Marketing and Sales CRM Software Platforms for Inbound Marketing

By Scott Anderson Miller

Part of Inbound Marketing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Inbound marketing works best when you can invest time strategizing, testing, and creating rather than building and rebuilding. Automating marketing processes means reducing the time from concept to market, while providing real-time data to make intelligent business decisions and a measurable ROI. Marketing automation software (MAS) and customer relationship management (CRM) applications are a great part of this automation.

Marketing automation software (MAS) makes your job as an inbound marketer much easier. These tools can be expensive, but the price you pay is always exceeded by the value the tools create. But these MAS platforms are, after all, just tools. They won’t do your marketing for you, in the same way a brush won’t paint a painting for you. And, as with any tool, your results will vary based on your expertise.

The following list offers a basic overview of five popular platforms:

  • Act-On: The Act-On marketing automation platform is an integrated suite of marketing tools purpose-built for smaller teams.

  • Act-On has grown beyond its email marketing and list management specialties, and now includes managing digital programs and building landing pages, forms, and campaigns within your marketing department. The platform has an SEO Optimizer tool you can use without a subscription. You can build email campaigns, track website visitors, and, like most MAS platforms, review metrics on the reporting dashboard.

  • Eloqua by Oracle: Eloqua is a cloud-based software by Oracle that helps customers execute inbound-marketing campaigns with advertising, email, content, and social-media marketing tools. It builds customized lead databases, evaluates and scores incoming leads with CRM integration, and provides ongoing measurements on the impact of your marketing efforts.

  • Eloqua seems to be designed for enterprise-level businesses that require highly specialized marketing solutions. About 50 percent of Eloqua customers are business-to-business software and technology companies.

  • HubSpot: HubSpot has become the leading inbound-marketing automation solution for both small- and medium-sized businesses. The software helps business owners who aren’t marketing- or tech-savvy because HubSpot provides extensive training and educational resources, conferences, and various certifications.

  • One of HubSpot’s biggest standouts is its content management system that helps marketers create targeted and optimized websites. The software also helps customers manage blogs, generate leads using customized forms and landing pages, manage social media marketing, and manage their numerous campaigns from a single interface. In addition, HubSpot’s SEO features, such as the keywords research tool and free integrated CRM, round out the package.

  • Pardot: Pardot is another cloud-based software-as-a-service marketing automation provider that focuses on the business-to-business environment. Pardot helps both sales and marketing professionals execute inbound-marketing campaigns with lead nurturing and scoring, and with ROI projections to develop and qualify sales leads, condense sales cycles, and validate marketing culpability. Pardot also offers certified CRM integration with Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and NetSuite.

  • Pardot is a targeted business-to-business inbound-marketing platform that concentrates its efforts on lead generation and conversion for small to mid-sized businesses. The software is focused on helping marketing and sales teams save time and increase profits by working together to attract, nurture, and close leads.

  • Marketo: Marketo provides a cloud-based inbound-marketing software-as-a-service that focuses on email marketing, content marketing, and social marketing tools for use in both B2B and B2C environments. The Marketo system is designed to track and expedite the buyer’s sales cycle by identifying typical prospect behavioral patterns that identify where various contacts are in the sales process. The software features lead generation strategies designed to help marketers grow brand awareness, create customer relationships, develop qualified leads, and close more deals.

  • Marketo says it’s a flexible tool that can grow with any sized business; however, the program does require a high level of technical expertise. Marketo’s higher cost and level of difficulty make it better suited to mid-market to enterprise-level businesses.

A handful of up-and-comers are worth noting: Infusionsoft has gained some acceptance. Others include Hatchbuck and SharpSpring.

To complete your automation and reporting loop, it makes the most sense for you to integrate your marketing automation with your sales CRM. Your sales CRM helps track and manage your database of contacts and leads. Salespeople use a CRM to manage and document their sales calls, emails, and presentations with prospective customers. It is especially handy to bidirectionally synchronize your data so that your MAS and CRM are sharing data between marketing and sales.

The following list offers a basic overview of five popular platforms.

  • Microsoft Dynamics: Microsoft Dynamics, which is often paired with Microsoft Office 365, combines the power of two well-known systems to allow customers to achieve goals across sales, marketing, social media engagement, and customer service. Overall, Microsoft Dynamics offers a user-friendly experience at an affordable cost.

  • The Microsoft Dynamics is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software application that includes a CRM solution best suited for enterprise organizations. It offers industry-specific solutions that meet the needs of various industries, including government, financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and education. The dashboards comes with custom reporting on an interface resembling Windows 8.

  • SAP: SAP is another ERP platform and, as such, offers integrated solutions for very large organizations, expanding well beyond marketing and sales. Using SAP to integrate billing, manufacturing, product planning, cost analysis, and delivery is well beyond the abilities of most inbound marketers.

  • However, if you’re an enterprise organization that’s currently using SAP, you may connect SAP with Salesforce.com relatively easily and you should be able to use marketing automation software as an additional input to your overall big picture. The cost and sophistication is too much for small businesses.

  • Salesforce.com: Salesforce.com is a cloud-based tool that gives your team the power to effectively track leads, document prospect communications, and create sophisticated sales reports. Salesforce.com’s complete package acts as a central hub for your contact management, sales, and employee tracking needs.

  • Salesforce.com is targeted to companies of all sizes with scalable options for nearly any budget. They are regarded by many as the leader in CRM technology. Salesforce.com also has full integration with other solutions provided by the company, as well as a host of third-party tools.

  • Siebel by Oracle: Oracle Siebel delivers a combination of transactional, analytical, and engagement-oriented features to manage all customer-facing operations. Tailored to more than twenty industries, Siebel delivers comprehensive on-premise CRM (as opposed to cloud-based). Its CRM solutions are tailored industry solutions with role-based customer intelligence and prebuilt integration within those industry verticals. As such, it’s not for everyone.

  • In 2002, Siebel was the dominate CRM, holding 45 percent of market share. Since being acquired by Oracle, the software continued to improve among stagnant competition, including advances with analytics. The software integrates with Salesforce.com automation so you can integrate that data into your big-picture analysis if your company uses Siebel. This software is not a realistic solution for small- to mid-size organizations.

  • Zoho: Zoho CRM is a great solution for small- to medium-sized businesses because of its easy implementation and low price. Although this system is very inexpensive, its key features — to automate across sales, marketing, and customer service processes — are not cheap.

  • Zoho’s broad range of features include social media management, email tools, campaign tools, and analytics. The robust tools are easy to use and will help you deliver news updates and track customers.

Others worth noting: SugarCRM currently boasts 1.5 million users, so it may be a CRM solution worth checking out for your organization. If your sales CRM needs are fairly basic but you still want to connect marketing and sales, HubSpot recently introduced a free CRM that is integrated with their MAS, so that may be worth a look, too. There are many other options so do the research to determine what’s best for you and your organization.