Customer satisfaction has always been a primary element of success in business objectives and goals. To maintain a central repository of communications and insights into customer satisfaction, requirements, and buying habits, enterprises are adopting Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and marketing automation solutions. These solutions help marketing teams find new customers faster and boost their lead volumes. And these systems help the sales team’s productivity and ability to close deals by making insights across the data readily available.

These tools are beneficial not just for large enterprises. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often think they don’t need these tools until they expand their businesses. But, the truth is, these tools provide the same value to enterprises as SMBs. The right CRM and marketing automation tool can boost productivity for SMBs and set them on a path to major growth. The best tools are scalable and offer automated customer interactions, real-time analytics, fraud detection and more.

While CRM and marketing automation technology seem to be the same thing, they actually serve two distinct purposes. You should understand the difference between these tools in order to choose the best solution or combination of solutions for your business. Choosing a wrong system (that doesn’t go with your business needs) can hamper your business process or potentially cost you money. To help introduce you to the world of CRM, we have listed detailed information about the key items to consider when choosing a robust customer management solution for your business.

What is customer relationship management?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a tool that businesses use to connect more effectively with their customers and potential customers. It helps organizations strengthen customer relations, improve business performance and increase sales and profitability.

Using CRM, the following business functions can benefit:

  1. Sales teams: Sales teams use CRM to understand their customers better and to gain a high-level perspective on their operations and see how sales campaigns and products are performing in the marketplace. Using CRM, a sales manager can track the performance of individual team members relative to predefined sales targets. The advent of powerful sales automation tools can help automate repetitive tasks performed by the sales team, enabling them to become more productive. Instead of spending a huge amount of their time inputting data, they can focus on selling products and services for the company.
  2. Marketing teams: CRM with marketing automation components allow marketing teams to capture lead data and can get a clear picture of lead responses and other market opportunities. They can understand the customers’ likes and dislikes about specific products and services and help reduce the amount of time it takes to get powerful market information in the hands of sales teams.  
  3. Customer service teams: Using CRM, the customer service team can track customer conversations (including feedback, issues raised, etc.) on various channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). CRM provides a common platform for customer interactions, reducing the chances of unsatisfactory responses or miscommunications. This, in turn, prevents the company from losing their valued customers.
  4. Supply chain teams: With CRM, the entire supply chain can be managed effectively. Supply chain teams can track meetings with partners and suppliers, add notes, schedule follow-ups and more.
  5. Human Resource (HR) teams: HR teams can leverage CRM tools to automate the tasks of scheduling and managing candidates, accelerate their onboarding process, analyze and track resource needs and more.

Growth of CRM

According to numerous surveys, since the end of 2018, CRM adoption has accelerated year over year. By 2025, the industry as a whole has projected revenues of over $80 billion.

(image source: superoffice.com)

Why CRM matters?

If you are planning to expand your business, you need a proper business strategy (including sales targets, business objectives, and profitability goals) to execute your plan well. However you look at it, the future is unpredictable and getting reliable and up to date information on your business progress can be difficult and time-consuming but incredibly valuable. This is why you need a CRM system. With CRM, you can analyze and understand your target audience, the present state of the market, your competitors, past and present growth and your all-important sales pipeline. These data points are critical components of the decision-making process and can facilitate better decisions for the future expansion of your business.  

  • Increases sales efficiency: CRM enables you to increase sales by handling customer interactions more effectively and prioritizing leads that are most likely to convert into sales.

CRM provides you complete and accurate information about customers and prospects.

Hence, the sales team can focus their attention on the right clients, gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace.

  • Retaining your customers: Suppose an important salesperson leaves the company, how do you make sure you don’t lose the data tied to their accounts and effort put into that customer account. A company without a CRM would have to worry about the loss of information surrounding historical interactions with the associated salesperson customers. Using CRM technology, other members of the sales team can have access to the complete history of the customer. Any member of the sales team can quickly answer questions, jump into the account, and provide for customers the personalized solutions necessary to retain them.
  • Increasing upsell opportunities: CRM enables the salesperson to understand customer preferences for products and services, purchase history and more. The value of this data can’t be overstated and will help the organization make business-related decisions, boosting sales at the same time.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a tool used by many Businesses to strengthen and maximize marketing efficiency, improve overall campaign management and nurture and generate leads.

How marketing automation tool helps marketers?

  • Best for nurturing leads: With marketing automation, you can keep your customers engaged by giving information about the company’s offerings (products and services) and establish trust with them. This, in turn, helps you to maintain a long-lasting relationship with your potential buyers.
  • All-inclusive campaign management: Using marketing automation, you can get key insights into your potential customer’s behavior. This will help you to make smart marketing decisions.
  • Automate numerous marketing tasks: The primary goal of a marketing automation tool is to automate the complex manual process of marketing tasks and simplify decisions with data. Blog management, social media distribution, email marketing, email workflows, web to lead capture and contact database management are key elements of marketing automation.

