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Integrating marketing automation software with a CRM system

Marketing and sales departments need a consistent way to share knowledge, so marketing automation and CRM systems need to enable knowledge exchange.

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Customer experience affected by key touchpoints

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CRM managers have to bring many departments within an organization into one system to create more efficient and...

improved communication. While the sales department is often the first to integrate into a customer relationship management system, the marketing department is another crucial part of the equation.

These two departments together determine the future of a business and how to best capture new customers, so they need a consistent way to share knowledge with each other. To create communication between a CRM system and other systems, and to answer the needs of marketing, marketing automation (MA) systems like Pardot, Silverpop, Marketo and Eloqua are often implemented. For CRM managers, there are three main areas to address:

1. Existing MA systems: Does the marketing department already have a marketing automation system? If it already uses a system like Eloqua, adapting it to a CRM system is less of a challenge. Eloqua, as well as other major systems like Marketo and Pardot, has plug-ins and works well with Salesforce.com. (Other systems like Microsoft Dynamics have fewer options for integration). The goal is to get this group to use the native aspects of CRM and improve its reporting beyond marketing automation, show the effectiveness of dashboards and reports and how they can use custom campaigns to track leads from qualification to closed, won business.

2. New MA purchase: What marketing automation tool should a company buy? If a company does not have marketing automation, this is the major question to answer. A CRM manager should help guide marketing through the process of choosing a marketing automation tool that best suits the CRM system in the architecture.

Some systems have been acquired by Salesforce, such as ExactTarget and Pardot, so they integrate seamlessly with the CRM system. For Microsoft Dynamics, CoreMotives from Silverpop works directly within the CRM and is integrated easily after purchase.

Even when these systems integrate, however, consider where the data is housed and how the fields will map correctly between the two systems. Consider what data the marketing department may use outside of what is housed in the CRM system, as well as how it will use it. If it uses data from Hoover.com or Data.com, this information is easily purchased to merge with Salesforce. For internal data storage, you will need an API to bring the information into the CRM as a custom object or other area.

Additionally, make sure discussions between sales and marketing departments take place to determine which fields are necessary and the definitions of these fields. Consolidate the needs of these departments into as few fields as possible while enabling the reporting features that departments need. This is especially important with Web forms for lead capture and for email-based nurturing campaigns.

3. Custom objects: Does the marketing department need to customize objects/entities within the CRM system? To drive home the use of CRM for a marketing department, create enthusiasm about its use by creating custom objects when necessary. A ticketing system that allows sales and others to make marketing collateral requests via the CRM system has had great success in not only improving marketing integration, but also user adoption. This enables marketing to track the requests it receives, how long it takes to answer these requests, and who handles them within a department.

Getting the answers to these questions and providing an effective technology is critical to a successful integration of marketing systems with a CRM. Additionally, once a company chooses a marketing automation system, most have support teams that can guide the organization and the CRM administrator toward the best – and quickest – implementation path.

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This was last published in September 2014

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