CRM stands for customer relationship management – this includes both the software tool, such as Salesforce, Sage, Sugar, Infor, and Microsoft Dynamics, and the business processes that manage the software. This technology is designed to organize, automate and coordinate your company’s marketing, sales, and support departments.

CRMs track and measure campaigns across multiple channels, most notably email and social media, and monitor opens, clicks, leads, and closed deals.

In the beginning stages of the implementation process, your CRM might be a little jealous of the marketing automation software. It’s brand new, takes away all of the marketers’ attention, and doesn’t have any automated processes set up yet. As marketers that are now responsible for the care of multiple programs, we have to verify that they will work together to promote content, increase interaction, and increase ROI.

What role should your CRM play when choosing a marketing automation software? Be sure to research which marketing automation platforms integrate with your current CRM system.

At the very least, your CRM and marketing automation software should bidirectionally sync contacts and leads. This means that information stored inside CRM will pull across to the marketing automation software and vice versa.

For example, let’s say you’re sending an email campaign through your marketing automation system. If contacts are syncing from CRM, then your recipient lists are already in the system! No need to export contact information to Excel, edit the content, then import into marketing software. Moving in the other direction, as new leads are captured through your flawless email campaigns, their information can be pushed from the marketing automation software to your CRM.

If you’ve discovered the perfect marketing automation software, but it doesn’t integrate with your CRM you can always work through an API integration. This stands for application programming interface and it specifies how different software components should interact with each other. In other words, an API serves as the middleman between a marketing automation system and an external CRM.

For example, an API would allow a marketing automation system to access a specific lead’s contact information from CRM and pull it back through to use in an email campaign, event invitation, etc. It’s a lot like a parent teaching his or her children to share, “Okay, it’s your sister’s turn to play with the doll house. You had it for five minutes and now it’s her turn for five minutes. She’ll return it when she’s done.”

Marketing automation software benefits the Sales department just as much as Marketing. When Sales reps have access to lead activity, they can assign them to relevant email campaigns and better track their activity. The effectiveness of both your Sales and Marketing departments will improve when they are handling the same set of data.

Inside marketing automation software, Sales can monitor: