The Union of CRM and Content Management
Inefficient processes such as paper-based documentation, ineffective collaboration and manual workflows, make the timely delivery of both targeted marketing programs and collateral difficult for sales and marketing organizations. Contract negotiation and approval is also fraught with inefficiency as important documents are routed by email, often falling through the cracks and delaying the closure of key deals. In today's fast-paced global business world, the expression "time is money" has become "time reduction and access to content is money."
In addition to content access, the automation of key processes and the elimination of inefficient paper-based processes are required to maximize efficiency. All users must be able to access content on a single desktop program. All electronic communications need to be integrated, classified, re-used and made available to geographically dispersed teams. Routine processes like press release approvals, copy reviews and contract modifications must be automated so that only exceptions are handled manually -- and reporting and audit trails need to be leveraged for visibility and accountability.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are integral to the sales cycle, but do little to integrate the CRM-structured content with the unstructured content that sales reps and managers are dealing with. Without this integration, field employees, channel partners and other participants working beyond the firewall are unable to make an effective contribution. While helpful for managing structured data, CRM does not address offline documents or email-based processes. Simple file-sharing systems lack the functionality needed to streamline workflows, manage paper documents and seamlessly integrate with existing applications. Clearly, a more comprehensive approach is needed.
Traditional Content Management Components
There are several crucial components of a sales and marketing content management system. A marketing asset management platform with collaborative document management and the ability to mark up documents without specialized design tools is important for press release creation and approval, promotion and advertisement review. A sales library contained in a scalable and secure document repository for any file type, complete with enterprise search and embedded optical character recognition (OCR), to capture, catalogue and reuse all knowledge is another key feature. The system must integrate with fax, scanners, email and desktop applications in order to effectively capture and consolidate content. Version control for accuracy and collaboration with audit trails provides visibility into the creation and final approval path, while business process automation enables repetitive processes to be automated and monitored. Not to be forgotten, the ability to launch meetings and share the desktop with prospects and collaborators is also fundamental.
The Software-as-a-Service Advantage
Integration between the CRM and content management systems is a crucial part of effective sales and marketing execution. Using a content management platform that is delivered via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, in which the application is centrally hosted and accessed over the Internet, offers even greater advantages including:
- Faster deployment: because no hardware or software needs to be deployed, you can be up and running in days.
- Risk Reduction: because these systems are licensed on a subscription basis, the initial cost and economic risk is dramatically reduced.
- Rapid innovation: SaaS-based systems are typically updated every few months; new innovations are constantly added without on-site upgrades.
- Ease of use: true SaaS applications are configured for specific uses rather than programmed, meaning they are easier to maintain and more easily adapted to each use.
- Global availability with no burden on IT: SaaS content management systems are globally available and do not tax internal IT resources because hosted applications are delivered via a Web browser, SaaS-based content management systems integrate with both internally deployed CRM platforms, and the new emerging SaaS-based CRM platforms.
Combining CRM with SaaS brings many benefits:
- Improved win rates: Teams can react to every opportunity by creating intelligent proposals in less time, building competitive advantage and the top line.
- More effective marketing: Marketing teams produce materials quickly and make them available to distributed sales organizations, ensuring that everyone has access to the latest material.
- Sales and marketing alignment: Eliminates the "gap" that exists between marketing and sales departments by streamlining document management and workflow for increased access.
- Faster time-to-revenue: Speeds every part of the sales cycle from opportunity to contract, increasing cash flow to decrease the time. sales reps, legal personnel and other stakeholders take between opportunities.
- Broader impact: SaaS solutions are easily integrated via Web services with financial and order management systems, customer extranets, user management systems and other applications.
CRM by itself is helpful, but when it's combined with SaaS-based content management, the improvements to speed-of-response and collaboration are complemented by internal efficiencies that allow organizations to win more business, faster. The integration of CRM and SaaS-based content enables the transformation of businesses from outdated models into true 21st century competitors.
About the Author
Dan Carmel is CEO of SpringCM. He holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business
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