when the users discover that all is not as wonderful as was implied. Here are some guidelines for striking a successful middle ground:

  • Start relatively early and crank up as you near deployment time. Internal users should be aware of the CRM project from the start (when the selection process starts, that is—don't wait until the start of the implementation period). Rather than creating special tool information meetings, which may not draw the crowds you would expect, schedule short tool briefings during normally scheduled staff meetings instead. Make the tool story a part of the normal set of business information. Publicize large milestones. By deployment time, users should welcome weekly updates.
  • Use informal promotion techniques. There's no need to be flashy or complicated to achieve effective internal promotion. In addition to leveraging the communication channels that are already in place, remember that your best spokespeople are the project team members, especially the end-users. Give them tools to communicate information. In particular, set up a project web page to centralize all the information about the project, making sure that it contains information suitable for end-users as well as more detailed and technical information for core team members. Don't expect end-users to check it on a regular basis: make sure the information gets to them instead.
  • Don't aim too high. Claiming amazing productivity gains will surely backfire when the new tool is deployed and, as is normal, productivity decreases while users get the hang of it. As pitiful as you think the existing system is, it's likely that users have developed efficient strategies for using it, which they will miss when the new tool comes around. You may not be able to deliver all the features you are planning, which may cause users to perceive the project as a failure even if the new system is good overall.

    Remember that users are often skeptical. Anticipate their objections and address them. One objection you are almost certain to face is why a large investment is being made in a tool when other choices could be made, such as hiring more staff or making improvements in processes. Enlist the project team, from the executive sponsor to the super-users, to justify how the project will simplify certain procedures, or increase revenue, or whatever else the business objectives are. If they have doubts, the rest of the team will have more.

    Make sure that internal promotion addresses issues that are important to the end-users: what's in it for them. They may not care much about working on the latest technology, while they would care that they will now have access to all customer purchases online. Collecting user questions and providing answers to them is a good way to catch what initial communication may have missed.

    Although the end-users will not know as much about implementation issues as the project team members, don't shield them from the problems. Credibility is important.

    Finally, be cautious with schedules. End-users are quick to conclude that projects are doomed if they are late. Better announce one larger delay than a bunch of small, successive delays.