CRM and marketing automation: Chicken, egg, or omelette?
Although it may not rank among today’s hottest issue in marketing, the intersection of CRM and omnichannel marketing automation merits some serious consideration. This is especially true for marketers who lack a clear understanding of the complementary nature of the two. It’s not a matter of either/or, or which comes first. The key is knowing how to optimize each.
At their core, CRM and marketing automation are both all about data. The difference lies in what kind of data, how it’s collected, and when and where it’s used.
CRM actually grew out of the need to store, track, and report on critical information about customers and prospects. Traditionally, CRM’s strong suit has been greater operational effectiveness, easier access to information, and improved interdepartmental collaboration.
Before contact management software became available, businesses stored their valuable customer information manually in filing cabinets, Rolodexes (Millennials and later, google it!), and spreadsheets. Businesses began investing in CRM applications in the 1990s mainly to store contact data in a central location that was also easily accessible to facilitate effective communication with customers, prospects, leads, and other contacts.
With multiple people contacting the customer for various reasons, it quickly became important to be able to track activities, appointments, prospects, leads, potential deals, notes, and other information. CRM quickly evolved to focus on implementing and automating processes that supported these activities.
In short order, management turned to CRM to standardize sales processes to increase the accuracy of sales forecasts. And customer service requests could be tracked, routed, escalated, and resolved in a uniform fashion to ensure proper handling.
Traditional CRM helped ensure the proper activities and tasks would be performed by the appropriate people, in the correct sequences. While these are critically important to the success of any business, the focal point of these areas is internal to the company.
Why marketing automation?
Marketing automation didn’t grow organically out of data. It has been more technology-driven, but it couldn’t have evolved to its current level of sophistication without advanced data collection, integration, and analytics capabilities.
Stated simply, marketing automation leverages data to engage customers and prospects in ongoing conversations intended to lead to conversion and long-term relationship building. A marketing automation platform or, more descriptively, an omnichannel customer engagement platform enables marketers to derive attributes related to a customer from a multitude of data sources such as CRM, ERP, transactions, and other structured data sources. From there, marketers should be able to gain a unified, single view of each customer and tailor communications and offers to each.
As the conversation with the prospect or customer evolves, the core data is continuously augmented and enriched by a combination of structured and unstructured data generated from interactions with the audience member along their path to conversion.
In other words, the platform delivers insights not by just data collection but also by applying machine learning marketing models that generate highly valuable details like a customer’s channel and time propensity. By harnessing in-depth customer insights, the marketing automation platform empowers marketers to continuously improve their interactions with customers.
Best of both worlds
So if you’re turning to CRM to help secure new customers or to sell more to your existing customer base, you’ll want to enhance it with the more strategic, engagement-focused capabilities of marketing automation. If you’re embarking on a marketing automation journey, CRM data will be useful, but you’ll need to cast your data collection net much broader. You’ll need an omnichannel customer engagement platform that develops deeper individual customer insights and continuously refreshes your marketplace intelligence with new data derived at every touch point along the customer engagement journey.