Marketing Automation: Fueling CRM Success

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We've come a long way since the days of trying to promote CRM and explain why it was important. CRM software has moved into an evolutionary phase where companies are trying to better utilize their human assets. In this climate, marketing automation has seemingly exploded overnight; countless companies big and small are assessing how these tools can help power their business.

To understand why marketing automation is essential to business development and customer service is to grasp how consumer buying patterns have changed with the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT): In today's mobile, hyper-digital world, we're always connected. Marketing automation consolidates the tools needed to handle all the communications and interactions that make up a person's digital footprint. Marketing teams use these tools to understand the data trail created by all of us, with our daily searches and clicks, and what that data means to their marketing goals.

As an example, some folks today may use Google Analytics, then a separate tool for email marketing and surveys, and then another for webinars and event management—and possibly a few others to handle social media or social listening. Marketing automation gives marketing teams a better handle on how all of this information is related, as well as more granular capabilities to see patterns more clearly and reach their target audience more effectively.

What marketing automation cannot do on its own is provide feedback or generate information based on what happens when reps interact with customers or prospects; that can only be accomplished when the tools are connected to a CRM platform. The components of marketing automation that deal with lead flow and what we call the top of the funnel cannot fully be optimized without this integration, and for many companies, this factor is critical to pulling their marketing and sales or service teams together.

From a CRM point of view, marketing automation has a more practical implication. If your organization has a good marketing plan, you'll reach targets and raise interest. But to go from interest to on-boarding a customer or solving someone's challenges with your goods or services, you need to know what marketing automation can tell you: who is engaging, why they're engaging, when they're engaging, and where their information is coming from.

A CEO recently used this analogy: His company's CRM was like a finely tuned race car—it had all the structure and design to outpace competitors. Marketing automation was the fuel that powered the car. And without fuel for the car, the pit crew—his sales and service teams—would be stuck sitting behind the wall with nothing to do. While the analogy is obviously a bit simplistic, marketing automation is unquestionably driving three major themes for sales organizations today: (1) how to provide more opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations; (2) how to create engagements that give your team a high probability of winning; and (3) what intelligence to give team members to help them align with customers on their buying journey.

In these ways, marketing automation is an ideal complement to CRM systems. Using the lead scoring capabilities of a platform, companies can make a natural transition from marketing interest to sales-qualified; using the CRM system (especially mobile platforms), your human assets have relevant information at their fingertips; and through win-loss data from the CRM system, marketing teams get instant feedback without the need for conversation. An integrated platform—where marketing is tweaking the formula for the fuel, and feedback from sales is driving the car—helps teams work together, whereas before those teams would often work in spite of each other.

Working with information in silos is old and outdated. And with the volume of data being generated all the time, if your data is not talking to you and telling you things that you didn't know, or that you need to know, then you are leaving business on the table.

Danny Estrada has worked in CRM for the past 20 years. As a practice leader, he has guided teams through the implementation and development cycles of more than 500 CRM projects. He is the author of the Practical CRM blog (http://blog.practicalcrm.net) and a speaker on real-world application of CRM concepts. You can reach him at destrada@practicalCRM.net.

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