Kyle Blair manages marketing at Infor with over a decade of experience in product marketing, lead generation campaigns, email marketing, social media marketing, webinars and events, and content marketing strategies. Kyle writes regularly for the Infor CRM blog, industry publications, and is featured in many Infor webinars. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kyletblair.

Q: In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing sales and marketing leaders today?

A: Modern marketers and salespeople are faced with so much competition from the global marketplace that decision-making really needs to be based on facts and quality data. A quick way to fail is to implement a campaign based on “gut feeling.” Your gut may tell you what you want, but it doesn’t represent your target market. As a marketer, my greatest challenge is always getting enough quality data to determine the next best course of action. Some might think that having the Internet with high speed access makes it possible to answer any question in the blink of an eye, but we need to uncover the underlying motivations – the “why” – and it takes more than a simple Google search to answer those questions. Solutions like marketing automation and CRM can help capture these important insights so sales and marketing can take a more thoughtful approach to selling.

Q: How have you seen successful businesses respond to that challenge?

A: Today’s technology allows us to capture more buyer feedback and behavior data than ever before. Businesses who leverage CRM and marketing automation technology and the data they collect are significantly more successful at adapting to changes in the marketplace than those who don’t. CRM in particular is an important solution as it allows organizations to capture and maintain a single record of truth across all their customers and prospective buyers. Integration of marketing automation takes that a step further, delivering robust lead data in real-time to empower sales.

Q: What’s a common misperception you see around CRM or marketing automation?

A: There is a perception that CRM and marketing automation are only appropriate for large B2B companies. However, smaller organizations can often achieve the greatest value and ROI from these solutions as they add automation, organization, and integrate best practices into standard business practices. Think about it: if you have more than a handful of customers and prospects, how do you keep track of all their important information? We’re not just talking about contact details and demographics, but items like products they ordered, calls to tech support and issues reported, if they responded to a marketing campaign, do they have an outstanding order, etc. Managing that amount of data alone without a solution can be cumbersome and put your buyer relationships at risk.

The same can be said for marketing automation. “It’s too complex, we’re not big enough, and we don’t have a full marketing team.” The truth is that marketing automation streamlines your processes so you can scale your activities and outreach. These are exactly the solutions small teams with limited time and resources need to generate long term success.

Q: What’s the single greatest benefit to implementing marketing automation with CRM integration?

A: It offers a complete view of your buyer interactions. CRM manages a ton of important prospect and customer information as a standalone solution. By integrating marketing automation, users can see even more information about buyer interactions – what emails they were sent and opened; links they clicked; webpages they visited; how long they spent on specific webpages; and other key engagement metrics. CRM and marketing automation together present you a complete understanding of your interactions and relationships with buyers, across solutions and touch points.

Q: How have you seen CRM technology transform the modern day salesforce?

 A: CRM technology is now an enabler of the modern day salesforce. In the past it was viewed almost as a nuisance – something the salesperson had to go back and spend time at the end of their day updating based on the day’s sales calls. With the rapid rise in mobile technology in 2010 and 2011, we can pretty much assume everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Mobile CRM puts so much capability into the salesperson’s hands that they can actually do work, updates, and complete tasks while in the field with the buyer.

Think about the old school sales approach. You would drive out and meet your customer, have a conversation, go back to your hotel room and update the CRM system with your notes. If the customer needed a follow up, you sent them a note the following day. Now a sales person can update the CRM on the fly right from their mobile device, communicate those updates back to the office, and even share information with the client. Infor CRM specifically allows you to add images or files to your CRM so that you can get order signatures, take and add photos from the field, and share information with buyers on-site at their location.

Q: How do companies benefit from better alignment between sales and marketing?

 A: When everyone has access to the same data, one source of the truth, then everyone is on the same page. CRM and marketing automation enable sales teams, marketing teams, service teams, support teams, upper management, and more to collaborate and share valuable buyer information. When sales and marketing have access to the same data, it allows both teams to collaboration more efficiently.

Additionally, it helps both teams refine the overall sales and marketing strategy. It is not uncommon to have a schism between marketing and sales. Marketing provides a batch of leads that are thought to be qualified but sales says they aren’t qualified. Sound familiar? When everyone is unified around a common funnel, workflow and data, lead quality is better defined and outreach is prioritized. Marketing automation and CRM technology, when integrated well, can help organizations accomplish this, aligning their two teams by unifying the funnel.

Q: How do you use marketing automation and CRM to drive revenue at Infor?

 A: At Infor we utilize an integrated Infor CRM and Salesfusion, becoming Sugar Market, marketing automation solution to manage the entire lifecycle of customer interactions. We utilize Salesfusion to execute our campaigns, track activity and responses, do lead scoring, and then update the CRM database with all this information so it is available to our cross functional teams. We utilize nurture marketing and drip campaigns to stay engaged with prospects, leads, opportunities, and customers so that we can automate our process at each step. Lead scoring has been extremely powerful in helping us define our triggers – when to send a follow up email, when to have a sales person reach out, and when to advance them to the next stage. This only scratches the surface but we utilize the system just like our customers do, recognizing the same benefits of an integrated CRM and marketing automation solution.