How to Get the Most out of Marketing Automation & Your CRM [Expert Interview]


A few weeks ago, Senior Implementation Specialist Susan Spicknall joined us to talk shop about getting started with a new marketing automation tool. Today, we’d like to expand on that topic by discussing the marketing automation and CRM integration process: what to expect, how to prevent common roadblocks, and how to get the most out of your new system. Rob Phillips, CRM Engineer at Pardot, joins us to share his expertise on the subject. Read on to learn about his top tips for success, and don’t hesitate to leave your comments or questions in the comments (pro tip: Rob loves to chat about good beer and motorcycles, two of his favorite past times).

You can read more about why marketing automation and CRMs make such a great pair in our full e-book, Marketing Automation & Your CRM: The Dynamic Duo

Okay, Rob, let’s get started!

You’ve been specializing in CRM-related cases for over three years now. We’d love to pick your brain — how can new marketing automation users best prepare to integrate their new system with their CRM?

The first area that I’d suggest considering when transitioning to a new marketing automation platform would be data cleansing and backup. Because communication to and from your prospect base will occur through your marketing automation system, you will want to ensure that the data you have is up to date. This will not only be important in terms of ensuring that data syncs with the desired CRM records, but also that email deliverability scores are not hurt by attempting to send marketing materials multiple times to the same individuals. Whenever you are moving data between systems, it is also important to maintain backups as your data is one of your most valuable assets.

Another important area that should be considered before beginning the integration process is deciding which data will be synced between the two systems. It is a best practice to only include data in your marketing automation system that will be useful for your marketing and sales teams; for example, you may be tracking your client’s date of birth in your CRM, but unless you are using that information in your marketing and sales cycles, you will not want to have that data also populated in your marketing automation system. The more custom fields you have, the more difficult the system becomes to navigate…keep things simple.

Finally, new users to marketing automation should read up as much as they can. Taking on a marketing automation system can be as large a decision as taking on a CRM and it is difficult to predict ahead of time what you do not know. If you take the time up front to read as many knowledge base articles as possible, view online webinars, and tap into the online user community, you will have a much more holistic view of how the entire system works, which makes the up-front decisions much more rational and scalable. It is also nice to be able to learn from others’ mistakes so that you can avoid making the same ones.

Great tips! So what should new users expect from the integration process itself?

Well-designed marketing automation tools make the integration experience very simple from a technical standpoint. While the marketing automation administrator should be technically minded, I’ve found that integrating really requires little technical experience.

An administrator integrating their CRM with a marketing automation system should expect to tackle three major areas of integration: CRM setup, integration setup, and data setup.

During the CRM setup, a package of predefined components are added to the CRM system. These components are needed to allow the free communication with the marketing automation system as well as any metadata that is proprietary to the marketing automation system.

During the integration setup, a “connection” must be made between the CRM and marketing automation system so that the two are actually communicating via either or both APIs. This step is typically automated with the user selecting specific options that affect the way the two systems work with each other.

During the data setup, your administrator will be concerned with both your prospect data as well as your metadata (data that describes your prospect data). It may be necessary to import prospect data from your CRM (good marketing automation systems have a simple-to-use import wizard). Additionally, you will want to configure your user records and any fields that are not standard to your marketing automation system.

Overall, the CRM-marketing automation integration process should not be viewed as a daunting task, but rather as time to get practical experience on how the two systems will interact with each other.

Once up and running, what can marketing automation users do to make sure things continue to run smoothly?

It is important to keep in mind that marketing automation systems are typically confined to the same limitations of other end users in a CRM system. For example, if a CRM user is confined to a set character limit on a particular field, the marketing automation rule will also be confined to that same character limit.

Building processes with this information in mind is helpful in preventing sync issues down the road. In order to ensure that the correct processes are followed, an end user training program should be in place. Established marketing automation vendors provide multiple streams of training to ensure that end users are set up to succeed.

Okay, last question before we move onto some more fun questions. What are some more advanced items that marketing automation users can look forward to once their CRM and automation platforms are fully integrated?

There is definitely a lot to be excited about once there is a full integration. I think the top of the list has to be the tightening of the relationship between marketing and sales. With a CRM alone, sales reps are able to keep track of their pipeline, but have no automated way of scoring, segmenting, and communicating with them. With a marketing automation system alone, marketing is able to score, segment, and communicate with prospects, but there is no alignment with sales. When you combine the two systems together, you have something really powerful.

From a technical perspective, I think that automation rules and drip programs do an amazing job of tying the two systems together. I can only imagine from a sales rep’s point of view, that the ability for my marketing team to automatically deliver the newest information on a particular widget to all of my records, that happen to be contacts, whose accounts have an annual revenue above $500,000, that are in the state of California, who filled out a particular form, then automatically create a task in the CRM to have me call them…invaluable.

Last one! I know that you’re a bit of a motorcycle enthusiast — if you had the opportunity to go on a three month motorcycling trip with anyone in the world, who would you go with and where would you go?

Good question; is it too meta to say my younger self? I just started riding motorcycles about 3 years ago and I would love to tell 16 year old me to start riding (the freedom of being on a bike is indescribable). On top of that, I could give the younger me some solid life advice and also feel the nostalgia of being a kid again. Plus, I would already know the route because I did it once when I was younger (okay, that part is definitely too meta).

As for where? We/Me would want to go across Europe, avoiding all major cities and hanging out with the locals in the smaller towns; people are what make countries great and I find the further you are outside the city, the more authentic the experience.

I’d have to agree there. You can check out Rob in all of his motorcycle glory in the picture below. Stay tuned for the next post in our summer camp series, which will focus on building an effective marketing analytics program. See you then! 


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