Do any of these sound familiar? :

  1. Your info is in too many places – business cards? Excel? Google Sheets? PEN AND PAPER?! – and it takes forever to find what you need
  2. Your business is growing fast, but you can’t hire someone just to organize things
  3. You don’t have a clear sales process, so you have to figure everything out from scratch – every time you try to sell is like the first time
  4. It’s difficult to keep track of all the different communication channels you have (emails? Phone calls? Coffee chats?)

There’s a point where you’re small enough to run things with quick, if less efficient, tools:

  • Pen and paper
  • Excel or Google Sheets
  • Rolodex? (does anyone still have one?)

But if you’re starting to need more time to find info than actually use it – You need a CRM.
In this post you’ll learn the steps needed for implementing a CRM.

  1. Start by choosing your toughest problems
  2. Keep your data clean and organized
  3. Migrate your customer information into your CRM
  4. Set up automations and integrate other tools
  5. Train your team (and yourself) for better CRM implementation

Step 1: Start by choosing your toughest problems

Before you do anything – and definitely before you start trying out specific tech – you need to…
Figure out what you need!
What if you don’t do this? What if you grab the shiny CRM that the latest consultant in [INSERT YOUR INDUSTRY HERE] says is the best?
Some things could go wrong:

  • You wind up with a CRM that’s super powerful (because consultants like that), but is hard to figure out how to actually use
  • You need to have the consultant actually set up the CRM for you – and any time you need to change something it’s a huge headache
  • You wind up with a bunch of extra features that you don’t need – but still pay (a lot) for

It’s time to interview yourself about your business.
Ask yourself questions about what you need and what you want. Then ask why you need or want those things.
How do you know what you need to know? Ask yourself these four groups of questions.
Start with general questions about the problem you need to solve.

  • What do you want CRM to do?
  • Where is your data now?
  • What is the biggest pain point in the current process? How will CRM fix this?
  • What is the expected impact to the business? To the customer?
  • What teams or departments will be using the CRM?
  • If you don’t implement a solution, what is the impact?

After that, what does your sales process look like? How might a CRM help?

  • Where are the biggest inefficiencies within the process?
  • How can you address these inefficiencies with a CRM?
  • How do you contact your customers? How do they contact you?
  • Which customer data is most important for sales?
  • Have you mapped out your complete customer journey? What does it entail?
  • How do you measure sales performance?
  • What aspects of the sales process can be automated?

Marketing affects sales. Can your CRM pull in info from marketing?

  • What marketing are you doing?
  • Do you have a marketing strategy?
  • When are leads passed from marketing to sales?
  • What information is needed to support marketing?
  • How do you measure performance?
  • What aspects of marketing can be automated?

How smooth is your customer service? Could having all info in one place help?

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current process?
  • How are issues recorded?
  • How are issues resolved?
  • How do you measure performance?
  • What aspects of Customer Service can be automated?

50% of CRM implementations fail to meet management expectations. Because, most of the time, CRMs are chosen without actually looking at the needs of the business.
You can avoid CRM implementation failure by focusing on how to solve your unique problems – instead of looking for the shiniest features.


What do you need from your CRM? (via SoftwareAdvice)
When you finish, you should have a list of things you want your CRM to help with.
Now all you need to do is find the software that meets your CRM requirements.

Step 2: Keep your data clean and organized

Clean your data!

Data (aka, customer info) is the lifeblood of your CRM – your data needs to be clean, workable, and accurate.

Depending on how much data you have, this might be the most time intensive portion of CRM implementation.
If you don’t have any customer info, this is an excellent time to determine what kind you’ll want or need to have, and to create processes for maintaining it.
Because it will need to be maintained. Let me show you.

The average business only has 75% accurate data, with 70% of data becoming obsolete year over year. And bad data has costs into the trillions.
In other words, you should probably get your data right.
Audit your customer data:

  • Locate and gather all of your customer information
  • Use the results of Step 1 to organize the information according to your needs
  • Prioritize the customer information by value to your business
  • Remove any duplicate and incorrect information
  • Add any information that is missing
  • Create a uniform system for data entry
  • Repeat the audit process at least once a year

Step 3: Migrate your customer information into your CRM

How should you store your customer information within your new CRM?
When your data is stored neatly in custom fields, you can do things like…

  • Automatically send membership renewal reminders when it’s close to a renewal date
  • See, at a glance, a contact’s role, organization, and key pain points
  • Track how long it takes you to close sales (on average)

