Given that we are providing live coverage of Saleforce.com’s Dreamforce convention this week, we thought it only appropriate to share the following article from David Raab’s blog, Customer Experience Matrix.
I’ve long believed that B2B marketing automation is just a passing phase: that, ultimately, B2B marketing automation systems will be absorbed into CRM systems instead of operating independently. It’s a view I discuss sparingly in public, since so many of my friends in the marketing automation industry have a vested interest to the contrary. But there are also a few vendors who have bet in favor of merged systems, so it wouldn’t be fair to ignore their view entirely.
– unified systems simplify deployment and support, especially from the perspective of the IT group (although this should be a minor factor in Software-as-a-Service systems, since most work is handled by the vendor).
– unified systems should save money, although it’s not clear they do in practice.
The main technical issue here is whether marketing and CRM systems need different database structures. But even if that’s true, one vendor can provide and synchronize both structures at least as easily as separate vendors. Similarly, if separate user interfaces are really necessary, one system can offer both. So the technical differences are largely irrelevant.
Instead, the argument for separate systems really comes down the political desire of each department to have its own system, and a somewhat related expectation that a vendor focused exclusively on marketing automation will build a better system than a small division within a CRM company.
I actually accept those arguments. Vendors serving either marketing or sales will probably do a better job than vendors trying to serve both. But I don’t think this will matter in the long run. As marketing automation requirements become better understood, the CRM-based products will come closer to meeting marketers’ needs. As the functional gap narrows between the two sets of products, the convenience and cost advantages of a unified system will swing the balance in their direction. This will be reinforced by the business need for tighter coordination between sales and marketing, as well as the larger role played by corporate IT groups in selecting customer-related systems. Only marketing departments with very sophisticated needs will be able to justify buying a specialized marketing automation product.
In short, the merger between B2B marketing automation and CRM seems inevitable. In the B2B world, where sales is generally the dominant department, this means that CRM will encompass marketing automation rather than vice versa. The mechanics of the process are less predictable: CRM vendors might expand their features incrementally, acquire add-on systems, or buy a marketing automation product and integrate it. Different vendors may take different paths and move at different rates. But however they get there, I think the destination is clear.
* For very small companies, vendors including Infusionsoft and OfficeAutoPilot have made the bet by offering their own CRM / marketing automation combination.
About the Author: David M. Raab has more than thirty years experience as a marketer, consultant, author and analyst. He has consulted with major firms in financial services, health care, telecommunications, publishing, consumer goods, technology and other industries. Mr. Raab has written hundreds of articles on marketing issues and is the author of The Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit.