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In terms of ERP systems, marketing department functions have long been the “black sheep” of operations. Difficult (or impossible) to standardize, constantly shifting and changing to address new market needs, and built on the needs of the customer more than on the needs of the company, marketing processes are notoriously antithetical to most of the benefits that ERP software brings to a business. But this is all changing. And as marketing becomes more and more entertwined with technology, organizations would be remiss to ignore how integrating their ERP systems into their marketing departments would bring positive change. Still in doubt? Consider this: according to a December report from Gartner, it is estimated that CMOs will have more of an IT spend than CIOs by 2017.

So what does this mean for an organization implementing an ERP system (or perhaps just trying to figure out how to gain the most return from an existing one)? And how should it leverage business and technological changes to take the most advantage of the shift? Following are some tips to begin the process:

1. Look at how data is being collected, shared and utilized. An increase in the amount, type and accuracy of data is one of the key benefits of a properly used ERP system. If the marketing department is “out of the loop,” they are missing key metrics that can be used to engage customers and ultimately drive sales. Leverage the CMO and other key staff members in the early stages of ERP software selection, implementation and/or benefits realization activities to ensure that they are aware of what data will be generated, provide input on the data they need, and can start devising ways to make this influx of information work best for the company’s overall position.

2. Make certain that ERP system inputs are not just focused on existing customers but potential ones as well. With the advent of the web, somewhere around a million ways (I may be exaggerating — but it’s a lot) to track consumer behavior have been developed. This allows savvy marketers to track how potential customers are engaging with the company on computers, on mobile devices and even in person in order to deduce how that engagement is leading to sales . . . or isn’t. The days of marketing departments shooting blindly at a target are as done as the days of organizations relying on one or two key customers rather than actively engaging new ones. In an ideal world, this information wouldn’t be trapped in the marketing department’s office but rather input and shared on the ERP system to be used to adjust operations and processes to best meet the needs of the customer as well as mitigate any real or perceived risks. Companies that don’t change die. And companies that don’t track their potential customers to figure out points of engagement — and points of disengagement — will never have the true data they need to capture the market.

3. Turn your organization’s usage of its ERP system into a key differentiator. Marketers love talking about differentiators — and for good reason. They’re the way a company stands out from the rest. If your organization can implement an ERP system in such a way that it streamlines operations, increases efficiency and — most importantly — provides better service to the customer, then (by all means) sing it from the rooftops. I’m not talking about a press release. I’m talking about engaging with the marketing department to deploy the ERP system in a way that brings benefits not just to you but to your customers and potential customers as well. Metrics on benefits that have a direct and positive effect on the consumer’s bottom line (e.g., time and cost of production, customer service response times, etc.) must be quantified and leveraged. A CMO is the one to examine the system and deduce what these key points of parity should be. The CMO should then play an important role in ensuring that they are actually being communicating to the potential and existing customers over and over and over again.

The old way of doing things (i.e., keeping the marketing department separated from the functions of the organization) are through . . . and thanks be for that. It’s high time this critical function, which will continue to become more and more rooted in technology as time goes on, is integrated into both the implementation and usage of an ERP system.

If you’re uncertain how to best leverage all the capabilities provided by ERP software in your organization, contact Panorama today. It’s our business (and our pleasure) to help.