Marketing Automation

Why use marketing automation features like those in NetSuite?

Many clients who have bought and are using a good quality CRM system like NetSuite do not take full advantage of its facilities. Whilst it may be explicable why businesses are reluctant to use a sales automation system especially in businesses where the salesforce has less well-defined goals and commission structures than such a system usually demands, it is not so obvious why the marketing automation functions are not more popular.

So what sort of features does a good quality marketing automation package provide?

Apart from helping in managing customer lists to target email or other direct marketing campaigns effective, such a package can help in a generalised campaign such as advertising or attending a general show.

There are three main areas where a package can help

  1. Managing the full costs of a marketing campaign
  2. Managing the detailed outcomes from the campaign
  3. Delivering the campaign

Managing the full costs of a marketing campaign

Marketing executives are not always the best people at recording the full detailed cost of a campaign. When I managed such campaigns I (and my colleagues) rarely recorded all the costs involved focusing more on the direct external costs expended rather than the detail.

Time spent by myself or other people in the organisation was rarely recorded and yet most campaigns involve different people and time is usually a very expensive part of any organisation’s spend. The time taken by individuals who produced the demo required as part of an on-line advertising campaign or attendance at a trade show is an important cost of such a campaign.

A product like NetSuite that includes a time tracking system easily allows for the recording of this as well as allowing the marketing executive to record their own time.

Using a CRM system that is fully integrated with the accounting system also makes it much easier to record the detail of all external costs (including expenses like travel, entertainment etc) reliably.

Whatever the justification or reason for a campaign, surely being able to identify the full costs of running it must be a goal? Why should an organisation accept an estimate?

It could be argued that such marketing campaign costs can be recorded in a simple spreadsheet and of course this is true, but for most campaigns there will be a range of costs and it is highly likely that such an approach will, in the heat of the campaign, forget or ignore certain costs that may actually have been very high.

Managing the detailed outcomes from the campaign

A major advantage of using a good quality CRM system is that it can provide detailed outcome including leads, prospects and customers won. For most marketing campaigns this detail is critical to be able to distinguish between a campaign that may generate a large number of leads but few actual sales from a campaign that generates few leads but with a high conversion rate into sales.

This kind of detailed information allows management to make good decisions about where to focus marketing effort and could highlight a situation where either the product does not match the marketing hype or the salesforce lack the ability to close particular types of sales. Armed with such data good strategies can be developed to help the organisation grow effectively.

A modern system, like NetSuite, that includes an integrated eCommerce system will also provide tracking of paid keyword searches so an organisation can know how successful a paid keyword campaign is at generating leads, prospects and actual sales.

Delivering the campaign

When it comes to the delivery of a campaign your CRM system may include marketing specific features like: lead capture (via importing bought lists or using online customer forms) or creating and managing email campaigns (including customising email for specific targets or types of targets).

In addition it is useful to have access to a good project management tool to efficiently manage the tasks involved in the campaign. Using such a tool integrated with the CRM can help particularly in maintaining information about time spent on the campaign. Another advantage of having the same interface for both project management (and time tracking) and CRM is that it is easier for the marketing executive to learn and more likely that both systems will be used.

Other issues

Of course in order to maximise the benefits of a marketing management system it must offer an effective way in which the marketing executive and management can get information from the system. This should include tailorable KPIs, searches and reports (available in on-screen, in print or into an alternative product like a pdf file).

Additionally a CRM system that is useful as a marketing management tool must be highly configurable to allow the addition of relevant fields for example as the needs of an organisation change and the needs of each campaign will be different.


Now that most organisations use a CRM system, there would seem to me to be no reason not to use it to manage marketing especially marketing campaigns. The bad old days of estimates of spend and success ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ should be a thing of the past.

I recommend that no organisation accepts the old marketing argument that we must advertise or attend this or that trade show just because we always have. Measurement of costs and benefits are an integral part of all other aspects of a business and marketing must come under the same scrutiny – and with a product like NetSuite it can!