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Marketers Seek To Improve Buyer Engagement With Tighter Marketing And CRM Integration

  • Written by Kim Ann Zimmermann, Managing Editor
  • Published in Revenue Strategies

convergence imageWith marketers being held accountable for meeting revenue goals, they need their technologies to keep up with the demand for greater visibility into the pipeline. Building strong links between marketing automation and CRM platforms offers many benefits, including improving lead quality, boosting the efficiency of the lead handoff process, and automating lead assignment.

Progressive companies are now moving beyond basic integration to take advantage of benefits such as real-time activity alerts, behavioral tracking and advanced lead nurturing that are possible when CRM and marketing automation systems converge.

More than three quarters (77%) of CMOs at top performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue, according to Gleanster. But the revenue-generating capabilities of marketing automation systems can be further enhanced with a close alignment to sales automation systems.

Millward Brown Sees 26% Boost In Retention With CRM Integration

The Compete PRO team’s main business goal was to lift and maximize customer retention efficiently, but it was lacking the insights into customer behavior. Millward Brown Digital’s SaaS application, Compete PRO, is designed to help marketers create more effective web sites and targeted advertising campaigns.

“We needed insights that would enable us to understand how users were engaging with the product and respond in real time,” explained Brian Tino, Manager of Business Development and Client Relations at Compete PRO.

The team integrated Evergage with its Salesforce CRM to provide real-time data and insights that immediately showed how users were engaging with Compete PRO.

They have experienced a 26% lift in retention since 2011 and further growth in Q1 of 2014, according to Tino. They have increased annual renewals and upsells, he noted, along with being able to grow existing accounts.

“It really was a matter of having all of the information about how an individual client is using our product and being able to tailor a strategy toward more highly engaged users and driving more value to our customers.”

“I think the tides are just starting to turn — a lot of companies still have two different systems that don't effectively integrate, but I think over the next two years, you'll see more and more companies realizing that customers simply won't tolerate a segmented and friction-filled customer experience and there will be a move to more closely integrate both systems to solve for the customer,” said Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot.

Volpe noted that marketing systems have significantly more data about each contact than sales software typically has, so the marketing system has a different set of architectural requirements and views than a sales system at the moment. “To that end, you're seeing more and better connectors between different systems, and marketing platforms building out more tools for salespeople and vice versa. The jury is out on whether the future will see more all in one systems or just better connectors, but either way, the two will certainly be more tightly integrated to optimize for customers. “

CRM provides the record of the customer, but that doesn’t really address the issue of how to use that information to sell effectively, according to Karl Wirth, CEO of Evergage. “By unifying the marketing automation and CRM system, everyone in the organization has complete visibility into the data and content that they need to touch and influence customers at each stage of the buying journey.”

The ability to respond with relevant messaging in real-time based on a buyer’s most recent activity is the next step in integrating CRM and marketing automation systems, Wirth said.  “To capture those moments, you need to be able to provide a quick yet relevant response.”

More Productive Sales Conversations

Buyers are engaging with the sales team much later in the buying cycle, with 40% of respondents to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Buyer Behavior Survey indicating that they are waiting longer to engage with sales than they did a year ago. This puts pressure on marketers to ensure that the sales team is having productive conversations when buyers eventually reach out.

“This is where the integration of marketing and CRM really takes hold — in understanding the entire buying journey and making the most of those opportunities to engage with buyers,” said Abby Hammer, VMS Product Manager for Vocus. “With visibility into buyer behavior when it is happening, salespeople can be much more precise in their outreach. They can better prepare when they know the types of content that the buyer has already viewed and move the conversation forward.”

Many organizations are not only using information from marketing automation and CRM platforms for better engagement, they are supplementing that with third-party data for more precise targeting and using apps such as LinkedIn’s upgraded Sales Navigator to close the gaps between sales and marketing. 

“The position today in many leading organizations is that everyone is responsible for generating revenue, so there is a keen interest in developing strong intelligence about target markets to help nurture leads to become customers and through renewal,” said Brian Kelly, CMO of InsideView.

The integration shouldn’t just be limited to marketing and sales automation, said Atri Chatterjee, CMO of Act-On Software. “While integration between CRM and marketing automation is hugely beneficial, there needs to be visibility into systems such as billing and customer success. The cost of bringing in a new customer is about six times that of retaining an existing customer, so it makes sense to have a more holistic view of the customer beyond the marketing and sales databases.”

Forward-looking organizations are researching ways to use the ties between marketing automation, CRM and other platforms to make the buying process more predictive.

“As we get more and more data on buyers from marketing automation, CRM and other systems, there is a lot of noise,” said Hammer of Vocus. “Once you get those systems in sync and sharing data, the next step is to examine the buying patterns and behaviors for usable insights.”

Eric Marcy, VP of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations for the SAVO Group, said the challenge is putting all of that data into context to help the sales team close more deals. “It has to move beyond a laundry list of information and data that is being pushed to a salesperson. The next challenge is to provide the individual salesperson with the right contextual information on qualified lead at the right moment.”