Why use an 'integrated' marketing platform?

Process data flowsWe're asked this quite often. Many people we talk to were looking to update their web site and CommsBox does a lot more than simply running a very good web site. So why? As a potential client why should you invest in a product like CommsBox rather than go down the traditional route of separate web site, CRM system, email marketing plaform, blogging system?

The answer lies in the information 'flows' within your organisation. Where is data generated and what could you do with it given the right tools?

Where does your data come from?

Information about an organisation's leads has traditionally been captured by people within the organisation and this has often been the justification for a CRM system. A single system into which sales, marketing and other employees can capture information about leads and about customers.

The Internet however opens up a whole lot of new sources of information about your leads, much of which is hard or impossible to capture manually:

    • Visits to your web site by contacts and the pages they have viewed
    • Social media interractions with contacts
    • Email engagement - emails opened and links clicked
    • On-line forms completed and white papers downloaded

    This is a lot of data that a CRM system won't be able to record or that will be recorded in an often fairly cumbersome way.

    What can the data be used for?

    Where is all this information going? How is it going to be used? The sales people want to select the most promising leads, management will want an overall view of the sales funnel, support people will want to view a customer's history, a marketing person would like to know the effectiveness of their campaigns.

    Many of the people using the available information will in turn add additional data into the system. When a sales person calls a promising lead they will record the success or otherwise and schedule follow up actions.

    As well as 'people', software can 'analyse' this information and do things that were previously not possible or practical.

    Lead scoring as a means of identifying the most promising leads is a good example. A lead scoring system takes what's known about a contact and automatically generates a 'score' for that contact. The more information available the better the ability to accurately rank leads.

    Personalised campaigns can also be driven by the flow of information. We call these 'stories' and a story is started by a 'trigger', which might be a contact completing an on-line form or when a lead's scroe crosses a specific threshold. The story then unfolds at a rate appropriate to that individual and can vary as more information becomes available. These 'automated campaigns' take inputs from CRM systems, web sites, email tools and can generate 'actions' which might include: sending follow-up emails; logging a CRM sales call; adding the contact to a new list; increasing or decreasing the contacts 'score'.

    Data flows

    In an environment without an integrated solution you may be implementing different functions through different systems:

    • your web-site running on a CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento…)
    • contacts managed through a CRM (Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics…)
    • marketing email sent through a bulk mailer (MailChimp, Constant Contact…)
    • sales emails to individuals are sent through the CRM system or through Outlook
    • articles managed with a blogging platform (Blogger or WordPress)
    • lead scroing handled by the CRM, limited to the information storedby or visuble to that CRM system
    • automation?
    • on-line lead tracking and analyitics?

    This gives a set of discrete functions that either:

    1. don't communicate
    2. have nothing worth communicating
    3. have limited ability to communicate

    It's very much like taking pieces from different jigsaws and hammering them together to make a picture. There will be gaps between the pieces and whole sections are likely to be missing.

    Most CMS and blogging systems have no tracking information that can identify returning contacts so have little or nothing to add to the data. There may be integration between the mailer and the CRM system to automatically synchronise address lists and opt-out requests and sometimes more.

    The picture below shows some of the data and control flows that we'd ideally like between people and systems within an organisation:

    data and control flows between organisational functions

    As an example of the scope of these flows I've highlighted in red those that could benefit lead scoring. Significant events might include:

    • clicking on links in emails
    • visiting specific pages on the web site (for example the prices page)
    • completing call to action forms such as downloading a whitepaper
    • your sales team receiving a call
    • your sales team making a call
    • receiving an email from a contact to your sales team
    • reaching the end of a personalised email story

    Trying to integrate this information effectively across multiple systems is not trivial.

    To take a simple example:

    • marketing: generating content and distributing this on the organisations own site and on third party sites
    • marketing: using the content to drive an email marketing campaign
    • lead scoring factors in email clicks, article reads, views of specific pages
    • articles and emails contain a 'call to action' leading to a landing page with a form
    • when the form is completed it adjusts lead scoring, emails the contact and creates a contact report in the CRM
    • when the calculated score for a lead exceeds a certain threshold a CRM 'sales call' task be scheduled

    Putting a number of these functions into a single system allows these data flows to happen seamlessly and to be transparent to the organisation.


    An organisation's processes can be made more effective by allowing information to flow freely and, where possible, automatically to where it's needed. The fewer systems involved in the process the fewer external links that need to be created, the fewer the places for data to get lost and the more optimised and complete the data that's recorded.

    An 'integrated' marketing platform (really it's an integrated sales and marketing platform) fulfils a number of business functions within a single application enabling some operations that aren't possible with separate systems and making others easier and more intuitive.

    It is possible and often necessary to integrate data from multiple places but this can create quite an expensive overhead for an organisation. The data available from each platform will not be completely compatible and even with good integration skills the result can often look like a set of ill fitting jigsaw pieces from which parts can often fall or fail when you upgrade one of the systems.

    Talk to us today about how to upgrade your sales and marketing processes!

    (Copyright: cifotart / 123RF Stock Photo)


    Peter WilsonPeter is the chief architect for the CommsBox™ Integrated Marketing Platform. With over 30 years experience in a variety of R&D and IT positions Peter has worked for both large multi-national organisations and small technology start-ups. Peter founded YellowHawk in 2002 to bring Enterprise class web-applications to the SME market.


    Thanks Jon, I agree it's not easy. Good tools make a lot of these activities possible but they don't remove the need to plan, build and refine what you do with the data. Where these ideas are new to people I tend to suggest starting with something simple - start with content marketing, build your lead database then slowly add in more sophistication as you work out what's best for your business. Start with some simple lead scoring, work out how to partition your leads into different categories and then work from there.

    There is quite a learning curve so we also recommend that people either work with a competent digital marketing agency or spend some time updating their own marketing skills.
    Comment by petew - 10 February 2016
    Excellent blog Peter. i was discussing this very issue with my SEO guy only last night as it happens!
    My concern though is even if you have it, knowing exactly what to do with all this 'valuable' tracking data if anything is a minefield. Sometimes one can try to overcomplicate and over analyse for no real gain; it all takes a lot of time to do well.
    The more you try to do something valuable with it all the more complicated it all becomes.
    It can be like trying to decipher the enigma code :-)
    Comment by Jon Pryse-Jones - 09 February 2016
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    CommsBox was designed by YellowHawk Ltd in response to the needs of some rather large corporate and government clients. But then we realised we had something that small and medium sizes businesses could also use to fuel their growth.

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