Why You Should Integrate CRM with Marketing Automation [and How to Start]


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As companies invest in the digital transformation of their systems and processes, certain opportunities arise for unique synergies that may not seem obvious at first. CRM software and marketing automation may appear to be distinct tools for different departments, but there are major benefits for organizations when these systems are aligned to work in tandem.

Here’s how and why the whole can be greater than the sum of your sales and marketing teams.

What Is a CRM?

Though any part of your organization can use a customer relationship management (CRM) system, CRMs are primarily sales focused. CRM applications are designed to handle contact and sales management, agent productivity, and customer relations. While CRMs do many things, their main functions are as follows:

  1. CRMs gather information about leads, prospects, and customers by tracking their activity across different touchpoints; for example, interactions on the company website, through affiliated social media sites, or with customer service. This information is consolidated with additional data, such as purchase history, customer preferences, and contact information.
  2. All customer information is then stored in a central database. This information can be accessed at any point in the sales process, making it accessible to everyone from marketing to customer service agents.
  3. CRMs can proactively guide customers by sending messages and emails when certain conditions are met. CRMs will also alert employees about important status changes or predict potential sales opportunities through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

What Are the Benefits of CRM Software?

More than anything, CRMs are designed to increase operational efficiency. Rather than working across different processes in different systems or manually entering information access different databases, CRMs streamline much of an organization’s workflow to save both time and money.

Fundamentally, most CRMs will provide the following benefits:

  • Improved organization of data and reduced redundancy, as basic information can be entered once and then utilized by multiple departments.
  • Improved consistency and accuracy of information, as different departments have access to the same database instead of needing to access separate systems. This also supports more efficient and informed customer service interactions.
  • Automated processes save time on manual tasks, enabling employees to focus on more high-level and higher priority issues. Automation can also serve to increase consistency in customer outreach.
  • Enables the use of AI and machine learning technology to produce advanced analytical analysis of customer behavior and marketing trends. This allows for more accurate predictions to inform current strategy and future actions.

Overall, the combination of these benefits allows for greater personalization in customer interactions, as different teams can design templates to autofill important information. Additionally, CRMs make specific customer information accessible wherever and whenever it’s needed, so sales and service teams can target outreach based on where the customer is — or even where they’re headed — in the customer journey.

The best part is that modern CRMs are easily scalable, especially when they’re integrated into a cloud-based system. This means those benefits will continue to provide the same services and efficiency, even as your organization grows and takes on more customers.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to any system that a marketing department uses to streamline, analyze, and automate tasks and workflows specific to the marketing team. These are often very top-of-the sales funnel activities, such as marketing campaign reporting, analyzing click-through rates, and capturing and nurturing leads.

Similar to how CRMs work, marketing automation systems provide a few major functions:

  1. They’re designed to store all data relevant to marketing — generally anything related to prospective lead information, previous customer interactions, and user behavior — in a central database.
  2. They automate simple processes, such as sending out mass emails, tracking user interactions, and entering data to run reports.
  3. They present user-friendly interfaces or applications that enable marketing teams to create and manage campaign materials more easily.
  4. They utilize analytics to review relevant data to measure the success of marketing campaigns and suggest areas for improvement.

What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?

Similar to the benefits CRM systems offer, marketing automation software can improve workflow by speeding up processes and eliminating time wasted on “busy-work,” such as manual data entry and running reports. Other benefits include:

  • The capability to manage large contact lists more effectively by ensuring that all leads go through the same process, thereby reducing the chance that something (or someone) gets overlooked. Also allows for more efficient management of individual leads, which can also benefit smaller lists.
  • Capturing customer data and automatically entering relevant information into templates allows for faster creation of targeted email automation campaigns that can be highly personalized, increasing customer engagement and boosting conversion rates.
  • Analytics can inform your lead scoring system, better highlighting your “higher quality” leads in a more consistent manner, which means your campaigns are more likely to generate higher returns.
  • Easier integration of other third-party programs, platforms, and applications used to aid and attract customers. Tools that comprise this marketing technology stack include keyword research, social management platforms, and search engine management.

These gains in efficiency and productivity will also lead to improved operational scalability, whether your business is engaged in B2C or B2B marketing automation. So, if anyone can benefit, should everyone integrate their systems?

Should Your CRM be Separate from Your Marketing Automation Tool?

It is possible to run both systems and keep them separate; in fact, for organizations that run legacy systems that don’t support integration, that may be their only option. Unfortunately, that approach does not take advantage of everything either system has to offer, as keeping them separate undercuts the efficiency and data consolidation that CRM and marketing automation platforms can provide.

Nucleus Research found that while 60% of companies had invested in some sort of CRM integration, less than a third of those companies had actually extended that integration to other systems. And while there is an added cost with achieving extended integration, companies that successfully integrate CRMs to other systems can see a 20 to 30 percent growth in business.

Having separate silos for marketing and sales data means that customer profiles may be incomplete, and analytical insights may not see the entire picture. On the other hand, an integrated system that syncs data from the sales and marketing teams allows for a more comprehensive picture of who customers are, where they are, and what speaks to their interests.

