Is Sales and Marketing Tech Integration Worth the Trouble?

The proliferation of marketing channels represents a key challenge for every CMO seeking to optimize return on marketing investments. Today, the marketing department is tasked with maximizing return across dozens of marketing channels.

Most organizations have become intimately familiar with the need to leverage multiple technologies in marketing — search engine marketing, marketing automation, Web analytics, affiliate marketing, e-mail marketing, lead management, etc.

The use of multiple technologies results in silos of valuable information that could be useful to both marketing and sales. The challenge is figuring out how to deliver actionable timely information to end users in a way that aids consumption and use.

Recent research from the Aberdeen Group, “The Convergence of Sales and Marketing Technology,” explores the current and planned integration between sales and marketing technologies among organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Sixty percent of organizations in the December 2007 study indicate the top pressure driving integration between sales and marketing technology is the need to increase top-line revenue. Aberdeen’s “Best-in-Class” organizations are enabling sales and marketing with cross-functional data to drive effectiveness at the operational level, delivering tangible increases to top-line revenue. Seventy-three percent of Best-in-Class organizations are integrating one or more marketing tools at the prospect or account level within CRM.

Best-in-Class organizations also report a 24 percent increase in the bid-to-win ratio, a 23 percent increase in the lead conversion rate, and a 27 percent increase in return on marketing investments as a direct result of integration between one or more marketing technologies with CRM.

What Does It Mean to Integrate Sales and Marketing Technologies?

For the purpose of the research, integration between sales and marketing technology includes any integration effort that extends the actionable and timely insight of marketing and/or sales information within marketing and sales technologies.

The average organization in the study (comprised of 315 organizations) uses two to three different marketing tools (e-mail marketing, marketing automation, keyword, Web analytics, etc.). Each one of these enabling technologies contains data that is valuable to marketing and sales.

For this reason, many organizations are starting to focus strategic initiatives to integrate CRM and a host of applications: Web analytics, e-mail marketing, marketing automation, affiliate marketing, search, search engine optimization, lead management, etc. This integration has the potential to deliver enhanced return on marketing investments, enabling sales to sell more effectively and ultimately increasing top-line revenue.

Today, Best-in-Class organizations are strategically focused on enhancing and enabling sales and marketing functions with the cross-pollination of data between these technologies. For example, 37 percent of Best-in-Class companies populate a CRM solution with Web analytics data to deliver prospect/account level activity on Web sites, compared to 2 percent of Laggards.

Organizations recognized as Best-in-Class exemplify the strategies, organizational capabilities, and integration efforts that lead to superior performance in top-line revenue, return on marketing investments, and lead-to-sales conversion.

Why Should You Care About Integration?

One of the reasons for conducting the research was to identify the measurable value of integrating sales and marketing technologies. Is there any value? Should I waste my organization’s time and money on it? If so, what should I hope to accomplish?

The bottom line is that the research suggests that integration results in a measurable impact to key performance indicators, such as bid-to-win ratio (increased by 21 percent on average), lead conversion rate (increased by 20 percent on average), average revenue per account (increased by 21 percent on average), average deal time (decreased by 12 percent on average), and return on marketing campaigns (increased by 20 percent on average).

Beyond improving fundamental metrics, integration (when done correctly) enhances employee productivity, marketing and sales effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. More often than not, integration is a logical step in maximizing return on technology investments that already exist within your organization.

Below is a partial list of benefits that can be realized through sales and marketing technology integration:

Web Analytics and CRM

  • Marketing: Identify the effectiveness of marketing content on Web pages, whitepapers, webinars, etc., through the impact on close rates and deal size. Enhanced prospect segmentation and targeting. Identify conversion rates by account and marketing activity.
  • Sales: Qualify prospects more effectively with knowledge of Web site activity. What products/pages did they view? For how long? How often do they visit?, etc.

E-Mail Marketing and Marketing Automation

  • Marketing: Centralize campaign management. Reduce messaging saturation.

E-Mail Marketing and Web Analytics

  • Marketing: Personalization: Increase relevancy of marketing messages, increased conversion, and increased return on marketing investments. Enhance visibility of conversion rates and campaign return. Enhanced prospect segmentation and targeting.

Marketing Automation and CRM

  • Marketing: Improve accuracy in measuring campaign return. Identify the optimal set of marketing campaigns that result in a close. Increase visibility of marketing performance.
  • Sales: Qualify prospects more effectively. Identify how many times prospects have been touched with marketing campaigns, the types of campaigns. Are they ready to buy? (Based on e-mail click-throughs, Web site activity, form completion, or call center activity, etc.).

