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CRM: The New Center of the Marketing Universe

By Ryan Malone, Founder and CEO of SmartBug Media™

Ryan Malone, Founder and CEO of SmartBug Media™

The marketing space has a new center of its universe: the CRM—and the implications of this shift are truly galactic.

As marketing and sales converge using technology, CRM platforms such as HubSpot become essential convergence points. The key is expertly using these platforms to rock it for your customers. Marketing agencies that own the data flow, both inside and outside of the CRM platform, will have the most power in the ecosystem and, therefore, deliver the best results.

At SmartBug Media, we rely on the HubSpot CRM platform to deliver the functionality we and our clients need—something we call Intelligent Inbound™. HubSpot can power marketing and lead generation programs for clients, and its open API enables the addition of third-party solutions to customize campaigns, making them more intelligent and effective. In fact, with the hundreds of marketing technology solutions available, an open API for integration is essential for any viable CRM software. Ultimately, the CRM platform is only as valuable as the ecosystem it can support.

To meet customer needs and stay competitive, marketers must continually create new solutions centering on the CRM ecosystem—and that means adopting new technologies to power marketing.

A New Journey for Marketers

To effectively harness the potential of a CRM, agencies must evolve their skill sets and develop a deeper understanding of how to merge marketing and technology.

Agencies can combine data, resources, and processes to create effective campaigns. This requires customized systems that assimilate CRM data with carefully selected third-party tools.

Today’s marketing agencies must understand the technology building blocks available to create new workflows. For example, you can build systems that not only capture and convert leads, but also enter new customer information in the database, ship product, generate invoices, and even alert the CEO to send a note to the new customer. Such workflows are created by integrating third-party technology into the CRM engine, with the marketing agency functioning as the system architect.

Six Ingredients for CRM-Powered Success

To successfully fulfill this new role of a CRM-powered, technology-fueled agency,  you need six key components:

1. People

Today’s marketers must be savvy with not only marketing and sales, but also analytics and technology. They don’t necessarily need to be coders, but they should be comfortable talking about technology with people at all levels, from the CTO to clients.

A different type of developer—one who can integrate workflows and build solutions that deliver data to and from the CRM—is also necessary. The need for web and design specialists on the front end will never become obsolete, but the modern marketer/developer should also skillfully handle the broader infrastructure. HubSpot’s CRM doesn’t provide an integration platform, so the developer must bring advanced coding to the table to build an integrated platform with third-party solutions.

2. Process

With more technology and more integration of systems to the CRM comes more data and more robust data processes, including quality assurance to correct system errors. Successful agencies have expanded their processes, documentation, and knowledge transfer to ensure repeatability and minimize human error. You shouldn’t wait until you’re adding a new technology to begin process development—getting a handle on your current systems will help navigate whatever combination of workflows you encounter later.

"Today’s marketing agencies must understand the technology building blocks available to create new workflows"

3. Technology

With the martech landscape growing so rapidly, the stakes for choosing the right technology for your needs are also higher. Not every company is viable; a wrong pick, especially in the case of a startup, can saddle you with a solution that doesn’t play nice with your CRM, doesn’t serve your clients, and could be out of business a few years down the line.

At SmartBug, we follow a strict vendor assessment process that pays close attention to:

•  Value and impact to SmartBug and our customers
•  Ease of working with the vendor
•  Accessibility of the data via APIs
•  The vendor’s management team, funding, and viability
•  The technology platform
•  Depth of training and knowledge transfer
•  Customer roster

When you partner with an outside vendor, you are betting that it will deliver for you today, tomorrow, and years down the line. You can occasionally take a risk with a company that shows great promise, but for the most part, you should choose technology that you are fairly confident you won’t have to rip out of your stack in a couple of years.

4. Experimentation

Adding elements to your CRM-anchored stack is exciting, somewhat like a kid with a new Lego set. Give your people time to play with their new toy by encouraging them to experiment with what they can do with the technology. And don’t think of it so much as experimentation as systemized innovation. Your team will become comfortable with the solution and, hopefully, unlock the technology’s potential when interfaced with HubSpot.

Also, remember that no one likes the kids who won’t share their toys. Encourage your team to not only collaborate on their experimentation but also tell others—particularly non-technical coworkers—what’s been achieved and what’s possible with the new technology. Front-line marketers will be the ones recognizing use cases tied into the turbocharged CRM; let them know what innovations can be realized that can benefit clients.

5. Partnerships

When you partner, you aren’t simply adding technology or infrastructure—you are adding a teammate that you are relying on to help boost success. You can’t solve every problem on your own, so strong partners are essential to make the most of your CRM by expanding support and infrastructure. Your carefully chosen vendors may also look to you to boost their profiles, thus providing an excellent opportunity for co-marketing; in this way, you and the provider truly do become partners.

6. Ecosystem awareness

Every day, new martech solutions come to market. With the HubSpot CRM as the center of your universe, keeping up with the latest solutions and newest innovations is essential. For example, a problem you can’t figure out today may be solvable in the future—but only if you’re paying attention. So keep up with the trends, and create connections with vendors whose solutions you may not need now but might sometime in the future.

Shooting for the Stars

One of SmartBug’s success stories integrating a third-party application into the HubSpot CRM is our partnership with CallRail, a data-driven call tracking solution for marketers. CallRail already integrated with HubSpot and checked all the boxes in our vetting process. We were able to tie together inbound marketing efforts with sales leads who call into the client’s business. The result: more insight into actual ROI. With the help of CallRail, we could attribute 108 additional customers for a client that were generated by inbound marketing efforts but would have otherwise been unknown to us.

This illustrates the potential to maximize your HubSpot CRM. With the right team, the right partners, and the right processes, this new center of the marketing universe can glow brighter than ever.

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