The Highs and Lows of Publishing CRM, and How To Embrace The Complications

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In publishing and beyond, it’s easy to find success stories about customer relationship management (CRM) software, right alongside ever-increasing numbers relating to publishing CRM usage and publishing CRM return-on-investment and everything else rosy and promising about this ultimate revolutionary supertool. 

Sadly, magazine CRM systems are neither invincible nor undefeated.

Keeping an exact score is difficult, as the CRM failure rate has been measured to be anywhere between 18% and 69% over the years. Even if you look past the bewildering gulf between those numbers, you have a technology that carries endless promise for all, yet still somehow fails one out of every five attempts. (And that’s the conservative, nice number!)

So when there is a failure, should blame be put on the system? The users? Those who thrust it upon the users? The answer to those questions may not be simple, but the solutions to overcome the larger contributing issues are entirely too easy.

CRM Criticisms

Whether you’ve used magazine publishing software, ad sales software, lead management software, or some other type of management system, if you’ve ever been involved in a Day One launch of that CRM, you may want to take a deep breath and do some neck stretches, because you’re about to nod along hard

Why is this so complicated? When will this data entry ever end? Is Billy going to steal my account? Why wasn’t my trusty Rolodex good enough? Are they going to track my bathroom breaks next? Will I have to do this data entry every single day?!?

No, I did not just copy-and-paste that from your office’s Slack channel.

If watercoolers could talk, they’d reveal the same questions, concerns, hurdles, and obstacles that every user has confronted when laying the foundation for a publishing CRM system. That’s not to diminish those legit issues by any means, but now that we’ve commiserated over them together, that shared experience can only help us as we move forward.

And therein lies the secret not just to effective blog narratives, but in CRM implementation as well. The most effective way to tackle such a large project and maximize all results is treating it like a shared experience and embracing the inevitable complications together, from the executive suites and management levels on down.

In this blog, we’re going to focus on the common complications of what can feel like an impersonal system, but should be approached as a human-first experience, not only for the customers (who come first in both spirit and also in CRM name), but for the publishing CRM users who craft and maintain that all-important relationship (which, we don’t have to remind you, is CRM’s middle name.)

You’ve already stretched your neck, so let’s look back at what could have been done (from the executive- and management levels specifically) before Day One to address those all-too-common concerns amongst users of even the best publishing software systems.

Start with an Open Discussion in A Social Setting

While some of the best ideas may have first been scribbled on a bar napkin, the idea to implement a publishing CRM system is likely one that was a long time coming, at least from a managerial perspective. But convincing an entire team to buy into that system is much more difficult than simply calling a 4 p.m. Zoom to discuss all that a publishing CRM can do. 

A casual setting to discuss hopes, dreams, and especially concerns will go a long way in not only making the transition easier, but getting all users to appreciate and ultimately maximize what the system can do. It reiterates that this is a long-term instrument rather than a flash-in-the-pan whim or something being trotted out for a one-time pet project that can eventually be ignored.

And who knows what other insights might come out of these less-formal conversations. A more universal grasp of basic team needs and long-term corporate goals? A better understanding of customers, clients, and to the potential there? These are basic business pillars that should be given consistent attention whether a publishing CRM is in the cards or not.

After the napkins have cleaned up what’s left from all the clinking and toasting Cheers to the publishing CRM! then have the more formal conversations about the strategies, goals, and how all users can be best prepared for the change and work ahead.

Create A Comfortable Environment

Years ago, Hubspot found that 59% of salespeople don’t want to change their methods when they’ve found the way that works for them. Comfort and success are difficult considerations to just toss aside, so when it comes to the implementing of any new system, it should be on the management team enabling the management system to address those concerns. Particularly as so many initial concerns boil down to human nature.

Salespeople thrive and survive on human interactions. And while automations within a publishing CRM system are meant to help those relationships, if a salesperson sees an impersonal system being implemented seemingly without forethought, reasoning, or explanation, then timidity and skepticism can creep in and shade every action or, more fatally, inaction within the system. 

