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What CRM Admins Should Know About Marketing Automation

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Camela Thompson spent 15 years in B2B SaaS companies as a RevOps professional, moving between Sales Ops, Marketing Ops, and CS Ops before RevOps was officially a thing. Now, she's the Head of Marketing at the RevOps Co-op and keeps her RevOps skills sharp by consulting on a per-project basis.

I remember cursing up a storm when the marketing ops person across the floor blew out our API limits and locked up Salesforce ON THE LAST DAY OF A QUARTER. Salespeople couldn't log in, send out quotes, or close deals. It was a disaster that involved a couple of hours of leaving panicked messages for our Salesforce rep and entering tickets to temporarily expand our limits.

A simple enrichment list with a misconfigured update call (which cycled through and called Salesforce for each person on a very long list) mowed through API calls like someone with a new remote-controlled lawnmower goes through acreage on their first day.

It wasn't the first or last time I wondered how marketing operations could be so clueless about how the CRM works.

Then, I became a marketing automation admin and discovered how difficult their jobs were and how little visibility they were allowed or taught about the CRM.

It's easy to assume that someone ignores common knowledge or is lazy. But it's rarely the issue. More often, the reality is that they are too busy trying to manage their own stack to research tools that someone else manages, especially when they aren't allowed admin access to said tools.

The opportunity to cross-pollinate core knowledge is the biggest reason I was excited that RevOps, as a functional department, became a thing. Combining the support teams behind sales, marketing, and customer success should mean that we have more exposure to the systems other teams use and have an opportunity to maximize them.

If we're honest with ourselves, that's not always how it plays out. However, as someone who has seen how these systems can work if properly configured, I'm sending you a big sign that ~right this minute~ is a fabulous time to create cross-functional/system meetings.

This article will outline some of the biggest miscommunications I've seen between the systems (and the teams) and give you a roadmap to fix them. But first, let's quickly chat about why it's so hard for a CRM admin to work with a marketing automation admin.

Why is working together so tricky?

The market-leading marketing automation platform does not have the concept of an account or opportunity.

When I first learned this, I was stunned. After years of living and breathing the metrics finance and sales live and die by, it suddenly made sense why marketing numbers often differed from what the rest of the business reported.

In Marketo or Eloqua, marketing operations professionals are forced to work with fields on their person records pulled from Salesforce. This means that when an opportunity is Closed Won, and they pull in those fields, it's replicated on each person connected as a contact at the account. So when they try to create a bookings report, it's multiplied by 5 or 10 or 20 people unless they're cautious or pull it into a different reporting tool.

HubSpot doesn't have this problem. However, even HubSpot does not differentiate between leads and contacts. This is a Salesforce construct that has been (I'd say, "for better or worse," but it's just "for worse") mimicked by Dynamics, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive, and others.

Your marketing automation administrator can't see what kind of record their person information is going to and doesn't understand why everyone at IBM (or some other large organization) doesn't have the right opportunity data on the records.

To put this all very simply, your marketing organization's source of truth doesn't have the same data schema the rest of your organization uses. Everything revolves around individual person records. Their peripheral tools also use a different data schema than their marketing automation system- making it difficult to marry the data together. 

To boil this all down even further:

If you use different data schemas, your metrics will be different.

Integration faux pas

Marketing automation systems live upstream from CRMs. They integrate well together. Usually. But they can update the same information, create new information, and even delete things.

It's easy to have a tug-of-war between the systems that can frustrate CRM end users and marketers.

How to prevent integration issues

Document your integrations between systems. Create a workbook that details which objects and fields are shared and which system is the "source of truth." Every go-to-market administrator in your company should know these shared fields because if something is changed in one system but not the other, they are most likely to cause integration problems.

Note: Your end users should have a say in who or which system owns fields. For example, enrichment tools often have out-of-date phone information. If a salesperson enters a phone number, the enrichment tool shouldn't overwrite it.

Establish a "No Go" window for bulk system updates or major configuration changes. I recommend the week of quarter end and the week the quarter begins, but your teams should agree to and put this on their calendars to prevent major disruptions that could interfere with processing deals or generating necessary reports.

