Get in touch, stay in touch--CRM project management works!

Connie Plowman, Vice President, CADENCE Management Corporation

Michael F. Johnson, President, First Plan Marketing


“Why do I hear from you only when you want to sell me something?” You should cringe when you hear these words from your customer. Customers are no longer looking for suppliers and vendors. They want strategic partners and solution providers—they want a continuing relationship. But the increasing rate of change and market complexity is making it difficult for sales professionals to stay in touch with ALL their customers. To gain the competitive edge, you can no longer solely rely on one-on-one marketing. You need to reach thousands, not just a handful. You need to get more results.

What you need to develop is Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM).

People buy according to their needs and timeline, not yours. The challenge is to lock your message into the mind of the customer. Consistent, repeat communication builds trust and maintains top-of-mind awareness so when the customer is ready to buy, they will buy from you.

With the CRM approach you can turn all of your customers into VIPs!

Using effective project management and CRM techniques, you can develop a VIP campaign for not only getting in touch with your customers, but also staying in touch. The campaign will develop customer loyalty and increase repeat business. After all, the best source of new business is your existing customer base.

How do you get more marketing and sales results without adding more people? How do you design a CRM process that fits in the organization? Planning and executing an effective CRM project can maintain relationships and reach thousands of customers using your existing staff and infrastructure.

What is Customer Relationship Marketing?

What CRM is: Customer Relationship Marketing is getting to know your customer or prospect—better than anyone else—and developing a long lasting, mutually rewarding partnership. It is a process of thinking, feeling, understanding and relating to your customer’s needs. It is being a resource and providing a solution for your customers. People buy from people they trust. Most new business opportunities come from references or existing customers. People make buying decisions when it suits their own needs and timetable—not yours.

What CRM is not: It is not just spending more money on “customer service.” It is not a series of junk mail advertisements. It is not a pile of sales letters. It is not a fancy, expensive, four-color brochure that will be used for a birdcage liner. It is not telemarketing.

Cold calling can discover occasional hot prospects, but closing these opportunities requires organized, sustained follow-up. How do we accomplish this? By developing top-of-mind awareness of you in your customer’s mind as the trusted expert in your field. To get in touch and stay in touch!

How Does CRM and Project Management Work Together?

A gradual, orchestrated implementation of a CRM project allows people and the organization to learn, and over time improve the quality and effectiveness of getting in touch and staying in touch with the customer. The sales force is motivated because it can generate a positive response—i.e., an order. The process frees up your account executives to focus on the high level opportunities where they should be spending their time. What’s more, the increase in sales occurs without a commensurate increase in cold calling. Advertising costs will decrease because you are using a customer-centric, focused contact with an existing client rather than a shotgun, mass-media marketing campaign.

Get in Touch, Stay in Touch Project

The project objective is to create a lead development process that will deliver a volume of highly qualified prospects to the sales executives. One of the elements is developing a VIP campaign, which sends a message that your customer is special and important to you. The criteria for this campaign must be inexpensive to develop and manage, accountable through the sales cycle (from lead generation to closure), compatible with the mission, vision, and values of the organization, and provide minimal drain on current resources in the company.

The campaign is an automated process that maintains the communications in a way that feels personal. It is a mixture of medium—a letter, e-mail, phone call, fax, article of interest, whatever you desire—“personally” coming from you. It keeps your name and a message in front of your customer. Make the communications interesting and valuable.

Project Manager

Select a project manager who has a “passion” for relationship marketing. This project will only succeed when the project manager is a true believer in CRM and has project management and leadership skills to make a difference in the organization. Relationship marketing is not only a change in thinking, but it is also a change in the way you do business. The positive results in making a change must be constantly communicated by the project manager to the team and the organization.

The project manager must be a team builder, dedicated to quality and the customer. The project manager keeps the team focused on the project objective, and consistently communicates the vision of why we are doing this project—to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, maximize the effectiveness of your sales force, and generate a steady flow of new business opportunities.

