Marketing and sales organizations are plagued by inefficient processes. Paper-based documentation, ineffective collaboration and manual workflows make it difficult to deliver targeted marketing programs and collateral in a timely manner. Organizations are constantly challenged to improve proposal creation processes by capturing and reusing previous documents and by tapping into the expertise of experts located throughout the world. Contract negotiation and approval is also fraught with inefficiency as important documents are routed by email, often falling through the cracks and delaying the closure of key deals. Every salesperson knows the truth of the expression “time is money,”but in reality, reduction in time and access to the right content are required to win in today’s fast-paced business world.

It is not only access to content that is required for maximum efficiency but also the automation of key processes and the elimination of inefficient paper-based processes. Marketing content ready for review must be accessible to all users without requiring multiple programs on the desktop to view it. Communications via email, fax and electronic documents need to be integrated, classified for use, reused and made available to geographically dispersed teams. Routine processes such as press release approvals, copy reviews, purchase order requests and contract modifications must be automated so that only exceptions are handled manually – and reporting and audit trails need to be leveraged for visibility and accountability.

While customer relationship management (CRM) systems play an important role in the sales cycle, they don’t provide a complete solution. What’s missing is the integration of the CRM-structured content with the unstructured content that sales reps and managers have to handle. Without this integration, field employees, channel partners and other participants working beyond the firewall lack insight into the sales process and are unable to make an effective contribution. While helpful for managing structured data, CRM does not address offline documents or email-based processes. Simple file-sharing systems lack the functionality needed to streamline workflows, to manage paper documents and to seamlessly integrate with existing applications. Clearly, a more comprehensive approach is needed.

Content Management Components

Crucial components of a content management system for sales and marketing include:

  • A marketing asset management platform that can be leveraged for any kind of collaborative document management, such as press release creation and approval, promotion and advertisement review, including the ability to mark up documents such as advertisements and layouts without specialized design tools.
  • A sales library contained in a scalable and secure document repository for any file type, complete with enterprise search and embedded optical character recognition (OCR), so that all knowledge can be captured, catalogued and reused for maximum effectiveness.
  • Integration with fax, scanners, email and desktop applications so that content can be captured and consolidated regardless of where it originates.
  • Version control to ensure accuracy and to keep everyone working on the same page with audit trails to provide visibility into the creation and final approval path.
  • Business process automation to enable repetitive processes to be automated and monitored.
  • The ability to launch meetings and share the desktop with prospects and collaborators.

Software as a Service as a Content Management Platform

Integration between the CRM and content management systems is a crucial part of effective sales and marketing execution. Using a content management platform that is delivered via a software as a service (SaaS) model, in which the application is centrally hosted and accessed over the Internet, offers even greater advantages, including:

  • Faster time to deploy: Because no hardware or software need to be deployed, you can be up and running in days.
  • Low initial cost: Because these systems are licensed on a subscription basis, the initial cost and economic risk is dramatically reduced.
  • Rapid innovation: SaaS-based systems are typically updated every few months; new innovations are constantly added without on-site upgrades.
  • Easy to use and configure: True SaaS applications are configured for specific uses rather than programmed, meaning they are easier to maintain and more easily adapted to each use.
  • Globally available with no burden on IT: Because hosted applications are delivered via a Web browser, SaaS content management systems are globally available and do not tax internal IT resources.

SaaS-based content management systems integrate with both internally deployed CRM platforms and the new emerging SaaS-based CRM platforms. Regardless of what type of CRM platform is in use, an integrated user experience is always available.

Combining CRM with a SaaS-based content management solution brings you five key benefits:

  1. Improved win rates. Teams can respond effectively to every opportunity by creating more intelligent proposals in less time, thereby building competitive advantage and your top line.
  2. More effective marketing. Marketing teams can collaborate to produce materials quickly and to make them available to distributed sales organizations, ensuring that everyone has access to the latest material.
  3. Sales and marketing alignment. SaaS-based content management can eliminate the gap that exists between marketing and sales departments by giving everyone access to streamlined document management and workflow. Seamless collaboration translates to better alignment between these two key functions.
  4. Faster time-to-revenue. By speeding every part of the sales cycle from opportunity to contract, companies can increase cash flow and allow sales reps, legal personnel and other stakeholders to move to the next opportunity.
  5. Broader impact. SaaS solutions can be easily integrated via Web services with financial and order management systems, customer extranets, user management systems and other applications.Users who don’t need access to the CRM system can access critical content without extra CRM licenses, thereby multiplying the effect of your investment in content management tenfold.

A company can neither afford to squander opportunities through a slow or inept response nor inadvertently limit its employees’ access to marketing and sales content. CRM by itself is helpful, but when it’s combined with SaaS-based content management, the improvements to speed-of-response and collaboration are complemented by internal efficiencies that allow your company to win more business faster. The integration of CRM and SaaS-based content management will see a dramatic transformation of your business from an outdated model into a true 21st century competitor.

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