The Importance of CRM Integration in Marketing Automation
Marketing automation platforms are fantastic for helping you automate marketing processes and centralize marketing collateral (i.e. emails, landing pages and hosted content). But if you want to take your marketing automation experience to the next level, you must integrate your marketing platform with your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Tight integration with your CRM system will allow you to transfer lead information seamlessly between marketing and sales, ensuring you present the right messages at the right time. Better alignment between marketing and sales will improve the effectiveness of campaigns, and provide a stronger return on your software – and marketing – investments.
So here we explain the benefits of integrating marketing automation software with CRM software. We’ll begin with an introductory look at what integration means, briefly discuss the technology behind it, then review six key integration functions. We conclude with ten questions buyers should ask each marketing automation vendor on their shortlist.
Integration between your marketing automation system and CRM system should be bi-directional. In other words, your CRM system should talk to your marketing automation platform and your marketing automation platform should talk to your CRM system. For example, if you have your website’s “Contact Us” form integrated into your marketing automation platform, the data submitted via that form submission should be replicated in your CRM system.
On the flip side, if your organization is making regular updates to their customer and prospect records within the CRM system, that data should sync back to your marketing automation platform. This ensures there is consistency in the data between the two systems. For example, let’s say a sales rep is speaking with a prospect. The prospect’s title is entered as Marketing Coordinator in the CRM system, but the rep learns it is actually Director of Marketing. You will want the ability to update the record to reflect the proper title, then have that information synced back with your marketing automation platform. This is important when it comes to database segmentation, lead nurturing and lead scoring.
How does this work? It begins with a process of mapping fields from your CRM system into your marketing automation system. Some marketing automation vendors offer automated mapping with major CRM systems (e.g. Salesforce.com). Others will manually map CRM data into the marketing automation system. After the initial mapping, data added or changed in one system will automatically update in the other. This bi-directional synchronization can occur in real-time, though large systems may update at intervals up to 15 minutes. Synchronization frequency can also be controlled by the user.
The majority of CRM and marketing automation systems provide integration and external access to their databases using an Application Programming Interface (API). An API will allow an external system to access and make use of the services of the connected system. For example, it can allow a marketing automation system to access a specific lead’s data from the CRM system and add it to a campaign.
Utilizing an API will provide a much more stable experience from an integration standpoint, as well as provide access in areas where one data table has a relationship with another (i.e. contacts linked to accounts/companies). Other methods of integration consist of batch or automated file imports via either a static URL or FTP where the file referenced is updated on a regular basis. These methods are best suited for the initial upload of data, rather than the ongoing synchronization of detailed data.
Taking Your Integration To The Next Level
If you are looking to take your marketing and sales efforts to the next level, you will want to consider advanced integration activities. Here is a list of six advanced functions you can perform by integrating your CRM and marketing automation systems.
|Activity Alerts||The marketing automation system will send an alert to sales reps when a lead performs a certain behavior, such as visiting a web page.|
|Assign Leads to Sales Reps||Users can create rules in the marketing automation system that will assign and transfer a new lead to a sales rep based on certain criteria.|
|Campaign Integration||Campaigns from the marketing automation system will synchronize with the CRM system so that you can tie revenue back to campaigns to measure ROI.|
|Campaign Triggers||Campaigns can be triggered based on certain lead behaviors or changes in the CRM system. Lack of contact, for example, could trigger a campaign.|
|Send Leads Based on Campaign Rule||The marketing automation system will send a lead to sales reps through the CRM system after a lead completes an activity in a campaign flow.|
|Send Leads Based on Score||The marketing automation system can send a lead to sales reps through the CRM system when the lead reaches a specific lead score.|
In the 4+ years that I have been in the marketing automation space, I have seen many different types of CRM integration. While every company is different in regards to how they integrate their marketing automation platform and CRM system, they all have one thing in common – they want access to any piece of data that is going to help them communicate and sell better.
10 questions you should ask when evaluating a marketing automation platform:
- Do you offer pre-built connectors to the [insert your CRM system] CRM system?
- Can you quickly reference new fields within your marketing automation platform and add them to your integration?
- How frequently does your system synchronize with the CRM system?
- Can your system send leads to the CRM system based on a lead score?
- Can it send leads based on buyer behavior or a campaign outcome?
- Can the system assign leads to sales reps based on score, campaigns, etc.?
- Can the system synchronize campaigns with the CRM system?
- Are you able to import flat files into your marketing automation database?
- Can a sales rep remove a lead from a campaign from within the CRM system?
- Can you pass implicit or behavioral activity information to your CRM?