Marketing can prove difficult to quantify – certain campaigns may offer a relatively intangible benefit to a company, like brand awareness, that can be difficult to explain to financial directors keen to see a direct return on investment.

This is especially true when belts are being tightened and budgets examined closely. Despite the UK’s tentative recent steps towards economic growth, the country remains on a slightly shaky footing, meaning firms are keen to ensure that all parts of their organisation are not over-spending or wasting cash on pointless exercises.

For marketers, this has led to a new ‘era of accountability’, according to a host of recent studies.

One way in which firms can respond to this paradigm shift is to work with CRM software, which can offer a number of benefits when it comes to accountability and return on investment.

By automating a number of processes that would otherwise need to be carried out by staff, the technology can save both time and money, allowing marketers to focus their attention on other tasks that can add value to their business proposition rather than being snowed under by administrative issues.

Recording performance

A host of experts have suggested that marketing departments are being put under pressure to quantify their successes, with this trend set to continue over the course of 2014.

The Marketing 2020 report produced by Marketing Week, EffectiveBrands and ISBA revealed large, growth-orientated decisions are increasingly being placed at the door of this part of the business.

Furthermore, 58 per cent of senior marketers suggested they are now being asked to work with the chief executive on producing overall plans, up from 38 per cent in 2006.

“Under-performers are not guided by big data, whereas the over-performers have integrated it into the way they work,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, founder of EffectiveBrands.

What this means is that marketers are increasingly being asked to utilise complicated information to justify their spending and explain how they are attempting to engage with existing customers while maintaining a relationship with current ones.

CRM software can help with this process in a number of ways. It makes it easier to prioritise and track leads, potentially creating profit as well as freeing up employees from having to undertake this task manually.

It also ensures that customisable dashboards can be used to create visual representations of performance – this ensures marketers can easily find out what aspects of their overall scheme are providing the best return on investment, making them more accountable to the holders of the purse strings within their organisation.

Also, by displaying a sales funnel it can make it easier for marketing chiefs to forecast performance and work out how well specific teams are carrying out their tasks.

Automation and productivity

In addition to placing marketers under pressure to justify their spending, the current economic situation has encouraged them to become more productive and wring everything they can out of the time they have available.

This shouldn’t mean working longer hours or bringing in a host of new workers, which can be expensive in itself – instead, chief marketing officers can look to automated processes to make life easier for their existing staff.

CRM can offer a number of benefits in this arena, presuming it is installed correctly and well-integrated with an organisation’s overall aims.

By reducing manual data management to a minimum, it ensures workers can fulfil their potential, spending time on value-adding tasks rather than busywork. Although some training will need to be provided, this initial expenditure of time will be more than made up for once the CRM software is operating effectively.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be especially useful in this regard because it utilises an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has used a Windows computer, meaning less initial familiarisation time will be needed.

Mr Swaan Arons also suggested that “marketing has caught up with the rest of the board in terms of accountability … now we need marketing to step up and lead”. CRM software can make it easier for the department to do just that.