Difference between CRM and Marketing automation

The end goal of CRM and marketing automation tools are to transform raw leads into qualified leads, convert those leads into sales and increase business profitability. There are some key differences between these two systems that are important to understand.

Marketing automation CRM

Marketing automation is primarily a marketing-focused tool. It is used to create brand awareness and engage users who have expressed interest in the products or services of your organization.

CRM is a sales-focused tool. It is primarily used to manage clients and leads that have been handed over by the marketing team (with the help of marketing automation tools) to the sales team.

Here is a quick use case - take, for example, using marketing automation tools, the marketing team has generated leads. One of those leads has requested a product demo. The marketing team passes that lead to a salesperson. Using the CRM system, a salesperson can email or call the lead to schedule demo. It will track all the communication between the lead at every stage of the funnel and with the salesperson. This will help the salesperson to analyze the needs of the customer. After the demo, on the basis of customer interaction, the salesperson can decide whether to qualify or disqualify the lead or to close the deal. The marketing team can similarly view the data to make better decisions about who to market to and how with the customer sales interaction data at their fingertips.


(Image source: Capptera.com)

Integrating marketing automation with a CRM system

In any organization, the marketing and sales department need to work closely and share common goals. While marketing people create brand awareness on a larger scale, the salespeople have the ability to approach the customers and sell the products in an unmatched personalized fashion. For all businesses (large, small, enterprise), sales and marketing alignment is critical. The growing combination of marketing automation and CRM software is driving increased competition fueling the necessity for the business to adopt these tools. The value of CRM is creating its own necessity with increased adoption, further increasing competition.

Benefits of including marketing automation in CRM:

  • Consistent communication between the sales and marketing team. For instance, using a single unit (CRM with marketing automation), the marketing team can effectively engage the leads in new ways by delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. This will help them to drive more qualified leads to sales. Then, the salesperson can prioritize the leads and close the deals.  
  • Sales and marketing teams will get actionable insights into every aspect of the process, making the process transparent. Hence, both the teams will be well aware of the criteria for qualified leads.

Steps to determine the right CRM and marketing automation tool

  1. Define your goals and functional requirements

Firstly, it is important to understand your business goals. While deciding which CRM system or marketing automation tool will fulfill your business objectives, it is essential to identify your business needs first. To analyze the exact business needs, you should conduct a meeting with internal stakeholders and also with the employees who are going to be using the CRM or marketing automation tools. As every business is unique, you should look for a CRM system that will fit your business requirements.

If you are planning to scale your business, then it is an undeniable fact that your business requirements will change in the future. In order to address your business problems and requirements, going for a customized CRM can be a good option for your organization. Although ready-made CRMs or marketing automation tools can also serve the business purpose for SMBs. However, sometimes it can be costly as their additional subscription fees per feature and upgrade costs can be expensive.

2. Evaluate the options (cloud-based or on-premises)

Based on your business requirements, you have to choose between cloud CRM and on-premise CRM. The market appears to be marching towards cloud solutions. Before deciding between these two, you need to weigh their pros and cons. While many CRM companies provide cloud-based CRM systems, there are some people who hesitate to move their company’s data to the cloud because of security issues. In the end, only you have to decide whether you are comfortable with your data residing in the cloud or if you need an on-premise CRM system; between the two options, the actual feature set will likely not vary.      

Answering the following questions will help you to choose between cloud CRM or on-premises CRM:

  • Is your business is growing? If yes, then how frequently you need customization and upgrades of a CRM system?
  • Do you have enough manpower or infrastructure in order to implement on-premises CRM?
  • What are your security concerns while going for cloud-based CRM?
  • What will be a cost-effective approach for your growing business in the long-run, the cost of building customized CRM or buying ready-made CRM?

Once you have figured out and answered these questions, and compare your answers against what is available in the market, you will have a clear idea of whether you need to buy a CRM or build one.

3. Select the right CRM or marketing automation tool

In order to get maximum ROI, choosing the right CRM or marketing automation tool is essential. From a plethora of options being available in the market, 360+ by our measure, it can often be overwhelming to decide which one to choose. To help you with this, here are a few tips to choose a CRM system:

  • Make a list of potential vendors who are offering the product. Talk to them and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of every product, keeping your budget in mind.
  • Analyze the vendors by asking the product (or service) demos. Also, inquire about training and support services so that your employees can use the tools seamlessly.
  • Ask them about future integration capabilities of applications like social media, e-commerce, databases and more. Because as your business grows, you will likely need enhancements in the CRM or marketing automation tool.

At Zibtek, we understand your business needs. Our developers are experts in building and customizing powerful CRMs and marketing automation solutions that can help you to build a better relationship with your customers and grow your business faster. You can also try our upcoming OnCourse CRM solution (with marketing automation features), a budget-friendly ready-made CRM solution that will help you to unify your business communication and get more leads and sales.