Lead Management/Demand Generation and CRM

  • Marketing: Identify prospect readiness to buy. Nurture prospects more effectively. Align sales and marketing with respect to lead prioritization. Nurture and qualify prospects before passing them on to sales.
  • Sales: Focus on qualified prospects; increase the bid-to-win ratio through prioritization of leads. Reduce time spent managing prospects that are not ready to buy. Reduce sales cycle time.

Integration Recommendations

Best-in-Class and Industry Average organizations demonstrate the benefits of marketing and sales integration through current integration efforts. The challenge for all organizations is actually getting legacy systems to integrate among themselves (or with new technologies) and justifying investments in new technology.

The following recommendations may help mitigate the challenge of working with existing technology:

  • Consider replacing outdated legacy solutions — despite how deeply rooted they may be within the organization. Legacy systems can slow integration efforts to a crawl. Ironically, early adopters of integration between sales and marketing tools are at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining a return on integration initiatives. Today, vendors wholeheartedly embrace the value of integration between sales and marketing, and thus support modules or pre-built capabilities to address the challenge of integrating with other solutions (i.e., most marketing technology providers will address the ability to integrate with CRM applications).

    Aberdeen’s research revealed that of the Best-in-Class companies that currently integrate sales and marketing technology, 54 percent leveraged custom built in-house integration techniques, and only 18 percent plan to do this in the future. However, 37 percent of the Best-in-Class plan to use prebuilt integration modules from vendors for future integration efforts — an indication that the use of customer-built in-house integration initiatives may have produced sub-optimal results.

  • Formalize a periodic performance review between marketing and sales. Fifty-eight percent of the Best-in-Class have the capability to periodically review performance. These meetings can be used to discuss the quality of integration efforts. What can be changed? How can the marketing message be altered, or the sales process optimized? Ultimately, Best-in-Class achieve superior performance because technology investments are consistently supported with formalized processes and organizational capabilities to optimize integration efforts.
  • Focus on automation. Lead prioritization and scoring tools help automate the flow of leads from marketing to sales (and often vice versa). Seventy-eight percent of Best-in-Class currently integrate lead management and CRM. Automation ensures the process does not get broken by organizational changes or attrition. Consider marketing and sales integration to be a continuous process of refinement and optimization. The true value of integration is the ability to constantly adjust and learn from customer behavior. Technology delivers structure around these processes, but also allows flexibility in changes to processes. Use lead prioritization or scoring to automatically enter individuals into the pipeline after reaching marketing milestones.
  • I’m Just Getting Started – Where Do I Begin?

    Start by making sure your sales and marketing functions are working in alignment. This is a key capability within Best-in-Class organizations. Seventy-three percent have formalized processes for sharing data between sales and marketing, 58 percent support the periodic review of sales and marketing success and failure, 73 percent share the same definition for “lead” and “qualified lead.” Integration is a joint effort and requires constant optimization from both sides. Executive support is also essential to make sure both functions are accountable for deliverables and metrics.

    Develop a road map for integration efforts:

    1. Prioritize a list of strategic objectives for sales and marketing. (For example, reduce sales cycle time, increase qualified leads by x percent, improve e-mail conversion rates, etc.)
    2. Identify the information required by each function (sales and marketing) to accomplish these objectives. Each function should ask, What information do we need from the opposite party to do our jobs better? Prioritize this list.
    3. Map the source(s) of the information in Step 2. Where does the data reside? Can we even get this information?
    4. Identify the low-hanging fruit. What systems or processes can we immediately integrate to improve our current visibility and performance? In many cases, new technology is not the answer. Sometimes organizations just need to take the time to map out the ideal state and look for variances in the current state.

    The statistics suggest there is, in fact, measurable value in the cross-pollination of sales and marketing information within CRM and marketing technologies. Aberdeen’s report reveals Best-in-Class companies are integrating these tools. More importantly, they have achieved increases in key performance indicators as a direct result.

    Remember, Best-in-Class organizations are also supporting the tools with people and processes. One thing is for sure: Integration is not cheap. It requires expensive investments in people, process and technology. However, when done correctly, integration between sales and marketing technologies can lead to increases in revenue, higher conversion, and increased return on marketing investments.

    The Aberdeen report, “The Convergence of Sales and Marketing Technologies,” is available for free on the Aberdeen Web site.

    Ian Michiels is a senior research analyst at the Aberdeen Group. Michiels covers marketing management and digital marketing in the customer experience management group. He can be reached at [email protected].

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