It is no secret that I am a fan of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Not only is it a cool little (ha!) tool, when you merge into the xRM realm the possibilities are pretty much endless. It IS a platform. Plain and simple. I can give you some cool examples of extending CRM and how cool it can be and you will likely say, “Really, that’s CRM under there?”
HOWEVER, I understand that CRM for the sake of CRM is just fine too. Out of the box it is one heck of a powerful tool that can help the most disorganized among us look darn good and like we really have our stuff together. And the reality is, we really can be organized, but for small bursts of time and CRM takes that moment and adds the sustainability that we need for the long haul.
Ok, how does this apply to user groups? User groups are, in their simplest definition, a group of (organized) professionals with a common purpose. See there’s that word, organized. Here we go…
Members=Contacts. Contacts are a system entity (comes out of the box as a very robust way to handle PEOPLE records). Used in their default form, you can easily manage your membership in the out of the box Contact entity. If you want to get a little fancy, you can have a form on your group’s website for people to join, then it can automagically (via a workflow) plop them right into a contact record.
With these Member records (forgot to tell you that if it makes more sense in your world to call them Members and not Contacts, CRM allows you to change the label on this system entity to say Members instead) you can manage your newsletters and meeting notices. Send your emails to the whole list at once, or just one, or a subset, your call whatever you need. CRM can manage your subscribe/unsubscribe records automatically also.
Now that we’ve used a handful of out of the box features, I’ll cover a couple of customizations you can add that will make your user group CRM more useful (seriously, someone new to CRM can add these in less than an hour, promise).
You can add a custom entity, let’s call it Events. Use it to hold details about regular monthly meetings. You can add your own gajillion custom attributes (CRM talk for input fields) so if you want to have every detail from location to sponsor to swag, you are covered. Make an attribute for each whatever you want to track. You can organize these attributes on the custom form any which way you’d like. Make custom views to quickly see the most important details to YOUR group. If your group leader likes to view attributes A,B and C in the summary but your treasurer likes to view B,D and E, no problem custom views are quick and easy too. These events can house some attachments too, so your slide deck from the meeting, yup, right there in perpetuity for all to see.
Now add another custom entity called Speakers. You add attributes for name, bio, blog, photo, etc. You can then create a relationship to events. Now you can track which events have which speaker.
Having a code camp? No problem, you’re already set up. Nest your events. Each session is an event with a speaker. Make a parent event to hold all of the children, the sessions.
Ok, you have Members and you have Events, now you add a relationship between them and can track registrations and attendance. Now you can make custom marketing lists for each event and follow-up with reminders and thank you’s. And you can decide your marketing plan and make a custom workflow that will send the reminders to registered attendees. It can send the thank you automatically after the event.
A real quick mention needs to be made about reporting. With these Members and Events, registration, attendance, etc you can quickly (5 minutes or less) make a custom report. You can show your sponsors how many attendees they can reach. Your planning team can find out the turnover rate of registrations vs attendance. You need to report it, CRM can report on pretty much whatever data you throw into it.
A brief mention to extending out of CRM, you’ve got all your events held in CRM and need them on your website. You shouldn’t have to re-enter them all into another system. With a small bit of effort you can get the data out of CRM and into your site. If you don’t think you want to try it on your own, give me a shout, I can point you to some tools and people that can point you in the right direction.
Want to try it out? Get a 30 day free trial of CRMOnline or if you are a MS partner, chances are you have some free seats of CRM already, give it a shot.