The Project Team

With any project, the people make the difference. The project team must be highly driven and customer focused. They must demonstrate enthusiasm for the project and have the support of senior management. Development of a relationship marketing campaign and its components must fit with company goals. Always remember the purpose of the campaign.

In forming your CRM project team, be thinking about the value and contribution each individual will bring to the table. Identify people who are best suited to work on this project. Our team consisted of four departments—one individual from each of the following functional areas:


Executive management

Information systems


Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.

While the entire organization will benefit from successful relationship marketing, the sales department is the most direct participant. The campaign messages are being sent out over their signatures, and it is their name that is continually in front of the customer.

The executive management provides the sponsor and/or functional manager role. This individual monitors the status of the project and provides support to the project manager and the team. The sponsor has the final say in decisions that affect cost, schedule and performance constraints. At a critical time in the project, the executive manager may conduct a performance review of the project manager to ensure the project continues to move forward. Stakeholders in the organization may also participate in the project review.

The information systems department provides the technical leader role. Because the use of software and centralized database are key elements to a CRM project, the I/S department is a critical element. Can we execute this project with current I/S infrastructure? What new hardware or software applications will be needed? How will they be implemented?

The operations staff will be maintaining the system and will own the process once it is transferred to ongoing operations. Operations is a critical team member in the success of the campaign—to keep the communications going on a timely basis.

Campaign Criteria Factors

As you develop your CRM campaign, six critical elements will need to be answered:

What gets done? (or what message is being sent?)

Who will the message be sent to?

When will the message be done? How often?

Who will send the message?

What are the follow-up activities after the message has been received?

What are the results/successes?

1. Decide what gets done. What are we going to send? It might be a letter, postcard, announcement, press release, or article of interest. In every message, always include a call to action: “Please call ME and let ME know who else in your company/organization or other organizations should I be contacting.” Remember to effectively use your website. Post articles, create links to other resource websites, generate interest so your customer frequently visits your website for what’s new.

2. Select a target group. Who are we going to send this to? The group might match your “best buyer” profile, customers who have ordered a specific product, or past graduates of a training seminar. Target your audience. Be specific. Different campaigns may be developed for different audiences. For example, you may want to keep in touch with all the CEOs in a given area. Develop an executive campaign that keeps your name and message in front of this CEO group.

3. Set a schedule. When will each message be sent? How often do we send a message? Should it be weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? The duration will depend on target audience, your resources and type of message. If it is an article of interest, allow time for securing the copyright permission. Some copyright permission is quick and easy to obtain while others take time and are expensive to secure. Be aware of information overload—messages sent too frequently may be overwhelming to your customer and not read.

4. Identify the resources. Who will do the work? Are there adequate resources within our organization, or should this activity be outsourced? This process should not put an additional drain on limited resources. Consider the quality of resources—both inside and outside of your organization. Customer names with spelling errors or incorrect addresses should be verified before sending. One of the worst mistakes in relationship marketing is misspelling a customer’s name!

5. Establish next steps. After the message has been sent, what are the follow-up activities? The next steps need to be identified and scheduled to ensure they happen. The system needs to prompt the administrator when it is time to do the next step.

6. Measuring results. How do we know if we are successful? What time frame is reasonable to measure success? In the project scope, establish the measures for your project.


Your current sales database may have been created over time and contain a variety of contacts:

Active records—customers you are working with today

Dead records—people who are no longer with the company, etc.

Empty records—no historical data captured

Duplicate records—more than one record for the same individual

List records—names acquired from various mailing lists, tradeshows, etc.

Inaccurate records—the data is in error (i.e., company profile info).

Consider creating a new database or consolidating the accurate information into one database. It is critical to have a clean, unique database for generating the messages. It needs to be a single database to drive the system. Others in the company may desire access of the information to see what message was sent, when, to whom, and the schedule of the next message to be sent.

