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October 3, 2013

Aligning Marketing and Sales Systems: Building the Right Foundations

by Tom De Baere


Too busy to build foundations, Too busy because of the wrong foundations...

Too busy to build foundations, Too busy because of the wrong foundations…

Many B2B companies haven’t integrated their marketing and sales systems.

You have tools for marketing planning, events, webinars, email, PR, marketing automation, websites, document management, CRM, ERP, … Your customer services department also has its own systems, also containing customer touchpoint data. And the finance department is also sitting on similar data.

The effect? Dispersed contact databases, standalone CRM implementations and Excel import-export nightmares. These situations are more the rule than the exception.

We all know we need to integrate these systems. But how do you move towards integrated systems, to the benefit of the business?

The Right Foundations: Catch 22

Marketing and communication departments are under constant stress. They have strict deadlines all the time. A public webinar cannot be delayed. A tradeshow cannot be delayed. A product launch cannot be delayed.

You are so busy in getting the work done that needs to be done, that you do not have the time to build the right foundations you need. Having the right foundations makes you work faster, more efficient and with less costs. Having the right foundations, you would be able to improve the business contribution of marketing, while at the same time making your life easier.

And because you do not have the right foundations, your are too busy. And as such, your are caught in the classic Catch 22.

What Business Requires From Marketing

All departments in a company work for the same goal. They all want what’s good for the company. But when push comes to shove, we are very much occupied within our departmental silo’s. As we work in these silo’s, in many case, we all start building our own systems. Yes there’s ERP, yes there’s CRM. But somehow companies onboard lots of other systems for marketing, customer services, project management, and development.

But at a certain moment in time, these systems need to be aligned, and talk to each other.

  • CEO’s expect to see revenue contribution from marketing, requiring integrated systems.
  • Modern marketing techniques take prospect history and customer history into account to grow revenues
  • Increasing pressure on resources and budget require marketing departments to optimize their operations

Increasingly marketers are expected to show data that shows what revenue contribution our marketing actions give, in in return for the marketing money we get.

Settings Objectives when Integrating Your Marketing Systems

What I have found is that having objectives on what you want to achieve when trying to move from disconnected marketing platforms to integrated marketing platforms, is crucial. Although this sounds very boring, without them you won’t having a guidance along the project. These objectives provide you with guidance when decisions have to be made.

It is even so that to me the first step is to set these objectives even before you think about how to solve the issues you have today. Because if you first think technology, you’ll get lost in what technology can do. Even when you think you need to integrate your marketing systems, step away from that idea. First consider what you want to achieve, to the benefit of the business. And not to the benefit of the internal organization, but to the benefit of the business. Once you know that, you will also know if that includes integration.

Possible objectives are:

  • improve the revenue contribution
  • improve efficiency of the marketing operations
  • creation of a marketing funnel
  • reduce costs

Once you have these high level objectives, think about what you would need from workflows, processes, software or technology to reach these objectives. If your objective is to improve revenue contribution, you might need better reporting on what works and what doesn’t work, lead nurturing, more leads, or better sales intelligence.

Improving the efficiency of marketing operations can be done by automating tasks, having better tools to create and update, expanding your toolset to other departments, and automatic CRM integration for lead handover to sales.

And when you want to improve the quality of your leads, creating a marketing funnel that links with the sales funnel is a good objective. Actively influencing that marketing funnel to generate more and better leads can be one of your requirements. Maybe more inbound traffic, better conversion etc. are additional requirements.

Develop Your Vision

OK. Let’s assume that you know your business objectives. The next step is to start creating your ideal vision on what an integrated environment could look like. You probably have corporate systems like document management, CRM and ERP. In most cases you’ll have to integrate with these systems. Don’t look too far in the future, because by the time you have everything sorted out, your company probably has moved on and requirements will have changed.

Look back to your objectives and find out what you need from your systems, and the integration between these systems. Look at your business requirements and pinpoint where you need improvements. Pinpointing where you need changes will allow you to come up with a change in the architecture of your systems, and a set of functional, organizational requirements.

Only now you can start looking at external systems, RFI’s and RFQ’s.

On of the things I have found extremely useful is to build a success roadmap. A success roadmap is a visual representation, in time, of how you will move to your vision, in a step-by-step approach. It contains milestones of the when you want to see these functional requirements implemented.

Uniform Segmentation Structure

When you want to align your marketing systems with sales systems, one of the things I have found of extreme importance, is having a uniform roll-out of a single marketing segmentation structure across all your systems.

We all segment with the aim of better targeting and reporting. We segment our contacts, we segment our markets and we segment our products. When aligning and integrating all your systems, with the ultimate goal of end-to-end reporting, you’ll need to have a uniform segmentation structure:

  • Website: when content is created and posted on your website, it also needs to have segmentation data. When people opt-in for your mailing list, you will now better know what content they need from you, and you can only send them the content they want.
  • Marketing automation: when you have segmentation data on your website, using behavioral tracking, you’ll be able to capture micro-segmentation data from your prospects which will allow you to build a detailed profile from your prospect. Having that behavioral data will spur lead nurturing tracks, lead scoring, and lead hand-over to CRM. Without this segmentation data, you won’t be able to assign the lead to the correct sales team.
  • Document management (DMS): having meta data around the documents in your DMS that is aligned with your core segmentation structure will allow you to integrate your DMS with your website. When you publish a document in your DMS, it can now automatically find its place on your website, or dynamically made available to your prospects using the marketing automation system.
  • CRM system: when leads are generated from on-line and off-line marketing activities, they contain rich data of prospect behavior, identity, and lead qualification data. Without a proper and uniform segmentation structure, you won’t be able to hand-over your leads into CRM in a correct way.
  • ERP system: when leads turn into sales qualified opportunities, and then into revenue, you want to be able to report. If you have your segmentation aligned, you’ll have a powerful way of reporting on all possible axes of your segmentation structure.

In the end, marketing needs to serve the business. These changes require investments in time, money and people. You’ll need to manage the Catch 22. But if you want to move your marketing into the future, you’ll need to do this. If you want to compete in the future, you’ll need to do this.

It’s also easy not to do this. You probably can keep going on the way you do today for a couple of years, before it really starts hurting your business.

Or you could choose to actually start today. Step by step. Each step isn’t hard. They are actually easy steps. And when you look back after 1 year, or 2 years, you’ll see you’ve come a long way.

Are you willing to take the first step ?


Warm regards,

Tom De Baere