Professional service marketers planning their future marketing have new tools that can help expand their territory and reach audiences in distant markets. Particularly as related to online marketing, marketers now find themselves being pulled more and more into the technology side.

Online marketing gives you the power to recognize which of your marketing tactics are working and which aren’t, and you need to be prepared to make adjustments on the fly. One way to assess your marketing is to use a CRM (client relationship management) system. Many CRMs today are web based and easy to use. They straddle the fence of sales and marketing.

CRMs have contributed to the shift from online brochure websites to content driven/lead generation websites (see related blog post: Best Advice for Professional Services Websites).

It would be easy to leave the CRM choice to your IT department. In the short run, it’s one less headache to worry about. However, here are some reasons why marketers need to influence, and perhaps drive, the process.

1. Establish your company’s needs and realize that technology is secondary to needs. Although a lot of technology has fancy bells and whistles, you must ensure that the programs actually have the functionality you need. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you can text message from a CRM if your company’s main priority is pipeline capturing and tracking. Sit down with your team and hash out your requirements and budget before blindly evaluating CRMs.

2. Process and business rules. Once a CRM is in place, ensure your team knows how to use the new technology; don’t assume that it is intuitive. Create training procedures and be sure to document how information is put in the CRM. Consider the types of reports you will need: sales, visitor engagement, etc. Consider the tags that will be most meaningful to your organization.

3. Documentation. While you are establishing processes, tags and reports, be sure the administrator is clearly documenting the CRM’s functionality. As more people grow comfortable with the CRM, requests for new functionality will surely surface. Clearly define what options can be entered into each tagging field so that when you pull lists they are clean and accurate.

4. Training, Discipline and Top Down Accountability. Adopting a new enterprise technology can be a pain. Change is hard and most people prefer the “old way” because it’s easy and doesn’t require a change of habits. Managers need to adopt the technology themselves and ensure that staff actually use the new software. For instance, a manager should not accept a pipeline report that is not generated by the new CRM. Also, managers should lead by example — learning and implementing the new technology in their day-to-day activities as well.

5. Evaluate technology regularly. Once technology is in place, make sure it is constantly meeting your needs. Business needs are constantly growing. Make sure your CRM can evolve with your business. CRM companies are constantly upgrading their software. Make an effort to learn about these new features and sit down regularly to review your business needs and technology. Technology is supposed to make life easier not harder — once you have a CRM that works for you, your marketing planning will take on a new level of clarity.