CRMs can often pose a challenge for organizations, no matter their size. Many companies are encouraged to sign up for CRMs with stars in their eyes and great expectations of its capabilities. Automating marketing functions, staying current with leads, and improving overall customer service are some of the plus points of a CRM that are touted early on in the process and often the basis for implementation.

However, after a few months, the spark tends to go out. What most organizations come to find at that point is that their CRM is little more than a contact database, and they do not take advantage of all that a CRM is really capable of – especially when it comes to leveraging it for successful marketing automation.

The missing ingredient for a successful CRM and its usage? Not establishing or reinforcing minimum requirements for all users. This might entail not clearly defining what information needs to be entered in the CRM and its frequency, or defining the process but not how often that should occur.

In order to fix this issue, and ensure that you are getting exactly what you need from your CRM in terms of marketing automation, here are some ways to fix that and ensure your CRM functions as more than just a Rolodex.

1) Define a process and a schedule

This might sound incredibly simplistic, but this is the most important aspect of a CRM – keeping it fresh, updated and always current. Marketing and sales teams are most successful when they are able to access key information right away without having to waste time in verifying if it is still correct.

The only way to really mitigate this is to sit down, define a strategy and the ensuing protocols and schedules to make it successful. What information are you most interested in capturing? What functions will benefit best by being automated? What are lower priority items that could be added in later? What seems to be the most helpful for sales and marketing?

These are just some questions to start the conversation. Once you have answered these, think about what frequency would be most helpful to maintain this data. Should there be a weekly update of the CRM, or does it need to be less frequent? And who is most responsible for its updates?

2) Schedule check-ins

The other failing point for many organizations is having processes and frequencies defined, but forgetting to follow up. Marketing and sales teams are busy, and they have a lot of other priorities, so it easy for CRM management to fall by the wayside.

However, schedule check-ins with the teams either bi-weekly or monthly (just as a start) to see if updates are going smoothly if they are having trouble with the CRM itself and if they are able to update in a timely fashion.

This will help identify pain points early on, as well as serve as a reminder to all teams involved that they must update information in order for the CRM to really reach its potential.

3) Constantly innovate

The third key mistake made by many organizations is never revisiting – at all. It is easy to get complacent between check-ins, updates and other tasks but resist the temptation. Rather than just adhering to processes set early on, think of ways to innovate and improve the process going forward.

Work with your teams to understand where they face issues, what they think improvement is needed on and what is working for them. Use this as a foundation to innovate current processes to ensure that everyone is getting the information they need and it works as more than just a contact database.

Having a CRM is one thing, but actually maintaining a CRM for sales and marketing teams can often be challenging. It might seem easy to let CRM management fall by the wayside, but try not to let that happen.

CRMs are an incredibly important investment since they serve many important functions within sales, marketing and the larger organization, especially when it comes to the ease of automation and other time-saving resources that really can drive success as a whole.