There’s also the risk that separate marketing and sales systems may take different approaches to customer outreach, resulting in a disjointed messaging that changes at different parts of the sales process. Integrated systems allow for consistent messaging during all parts of the customer journey, creating a more seamless experience for leads as they’re converted into customers. This means relationships that are established via marketing tools can be more easily transferred to sales via the CRM.

If a business wants its sales and marketing teams to be as effective as possible, then it’s best to consider investing in CRM and marketing automation integration.

How CRM & Marketing Automation Work Together

Rather than be redundant, CRM and marketing automation platforms work to support one another by providing the following:

  • More Complete View of the Customer
    Marketing automation is a business’ first step in building a relationship with a lead. Having access to marketing data helps sales reps see the full picture of a lead’s history from day one, enabling them to hit the ground running with personalized messaging and outreach. This can also eliminate some of the information that new customers need to provide the sales team, making the transition smoother for the customer and simpler for team members.
  • Better Understanding of What’s Working
    Just as marketing can inform sales, sales information can inform marketing efforts. Integration between the two systems makes it easier to run closed-loop reporting to see the whole picture of what’s working and what isn’t within the sales process. These more comprehensive insights gathered from sales information gives your marketing team an idea of what’s converting to sales and what’s not. This goes a long way towards improving ROI calculations for different marketing campaigns and setting appropriate goals.
  • Improved Efficiency
    Breaking down data silos enables organizations to enter data faster and more effectively, all while avoiding mistakes and duplications. This will improve the effectiveness of outreach campaigns and ensure that follow-up communications are targeted to the right leads. A more holistic understanding of entire sales and marketing process allows for greater insights, better informed analytics, and more accurately assigned lead scores.
  • Makes it Faster to Address Issues
    When sales drop or marketing campaigns fall short of the mark, CRM and marketing automation integration provides a better understanding of where the problems lie and how to address them. Integration also allows for faster recognition of when leads are no longer valid, or when click-through rates for specific campaigns and advertisements start to drop. Better identification of errors in customer and contact information ensures that communications are sent to the intended recipients. Improving the health of email lists ensures that communications aren’t being flagged as spam, which helps protect your reputation.

Tips to Integrate CRM & Marketing Automation Software

Even though modern CRM and marketing automation platforms are designed for easy integration, the process takes more than just flipping a switch. Effective integration that enables your teams to work together — rather than tripping over each other — requires careful planning and preparation.

  • Align Personalization Efforts Across SystemsYou’ll need to determine what demographic information your teams capture and whether that information is consistent across different systems. This is more than just determining what redundancies can be eliminated, as some data may be specific to one team, and therefore entirely superfluous to the other.For example, when communications are sent out, who or what determines the style of personalization that is being used and if it’s consistent through both marketing and sales? Furthermore, should the personalization used by sales and marketing be the same, or are different approaches more appropriate for the different parts of the sales funnel?
  • Create a Lead Scoring System that Encompasses Both PlatformsIntegrated systems allow for greater accuracy when designing customer personas and assigning lead scores. You’ll need to make sure that priorities are shared across teams, and that scoring is accurate across the entire sales and marketing process, making corrections as needed.Determine whether you can share personas across teams, or if you need to organize personas by lifestyle, preferences, and priorities to determine which content they’re more likely to engage with.
  • Determine Which Triggers Are ImportantYou’ll need to specify which customer information and activities continue to be recorded into the system and how the sales and marketing teams are updated. Automatic updates can be a real time-saver and can alert employees to certain opportunities; that said, if the data isn’t relevant, these updates just increase noise that distracts from other responsibilities.
  • Review Accounts to Eliminate Redundancy & DuplicatesSet up a process by which marketing and sales regularly review accounts to check for errors or duplications. Giving more people access to the system can increase efficiency, but it also can increase the risk for errors or redundant information if your process isn’t thought out.Identify the different means by which a prospect can reach and set standards so that information isn’t duplicated erroneously. Have a means by which multiple, different outreaches can be recorded and updated effectively and clearly.
  • Have a Plan on How to Implement & Keep Things UpdatedMaking adjustments and updates to fields or defining new functions for tools for either system shouldn’t require a full-time commitment from your IT department. All users should be trained and empowered to understand the system.Determine if you can employ low-code or no-code application development to enable your marketing and sales teams to design the apps that they need to operate their platforms. This can ensure that your sales and marketing teams both have the skills and abilities to further develop their platforms as your company grows.

It can be a major undertaking to figure out how to get your two most important customer-facing systems to work together. That’s why it’s important to partner with a company that will help evaluate your needs, train your personnel, and assist with the integration of your marketing automation software with your CRM.

Integrating the Right Way with Hitachi Solutions

The most important thing when starting this process is to have a solid strategy that is right for your business needs. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a best-in-class means of integrating marketing automation with a CRM platform — and no one knows Dynamics 365 better than Hitachi Solutions.

As a recognized Microsoft Partner of the Year, we can provide the assessment, training, and implementation necessary for comprehensive support as you make the upgrade to your sales and marketing processes. Start your marketing automation strategy with our Marketing Maturity Workshop, and we’ll help you develop a plan to effectively align your marketing process with your sales performance.