CRM Is Branching Out to Include Marketing Automation

Newsflash: Marketing technology is complex.

Okay, so that is not really news. But what is news is that cloud-based software vendors have been blending CRM functionality with marketing automation, data management, and digital messaging into uber-solutions, which aim to better address the needs of integrated marketing. They have a big incentive to play across markets because Gartner predicts CRM will be a $37 billion market by 2017. For comparison, Raab has calculated marketing automaton vendor revenue at $1.2 billion in 2014

The CRM database – which for marketers, is the term given to the centralized customer database – is a ubiquitous and foundational element of the marketing technology stack. Therefore, it’s good news that vendors are paying attention to how businesses actually use the software. Many marketers still struggle to connect the data-dots between systems.

Even seemingly simple things like getting CRM data into your email delivery solution can be a challenge. A number of marketers still do this manually for some or all key segments. Making customer, persona, and behavior data available for all outbound messaging is important. According to a recent study by Experian Marketing Services, personalized promotional mailings have 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. The study also found that for triggered email campaigns, personalization results in double the transaction rates, as compared to non-personalized triggered emails. 

CRM is really a robust customer database and a foundational element of marketing. Yet, many marketers don’t actually have a formal CRM solution. A recent study from Capterra, which connects buyers with software vendors through an online forum, found that only 18 percent of retailers surveyed use a CRM solution. This was nearly twice as high a percent as the next category, business services (10 percent). Interestingly, the study found that more CRM users work for B2C businesses (60 percent) than B2B firms (55 percent).

The study found that most companies invest in CRM early in their business life, but usually as a sales database (80 percent) as opposed to a marketing solution (46 percent) or customer service tool (44 percent). About half of the study’s respondents adopted a CRM solution when they had fewer than 50 overall employees, and 65 percent had about 100 customers. Fewer than half (about 44 percent) in the study are integrating their CRM system with a marketing automation solution.

Marketers who do use CRM solutions want more. Capterra’s report found that marketers are having an increased influence on which CRM solution is chosen. They are looking for a blend of marketing automation, segmentation management, social analytics, audience insights, and salesforce automation that tracks marketing qualified leads through the entire cycle. Firms like Infusionsoft, Marketo, and HubSpot are all moving in this “blended” direction. Capterra offers a nice infographic on the top 20 CRM solutions in the market.

Because of this need to do more with each investment in technology and to be able to meet the needs of customers throughout a complex buying journey, integrations are increasingly important. Katie Hollar, an author of the Capterra report, says that because of this need to connect the dots for each customer, “Salesforce wins in CRM for marketers because they have so many integrations.”

One-third of CRM users in this study use Salesforce, while other software industry giants Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP combine with Salesforce to own 75 percent of the total CRM market. Firms like ACT and Zoho were popular for small businesses.

“We asked respondents about features that were missing from CRM solutions for marketers,” Hollar says. “About a quarter of respondents named things like ‘social profiles’ and ‘social tracking.’ Yet, a lot of providers have this functionality. Why is this area lacking for marketers? Perhaps a lack of education from vendors? Other surveys from Capterra have found that CRM users are more sophisticated buyers of marketing automation. That could also push vendors towards more robust blended solutions. CRM systems seem to serve as a stepping stone into other software platforms that can plug-in and integrate with the CRM data.”

The Capterra study was conducted online and received 500 qualified responses in the U.S. There were a mix of small, mid-size and enterprise respondents.

The study authors forecast growth in the CRM market as new businesses adopt CRM early in its growth. Perhaps more interesting to marketers is that the study predicts that current CRM vendors will continue to woo marketers with integrations that enable integrations, marketing automation, and analytics.

How are you using CRM solutions today as part of the marketing stack? Are you looking to vendors to blend functions and improve integrations? Please comment below.

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