Establish a centralized database—a single data source for all active selling and campaign activities. If you have a database already established, do the contacts in your database fit the criteria set by the company? For example, company size may be a critical factor. The organization may have set criteria to market to companies with 500 or more employees. If you have records in your database that has only 30 employees, you may elect to delete those records that do not fit the company size you have targeted. An alternative is to move these records to an inactive database so the history is still retained.

Focus on the types of records that will be in the centralized database. This may be a difficult task because each sales person has his or her own opinion on who is important and who isn’t. For example, you place a call to one of your contacts in the database and discover he or she is no longer with the company. What do you do with this record? Some people may want to delete this record so not to clutter the database with inactive data. Others may want to preserve the information and keep the records. Everyone must agree on the types of contacts in your centralized database and adhere to the rules established for adding and deleting records. With increased speed and capacity of computer technology, the number of records in the centralized database should not be an inhibiting factor. Fewer names in the database that are active and accurate are more desirable than extinct records being saved for historical purposes.

Database Configuration

Most people do not have the resources to manually reach thousands of customers at one time. A Sales Force Automation (SFA) tool is needed. A Get in Touch, Stay in Touch project requires a single database—a repository of customer information that must be centralized and accurate. SFA drives the campaign. It prompts for the next “message” to be sent. The desire is to maintain relationships with THOUSANDS of people—not just a select few.

There are many software products on the market for sales automation. Or you may already have a sales tracking software tool that can be modified to automate your campaign. Before investing in a Sales Force Automation program, there are many factors to consider as to which package is right for you. If you are currently using a sales tracking tool, examine its functionality. Can it work for automating a campaign? Is a plug-in package available to enhance the application? Should we purchase another product? Making the right software decision is critical. Making the wrong decision is costly, frustrating, and unproductive.

The Project Plan

The project plan documents the framework for managing and executing the project. For the Get in Touch, Stay in Touch Project, the components of your plan and examples may include:

INTRODUCTION: The introduction paragraph provides the background and history as to why you are doing this project, how it supports the company goals, and includes a justification summary. Example: The company sales activities are inadequate to meet sales objectives and growth goals of the organization. Employees have limited time to consistently do the follow-up work necessary to keep the sales funnel full. The company desires a change in behavior from hunters and gatherers, to cultivating relationships and partnerships as farmers. The intent is to generate sales that result in meeting and exceeding the company’s sales quota.

OBJECTIVE: The project objective should be simply stated in 25 words or less. It should include the project cost, schedule and performance of your project. The formula of a project objective is: To (verb and major deliverable) By (mm/dd/yy) Within A Cost Of (hours or dollars). Example: To install the framework for the relationship marketing process by September 30, 1999 within a cost of $75,000.

SCOPE: The project scope includes deliverables, measures and exclusions. The deliverables are tangible, verifiable outcomes expected at the end of the project to be used in ongoing operations. The measures set the standards and qualifiers to be applied against a deliverable or the overall project result. The exclusions are items that will not be delivered during this project. Establish and maintaining control of the project scope is critical. In a relationship marketing project, it is very easy to get into “scope creep” once the project is under way. Example: Deliverables—announcement letter, value piece, website page, sales training course, centralized database, etc. Measures—campaigns will generate a minimum of 100 messages per week. Exclusions—no new sales software.

KEY ISSUES/RISKS/ASSUMPTIONS: This documents issues and concerns that rise during project planning. There is a tendency to immediately try to resolve the issues during planning. It is important to document the issue, select the decision-maker, and keep moving forward. As the project moves forward, the issues will be addressed and resolved. Example: Can our current sales software support and provide the desired functionality to automate a sales campaign?

WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE: The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) provides the deliverables, tasks, subtasks and work packages in a hierarchical view of activities. The deliverables identified in your project scope are Level 1 activities in the WBS. Level 2 are tasks that describe the work to be done to produce that deliverable. Tasks are identified with an action verb and noun. Example: Announcement letter (deliverable). Write copy for announcement letter (task).

REPONSIBILITY MATRIX: The responsibility matrix is a graphic representation of who does what on the project at the task level. It is a commitment by each person who accepts responsibility or contributes to accomplishing a task. This graphic representation shows you not only who will be doing the work, but also the balance of work among the team members.

