CRM for marketing: a complete buyers' guide

Modern marketing is so much about good, reliable data that a good marketing CRM is absolutely essential to get optimal results. The options for setting up your marketing tech stack are many. In this post, we'll cover:

  • Marketing requirements a CRM should meet
  • Essential marketing CRM features
  • How much a CRM for marketing costs
  • Which CRM vendors to consider


What requirements do marketing teams have for CRM software?

First, I’ll look at the broad needs for a marketing team and then we’ll drill down into some of the more specific features.

Richness of data

Modern marketing relies on having important data at your fingertips. This data will depend on the type of business. Here are a couple of hypothetical examples differing in complexity:

John runs a small plumbing firm. He services clients in Hammond, Indiana. He has a regular client base but uses a basic marketing CRM to maximize his earnings. He keeps the basic details of his clients including any works they’ve had completed. He also keeps records of when they should have checks and uses his CRM to send out reminders. He also uses his mailing list to send out deals like winter check-ups and cut-price offers on certain equipment. Recently he has added a feed on Facebook so when anyone is asking for recommendations in his area he is notified.

Paula is head of marketing at an Oregon-based company which makes and sell high-end women’s handbags. For them, brand is critical and having slick marketing is important. She uses the CRM to keep information on everyone that has bought from them, as well as the success of their wide-ranging social media campaigns and information on the performance of each product. These are then fed back to the design team. As a brand business, they use social media integration to keep up to date on what posts are written about them and track this against their competitors. They can track the efficacy of their various social media campaigns on Facebook and Instagram. They also use the marketing CRM to tailor their marketing offers; they have automation set up for over 100 different customer profiles which target the most receptive customers specific content and deals. For example, regular buyers are given invitations to free events put on in their area.

These users both require correct data, just at different levels of complexity. It’s important when considering which marketing CRM to use how much functionality you need today in this area, and what you’re likely to need in the future.

Automation of basic processes

Setting up outbound marketing to deliver the right message to the right audience is a key element of marketing. Companies are using increasingly more sophisticated methods to obtain engagement with their brands. Anything from experimenting with different channels, content, and timing, to analyzing the data, the modern marketer is sophisticated.

Map out and prioritize your CRM requirements with this customizable CRM requirements template

Marketing automation via email or social media allows you to set up campaigns well in advance and track how effective they are being. This allows a company to take different types of customers on journeys suited to their needs. For example, a furniture shop can send deals to customers depending on the type of products they have been browsing.

Tracking campaign effectiveness

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” John Wanamaker

It’s a worn adage and is becoming less relevant as people are demanding better information on where their marketing dollars are going. With Google Adwords and Facebook ads, you can get a clear understanding of your return on investment than ever before, and a great CRM can enhance this visibility even further.

Tracking how well email campaigns or Facebook engagement performs is critical so you can use this feedback to inform your next move. Marketing CRM can give you simple and ever more detailed views on how well these campaigns have worked. Having a CRM which provides the information you need to take action is critical.

Salesforce Facebook dashboard


Which CRM features should marketing teams look for?

Email marketing

This is an important marketing tool for most businesses, and when considering a CRM for this you need to weigh up functionality versus simplicity. Some email marketing tools are very comprehensive and more expensive when a basic system may be enough. In the example of the plumbing company they probably just need a basic system where they can send a message to their whole database and they’re probably happy to do this manually at the time of sending. This could be a very different tool to the aforementioned fashion company which is planning in advance hundreds of different email chains going to a range of customers.

Integrated web forms

Integrated web form builders are an important tool for companies which are capturing customer data through their websites. A good solution here is the ability to add information directly into the CRM and ensure it is put in the right place. A slick approach here would mean that, depending on the type of web form and the answers they provide, a lead would automatically be segmented into the database and sent targeted marketing material.

Salesforce web-to-lead functionality

Customizable reporting

This allows marketers to evaluate the efficacy of their campaigns and also report to key stakeholders how the marketing efforts are performing. Some companies will be running thousands of small marketing campaigns at one time and they need a centralized view on performance to understand what is working. With the current prevalence of A/B testing and Adwords, it’s critical to assimilate and understand ROI for marketing spend.

Calculate your CRM ROI with this step-by-step guide

Tags and filters allow for segmentation and this is a critical part of a marketers toolkit for reasons covered. A good CRM will make this easy, and a really great CRM will be able to automate these tags and filters depending on where the data comes from.

List management in Microsoft Dynamics

Social media integration

Social media integration is becoming increasingly important for marketers when using their CRM. They want to track how well their social media presence is performing, track competitors and link information from social media into their CRM data and decision-making. For example, knowing that a key client is making positive posts about a competitor or negative posts about you can prompt action; if the CRM is set up really efficiently this can even be generated automatically.

Integration with other tools is important too, especially if you are using third-party tools which offer something unique to your industry or that are just embedded in the workflow. Instead of trying to fit everything into one CRM these outside tools are often necessary so it becomes very important that the marketing CRM is able to work with other tools.


How much does a CRM for marketing cost?

Let’s think about a company implementing a new marketing CRM which needs to integrate with their current system, offer rich social media data, sophisticated integration, and web forms. This is likely to be a relatively top-tier vendor and looking at a budget for the first two years set up and running cost:

  • Consultancy to decide on best CRM to use: $5,000
  • Tendering process: $3,500
  • Implementation consultation (external): $10,000
  • Implementation cost (internal): $22,000
  • User cost @ $750 per seat per month (26 seats): $468,000
  • Ongoing changes to the system (external consultants): $21,000
  • Internal permanent team member (e.g. a Salesforce Administrator): $60,000

TOTAL: $589,500

Your CRM budget will completely depend on the requirements, skills in-house and size of business, but the costs are significant and usually more than people expect. This example doesn’t include management time, staff time, change over and learning curve costs.

As an example, here’s the out-of-box pricing for CRM and marketing automation vendor HubSpot:

HubSpot pricing


Which vendors offer strong marketing functionality in their CRM?

This depends on the level of sophistication you need, some basic marketing CRM systems have a $25 per seat per month and you can easily pay upwards of $2000 per seat per month. Most businesses don’t need to go to that range - many tools like Zoho CRM offer simple small business solutions, while bigger vendors like Salesforce and Hubspot offer sophisticated systems geared towards huge Fortune 500 companies. There’s something out there for everyone.

When making a choice the number one piece of advice is to be clear on what you want and don’t be afraid to spend time and money on the CRM selection phase – it will pay off in the long term.

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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