So your VP of sales selected a CRM system for the sales team to work leads and opportunities. Great. You’ve also been told to get on the product and start getting more quality leads to the sales force. You’ve also probably heard that you now have all the tools you need to complete your mission, which is to increase the number of leads, send more quality leads to sales, keep other leads in marketing until they are ready and, of course, get an ROI on your marketing dollars now!

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ill-equipped, you have good reason. The reality is that, unfortunately, you have not been given all the tools you need to succeed. CRM systems have benefit within the sales realm, but to meet your particular marketing objectives what you actually need is a good marketing automation system that supports up-to-date marketing automation processes.

Increasingly, organizations are discovering that what might have worked in the past no longer can suffice. This is especially true for marketing, as dynamics, such as the Internet, have greatly changed prospects’ buying behaviors. Think about it: These days, your prospects are out researching what they need, what is happening in the market and who offers what before they are ready to buy. Most often, they are conducting research long before they initially engage with your company. And many prospects are coming through online mechanisms to find out what you sell.

Importantly, these same elements put you in position to help create demand, capture early leads that are not yet “sales-ready,” and take steps to nurture them until they are. But too often, organizations continue to bypass these activities in their haste to get leads to sales.

For example, what do you suppose would happen if a lead came in through a form on your Web site? Let’s say that someone signed up to download a white paper, and it went straight to sales. My estimation is that at least eight out of 10 times that lead is simply doing research and is not ready to buy from your organization. As well, would that same lead be turned off if a salesperson called them trying to sell products or services? Would you be wasting your resources having sales call on unqualified leads? Would the sales team in turn be irritated and less interested in following up on marketing-generated leads in the future? I believe the answer to many of these questions is yes.

On that note, marketing automation systems help marketers accomplish a series of goals. They help them to identify leads, to track, score and nurture them. The system then finally passes the fully developed leads over to sales while giving visibility to marketing metrics all along the way. Marketing automation systems were created for exactly these steps and to support prospects’ behaviors in today’s marketplace. In contrast, CRM systems were mostly created to support sales processes. Although these systems are very good at what they do for salespeople, they lack in specific functions and workflow designed for the marketers in today’s lead nurturing world.

In other words, CRM systems drive the sales model touching on forecasting, opportunity management, sales activities, pipeline management and much more. But they are geared for use by sales organizations. With the Internet changing the way people buy and the way we “see” prospects, marketing must move way up in the funnel to capture interested parties before they turn into “sales ready” leads and get passed into the CRM system.

CRM for Marketing
Marketers need marketing automation systems for so many things related to lead identification, tracking, scoring and nurturing. For example, they need them to:

• Accumulate all leads, whether online or off.
• Automatically account for where the lead came from e.g., what campaign did they click on or did they just happen on to the Web site and fill in a form?
• Identify the actions the lead took over a period of time.
• Identify and score the important behavior or criteria in order to determine when this lead is truly a lead and ready to be passed on to sales.
• Be flexible enough to enable marketers to change criteria, workflow and processes as they measure the success of these programs.
• More easily and automatically nurture leads who are not ready to buy.
• Give visibility into how many and what leads are moving on to sales and which are not. This allows marketers to continually tweak their campaigns by message, target, landing page and by type to derive more value from lead generation dollars spent.
• Integrate with CRM systems so the flow to and from sales is fluid and effective.
• Easily report on all the metrics marketers need to ensure they are spending lead generation dollars in the right place.
• Be simple to implement and use, with the ability to extract information when needed.

Even a few years back, a CRM system could suffice for marketers. But the process of marketing automation was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. Furthermore, changes in the buyers’ behavior and the progressive development of online access and media have continued to drive the marketing automation process toward even more complexity. Along with that complexity and sophistication comes the need for change. More specifically, marketers must change their lead identification and management practices to adapt and take advantage of what is now available.

As businesses continue to stretch for dollars, marketers must continually drive value for the lead generation dollars they are spending. Whether that’s delivering more qualified leads to sales or finding other ways to maximize sales resources, marketers can have a tremendous impact on bottom-line business revenue and profit.