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You’ve probably heard the expression “Good things come in pairs.” While this maxim isn’t fool-proof (Kim and Kanye immediately come to mind), it definitely applies to digital marketing — where there’s one dynamic duo that stands out above the rest: marketing automation software and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
For these two powerful tools to play well together, however, you need to make sure they’re properly integrated for maximum results.
Most marketers and sales professionals realize that a solid marketing automation and CRM integration can minimize costs and increase productivity, but there’s more to it than that. The right CRM and MA combination enables you to take full advantage of each platform’s capabilities and empowers you to transform and improve how you engage with customers in the following ways.
Combining these tools will organize and streamline your company’s prospecting and customer retention activities by consolidating vital activities and information. This enables marketing and sales teams to gain more advanced insight into the customer journey, which they can then use to prioritize their efforts. Throwing good money at poor leads is a Cardinal (and all-too-common) Sin, and smart companies do everything they can to avoid making this mistake.
Another benefit of integrating your CRM with your marketing automation tool is that it ensures consistent messaging across the board. Too often, sales and marketing work at cross purposes (usually unintentionally), communicating with prospects and existing customers using different language or attempting to appeal to different pain points. Again, integrating these platforms will increase your visibility, which will ensure uniform and targeted messaging to various audiences and individuals. And if you ever update or alter those communications, both teams will be able to view those changes and adjust accordingly.
Of course, the whole point of integrating your marketing automation platform with your CRM is to enable your marketing and sales teams to attract more leads and guide potential and existing customers through the purchasing cycle to generate more revenue. When these two systems are in lock-step with one another, your teams can review the available data to better understand how they’re engaging with your company’s website and products and services, which enables you to serve them the sort of valuable content that helps inform their buying decisions.
Much of what you’re hoping to accomplish through your sales and marketing efforts is heavily reliant upon the overall health of your email lists. Unfortunately, many companies struggle with data hygiene.
According to research conducted by SiriusDecisions, “between 10 percent and 25 percent of b-to-b marketing database contacts contain critical errors.” (1) Because of this, many marketers are sending emails to unverified recipients who are uninterested (or no longer interested) in receiving those communications. As a result, those emails are reported as “Spam,” which damages deliverability and open rates while also decimating your email reputation. However, when you’re using a unified system to input and monitor your data, you’re far more likely to maintain quality data hygiene — and thus, ensure your messages are being received and opened.
There are several more advantages to integrating your CRM with your marketing automation platform, but the main point is that aligning these systems aligns everything else your sales and marketing teams are trying to achieve and increases communication and coordination between the two departments. Still, it’s one thing to talk about the advantages of integration, but actually bringing those benefits to life is another topic altogether. Let’s get to it!
Just because your marketing automation software platform and your customer relationship management system are integrated doesn’t necessarily mean they’re aligned. Or rather, it doesn’t mean your marketing and sales teams are working together to ensure that alignment. Here are five best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of the relationship between your marketing automation tool and your CRM.
The true beauty of marketing automation is that it empowers marketers to personalize their campaigns to appeal to their target audiences at the company and individual levels. And when you properly integrate an effective CRM into the mix, you can improve that level of personalization even further.
For instance, your CRM should be able to transfer important demographic information (industry, location, size, funnel status, etc.) automatically to your marketing automation tool, eliminating a lot of tedious work along the way. Your marketing team can then use this information to make their key deliverables more targeted and direct, especially as they related to paid digital advertising on Google, Bing, and your various social networks.
Another way to leverage marketing and sales personalization through aligning your CRM with your marketing automation platform is by ensuring emails to prospects appear to be coming from their assigned sales reps. This means your marketing automation tool should have the capability to pull critical information from the CRM directly and then update key email identifiers, such as “From” name, address, and even the sender’s email signature.
The faster you respond to a lead, the more likely you are to secure that lead into a customer. Want proof? According to the Harvard Business Review (2), reaching out to a prospect within the first hour of capturing them as a lead is 700% more effective than waiting just 60 minutes. Further, an InsideSales.com study (3) found that the odds of qualifying a lead after a 5-minute handoff were 400% more likely than qualifying a lead after a 10-minute handoff.
Point being, you need to hand warm leads to sales as soon as possible. And the way you determine which leads are ready to pass to sales is through lead scoring. Identify your personas; determine which user interactions and characteristics (company size, location, industry, etc.) are most important to your company; and then assign point values to each of those behaviors, which will vary from organization to organization, but opening an email, downloading an eBook, and attending an event are all common lead scoring actions. Make sure to get input from relevant sales, marketing, and executive stakeholders, and then put your scoring plan into action!
A lead isn’t going to suddenly stop interacting with your brand and digital properties just because they’ve gone from a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to a sales qualified lead (SQL). Further, the actions they take and the way they engage with you online, during webinars, or at physical events is going to influence the way your sales team communicates with them. Therefore, those same sales reps need to have high line of sight into those activities.
Most CRMs are able to deliver up-to-date or even real-time information on these post-SQL activities to help ensure sales reps can react appropriately based on lead behavior. However, once a lead has been passed to sales, reps should only receive highly relevant information (rather than having their accounts filled to the brim with inconsequential updates). So be sure to set up triggers for noteworthy actions (bottom-of-the-funnel activities like downloading a product-specific whitepaper) that will alert your sales team whenever it’s time to alter or accelerate their approach with the lead or customer.
As stated above, one of the top benefits of integrating your marketing automation platform with your CRM is that you’re able to unify your data through automated communication between the two systems. Unfortunately, prospects don’t always reach out in the same way, which can lead to duplicate instances in your records.
For instance, if a prospect calls your company and is put in touch with a sales rep, the sales rep’s first inclination might be to enter the prospect into the CRM. Naturally, this could lead to duplication if the prospect had already been registered in your marketing automation tool.
Duplication is especially hazardous because it leads to false reporting, compliance issues (which adversely affect deliverability) and, potentially, mixed messaging in your outbound communications. So to avoid having multiple instances of a single platform in your software, you need to be sure that both your sales and marketing teams are regularly reviewing their accounts for duplicate records and then deleting them. However, you should also create a note in the individual’s CRM record that they reached out multiple times but that you made sure to eliminate the duplicate entry.
The first month or so of your new CRM/marketing automation integration is going to be glorious. Your sales and marketing teams are going to feel connected in a way they never realized was possible, and you’re likely going to see a fairly pronounced increase in productivity and performance.
Things change quickly in the digital world, however, and your teams will need to make adjustments at regular intervals over the lifetime of your integration — likely to both the CRM and your chosen marketing automation tool. Further, they’ll need to make those adjustments on the fly to avoid any downtime, which could be devastating to your organization’s business efforts. This means your integration needs to be configured in a way that doesn’t require any coding knowledge. Bringing IT into the fold will only delay the process further, wasting valuable time, resources, and money in the process.
Remember, these tools belong to marketers and sales professionals — most of whom lack the technical savvy to make any coding updates on their own. (Or, worse yet, some might believe they have the skill to make changes and cause further disruption.)
Many marketing automation platforms require complex, lengthy CRM integrations or make it difficult to migrate your data if you terminate your relationship with the vendor. Act-On platform integrates natively with several of the most popular and powerful CRMs — including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, and Netsuite (among several others). And since you own your data, it’s easy to transfer that information if you ever choose to move on from Act-On.