Do you use customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation platforms in your business? Or are you starting to dip your toe in the water and explore these tools? This blog post looks at how both of these systems work, their market trends, and how they are both fueled by the quality of your contact data.
A customer calls you with a technical problem. Have you spoken with her before? What solutions have you tried already with her? What is the depth and breadth of her customer relationship with you? And what kind of organizational knowledge could help her now?
This is one of two main functions of CRM: providing visibility about your customer at the point of contact: for example, having their billing history at your fingertips, or linking their issues with your organizational knowledgebase. Good CRM makes everyone an expert on every customer, at every touch point – with the end result hopefully being a seamless, professional experience each time they interact with your business.
The other key function of CRM involves mining accumulated customer data, to strategically improve customer experience and profitability while reducing costs. For example:
- What installation support issues do people have with your software product, and how could you use this information to improve its out-of-box experience for the future?
- How do customer interactions vary by time and day of the week, and how could these variations inform your staffing efforts?
- What patterns do you see in the results of your upselling efforts?
All of this and more is just a little data analysis away. In a very real sense, CRM platforms give you the ability to turn your customer contact operations into strategic business intelligence, while keeping your finger on the pulse of your customer contact activities.
Understanding marketing automation
Marketing automation, by comparison, manages the relationship between you and your prospects – some of whom may, of course, be existing customers. Its primary goal is to improve the efficiency, ROI and profitability of your marketing efforts through data. Some of the services these platforms offer include lead segmentation, email drip campaigns, A-B testing, results tracking, and more. They also can automate much of the drudgery involved with creating everything from landing pages to social media campaigns.
Both marketing automation and CRM platforms revolve around your contact data assets, and today many organizations – particularly larger ones – employ both sets of capabilities. In an ideal case sales, marketing and customer contact teams coordinate their efforts and share data to maintain a 360-degree view of what is happening with their prospects and customers.
Trends in the industry
Years ago, both CRM and marketing automation were reserved for the very largest organizations: many tools were expensive, difficult to implement, and seemingly required a cast of thousands to install and maintain. Today, a new generation of inexpensive, cloud-based applications that can be licensed per-seat and/or with flexible transaction limits have put these tools in the reach of nearly everyone.
Both kinds of platforms have also helped unify a growing range of marketing and customer contact channels. CRM tools, for example, have helped drive the move from call-centric operations to multi-channel support, including live chat, email, social media, and more – platforms integrating data from each of these channels have helped even the smallest organizations become multi-channel. Likewise, marketing automation platforms allow organizations to mix, match and compare results across a wide range of marketing channels.
Finally, understand that the lines are increasingly blurring between CRM and marketing automation platforms nowadays. Some CRM platforms now integrate marketing automation capabilities and vice-versa, with larger players such as Salesforce, Hubspot and Marketo offering integrated solutions. In general, as costs continue to drop and capabilities increase, this trend towards integration should continue to grow.
The importance of data quality
The promise of both CRM and marketing automation ultimately rides on the quality of your contact data. Why? Because according to industry statistics, 25% of B2B contact data is incorrect, 40% of your leads contain bad data, and nearly two-thirds of the best data-driven marketers cite data quality as their biggest obstacle to success. You need to ensure that your contacts are real people with accurate contact data.
Whether it is people changing jobs, registering with a fake name or address to get a free marketing goodie, or simply fat-fingering their contact data, bad data can undo much of the promise of automated platforms. In addition to the increased time, cost and human effort of marketing to false or incorrect leads, using bad or out-of-date customer data risks consequences ranging from brand damage to compliance penalties.
This is why our contact data quality services, such as DOTS Address Validation and DOTS Lead Validation, are designed to plug right in to major platforms via API interfaces, and can be used in conjunction with batch list processing options. Either way, these tools make it easy to ensure clean contact data at the point of data entry and/or usage.