You’ll want to create a place in your new CRM where your information is stored and accessible. In ActiveCampaign, this is as easy as creating a custom field:


This field will let you send reminders and thank-you notes, because it stores customer information
This data field will now appear in the General Details section of your contact’s page:


When you look at a contact, you’ll now be able to see when they signed up
Now you can create that anniversary offer.
Repeat this process for any additional data points that you have. These might include:

  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Job Title
  • Birthday
  • Service interests
  • Favorite color
  • Twitter handle
  • Height

This step in the CRM implementation process will vary depending on the system and the number of unique data fields you’ll be setting up.
Migration services from ActiveCampaign can be a tremendous help. Our team pulls your contacts and data into ActiveCampaign for you.
Once your info is in your CRM, it’s time to set up your other tools.

Step 4: Set up automations and integrate other tools

Integrations let you bring in customer information from other sources

There are three main ways to integrate your tools with your CRM. Which one you use depends on your CRM capabilities.

  1. Native or Direct Integrations
  2. 3rd Party or Middleware Integrations
  3. Application Programming Interface (API) Integrations

Native/Direct Integrations are connections that have been pre-built by the CRM makers (or the maker of your other tools). You can use them from right within your platform.
These are direct connections from your CRM to another tool, and are quick and easy to configure. Usually this entails a copy/paste job of your API key for each tool to link your accounts together – then you’re off to the races.


You can find your ActiveCampaign API key in the Developer section of your Account Settings.
3rd Party or Middleware Integrations are connections made between two tools by way of a middleman. Think of these as a bridge between two applications that otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate.
Common Middleware platforms include:

  • Zapier (images below)
  • Piesync
  • Automate.io


A common Zapier connection with ActiveCampaign and Facebook to capture your leads (via Zapier)
You select your CRM system and the tool you’d like it to communicate with. Each platform will show you a list of what it can automate for you. All you have to do is:

  1. Choose a trigger
  2. Choose an action to take


Connecting ActiveCampaign and Facebook Lead Ads is that simple with tools like Zapier. (via Zapier)
API Integrations are custom connections built using the code of a platform. This lets systems pass information back and forth (and can give you more control over which information gets passed).
API integrations are great because they allow you to create integrations that otherwise wouldn’t exist. On the other hand API integrations require a certain level of technical knowledge to configure.
If you’re someone with that knowledge, great!
If not, API integrations can be quite involved and time intensive, as your options are:

  • Hire someone to do it for you
  • Learn it yourself


Integrations create paths for your customer information to travel between your CRM and other tools.
Every CRM system has different integration capabilities. Before choosing a CRM, make sure it integrates with the tools you want to use.

Save up to 23% of your day by automating your CRM

Automating the flow of data into and out of your CRM can save you up to 23% of your day.
If you automate your CRM, you can see exactly how people:

  • Engage with your marketing campaigns
  • Connect in the sales cycle
  • Convert into customers
  • Need support and additional service

Step 5: Train your team (and yourself) for better CRM implementation

55% of sales reps think ease-of-use is the most important CRM feature and 79% of opportunity-related data gathered by sales reps is never entered into their CRMs.
If your team doesn’t understand how to use your CRM…they won’t.
That’s why training is an important part of your CRM implementation process.
You can avoid CRM implementation failure with a few steps:

  • Internal Marketing: tell your users what’s coming, make them aware of the change
  • Explanation: users must understand why keeping everything in the CRM benefits them
  • Accessibility: your users must be able to update their contacts and records no matter where they are
  • Training: teach your users how to use the new tool rather than throwing them out of the nest in hopes that they fly. They won’t.

Training and enablement improve ease of use. If you know how to use your CRM, you’re more likely to actually use it right.
Create a system to input data correctly, and a system for regular data audits. This means everyone follows the same rules for

  • Naming Conventions
  • Taxonomy
  • Duplicate Data
  • Missing Data
  • A Process for handling unknown data scenarios

Be thorough and complete. If it feels tedious remind yourself:

“No matter the solution you choose and the level of difficulty of that solution, you are implementing software in your business that every customer facing employee will rely on in some way. That’s a big deal.” – Ben Goldstein

Conclusion: How do you know if your CRM implementation process worked?

Ultimately, a CRM implementation process boils down to 3 key questions:

  1. Do you know what you need and why you need it?
  2. Is your customer data actionable?
  3. Do you have a system to keep your customer data actionable?

If you can answer “Yes.” to these questions, you are far more likely to be successful with your CRM launch.
Following the 5 steps above will lead to successful CRM implementation.