Can Marketing learn anything from sales?

Can Marketing learn anything from sales?

Most people remember the late 90’s as the beginning of the end for the internet bubble and the decimation of the technology industry.  But the late 90’s also delivered one of the game changing technologies for sales people.  What’s now called CRM or customer relationship Management.

The first iteration called Sales Force Automation was really the second wave of business technologies that grew from Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) systems born in the 60’s.  While MRP added accounting and other functions to transform into the ERP systems of today, Sales Force Automation was really nothing more than contact management.

In 1993 Siebel Systems set out to redefine how organizations managed the relationship with their customers.

Siebel CRM circa 1996

While the idea of managing the entire customer experience would come years later (some argue it hasn’t even arrived yet), the one tremendous benefit that CRM brought to sales was the ability to break down the process of how sales people interact with customers and prospective customers. Defining the specific steps that need to happen in order for a customer to buy the product.

And from a managerial standpoint, CRM was finally providing a way to really assess the sales process as a whole and allow managers to focus on key areas that need attention, instead of spending hours in meetings with each sales rep trying to learn about each deal. CRM was finally providing insight into the process of selling.

The CRM system is often considered a must have in todays world.  It would be almost unheard of to walk into a sales department that had no CRM system today.  The benefits are so obvious that it mostly comes down to which vendor to choose vs. deciding whether to implement a CRM system at all.

What Sales and Marketing Have in Common?

Marketing also has had an incredible amount of automation over the last 10 years.  Just a few years ago marketers had never heard of a webinar or an SEO strategy.  There was no such thing as email marketing and certainly no “lead nurturing” capabilities.

But, what about the core functions of marketing?  How the processes within a Marketing department are being managed?  How does a copywriter or graphic designer know what tasks they are going to work on today?  How does the Marketing Manager see what their staff is working on?  How do they manage deadlines?

Unfortunately this area of the Marketing department remains largely unchanged.  Today we may be able to use excel to create spreadsheets but the collaboration afforded sales departments within CRM systems is absent within all but the largest marketing departments.

Similar to the sales Departments of old, Marketing Managers with the absolute latest lead nurturing systems still can’t look in a single place to see exactly what all of the people on their staff are working on at any given moment.  Most of us are using MS Outlook to track deadlines and relying on meetings and spreadsheets to find out what our people are doing.

The Challenge of Marketing Workflow

A simple ad in a trade publication often requires multiple resources and approvals before it can be delivered. It requires one resource to develop the content, another to create the design, the manager to approve, and someone to manage the deadlines of each phase to ensure the publication gets the ad before it goes to print.

Managing all of the resources, deadlines and approvals associated with a simple ad can be daunting in and of itself, but, when combined with all the other activities in the department like webinars, white papers, emails and trade shows, the marketing manager ends up spending most of the time managing the process of marketing vs. the strategy.

Some progressive marketing departments created their own tools out of systems developed for managing Information Technology projects (some brave souls even tried MS Project!).  While better than using spreadsheets and emails, they often lacked collaboration with the staff and required constant tweaking because, after all, they weren’t intended to be used for Marketing.

Enter Marketing Resource Management

Just like with the original CRM systems, Marketing Resource Management (MRM) came to the rescue to help marketers to automate the process of marketing.  MRM allowed marketing organizations the ability to manage the process surrounding the delivery of marketing campaigns.  These systems gave the entire team the ability to see their tasks and allowed the marketing manager the global view of what the team was working on.

Similar to how SaaS based systems CRM systems revolutionized sales, SaaS is now putting MRM systems in reach of small marketing departments as well.  SaaS based MRM systems allow users access to their tasks and deliverables from anywhere they can get an internet connection.  A simple web browser is all that’s needed.  In the case where an employee works from home for the day or perhaps the marketing department is spread out around the world, everyone has access.  And as priorities change, a user is notified immediately when a new task shows up.   The Marketing Manager also has a dashboard with every campaign and timelines of when everything is going to get done along with who is responsible for doing it.

Efficiencies gained from the use of SaaS based MRM systems translate into real Return on Investment for Marketing Departments.   By making use of a previously designed digital asset, or reducing the number of revisions on a particular deliverable for a single project, the savings can pay for the entire SaaS based MRM system.  Even with the best manual or excel tracking methods, a single deadline being missed on a trade show early registration or shipping date can be very expensive for the organization.  And, imagine being able to cut the number of meetings, the savings are substantial!

Marketing Needs its Own System

The argument can always be made that missing deadlines is a result of poor management, however, other areas within the business have had tools to help them manage their business process for years.  Take a stroll over to your Accounting, Manufacturing, or as we have covered in great depth, Sales departments.  You find systems developed specifically for each. Marketing has traditionally been the area with almost no tools to help manage the actual process.   SaaS based MRM systems change all that.

The time is coming when marketing professionals will simply come in in the morning and log into their marketing management system the same way sales people do in their CRM.

Maybe there IS something we can learn from Sales after all.

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About Ken Anderson

Ken Anderson is the Co-Founder of Aprix Solutions

3 Responses to “Can Marketing learn anything from sales?”

  1. Simone Emmison February 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    May we publish a summary of this article in Spanish for our company’s newsletter (citing the source of course)?

  2. Ken Anderson February 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    But of course!

  3. Amin March 29, 2011 at 2:16 pm #


    This sounds like an exciting solution. Coordination is one of the issues that slows down work process in marketing departments, especially at small businesses, where I consult. How would an MRM interact with sales department? Any ideas? Thank you.


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