• April 6, 2021
  • By William Li, vice president of engineering, Marchex

How AI Can Bridge the Gaps Between CRM, Marketing, and Sales

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A few years back my car lease expired, which prompted my wife and me to consider upgrading our sedan to a roomier SUV.

Like millions of consumers nowadays, we spent hours researching vehicles online. We decided to stick with the dealership we were leasing from and talked to their salespeople over the phone about our new interest in buying an SUV. But after those talks, I continued to get emails from their CRM system offering financing options for leasing a sedan.

This was, to put it bluntly, a customer experience fail.

It got me thinking. Why didn’t the dealership’s CRM system “talk” to their sales and marketing systems to update the new needs of this loyal and longtime customer? How many relationships are lost because of these persistent information gaps? And most importantly, how can businesses avoid these pitfalls and not risk losing the very customers they’re desperately trying to serve?

The answer is artificial intelligence. Machine learning has revolutionized how businesses can nurture customers on the path to purchase. With the magic of neural networks, AI can analyze different stages of leads in a pipeline using conversion data from sales systems. This gives businesses the ability to observe, in real-time, how potential sales opportunities are trending before the lead actually gets converted. That’s a game changer.

Existing CRM systems today are central to customer relationships. They collect and consolidate a rich set of customer information; some even include data from marketing and sales.

While these systems are useful at storing customer information, they don’t effectively bridge the gap between sales and marketing. They cannot ingest granular data from marketing systems, especially when it comes to unstructured datasets, such as tracking which links a potential customer clicked on, or whether a customer called or texted to inquire about a product.

Existing CRMs also fail in one fundamental area: serving as the third leg of the stool in creating seamless, end-to-end customer experiences.

Because CRM systems aren’t designed to connect customer actions back to sales and marketing, sales teams waste precious time trying to understand each stage of a lead. These teams also spend countless hours determining which marketing programs drive new leads and what strategies will work best to engage customers in conversation. Similarly, marketers struggle to prove the value of their programs and show how their campaigns have positively impacted a product’s sales or their company’s financial performance.

We’re now in an exciting time because AI is poised to change that. Rapid advancements in AI can now measurably tie sales performance to specific marketing campaigns. Overall, the customer experience improves across multiple channels and touchpoints.

Take this example of how AI might help an automotive retailer. Say a dealership decides to advertise a new vehicle on its website and pushes out a marketing campaign to promote it. Consumers who see the ad might browse the website for more information about features of that car. Those interested in learning more then send a text message or call the dealership to schedule an appointment to see the car in person.

When the salesperson responds to the text or answers the phone, AI can tell the dealership exactly which campaign that prospect has seen, and which features he or she has searched for.

AI can also predict, based on the ensuing text message or phone call, the likelihood of a sale. This provides immediate and critical context to the sales team. They understand in real time how to handle the customer conversation and can match the right salesperson, one who is best suited to the customer’s needs, thereby locking in the conversion. Furthermore, these AI-driven insights play a pivotal role in guiding the marketing team by helping them understand how to adjust their campaign strategy to attract more leads.

Win meet win.

This is the future and it’s already happening. A new class of AI-powered solutions now has the ability to harness CRM data, merge it with multiple sources of sales and marketing information, and intelligently predict the likelihood of customer actions and behaviors. Is she more inclined to open an email? Is he more likely to subscribe to newsletter? With AI at the center of the customer experience, individuals receive offerings and content at a hyperpersonalized level, in real time.  

This in-depth knowledge of the customer’s needs and mind-set during the path to purchase and beyond is a massive leap forward. Businesses can now deliver the seamless, consistent experiences that customers crave—and keep them coming back.

William Li is vice president of engineering at Marchex

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