SCHEDULE: The schedule is the key control tool for managing the project. It provides a road map for when the work is to start and complete. The schedule includes a calendar, project timeline, activities (from the WBS), duration, dependencies, and assumptions. Any task with a duration longer than three weeks should be broken into subtasks. The sequence of tasks is determined during the scheduling process.

BUDGET: The project budget is created after the task responsibility has been identified and scheduled. Calculate the resource requirements for each task then add these calculations to achieve the total project budget. The budget may be expressed in dollars or hours. Creating a project budget and tracking mechanism gives the project manager and the team a major control tool for project execution. Example: Write announcement copy (task). 10 hours (budget to accomplish this task).

OTHER COMPONENTS: Documenting the roles and responsibilities of each person on the team, change control, and other administrative items complete the project plan.

Getting Results

Customer responses can happen overnight. It will depend on the audience and type of message sent. For example, in your first message, you have requested an update to the customer profile in your database. “Here is the information we have on file for you. Is it correct?” A simple postcard can accomplish this, and the call to action is to update the information either by returning the postcard (with prepaid postage) or directing them to your website to update their profile. It is much more cost effective to update a customer profile with a campaign, than using telemarketing services.

When you send an article of interest, select an article that is rather generic for your audience. Send a note or letter that conveys the message of “thought this might be of interest to you” and include your e-mail address asking for feedback. This may uncover a new business opportunity that would have gone unnoticed without sending a message to stay in touch.

The key to success is securing additional business. Relationship marketing may not capture low hanging fruit, but if done right, it will sustain the crop by providing a constant harvest.


Word spreads quickly in the information age. Being a resource to one customer will spread to other potential customers naturally. New opportunities open almost automatically with very little additional expense or activity by you. The greatest reward in CRM is hearing from your customer that “you are a great resource and solution provider.” You are considered a partner in their decision-making, not just a salesperson.

People move. Decision-makers change. Companies merge. Whether your sales force is one person or hundreds of sales professionals, it is difficult to stay connected with everyone. Great things can happen for you when world-class project management and customer relationship marketing expertise work together.

Customer Relationship Marketing is HARD! It takes time and a well-orchestrated approach. It involves rethinking your relationship with your customer and how to do business together. When you have true Customer Relationship Marketing, you will win customers for life and build your business exponentially. Make every customer a VIP!

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA



Related Content

  • Project Management Journal

    Investigating the Dynamics of Engineering Design Rework for a Complex Aircraft Development Project member content locked

    By Souza de Melo, Érika | Vieira, Darli | Bredillet, Christophe The purpose of this research is to evaluate the dynamics of EDR that negatively impacts the performance of complex PDPs and to suggest actions to overcome those problems.

  • Project Management Journal

    Validation of a New Project Resilience Scale in the IT Sector member content locked

    By Rahi, Khalil | Bourgault, Mario This article aims to present the concept of project resilience and to validate, through quantitative analysis, to assess its two key dimensions: awareness and adaptive capacity.

  • Project Management Journal

    Coordinating Lifesaving Product Development Projects with no Preestablished Organizational Governance Structure member content locked

    By Leme Barbosa, Ana Paula Paes | Figueiredo Facin, Ana Lucia | Sergio Salerno, Mario | Simões Freitas, Jonathan | Carelli Reis, Marina | Paz Lasmar, Tiago We employed a longitudinal, grounded theory approach to investigate the management of an innovative product developed in the context of a life-or-death global emergency.

  • Project Management Journal

    Narratives of Project Risk Management member content locked

    By Green, Stuart D. | Dikmen, Irem The dominant narrative of project risk management pays homage to scientific rationality while conceptualizing risk as objective fact.

  • Project Management Journal

    Navigating Tensions to Create Value member content locked

    By Farid, Parinaz | Waldorff, Susanne Boche This article employs institutional logics to explore the change program–organizational context interface, and investigates how program management actors navigate the interface to create value.