Convergence of CRM and Marketing Automation for SMBs

It is a known fact that when deployed effectively, CRM and marketing automation together can reduce the sales cycle, increase conversions, and boost lifetime customer value. It's what marketing and sales teams inside enterprise-class organizations have adopted for years. Now SMBs are catching wind to the power that automated lead nurturing can have on a business. The trickle-down effect is happening in full swing as the market for automation heats up with increasing demand from SMBs to better leverage their customer database and make it dynamic and more powerful to the business.

Many small businesses have a core CRM system in place, but hit a roadblock when it comes to leveraging this data to increase sales and marketing productivity. They sit on this goldmine of data, but lack the resources to put it to good use. Many small businesses find themselves doing an import/export dance trying to sync up their CRM with the business' other systems.

Here are three ways SMBs can blend CRM and marketing automation to maximize sales and marketing efforts:

1. Don't sit paralyzed on your CRM data.

By tapping into CRM data, marketing automation solutions are able to make "smart decisions" based on the customer's activity and adapt the message accordingly. The key to successful marketing automation is to have CRM functionality that automatically captures the right information about who the customers are, their activities, and what their preferences are. Armed with that data, marketing automation can get really exciting.

For example, a CRM captures how leads come in to a sales funnel. Did they opt in on a company Web site? Did they sign up for a webinar or demo? The CRM captures this information and if working together with marketing automation can trigger automated, drip marketing sequences that adapt the message based on the customers' behavior. So, if a customer comes into the sales funnel to watch a demo and ends up buying a product, the new lead autoresponder can be automatically turned off and the "new customer welcome sequence" can be automatically turned on. What happens is many small businesses are consumed with the busy work preventing them from truly leveraging their customer data. Having these automated campaigns locked, loaded, and ready to go ensures that the information the CRM is capturing pushes leads through the marketing and sales funnel.

TopDog Health Veterinary & Rehabilitation is a great example of a small business combining CRM and marketing automation to nurture leads. People come in to the business' funnel through the company's website and also by bringing their pets into the office for medical attention. Let's say a client's cat is diagnosed with feline hyperthyroid disease. The front staff tags that customer in the CRM with "feline hyperthyroid." This sets off an automated multi-step campaign that was created in advance. It automatically sends an e-mail to the customer at the end of that day confirming the diagnosis and then provides actionable steps on how best to treat it. The customer then gets a series of e-mails over a 45-day period that educates them further on the disease, followed by reminders at set times on when to recheck blood work or come in for an exam. The small Connecticut-based company can deliver a high-touch customer service through automated campaigns that couldn't that uses the customer data. This highly-targeted, long-term nurture approach has helped TopDog Health double its sales and the company has seen a huge jump in its conversion rate.

2. Use your CRM to send targeted, multi-channel messages automatically.

Let's face it. Today's consumers are flooded with marketing messages. Inboxes get piled high with the latest promotions, irritating most people to no end. This "send the same message to the entire list" strategy takes over many small businesses as they continue to grow their database. It becomes difficult to clean and update the CRM, making it near impossible to send targeted messages that actually increase conversions and create brand advocates. Just because someone opts in to receive more information from a business doesn't mean they should get the same marketing messages as everybody else. A CRM should be tracking their actions and purchasing habits so that you can adapt your messages to their needs and wants. In today's world of technology, small businesses are no longer bound to just e-mail. You can send voice broadcasts, text messages, and direct mail all using your CRM data and marketing automation. This helps messages stand out from the crowd.

In 2010, I spoke at the 12 Hours of Technology conference. The conference was packed with qualified small business leads and I used mobile marketing to capture the audience's information. At the end of my presentation, I told the audience how to get a free copy of Conquer the Chaos, our CEOs' new book and request more information about Infusionsoft. All they had to do was text the word "chaos" followed by their email address to 411247. Of the approximately 51 people in the room, 48 of them texted in, that's a 94 percent conversion in lead capture. They were automatically tagged in our CRM, received an email, immediate text response, and they were started on a three-email automated lead-nurturing sequence to educate these contacts and turn them into prospects.

3. Nurture, nurture, and nurture again.

Failing to follow up is a common problem for small businesses. Because they're so focused on chasing the hot leads, too many business owners give up on their prospects way too early in the sales process. The truth is, most consumers (81 percent) don't buy until at least the fifth contact. This is where automated lead nurturing comes in, but this can't happen without a CRM.

This all begins by systemizing and organizing a business' contact database. CRM shouldn't be just a rolodex, it should house information about actions customers have taken, links they've clicked on, reports they downloaded, videos they watched and for how long. Small businesses can market like the big players if they treat CRM like a living, breathing organism one that adapts to the behaviors and actions of customers and prospects.

If a small business is committed to treating its CRM than more than just an address book, it can couple that information with marketing automation to implement email auto-responders and long-term, multi-channel marketing campaigns, you ensure no customer goes unnoticed.

The other important note about lead nurturing is that you don't ever want to be just another vendor bombarding the customer with marketing messages. Be a trusted expert.  Be the source they rely on for quality content. Be a subject matter expert. Use your CRM to determine what information they want and then automate long-term nurture campaigns that feed them this content. Then, when they are ready to buy, they buy from you and not the competition.

If a small business has deployed a CRM it is a step ahead of the game. The saying "Version 1 is better than Version None" definitely applies in this scenario. But there is so much more that can be done if the CRM is coupled with marketing automation. Now, and with the help of technology, small businesses are no longer hindered by the amount of time they have in a day or the lack of capital to hire more employees. 

Tyler Garns is the VP of Marketing of Infusionsoft, an automation software provider for small businesses. Contact him @TylerGarns or at tylerg@infusionsoft.com.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues