If you say CRM, most will think of sales teams monitoring their prospects and customer service teams managing relationships. It is true that managing customer relationships to improve retention and acquisition, and ultimately drive profitability is at the heart of CRM. However, it can be much more. CRM can – and many argue should – be your central data hub. From the MD through to your accounts team, a great solution can save everybody time, increase productivity and provide a 360-degree customer view. How? Through CRM integrations.
In this post, we’ve highlighted some common, and not so common, CRM integration possibilities and the benefits you can expect.
Marketing automation integration
In the not-so-distant past, CRM software itself was a marketing revelation. A central database of customer and prospect information, sometimes with additional lead management modules. It enabled marketers to start to accurately measure and monitor campaign performance. Then inbound marketing was born, allowing marketers to begin to prove ROI on their digital marketing spend.
Introducing marketing automation
Logically, this opened up a new market; now that marketers could measure, they wanted some additional features. So, along came marketing automation, adding a flux of new automation and tracking features. Where CRM had begun to align sales and marketing departments by helping them to work together on the same systems with the same data, marketing automation started to break this down once again.
Marketers began to work in their own silo, gathering and growing lead data in a completely separate system to the CRM software that sales were working within. Once a lead was defined ‘sales ready’ a couple of scenarios would start to emerge:
- Marketing would load it into CRM with a brief history, and email sales to pick it up.
- Alternatively, marketing would spend hours manually entering data into CRM whilst trying to measure results from the two in a spreadsheet.
Either way – it was a huge backwards step in productivity.
So, what’s the solution?
Wouldn’t it be better if sales could view the entire lead process? And shouldn’t it be simple for sales to return the lead to the marketing nurture cycle with the click of a button? To align sales and marketing you need three things: a solid lead scoring process, agreed collateral, and a shared view of the process from a new lead right through to upselling at the customer level. This is where a great marketing automation integration comes in.
So, when you’re considering a marketing automation system or a CRM, begin by ensuring that the two will integrate well and talk to each other fluently. It will save a lot of time, duplication of efforts, and issues between sales and marketing if you do!
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are typically used in product delivery organisations, such as manufacturers, retail and delivery organisations. They handle the critical backend information such as order details, supply chain information and essential customer information such as delivery addresses. Operating both an ERP and a CRM system enables a business to accurately process customer orders, manage stock and maintain the customer relationship.
The two systems are often accessed by separate departments. However, there is considerable cross-over, often meaning employee time is spent duplicating information which can cause issues when information is not accurately maintained across both systems. Furthermore, it can be difficult for management and sales teams who have to manually pull data from both systems for reporting and measurement.
How does ERP integration help?
Integration of the two systems saves time, increases accuracy and provides a 360-degree customer view for every team in your organisation. Examples of how it can do this include:
- Automatic account creation and editing. For instance, creating a new account, or editing an existing account in the CRM which will then automatically appear in the ERP system.
- Full order and quote integrations allow sales teams to accurately quote via CRM wherever they may be. This can then be tracked, created and delivered automatically via the ERP system.
- With a good ERP integration, sales teams can view order status and track past orders via CRM.
As with most CRM integrations, the quality varies from system to system, and requirements will be slightly different for every business. But a basic integration can dramatically save on time and costly errors.
Accounting software integration
Combining accounting software with CRM provides similar benefits to the integration of ERP. For instance:
- Reducing time spent on data duplication across systems
- Reducing errors and improving cross-department communication
- Senior management can benefit from accurate reporting
- Sales teams can determine the invoice status of their customers, immediately see their purchase history and review the pricing structure, all within CRM.
CRM alerting can be used to enhance the integration, such as enabling alerts to fire if a key account reduces their regular order, or misses a payment date. Combining the two systems should be entirely focused on saving time, increasing efficiency and providing a better customer experience. Most CRM systems will integrate with the leading accounting packages, and if you are currently running two separate systems we would highly recommend considering the ROI of integrating the two!
CRM is designed to improve business processes and save time. Email and calendars are the bread and butter of office working, so it makes perfect sense to combine the two! Integrating CRM with your email provider, such as Microsoft’s Outlook or Google’s Gmail, can offer a host of features:
- Calendar syncs avoid duplication and ensure no meetings are double booked
- Email tracking enables searchable email trails saved to contacts in CRM – meaning your new sales rep can pick up exactly where his or her predecessor left
As a result, Sales Managers are able to track interactions, whilst customers are rewarded with insightful and fast responses as Customer Services can see past email contact whilst on the telephone with the customer. Not all CRM systems offer all features, and not all email clients offer full compatibility, but it is worth investigating. Clients who have never had this feature before repeatedly tell us how much it has improved their business processes, measurement and customer service levels.
Email Marketing is a staple of any marketing department. Whether it’s ad-hoc sales promotions or a regular automated nurture cycle, it’s a common business need. If your email marketing solution is not fully integrated with your CRM then it is likely that:
- Your marketing department cannot accurately measure the effectiveness of campaigns
- Your sales team have no idea which of their leads are receiving marketing emails
- Somebody is probably exporting masses of data to manually enter into another system.
Introducing an email marketing integration to your CRM gives you all the benefits of a standalone marketing application, without the headache of managing an extra database.
Other CRM integrations also worth considering…
Whilst those integrations already mentioned are the most common, there are benefits to be found in integrating any regularly used software or cloud-based service your business needs with your CRM. Out of the box integrations may be available for some, whilst it may take specific investment with your CRM provider or a specialist integration company to achieve more complex or specialist integrations. However, if carefully thought through and discussed with key stakeholders in your business, it will always pay off. Here are a few more examples to give you some ideas.
Web-visitor tracking integration
The latest B2B marketing revolution from companies such as Lead Forensics enables businesses to track visitor IP addresses and match this with publically available company information to determine who is visiting their website. Interesting data on its own, it becomes even more powerful when combined with CRM. Automated alerting can inform sales teams of lead interactions with key web pages, whilst marketing can enhance lead scoring and reporting and account managers can identify key upsell opportunities automatically.
Social media integration
Social media integrations can come in many forms, and the value truly depends on how your business uses social profiles. However, regular features for integrated systems include lead scoring, automated alerting and social broadcast features.
CRM as your Central Data Hub
CRM can and should be your central data hub. It should improve processes, allow easy cross-department interactions and reduce errors and duplications. Alerting features can provide actionable intelligence that would otherwise be lost. Above all, integrating any key processes should enhance your customers’ experience. If you are considering any new software or cloud-based service, or even a new CRM system, take the time to consider if it could, or should, integrate.