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An Executive’s Guide to Marketing Information Systems and Marketing Automation

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By definition, marketing automation is the use of software to automate marketing processes such as campaign management, lead acquisition, customer segmentation, customer data integration (CDI) and marketing analysis. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient, reduces cycle time and enables new activities that would otherwise not be possible. Marketing automation is an integral component of customer relationship management (CRM) and is normally closely linked with Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems. However, as illustrated in the Compare Marketing Systems report by Vantive, marketing automation software is a unique and separate sector with unique and separate capabilities when compared to CRM software.

The quick and short of it is that marketing automation, as a component of a CRM solution, allows marketing and business executives to analyze and adjust their marketing spend and execution on the fly. It also enables them to develop superior prospect targeting initiatives and gauge results much more timely and in much more detail. Does this mean marketing programs can be put on autopilot? No. What it does mean is that for marketing executives, their programs can evolve into the most efficient and productive campaigns possible. The concept of learning how to acquire qualified leads for the sales staff, in the most cost-effective and time-efficient means possible is no longer a multi-year, time-intensive and exhausting analysis project.

Marketing automation also allows executives to draw client and prospect information from the CRM database using a selection of specific criteria and incorporate it into a specific and highly targeted goal oriented campaign. Results are now quantifiable and can be measured directly against other revenue generating or branding type initiatives on a variety of criteria and objectives (cost per worker hour, leads per campaign, referrals generated per client closed, unit purchases per client or campaign etc.) The marketing executive selects ahead of time which criteria to include in the campaign fields and parameters. As the overall CRM solution should be flexible, new criteria and objectives can be added or deleted for each experience.

One major benefit of a robust marketing automation system is the ability for the marketing executive to tailor the right offering for a specific client group or target market. Everything revolves around the data that is captured. The more robust the marketing system, the more specific the results. Statistical analysis benefits are directly predicated on the quality of data. If the system is truly dynamic, forecasting models can be developed to help insure the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.

It’s important to recognize that marketing automation is an integral component of a larger CRM solution. For example, a company that sells financial services has a new offering coming out. We will say it is a managed mutual fund with a high minimum investment and the caveat is that all of the companies invested in must be environmentally conscious. Traditionally it would put advertisements in print and television as well as create brochures and have its sales staff call existing clients and recommend the purchase (if suitable). However with this fund, the company wants to use the offering to increase its client base as much as to raise funds and generate revenue. In the company database are thousands of prospects with information garnished over the years. A robust marketing automation system would select those prospects that meet the criteria that would call for the best results possible (i.e. fastest time to sale, highest percentage of sales per lead). Criteria would range from disposable income, liquid assets, and history of new offering investing to if the prospect is environmentally conscious. The marketing system would then initiate the method(s) of contact (email blast, snail mail sending of prospectus and brochure, generate calling list for sales staff based on criteria set by management).

This is a very simple example of marketing automation that would not only save the company time and money, but would increase the efficacy of the offering effort, as well as give the marketing executive a variety of information in which to measure both the value of the campaign, which contact form was the most cost and time effective and, the performance of the sales staff and the internal measurements thereof.

As with any CRM component, the better and more complete the data, combined with the more specific and goal oriented the selection fields – the more affective the system.

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