“Which do you implement first and why – Marketing Automation or a Sales CRM?” I’ve heard this question many times during my 20 years in Sales and Marketing roles. There is no right or wrong answer and a ton of devil’s advocates are played during the discussions. Few implement both technologies at the same time primarily due to resource and budget constraints but also, it’s a ton of change to manage.
Of the dozens of companies I’ve seen making the decision, most chose Marketing Automation first. I’ll explain why, but first, let’s clarify what each platform is and does:
- Marketing Automation: A software-as-a-solution, or SaaS, platform intended for Marketing roles to automate repetitive marketing tasks such as sending emails, sending mobile messages (texts, in-app notifications, push notifications), sending direct mail, and tracking how each channel and campaign performed in sourcing and/or influencing sales. It’s used to track and manage most communication with customers and prospects/leads and often is the technology at the center of creating a positive digital customer experience. It typically comes with reports and dashboards to help Marketing measure their campaigns’ performance. Popular Marketing Automation platforms include Marketo, Eloqua, Responsys, HubSpot, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Klaviyo, ActiveCampaign, Act-on, etc. Learn about the top B2B Marketing Automation platforms here: https://www.g2.com/categories/marketing-automation/f/b2b and the top B2C Marketing Automation platforms here: https://www.g2.com/categories/marketing-automation/f/b2c
- Sales CRM or Customer Relationship Management: A SaaS platform intended for Sales-related roles to use in managing leads/prospects, contacts, accounts, and opportunities and tracking repetitive sales tasks like running meetings, making phone calls, and sending emails. It typically comes with reports and dashboards to help Sales measure their sales performance. You’ll notice I included “Sales” before “CRM” because I often hear people say they need a “CRM” when they are referring to Marketing Automation. Popular CRMs include Salesforce CRM, Oracle Sales Cloud, SAP CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, HubSpot CRM, Zoho, SugarCRM, etc. Learn more about popular Sales CRM platforms here: https://www.g2.com/categories/crm
Now, let’s get back to the question at hand, “Which do you implement first and why – Marketing Automation or a Sales CRM?”
The best answer depends on your specific business challenges, needs, and goals. I know, you didn’t need to read this blog post to learn that but I had to say it. That said, it is usually better to implement Marketing Automation first. Here are a few reasons why:
- Marketing Automation can often be implemented faster than a Sales CRM. Thus, the time to value is typically shorter. For example, the average Marketing Automation implementation takes 3-6 months to complete while the average Sales CRM implementation takes 6-12 months to complete
- Marketing Automation can help you generate more leads and nurture them until they are ready to buy. This can free up your Sales team to focus on closing deals
- Marketing Automation can track a lead or customer’s digital body language such as website page visits, form submissions, email opens and clicks, etc. This intel can be shared with Sales (and Customer Service and Customer Success teams) and helps them better tailor their communications with leads and customers and has the same benefit for Marketing in their communications sent to leads and customers (aka more personalized)
- Marketing Automation can help you track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, so you can see what’s working and what’s not and adjust. This can help you improve your marketing ROI and create more highly qualified leads for Sales
- Marketing Automation can help you improve your customer experience by providing personalized and timely communications. This can help you build stronger relationships with your customers and keep them coming back (to Sales) for more
Of course, there are also some benefits to implementing Sales CRM first:
- Sales CRM can help your Sales team more quickly and easily manage their leads, contacts, accounts, and opportunities. It can also connect, deduplicate, and enrich the CRM records. It can then share the applicable CRM data with Marketing and Marketing can use it to better target and personalize communications with your leads and customers
- Sales CRM can help your Sales team save time by automating some of their tasks like reminding them to call a customer, reminding them to update their pipeline, enriching data on the records via automated apps, etc. The time savings can help Sales close more deals and provide more feedback to Marketing on the quality of Marketing-sourced leads
- Sales CRM can alleviate Sales’ pain from using an outdated system as their CRM such as Microsoft Excel or similar. Again, the time savings can help Sales close more deals and provide more feedback to Marketing on the quality of Marketing-sourced leads
However, in most cases, the benefits of Marketing Automation outweigh the benefits of a Sales CRM.
Also, I’ve witnessed many more Sales CRM implementations have challenges and delayed go-lives than Marketing Automation implementations. So, if you want a platform that gives you faster time to value with less risk of delays, I’d recommend Marketing Automation.
Here are some additional things to consider when deciding whether to implement Marketing Automation or a Sales CRM first:
- Size of Your Business: If you are a small business, you may not have the resources to implement both Marketing Automation and a Sales CRM at the same time. In this case, it may be better to start with Marketing Automation, as it can be a more cost-effective way to generate leads vs. hiring Salespeople who tend to cost more
- Your Budget: Marketing Automation can be a more expensive investment than a Sales CRM. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to start with a Sales CRM, as it can be a more affordable way to manage your leads, contacts, accounts, and opportunities
- Your Maturity Level: If your Marketing and Sales teams are not yet fully aligned, it may be better to start with Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation has features in it to help both Marketing and Sales such as lead scoring, lead nurturing, and digital body language tracking of leads and contacts. This can help you build a foundation for better collaboration and alignment between your two teams which is needed in most companies
Ultimately, the decision on whether to implement Marketing Automation or a Sales CRM first is a strategic one. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best solution for your business will depend on your specific challenges, needs, and goals.
If you are still not sure which one to implement first, you can always talk to our team of Sales and/or Marketing experts. We can help you assess your specific needs and goals and recommend the best solution for your business.
Need help deciding which do you implement first and why – Marketing Automation or a Sales CRM? Contact Us and one of our experts will be happy to help, including myself.
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