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On November 4, 2009, I attended B2B Marketing University in Boston sponsored by Silverpop. Throughout the presentations, one question kept cropping up: “How can B2B marketers reconcile the use of CRM to manage prospects at the account level with use of marketing automation systems that enable one-to-one dialogue?”


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsidering that today’s B2B organizations are largely selling to a committee or “buying unit,” this question makes a lot of sense. After all, marketers need to address each relevant contact at a prospect’s organization, and keep track of each interaction and the progression of the relationship. At the same time, their sales teams manage opportunities at the account level. The last thing any organization wants to do is duplicate efforts while interacting with prospects (and in the process let on that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing). This challenge is clearly top of mind for many marketers – I saw lots of heads nodding in agreement whenever the question was posed.

I’m no expert on this topic, so I was glad to see David Raab (one of the presenters, and a great one, at that) address the “CRM vs marketing automation” issue on his blog. I strongly encourage you to read his in-depth and well-articulated post. Here are the points that caught my attention:

  1. Marketing automation and CRM systems are very different tools serving distinct needs.
  2. These two systems are likely going to merge. In fact, David points to marketing automation solutions aimed at smaller organizations that are already incorporating CRM functionality. On the flip side, he calls out marketing automation systems aimed at larger firms that enable sales folks to access information in those systems from a CRM solution.
  3. David concedes that: “account vs individual is one of the toughest issues in integrating marketing automation with CRM.” Check out his response to my question in the comments section for a thorough explanation of the challenges.

By the way, Chris Koch and other folks at ITSMA have put lots of thought into account-based marketing, which ITSMA defines as “treating important customers as markets of one and building a relationship in which you help them articulate their needs.” If you’re looking for case studies, research results, and insightful thoughts on this topic, I suggest checking out the ITSMA site andChris Koch’s blog.