Marketing teams today are faced with an increasingly dire problem – there is a fundamental lack of knowledge about who their customer is, and what their needs are. The inability for companies to articulate who or what will benefit most from their product or service damages a company’s corporate reputation with customers and prospects, delays projects, and reduces profitability and productivity.

What is the source of this problem? For one, the environment in which marketing teams operate has drastically changed. Over half of respondents to a survey sponsored by OneSource throughout November 2013 said that their company’s marketing strategies have changed, “Very much so” over the past five years. As we begin 2014, we must now assess what processes are in place to help companies efficiently target customers and sell their product or service.

Since the 1980s, CRM technology has enabled companies to easily track business contacts, radicalizing the way prospecting is done. The drastic increase in the amount of content available for both companies to research and prospects to sort through, however, has changed the playing field.  According to the survey, the degree of online information available to decision makers has had the greatest impact on marketing departments at companies. A need to aggregate this imperative data has brought CRM shortcomings to the forefront; however, these can be rectified through use of insight from marketing analytics and automation technology.

The survey found that only 31 percent of companies have a unified database for marketing, sales and CRM relationships, and 26 percent rely on databases that are not connected. We have already seen these numbers begin to rise, and as more companies consider implementation of sales enablement technology, there are several things to keep in mind in order to maximize its use:

  1. Establish where the disconnect lies, and choose a solution that fits your needs: Every business will have different requirements. Therefore, when finding a marketing automation solution that satisfies your sales and marketing challenges, simply selecting “out of the box” tools and features may not work for your company.  Come up with a specific set of requirements so that you get what you need, but don’t overspend on tools that aren’t useful to your business.
  2. Align IT knowledge with insight form marketing: Marketing has not always been considered a major revenue driver for organizations. This discrepancy often prevents marketing and sales departments from implementing the most relevant tools that will help them develop customer understanding. There is data that suggests that by 2017 CMOs will gain an increased percentage of the purchasing budget and spending more on IT than CIOs. That means that marketing is going to become a greater part of the entire organization and other departments must tie in more closely in order to meet end to end goals.
  3. Align sales and marketing on critical prospecting insight: From the November 2013 survey, 33.5 percent of those surveyed responded that, “Marketing owns more than 50 percent of the responsibility for getting leads.” In comparison, only 14.2 percent surveyed said that, “Sales owns 90 percent of the responsibility.” Despite variations across companies, sales and marketing must work together to identify requirements and implement the appropriate tools.  Because lead and customer nurturing is becoming more of a shared responsibility, it is essential that goals, processes and IT purchases are jointly discussed.
  4. Set up real-time triggers that facilitate traction: Including an analysis of what live content is available on a timely basis enables sales teams to quickly apply tangible business insight that can successfully secure timely prospects. Actionable information leads to greater efficiency in prospecting, and differentiation from competition.
  5. Don’t forget about social or contributed content: The survey showed that social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter ranked second to search engine data when uncovering information on prospects. This underscores the need for sales and marketing teams to be equipped with tools that constantly monitor social data that can be used for prospecting. Most people are now familiar with Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” study, which shows that the majority of the buying process is complete before salesperson interaction. In order for companies to influence this key time, they must utilize social data plug-ins for marketing automation systems and CRM platforms to engage prospects earlier in the decision making process.

Stronger customer connections can be achieved through next generation sales enablement technology that aggregates business insight from multiple sources in an integrative system with CRM. Companies that can quickly adapt to use of this technology will reduce prospecting inefficiencies through less back-end research. In this manner, marketing departments can play a greater role in facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the customer, ultimately leading to stronger revenue for their business.