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With 2023 upon us, savvy small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will look beyond savings and bring customers to cheer in the form of unexpected experiences and timely engagement. Despite the lifting of most social distancing guidelines, consumers continue to prefer to shop online, with a Raydiant study finding that nearly 57% of U.S. consumers prefer online shopping over in-person.

The move to ecommerce is likely here to stay, and the implications for customer relations — and acquisition — may have also changed forever. Customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation software can be crucial tools for translating the personal touch SMBs are known for to the digital space.

A 2022 Act! survey report found that SMBs that took advantage of CRM or marketing software reported increased sales productivity, customer service, marketing outreach, customer satisfaction and retention, company revenue and more. But too many businesses still struggle to manage multiple — even manual — tools to track clients and manage pipelines.

Business owners need to evolve the manual, disparate processes to increase productivity, automate lead nurturing, enhance customer engagement and generate revenue. CRM centralizes and secures all aspects of a client relationship, providing the tools you need to better manage a book of business while personalizing client communication. Making time for marketing is critical for growth, and when integrated with CRM, many touch points can be leveraged (and automated).

CRM and marketing automation means:

  • A more holistic view of every customer relationship
  • Robust client data can be leveraged to improve interactions
  • Prospecting with intention where marketing engagement trigger sales actions
  • Automate communication and personalize that outreach without hiring marketers

How does this help SMBs provide a better customer experience in 2023?

Related: Why Customer Experience is the Secret to Revenue Growth and Business Success

1. Examine every facet of every client

Every client is different, and appreciating each one for their unique attributes — without getting lost in the detail — is the challenge at the center of personalized service. The integration of CRM and email marketing, and the holistic view of customer behavior and preference that results, enables you to group clients together by similarities in order to target your outreach, whether your goal is education or upselling.

Timely, relevant (and automated) messaging is a great way to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships, with both prospects and longtime customers. CRM and email marketing platforms can tailor your communications and campaigns for different stages of the sales cycle. Automating prospect nurture and customer lifecycle activity can expand your outreach without taxing your time.

2. Centralized, organized and in-sync data at all times

Nothing impedes your marketing faster than inaccurate or out-of-date lists. Customers are looking to start off the new year right with a new mindset and, of course, new purchases. Timely, relevant messaging can be the difference between a sales conversion or a missed opportunity.

Integrating your CRM and marketing automation functions eliminates the need to jump back and forth between systems, or out-of-date contact details or account status being imported into your campaigns. By securely sharing data on a centralized platform, teams don’t toggle between data sets for contacts, opportunities and accounts. Integrated CRM and email marketing ensure all client information is consistent, accurately organized, and shared with all relevant employees. This saves teams time (and money) by streamlining the management, analysis and iterations of data.

Related: How Siloed Data May Limit Your Business Growth (and How to Prevent It)

3. Quickly turn marketing engagement into sales actions

As a promotion, a company might launch a campaign offering a free trial to prospects. With integrated CRM and email marketing, sales teams can then trigger an automated sequence of follow-ups for prospects that click through or sign up for the trial. Teams can streamline immediate sales outreach by easily creating a workflow and actions based on defined conditions to enable salespeople to better tailor their prospect touchpoints.

Integration optimizes customer relationships by allowing you to appropriately prioritize and easily track prospects throughout the sales cycle. You can also develop triggers to alert the correct people to reach out and quickly provide the best customer interactions.

4. Foster closer sales and marketing collaboration

Integration helps improve lead quality, allowing marketing teams to create automated touchpoints along the customer journey to automatically ensure leads are properly nurtured, primed and delivered to the right salesperson at the right time to drive more conversions.

For example, when a lead capture form is launched on a website landing page, the business is instantly creating a new prospect record in its database that automatically schedules follow-up actions or populates nurture campaigns. With an integrated platform, the input from lead capture forms is automatically organized and secured in the CRM for sales teams to reference and pursue. Sales teams can then leverage the interaction behavior data to better understand that prospect’s mindset through web page visits, email click-throughs, and content downloads.

Through integration and automated marketing capabilities, teams can streamline the delivery of vital information about customers to sales to facilitate timely, relevant interaction while freeing marketers to focus on developing new campaigns to target more leads.

Related: If You Want to Attract and Retain the Best Employees, You Need to Be Using This Tool

In 2023, SMBs need to provide the personalization and unique customer interactions that make them stand out among the competition. Businesses looking to optimize the effectiveness of their marketing outreach and the quality of their sales interactions should look to integrate CRM and email marketing.

By connecting sales and marketing insights and interactions along a single platform, teams will have the tools and resources at their disposal to help their business reach the right customers at the right time, outpace the competition and make 2023 a profitable year.

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