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The Importance of Integrating CMS and CRM Systems

Most modern websites are now managed by some sort of Content Management System (CMS). Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are used daily by millions of businesses and prove to provide valuable information and link various business departments together. A good CRM system will not only track contacts, leads and opportunities but will also cover various avenues from tracking and analytics to streamlining email marketing systems. This allows business leaders to pull valuable reports on the business and view topline information at a glance.

Modern dynamic CMS systems came about originally because they allowed non-technical users to manage the content on a website, but most modern CMS systems do far more than this. CMS systems can be used to manage product catalogues in ecommerce systems, to manage memberships and subscriptions in community sites and more recently to manage marketing campaigns.

CRM systems on the other hand are designed to manage the sales process. The most common analogy is that of a sales funnel, with leads and contacts being put in at the top and proceeding through contact management and opportunities to sales. At each step in the process we can expect some sort of drop out so that out of 100 leads we might expect to obtain 10-20 opportunities which results in 1-5 sales, hence the description of this as a sales funnel.

In the past a visitor to a website might complete a form, such as a ‘Contact Us’ form, and this would typically be emailed to a sales rep who would process the data manually, entering it into the CRM, if that was appropriate. Such lead generation, however, represents just one type of potential touch point between a CMS managed website and a CRM system. Lead capture is perhaps the most numerous type of transaction and so it is worthwhile automating this but so is the retention of other prospect or customer information. So, for example on an ecommerce system, it is important to capture the customer’s purchase history in the CRM. Similarly in a community site it is important to capture membership renewals, level of membership etc. in the CRM. Doing so manually for any system with more than just a few users is impractical and so it becomes necessary to automate the entire process.

Virtually every call to action on a website will, therefore, involve some sort of transaction which places or updates data within the associated CRM system. From logging in, making a purchase, enquiring about a product, renewing a membership etc. almost every such transaction needs to be logged into the CRM system and most CRM systems have APIs and web services to support this type of integration.

Having such data associated with website visitors, especially where the data is uniquely associated with the individual user, provides a wealth of information for the sales person but it can do far more than that. Once we have all of this information in an electronic format, in a database, it can be used to feed back to the website in order to improve the user experience. 

Increasingly, CMS systems are being targeted at the marketing department. Many of the marketing optimisation functions, which are appearing in the latest generation of CMS system, rely on information which ultimately comes from a CRM or similar system. The idea is to look at information about the user and based on this, to target content at that user. There are a number of ways that this can happen, depending on whether we know exactly who the user is. If the user is logged in, we have all the information to hand about what he has done in the past and so it is possible to structure the information we present to the user with this in mind. For example, if you are selling electrical goods and the user has recently bought a TV then you can promote DVD players or games consoles but not TVs to this user. This is called authenticated personalisation of content.

Not all content targeting is based on authenticated personalisation. There is another class of personalisation where the exact identity of the user is not known. This is called anonymous personalisation. The idea here is to build up a profile of the user and then, based on this, to target content at the user. This is frequently done by creating a set of fictitious profiles called “Personas” and trying to fit the current user into one of these categories based on their behaviour on the site.

The website is now the most important public face of any business and plays an important part in its marketing and sales activities, while the CRM is generally the central repository for all information relating to existing and prospective customers. Integration of these two systems therefore represents a major step in improving sales and marketing productivity.

If your website(s) and CRM system are not yet integrated or you are in the process of rethinking in-house software solutions, it is well worth thinking ahead and bringing the two platforms together. With competition becoming greater, profit margins reducing and increased customer awareness, there may not be a more important time to take action. 

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