From afar, marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) software appear to be one and the same. This is probably due to the fact that the purpose of both these systems is business and revenue generation, through customer acquisition and retention. But, in reality, they both fulfil two distinct set of functions.
It is a known fact that even the best CRM platforms fail to perform in the absence of a bucket of quality, organic leads. The lack of a suitable inbound marketing strategy has a domino effect on the rest of the conversion process from that of a prospect to a customer, and the company’s revenue eventually dries up. Enter, Marketing Automation System
True to its name, marketing automation is the system that facilitates streamlining, automation and measurement of the effectiveness of marketing tasks and workflows, such as scheduling and tracking marketing campaigns. It focuses on the top-of-the-funnel activities of a prospect, for example, when they view a website, open an email or read a blog etc. In the process, they help convert raw leads into qualified leads, through the successive filters of viable leads, nurtured and active leads. By doing so, they help in effectively segmenting different classes of prospects, deliver effective communication and responsive touchpoints at the most opportune time and also generating an analytics report in the end to assess the success of a marketing campaign. Marketing automation forms the nucleus of digital marketing and communication.
If we delve briefly into the history of the advent of digital marketing automation, we can see that it occurred in phases. The first phase began with the launch of tools such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite, which provided dashboards for managing Twitter and Facebook platforms. The arrival of Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus etc. marked the onset of the second phase and helped unleash the torrential power of social media.
Marketing automation enables effective tracking of consumer behaviour across multiple channels and then constructs a kind of a virtual persona of the prospect. The firm relies on this virtual image to engage in a personalised and relevant one-to-one conversation with the lead. In doing so, it helps in preparing the leads for the sales team. Once the raw lead qualifies as a certified sales lead, the CRM systems of a firm take over, tracking the interactions and other vital information.
If properly harnessed, marketing automation systems can deliver optimum functionality and effectiveness. It uses all the known information about the prospect to understand their needs so that at the time of purchase, it can deliver all the needed information exactly where they need it. In contrast, the traditional marketing approach relies on triggering emailers with delays, which is grossly inadequate and results in poor user experience.
The key to creating a successful marketing automation system is twofold. First, it is important to build a pipeline of good leads using inbound marketing strategies by generating optimised, relevant content. Second, integrating the person’s image from different platforms such as email, social media etc. to paint a complete picture of the person by leveraging a variety of marketing tools and channels. It is important to note that opting for a marketing automation system is a long-term investment which requires careful and exhaustive consideration of the various choices available.
As pointed out earlier, marketing automation is only a part of the solution for greater revenue generation. An effective CRM software comprises the rest of the solution. The former focuses on the top-of-the-funnel activities, whereas the latter narrows down the funnelling activities through processes like keeping a record of the customer’s behaviour, details of phone conversations, inbound emails received from the customer etc.
A successful marketing campaign is one that addresses a very specific market or a segment. Here is where CRM comes in handy, by helping us reach out to and engage with the target audience. Ultimately, the goal of the CRM system is to maximize the return on investment (ROI). The CRM helps in combining the performances of different marketing campaigns such as outdoor activities, digital campaigns, print media, exhibitions and other events. This constantly updated information can be used to make real-time decisions. In this way, multiple marketing campaigns can be monitored from a single dashboard. At the same time, the marketing automation CRM helps in effective market segmentation and targeting by customizing the different communication tools for different segments.
CRM systems can be used across different verticals such as real estate, hospitality, FMCG, healthcare, retail and many other sectors. CRM tools help optimize the procurement of goods and services, access particular customer profiles to determine the history of interactions and pending issues if any, and recording details belonging to different performance parameters. At its core, CRM is a relationship-building tool which helps in developing a vast network of relationships across the entire spectrum of the company’s offerings.
While the two systems of CRM and market automation are powerful individually, when they are made to work in tandem, their power, efficiency and effectiveness are multiplied manifold. It results in higher customer retention and sales conversion rates. A watertight integration of CRM systems with marketing automation platforms enables seamless syncing and consistency of crucial information and improves the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Therefore the linking is bidirectional in nature. This is done by mapping relevant fields between the CRM and marketing automation systems, either through automation or manually. Once the initial mapping is done, any change in data in one system is automatically reflected in the other. The technology behind this mutual integration is facilitated by a technology called Application Programming Interface (API).
CRM and Marketing automation systems complement each other. Even in the case of small businesses, marketing automation helps in reaching out to new customers and building a strong relationship between them. CRM then performs its role in executing decisions based on the information present in the system. Some of the key advantages resulting from the combination of the two systems are:
- Better leads and stronger relationships with customers
- Prioritizing of leads
- Invaluable insight into consumer behaviour
- Availability of relevant information to the sales and marketing personnel when and where it is needed.
Therefore it is important to give due consideration to the matter and selecting the right tools for maximum benefits.