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Karen A Primer and Introduction to Marketing Automation Software

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By Karen D. Schwartz

The Differences Between Marketing Automation Systems & CRM System Marketing Modules

What exactly is a marketing automation tool? Is it the “go-to” tool for lead management, or will your Customer Relationship Management software suite suffice? If you have a CRM system, do you need an additional marketing application for lead generation? If you are strapped for cash, is this type of tool a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘need to have’? And how exactly does “marketing automation” fit within the notion of an integrated CRM solution anyway?

Let’s start with a definition of marketing automation.

Marketing automation focuses on the lead acquisition and demand generation activities within a marketing group, as opposed to the sales activities, where CRM systems as a whole tend to focus. Simply put, these tools automate marketing processes — everything from strategic planning and campaign design to customer segmentation, lead generation, nurture campaigns, prospect scoring, and closed loop analytics.

A major function of marketing automation solutions is lead management, which Forrester Research defines as processes that helps generate new business opportunities, manage volumes of business inquiries, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, and increase alignment between marketing activities and sales results.

“The reality is that marketing has been largely under served from CRM providers, so other vendors saw a gap in the market and decided that they were going to serve the marketing organization with the right automation tools,” explains Suresh Vittal, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

The void left by traditional CRM vendors such as Salesforce.com, Oracle and Microsoft has given rise to a host of specialty and marketing niche players, including Eloqua, Aprimo, Marketo, Neolane, Pardot, Silverpop, Sitecore and Unica, to name a few.

But if you have a CRM software suite in place, do you really need one of these marketing systems as well? After all, many CRM suites, such as Oracle Siebel and pretty much all of the software as a service CRM solutions, have integrated marketing automation modules.

That’s true, Vittal says, but many of the large CRM vendors don’t provide the type of flexibility and capability for efforts like lead management to the marketing organization as they do to the sales organization. The marketing capabilities delivered within CRM applications tend of focus entirely around campaign setup and profiling. They fail to support marketing professionals in creating landing pages, implementing sophisticated nurture campaigns, tracking online visitor behavior, scoring prospects by implicit and explicit actions and automatically transferring prospects to sales staff when they are sales-ready.

Let’s take a few examples. A global software technology company, for example, has hundreds or thousands of sales reps who need to have visibility to their key accounts and contacts within those key accounts. They manage the contact database and contact strategy with a sales force automation tool, which focuses on improving the productivity of the sales organization. But what about the marketing arm of that company? The job of the marketing department is to generate, nurture, evaluate and follow up on leads, which they then pass off to the sales force automation system when the leads become sales-ready. The system that’s responsible for generating, nurturing, classifying and scoring those leads would be the marketing automation system, and it’s owned and run by the marketing department.

Now take the example of a much smaller company. The company’s 20 sales reps might have an on-demand sales force automation system, and the company might have one marketing rep who manually collects, scores and transfers leads. But as the leads grow or become more complex due to multiple products or sales regions, the marketer will need an automation platform from which to plan programs and execute campaigns. Again, the marketing automation system is the tool for the job.

So why doesn’t every company use one? For one thing, it’s a relatively new application type. For another, most of the companies in this space are relative start-ups, very small and some are struggling to survive. But Vittal believes it’s a big enough need that these tools, either alone or after being swallowed up by larger CRM vendors, will become an integral part of the CRM landscape. End

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The reality is that marketing has been largely under served from CRM providers, so other vendors saw a gap in the market and decided that they were going to serve the marketing organization with the right automation tools.”

Suresh Vittal, VP Forrester Research

 

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