How to click content marketing and CRM together

How high is the wall separating content marketing and CRM in your company? They may seem like two separate disciplines, but on closer examination, we see a clear relationship. As a content marketer, how can you best click the two worlds together?

At some point while formulating their content marketing strategy, content marketers with lead generation as their primary goal will undoubtedly come across customer relationship management (CRM). Content marketers with other goals, like awareness or thought leadership, also impact the way a company establishes or maintains relationships with customers (or prospects). Although these disciplines are often located in different teams within the company, content marketing strategy and the CRM strategy are clearly close neighbours. After all, the CRM strategy determines how the company can optimally and efficiently help customers and prospects. And isn’t that precisely the path that content marketing takes?

> Read also: 5 online lead generation pitfalls

Find the door

The fact that there is an affinity between CRM and content marketing does not necessarily mean that it is easy to build a link between the two. While content marketing has (recently) won its place in many companies, CRM has been well established for years now. This usually takes the form of both CRM software and a clear strategy to help make the right choices when contacting customers or prospects. The CRM strategy is often central to the business operations and has support from the C-level. Many content marketers may envy their CRM colleagues this position, but it also holds opportunities for them. Good CRM requires broad vision as well as the involvement of many departments: sales, product (or services), ICT and certainly from marketing, too. And from that need for participation, the role of content can grow and evolve.

Content marketing feeds into CRM

In very practical terms, you can link content marketing and CRM by ensuring that both systems feed into one another. To be clear: this does not happen by itself. As content marketer your first task is developing buyer personas and their customer journeys. You map out exactly what your target group looks like and how it behaves to assist your audience with strong content at the right moments in the customer journey. Digital content generates vast amounts of information: what type of content is popular, how quickly does a prospect act, what makes them turn away and more. That information belongs in your treasure chest: in your marketing automation software for instance, but it should also be in your CRM software — whether or not the two are linked. 

CRM feeds into content marketing

Content marketers can enrich the CRM and enhance their place in the strategy as a result. Conversely, CRM can also provide better content. CRM is, for instance, also tasked with increasing customer loyalty and setting up specific actions for that purpose. The information gathered while doing so can be invaluable in determining the content for existing customers. If CRM sees customer loyalty declining after two years — just as the first signs of wear and tear appear on the machines you are selling — then it could be practical to produce extra content about maintenance, repairs and replacements.

The missing link: sales

Content marketing concentrates on helping customers or prospects while CRM is the engine keeping the lead generation process running. But neither really brings in that new customer, and that exposes the need for both to be well coordinated with sales. Your sales team needs to get involved at the right moment and start working with the data has dropped into the CRM treasure chest by content marketing: from email addresses and telephone numbers to queries submitted, reactions to demos and even initial requests for an appointment. Towards the end of the funnel, at purchase time, CRM and content marketing should not only be feeding into one another but paving the way for your company’s salespeople as best they can. They, in turn, can use content to approach prospects, refer to previously created content and — last but not least — bring back ideas from customer meetings that can lead to new content.

Triangle scaling

This is a dynamic that is quite tangible in SME environments. Salesperson X walks into the company after a fruitful customer meeting and tells marketer Y that their customer is struggling with a specific problem. The content marketer puts the topic on the content planning, while the CRM specialist notices in the system that two other salespeople have already made a similar observation in recent years. This interaction has just contributed to better content, more sales and CRM. But what happens in a large company? Hundreds of sales calls per day, huge content production output and many ongoing loyalty actions. How can you be certain that this kind of useful interaction scales up? 

Data management

Large companies may be in a situation where the will to work silo-free — to integrate CRM, content marketing and sales is clearly present — but the supply of data is so great that real results are in danger of lagging behind. This may also happen in SMEs, once they have attained a particular level of maturity and activity in marketing and CRM. In either case, this is the moment when automation becomes a necessity. It is important not only to automate content marketing, but also to find the door between content marketing and the CRM software. 

Maturity

Back in the 1990s, CRM packages were already quite common, first as a pure database, and later as a tool for contact management and lead generation. In CRM software, each lead is given his or her own profile with demographic data, a history of contacts, shared documents and, ideally, the content that the lead has already consumed, too. Those who can link sales inputs into this triangle can make remarkably interesting connections, on a large scale. This is big data at its best. But we also need to be realistic. This is a step that requires the necessary maturity in terms of sales, marketing and CRM. And it will certainly require time, resources and trial and error to operate smoothly. 

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