A few decades ago, when I was a green B2B inside sales rep, we kept customer histories by hand on 3×5 cards and stored them in a “tickle” file organized by date. You’d have a conversation with a prospect, make notes on the card, jot down when next to call the prospect, and then slot the card in the file. Your next call would be a second or third call to the name on the next card up, or a blind call into a department within an organization noted on a list, on a piece of paper.
CRM changed sales…
All this changed when we got an early version of a CRM system. Suddenly my computer got friendly and helpful. Prospects’ names popped up to be called at the right time, and all my notes were there. It was more efficient. It was easier to make more calls, and easier to remember the thread of my conversations. My sales did go up (and so did the other reps’).
…but not marketing
Marketing, however, was still in the dark ages. They were very proud of the catalog they created, which they mailed to lists of companies of a certain size. We salespeople got those lists too, which were nothing more than sheets of paper with the names of departments and organizations. We spent our days calling into hospitals and corporations, asking who purchased health education materials, hoping against hope to find a genuine prospect.
CRM had made us more efficient. But marketing was handing us the same old, same old. The only way to qualify a lead was to call and spend the time going through the most basic things, just to determine need and interest. It was time-consuming, and when the lists were old or inaccurate (which was most of the time) it was soul-sucking.
The digital commons
You take my beaten-to-death point: Making sales more efficient is great, but salespeople need leads that have some kind of qualification. Now that digital interaction is our lingua franca, marketing can go beyond sending out catalogs and going to trade shows. The Internet has given us a new kind of commons, one in which buyers search for what they want – and marketers can meet them there.
But the commons can be the Wild West, unless you have a destination and a map to help you get there. That’s where your goals and process come in. Marketing automation takes you even further, giving you the infrastructure to get to your destination. To continue this (rather tortured) metaphor, it provides the train tracks, the engine to drive you along so you can get where you’re going faster, the box cars to carry your campaigns, the compass so you know which direction you’re going, and the stopwatches so you know how fast you’re going.
CRM and marketing automation are complementary
CRM systems transform sales through organization; marketing automation completes the picture by generating leads and managing lead engagement. As Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing says:
“In a nutshell, the only thing CRM systems do is organize your information…They keep track of your sales, but they don’t engage your prospects…They capture your sales process, but they don’t execute it.
“…Sales CRM is strategy. Even the sales process embodied within your CRM system is just strategy. Marketing automation embeds strategy but also drives execution. And the only way you’re going to sell something is to execute.”
A chart of complementary capabilities
Different CRM or marketing automation systems will have different capabilities, so this chart won’t be accurate for every comparison, but it can serve as a general guide.
Stated simply, marketing automation is the marketing counterpart to CRM. They have different, complementary sets of capabilities, which intersect at critical points and augment each other. Together they support the entire sales and marketing process, from creating interest to educating the buyer to closing the sale – all while keeping the buyer at the center of the process.
To return to the issue of qualified leads
MarketingSherpa found that not all leads are ready for sales right away. In fact, while 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, only 27% of those leads are actually qualified or ready to talk to sales. (“Do you really want your sales team spinning their wheels making dial after dial where nearly three-quarters of those leads are not ready?” asks Jen Doyle of MarketingSherpa.)
Managing leads to sales-ready qualification may be the most important capability marketing automation offers, and it’s the one that dovetails most with CRM. Marketing automation:
Supports early-stage lead generation
Enables you to deliver and scale personalized, stage-appropriate nurturing outreach
Incorporates and uses your CRM database to execute on marketing tasks
Gives sales access to personalized data collected through prospect and visitor tracking, which in turn becomes intelligence that guides the sales call
Tracks campaign results and lead conversions through the funnel so you can analyze what’s working (and what’s not) so you can refine your process and amplify productive efforts
Gives sales and marketing a formal structure to align around
It boils down to this: Marketing automation is your backbone for developing and delivering sales-ready leads, connecting the dots and completing the picture that CRM draws.
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