While the concept of marketing automation is not new, in many cases it is the last component of a CRM solution added, often following the implementation of SFA (Sales Force Automation), contact management and customer support applications. That can make integration a challenge — but it's a challenge worth working to overcome. Solutions from vendors ranging from SAP to SAS Institute can help harness the data collected by other systems and use it to drive new revenues and streamline marketing and sales expenditures. It may be the component of a CRM solution that most clearly pays for itself.
How does marketing automation achieve this? Here are 10 things it can do to help improve sales.
1. Establish marketing campaign ROI. Nothing in marketing is more difficult than explaining the results of the expenditure of marketing dollars. Although no system can deliver a perfect analysis, the integrated nature of a CRM/SFA solution allows marketers to examine the efforts made from first contact to the close of an opportunity and attach a price to the process. For example, Vtrenz' ROI Insight allows companies to measure the results of lead generation activity, compare the results of multiple marketing campaigns and develop executive-level reports of all marketing efforts.
2. Manage your email communications with customers. While email is a vital way to cultivate customer relationships, using it in the wrong way can wreck those relationships before contact is even made. A good marketing automation system can allow you to automatically personalize messages and send them at the optimal times for potential customers, with the way they like to receive email in mind. In some products, like SAS Digital Marketing , it can use inbound communications from customers to trigger specific outbound marketing efforts. These solutions can also handle more prosaic activities, such as the elimination of duplicate data from email lists.
3. Target customer segmentation. The ability to sift through disparate customer data through data mining, market basket analysis, link analysis, forecasting and optimization is a given for CRM. By sifting in the right way, marketing automation allows you to capture the complete marketing and purchasing history of prospects and customers, providing insight into their behavior and allowing future sales efforts to be tailored to their demonstrated needs and preferences.
4. Reduce the campaign-to-execution cycle. In the same way, the knowledge of customer preferences, behaviors and needs makes it faster to plan marketing campaigns and quicker to execute them. It's also faster to see results, which allows a campaign to be "tweaked" mid-way through based on feedback from initial efforts. For example, NetSuite CRM+ draws data from responses to direct mail, order histories and customer demographics to help tune campaigns as even as they are in progress.
5. Route sales-ready leads to your sales team automatically. Integration with your CRM system allows the sales force faster access to prospects whose behaviors suggest they are likely to buy soon. These behaviors can be reported almost immediately in some cases. For instance, whenever a lead visits a company's Website, Manticore Technology's solution sends an alert to the sales representative assigned to that lead, allowing him or her know when a potential customer is thinking about his or her company and its products.
6. Mange customers through their life cycles. As companies grow and mature, their buying behaviors change, and the marketing efforts needed to sell to them must change as well. Marketing automation uses similar feedback as is used in customer segmentation to determine how marketing efforts should evolve, and when changes should be made.
7. Provide search engine optimization. While not directly related to the sales departments' activities, some marketing automation solutions allow enable you to use customer data to optimize how your Web site is indexed by search engines by providing information on alternative page titles and meta tags for each page. If your company moves up a few positions in searches for the right keywords, it could mean your discovery by a fresh crop of leads.
8. Make sure of who's keeping track of what for each customer. Features like Role Maintenance in SAP's marketing automation solution allow mangers to keep track of roles, authorize access to data and prevent marketing efforts from failing because of a misuse of data or uncertainty over who was responsible for a customer. Similarly, Salesforce.com's marketing applications include a set of Workflow Automation tools that help eliminate redundant tasks while providing a degree of control of various marketing tasks.
9. Get data into your systems faster. Most marketing automation systems include tools to automate data importation from offline sources, like direct mail responses, purchased lists,trade shows and seminars can buy your sales force a little additional time to pursue worthy leads.
10. Automatically discover cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. Analysis of customer data like purchase history and company size can help identify which existing candidates are good targets for cross-selling and up-selling. Software like SAS's Cross-Sell and Up-Sell can then predict other customers with similar behavior patterns and identify other likely candidates.
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