User comfort can begin with open communication, but it will need to be nurtured along the way with actual action. Even somewhat passive efforts like allowing time and patience, accepting trial-and-error, and putting a priority on education are ultimately beneficial to users.

Take Advantage of Every Training Opportunity

Publishing CRMs are not an OOTB product. You can get a lot out of them, but it’s proportional to what you put into them. That goes for both the raw data that’s inputted as well as the human efforts to understand them. And while some users may be predisposed to jumping in and getting their hands dirty to see how things work, others may need training to find understanding and proficiency.

Users starting out on Mirabel’s Magazine Manager get introductory client training right off the bat. Additionally, users have access to an entire library of videos and blogs that not only show, for instance, how to develop an email landing page, but speak to why they’re so important. Once users are in the thick of it, they can schedule further training with Software Consultants or contact them directly.

Magazine Manager publishing CRM
Magazine Manager makes publishing CRM easy with video courses and Software Consultants to help educate you and your team.

Any publishing CRM software worth your time will always be evolving and improving, so having confidence that the team behind that software is there, with a spotlight beamed on every aspect you’ll need and want to know, is priceless.

Make The Metrics Clear

It’s easy to get caught up in the promising analytics and potential. And even though the sky should always be the limit, users should still have a clear understanding of objectives, expectations, and success indicators. 

Those who will feel its best rewards will also be those most instrumental in outlining the workflows, cultivating the system, and ultimately supplying its raw data why hide the KPI prize from them?

The other side of that number-coin, however, is the concern that there’s something to fear in the tracked numbers. If users feel that the numbers are being used as a micromanaging weapon against them rather than a practical instrument for them, then those users will resent the system and, consciously or not, undo the gains that have been made.

Prioritize the Players

Publishing CRM systems reward both the players and the team, but if the players don’t buy into that team mentality, rewards can be difficult to achieve. One of the hurdles that players often need help getting over is the idea of competing with (or, worse, being paranoid of) their fellow teammates.

Managers can really earn their stripes in this capacity, addressing the legitimate concerns that any human would have when putting their professional life’s work up for anyone to see, scrutinize, or worse. Those on an ad sales team, for instance, may feel protective not just of their accounts and leads, but of the relationships they’ve built and intel they’ve gleaned along the way.

Managers, in addition to establishing a culture of trust and teamwork, should have basic security understandings communicated and in place early. Any competent publishing CRM system will have its own security measures built in as well.

Anticipate Data Entry Fatigue

If any enterprising DJs would like to make the ultimate “Songs To Manually Enter CRM Data To,” we’re all ears! Until then, we’ll resort to drum-pounding, finger-inspiring standbys to get us through the task, one that 32% of sales reps say they spend more than an hour doing each day. No wonder one of the main challenges for any publishing CRM system’s survival is getting its users to fully adopt the data-entry requirement.

Workflow concerns will exist so long as there’s work to flow, so managerial expectations should be just as fluid and ready to recalibrate. That won’t fix the necessary evil, but it should help acknowledge and address the residual headaches that come with it.

Accept CRM’s Role

If you’re just getting started with a publishing CRM, hurdles like these are almost guaranteed, but they’re also a sure sign that your business is still primed to optimize.

In the end, it’s important to remember that publishing CRMs are not your entire business; they’re the tool that can make your business better. And from a customer’s standpoint, they’re an invisible tool at that, wielded by humans that are very much at the heart and frontlines of your entire business.

Embrace those hurdles together and there’s no telling what your team can accomplish.

If you’d like to know more about Magazine Manager, Mirabel’s Marketing Manager, or Mirabel’s DigitalStudio, request a free demo.


The Magazine Manager is a web-based CRM solution designed to help digital and print publishers manage sales, production, and marketing in a centralized platform.

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