Customer relationship management (CRM) is defined a number of different ways. However, the most expansive definition takes a total end-to-end look at every interaction a person has with a company from simply becoming aware of the company at the very top of the sales funnel, all the way through customer service contact after the final conversion to a closed deal.
With a complex sale, many personal touch points in customer relationship management are present – such as directly answering a question posted on social media or an online forum. At the same time, the real engine driving CRM and keeping prospects moving through the sales funnel is technology.
The first technology that comes to mind is CRM software, such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics.
However, CRM technology potentially includes multiple pieces including email software and marketing automation (MA) solutions.
Paul Greenberg, Managing Principle, The 56 Group, LLC, and author of CRM at the Speed of Light, said although there are some technology suites that attempt to provide these solutions through the entire sales cycle, it is much more common for companies to integrate CRM technology from more than one vendor.
A common example is utilizing marketing automation software on the Marketing side of the funnel from one vendor and integrating that piece with CRM software from another vendor for the Sales side of the funnel, with a common database providing records on each prospect or customer for both pieces of software.
Paul said this creates something of a challenge because a number of different areas in the company are involved in implementing and utilizing, CRM technology.
Marketing, Sales (and IT) alignment
Marketing and Sales alignment should be a goal for any company to improve the efficiency of the entire complex sale process Bringing multiple pieces of technology into the sales funnel adds another element within the company – the information technology department.
“Who owns [CRM technology] is a matter of the internal culture of a company,” Paul explained. “Could it be joint ownership between two departments? It could be, as we’re seeing increasingly.”
He added, “But, we’re seeing the CMOs are starting to own a lot of IT budgets, so it could be the CMO that owns that [technology].”
At the same time, the IT department traditionally has controlled technology pieces, so the CIO could possibly own the CRM technology, allocate usage, and make functional decisions based on the business outcomes Marketing and Sales are looking for in using CRM tech.
The role of marketing automation
Linda Athans, Marketing Manager, Tribridge, stated the size of the company might dictate how many pieces of CRM technology are deployed.
“Ideally, your CRM can ‘do it all,’” she said, “but depending on your organization’s size and how it uses its CRM application, additional MA integration may be necessary to handle specific tasks.”
She mentioned a few areas where MA software can help Marketing:
- Automatically sending large quantities of emails
- Performing split testing on campaigns, such as email subject lines or copy
Providing performance tracking and analytics on campaigns
Integrating marketing automation and CRM
Heidi Melin, CMO, Eloqua, obviously has a certain amount of vested interest as a MA software vendor, and she pointed out the value of MA for marketers.
“By integrating marketing automation with CRM [software], companies are able to get a better picture of their buyers and a better picture of how their marketing investments impact their revenue,” Heidi said. “That’s an area where companies are understanding that they can get a competitive advantage in tying a marketing automation solution into their existing CRM implementation to get more out of their investments.”
Engage early in the customer buying cycle and journey
Brian Vellmure, Principal and Founder, Initium LLC/Innovantage International, added another advantage of bringing more than just CRM software into the customer relationship management technology picture: The nature of B2B sales has changed in recent years.
Before, the sales team had a great deal of control over the information flow and education of prospects.
Now, according to Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo, two-thirds to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep.
Marketing automation helps the marketing team track prospects’ behavior, such as website visits and social media interaction, and then respond to that behavior with what the prospect is looking for, at the time they are looking for it and on the channel where they are looking.
“Then, [Marketing] offers an invitation to the next place on the prospect’s journey. I think that’s where marketing automation comes into play,” Brian explained.