Are you stuck on a legacy CRM system?

02 August 2018 by Lauren Smith

Unless you’ve been living in a vacuum recently, you’ll know that audiences expect you to be aware of their wants and needs and communicate with them accordingly. However, many membership bodies are still struggling to meet expectations because their traditional legacy systems have fallen behind.


CRM systems that have been set up properly will communicate the right message at the right time, through the right channel to your audience. According to the CRM Barometer, 85% of UK consumers would leave a brand because of poor customer experience, and nowadays your membership audience is no different. 

‘Every member is a digital consumer now - so if you aren’t engaging with your members in the way they expect you to, someone else will.’

Membership Director, small-medium sized NFP

The key to creating a positive experience for your members is underpinned by good data and how you use it. Consider whether you’ll be able to spot the warning signs of an unengaged member that is likely to lapse on their subscription, if membership activity, clicks on emails and web visit data is stored separately in silos? Can you identify frequent but unknown visitors to your web site and serve them with tailored messages as to why they should join as a member? You can with modern CRM Membership systems.

How much extra income would it be worth to you to increase retention by 5% or new memberships by 20%?  And how can the issues with a legacy system be overcome so you can meet your member’s needs?

smartimpact recently co-hosted a roundtable event where mid to senior level attendees from a range of NFP and membership associations could get a feel for what a modern integrated CRM system can do. Issues around cost, resource and whether to upgrade or replace it were explored. Attendees were also introduced to what CRM options are available on the market.

‘The Board want a glossy website that allows people to find us on search engines but don’t understand that CRM underpins it all – that word itself switches them off as it means they’ll need to approve spend and take a risk’.

Data Specialist, large charity

Key Findings

Amongst our attendees, there was consensus around a few things:

  • Legacy systems aren’t where they need to be in terms of intelligence to keep up with the needs of a digitally native audience
  • Legacy systems now carry a negative stigma with staff as it’s widely accepted that they are difficult to use and often complicate matters 
  • CRM is often seen as a separate entity and not fully understood across the organisation 
  • GDPR shone a light on what organisations need to be doing with members’ data and is a driver for CRM progress
  • Website integration is needed but where to start and how to do it properly is not completely understood
  • Often there is no management pressure for a new system as employees are quite unaware of the features and benefits that a good CRM product could provide 

Key takeaways from the event

How to gain buy in for a new system or upgrade:

  • Agree on your stakeholders and consider your options, approach and blockers with them up front 
  • Manage expectations around cost. This is a not a cheap, quick win project. It’s a long-term investment that does not stop at go live
  • Be clear on how this aligns to your overall business strategy and the benefits it will bring 
  • Every stakeholder will want something different out of it, so the message used should be tailored accordingly. For example, the CEO may want to know the ROI they can expect to see from it, whereas Head of Marketing may want to know how quickly and how far they can expect to see their member acquisition rates rise
  • Consider going to see examples of CRM capabilities at other organisations that have implemented a good system. It helps if people can see something tangible, but this usually means trying to get your supplier in to ‘do a demo’. This hardly ever works if you don’t already have clear requirements as demos, like systems, need to be focussed on what your firm needs

How to find the right supplier:

  • Consider choosing whether you want multiple suppliers to manage the CRM, website and potentially CMS implementation and integration, or one to manage all 
  • Don’t get seduced by flashy sales demos – consider finding out everything you need to know about the non-exciting but crucial aspects such as data migration and integration instead 
  • Once you have a shortlist, insist on meeting the actual project delivery team that will be working on your CRM system, not just the sales team A-listers. Make sure the project delivery team are A-listers as well, and tie them in to your supply contract
  • To build relationships and get a clear idea of culture match, spend a few days with the top two shortlisted project delivery teams to figure out how well you get on. Use this time to do workshops that result in useful deliverables. Pay for the time, on the agreement it will be knocked off the price for the supplier who wins. This will be a close relationship for many years to come post-implementation 
  • Use your network to get references – most suppliers can do a good implementation job (beware – there are a few well-known suppliers that sometimes can’t!) but it’s how well they look after the customer long term that is important

How to manage the project and the change:

  • Project success is determined by the efforts from both your supplier and client side. Do not make the mistake of thinking a supplier will make it all happen for you. It is your project and your responsibility to make it a success. Poor supply, or blaming a supplier when there are many reasons a project went wrong, is still a failed project
  • Treat this as an ongoing project that you’ll need a strong internal team to manage – no system will survive neglect for a long time
  • Depending on the size of your organisation, you’ll need at least one person to focus on it and have representation for it within senior management 
  • Consider having a non-techy person within the business as your project lead. They’ll be more approachable, and you’ll be likely to get less push back from across the organisation as a whole
  • Understand that implementing a new CRM system or an investing in an upgrade both require a cultural change across the organisation – and that does not happen overnight 
  • User expectation is key. If you feel you do not have staff with the available time or expertise to be your project lead, consider hiring an Engagement Change Manager. This role is not a project management role as it is focussed on making sure the user community is prepared for the new system and how it will change the way they work for the better

Do any of these issues sound familiar to you? If so, get in touch with us at smartimpact. We specialise in helping NFP organisations get the very best from their membership CRM systems, at whatever stage they are in their project lifecycle.