So your organization has been growing quickly and at it’s finally time to get serious about integrating your CRM and marketing automation platforms. It’s a smart move! Sales and marketing alignment is a critical component of maintaining success and achieving sustainable, long-term growth. And a key part of this alignment is making sure your marketing and sales systems align as well. The customer journey involves fast-moving interactions that constantly bounce between sales and marketing touchpoints at every stage. The tighter the integration and alignment of your systems, the better your sales and marketing teams will be at coordinating their activities to maximize lead conversions (learn more about that here).


But first you need a sound integration strategy. To develop one, you need to think about your overall marketing goals, the campaigns you will need to develop to help you achieve those goals, and how best to obtain the data you need to execute those campaigns.


No two businesses are exactly alike, and in general, the more complex your marketing stack is, the more technically robust and flexible your data integration needs to be. That said, every integration needs some baseline capabilities if, it is going to be a worthwhile investment and help you achieve your sales and marketing goals. With that in mind, we’ve provided four ‘must-haves’ that will help you on your journey towards an effective integration between your CRM and marketing automation platforms.


4 CRM and Marketing Automation Integration Must-Haves

  1. Bi-directional Data Integration and Syncing Capabilities
  2. Nurturing CRM Leads with Marketing Lists
  3. Making Sure Key Marketing Data is Visible to CRM
  4. Control Over Inbound Lead Creation

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Bi-directional Data Integration and Syncing Capabilities

Integration is about bringing all of your teams, tools, and data together to function together in a seamless fashion. To achieve this, you need to be able to sync the necessary data about any customer, lead, website visitor, or account into all of the tools your company utilizes. Data flow between your CRM and marketing automation platform can either be “one-way”, which is triggered by events and flows in one direction only, or “two way”, which involves syncing data between both systems, making it accessible on each platform.


Your CRM and marketing automation integration needs to be able to update and maintain records in both systems, and at the same time as the data updates in both platforms. This requires field-level syncing capabilities, which has the added benefit of increasing the speed at which the data can be integrated.


Ideally, your integration will be able to match up identifiers across all of your tools and platforms, which helps to minimize false merging of profiles and organizes data under one common profile, creating a single source of truth for your customer data.


It is also important to realize that, because prospects reach out to your organization in different ways, there is always a chance that contact information will be entered into your system more than once. If an email address that appears in marketing automation already lives in the CRM, or vice versa, you want to be sure that your system is capable of maintaining a single, unified record in the databases. You don’t want to bloat your system or cause reporting issues by creating duplicates across your marketing stack.


Nurturing CRM Leads with Marketing Lists

The ability to create marketing lists to support lead nurturing is made more powerful through integration. When looking at leads in your CRM, being able to identify those that are ripe for a nurturing campaign allows marketers to build marketing lists based on specific Fields or actions. Once your marketing list is built, campaigns can be created in your marketing automation platform based on what field you targeted in CRM.


In addition, being able to create custom forms in CRM allows for increased flexibility when building marketing lists and helps marketers refine their targets for greater conversions. Once a campaign is ready, your integration needs to be able to map that list to your marketing automation platform—so be sure your marketing platform allows for custom field creation, too.


Making Sure Key Marketing Data is Visible to CRM

Even after a lead has been delivered to sales, marketing will continue to be involved in the sales cycle. Sales needs to have visibility into which key marketing programs each lead or customer is interacting with. These marketing activities can inform sales discussions or help drive urgency at a particular sales stage. The activities should be easily accessed directly through the CRM system, making visibility easy and convenient for your sales reps.


The emphasis on “key” marketing data here is important. Not every marketing activity needs to or should be shared with sales. Only activities immediately relevant to the sales process should be made available in the activity view. Once viewable, sales reps can use it to track marketing activities along with other sales developments, such as details around individual sales calls.


A key marketing activity that a sales rep would need visibility into might include potential trigger actions, like a visit to a specific website, or a download of some high-value content, like a case study or solution brief. Make sure your marketing automation platform can add these activities to your records for easy visibility.


Control Over Inbound Lead Creation

Not all inbound leads are created equal. Some may be ready to feed into your CRM immediately, while others may be at an entirely different stage in the sales funnel. While early funnel leads are great candidates for an email nurturing campaign, they aren’t quite ready for CRM primetime. That’s why it’s important that you maintain control over which leads do transfer over as CRM leads.


Think for a moment about the quality of website form submissions you get on a given day: some of them are people selling lists or spamming you with non-sales-relevant content. If every website form submission creates a new Lead in CRM, you could be looking at a messy situation. You may also want to consider your required fields in CRM and how those fields will get entered by your marketing automation platform forms living on your website or landing pages—can your platform accommodate things like Owner or Lead Source? If so, see if you can use non-visible fields to accomplish these tasks. Otherwise, your marketing hours may get spent updating information that is autopopulated incorrectly.


In short, integrating your CRM and marketing automation platform offers a number of ways to save time—if you’re careful about how you think through the integration in the first place. Be sure to talk to both a marketing team and your Partner before making the jump to an integrated solution.

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