Systems administrators should meet weekly and have a pre-set agenda to cover the changes they are making in their systems to allow other admins to speak up and say, "That may break our process or integration." Things to cover should include:

  • Changes to integrated picklists
  • Changes to core processes that depend on integrated fields
  • Workflows that update integrated fields
  • Changes that should impact which system "owns" a field or is the system of record

Not sure what else to talk about? Give each admin 10 minutes to teach the team about their system -- showcasing one admin and system per week. Topics could include API limits and what they mean, data automation, territory routing, enrichment updates, and intent data integrations.

What's the system of record?

Many B2B business leaders try to make the CRM the system of record. I understand why - executives care about pipeline (even though it's a very imperfect number) and bookings. They care about what's in the bank, what's spent, and how much runway the company has if it's not profitable and reliant on investors.

Unfortunately, the CRM limits what it will track and for how long. It's not made (and they will charge you a bunch) to ingest all of the information that marketing generates. 

Marketing automation systems are good at tracking massive transactions but are expensive to maintain. They often offer pricing tiers by contact volume. They also aren't equipped to ingest web visit data (with some notable exceptions!).

Another major problem is that marketers will care (and should care) about more details and information than the rest of the organization. And they don't always know what to report on or what the business leaders want to see.

Data warehouses, data lakes, and customer data platforms are all fantastic solutions for companies with the right talent and resources to maximize their use. It's also important to know that data analysts are much more effective if they understand how a department works and what they need to do their jobs well.

Trying to make one system the source of truth is difficult. I don't have an easy answer. However, departments need better guidance and training on transferring data and structuring it in the system of record. They must also involve a cross-functional team when deciding on data definitions and key metrics.

If more companies aligned on what a qualified lead should look like or what justifies a sales call, we'd have fewer articles on aligning sales and marketing.

Sharing the power of CRM data structure and flows

If you're using HubSpot as a CRM, campaign data is a mess (it is in the other systems, too, but in a different way). While HubSpot does a good job of tracking digital interactions, it's horrible at classifying and tracking offline events. It's also stingy with which data it will export.

Salesforce campaign data can be very powerful, but only if CRM administrators share the limitations of Salesforce reports and what to avoid.

I consult with clients and specialize in setting up their campaign data for future use with attribution platforms or other advanced analytics tools (like an in-house data lake with a visualization layer). What I see too often is a reliance on campaign hierarchies to organize campaign data.

The View Hierarchy link/button in Salesforce is extremely misleading. Marketers like it because it allows them to visualize how their data is organized across industries, business units, regions, and other variables. Unfortunately, the reports aren't so robust. Marketers assume they can slice and dice the data by those layers, but they'll run into the same limitations that the rest of the organization does with account hierarchies. 

The report only summarizes at a layer or two without exporting and doing repetitive joins, which are taxing on any system.

Standardized hierarchies can be easily replaced with custom picklists. By using standardized, single-value picklists, you can actually report on the data hidden in hierarchies using summary groups and column groupings.

The other issue I see nearly every time is an impulse to either (if they have Marketo or Eloqua) create child campaigns for every UTM option for a call-to-action or create campaign types for UTM options that are never used appropriately. Instead, they push UTM data to the Lead and Contact and then overwrite it every time a new interaction is recorded.

Instead, I recommend automatically pushing UTM data down to the campaign member using flows. This leverages custom fields on the campaign member, enabling marketers to report on the UTM results they need to see without obscuring exactly what the contact or lead did on the campaign layer (Download a report? Request a Demo? Request a call?).

Marketers need to understand that the campaign record is just as much about communicating to sales what the lead or contact did as it is for tracking marketing data.

Remember to keep your data as flat as possible by not creating parent-child relationships; use standardized, single-select picklists to classify and group information; and always prioritize what the sales team needs to know to convert a qualified lead into an opportunity.

Want to learn more about how marketing and sales systems can be optimized? Check out these RevOps Co-op articles:

Scale Faster with a Healthier Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

Leads & Contacts: Bypass the Lead or Not?

Designing Lead Stages in B2B

The Correct Definition of a Lead

3 Lead Flow Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

12 Common Tech Stack Issues (& How to Fix Them)

How to Help Marketing Do More With Less

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