Ever felt like you're drowning in marketing data? Not sure how to extract the insights needed to drive more successful campaigns? Struggling to demonstrate the ROI of your efforts to key stakeholders? 

You're definitely not alone. According to E-Consultancy research, only 33% of marketers feel that they can use their CRM data to make decisions. 

Demonstrating ROI on marketing, particularly in business-to-business (B2B) where sales cycles are long and spread across online and offline channels has always been especially challenging.

Continuing my theme of producing depressing statistics for marketers, get this: 80% of CEOs don’t trust marketers - ouch that hurts!

In fact, only 53% of global CMOs say their CEO has a full understanding of the value of marketing and the CMO role, notes a NewBase study.

However, time for a little positivity. The huge growth of the 'Inbound Marketing' approach has turned marketing on its head (or should I say from outbound to inbound?). The prolific use of online digital channels to drive business presents us marketers with a real opportunity to start showcasing ...and proving the fruits of our labour.

As the large bulk of our activity is now digital, it is therefore 'trackable' through increasingly advanced CRM systems. Imagine how satisfying it would be to track individual campaign success and be able to report back to key stakeholders -  and to demonstrate that we're not merely doing 'fluffy' brochure design but actually contributing to business in a meaningful way? 

I remember digging through Excel spreadsheets trying to chase up on leads we'd passed to sales reps. They didn't appreciate our chasing and we didn't enjoy spending valuable time trying to track leads which weren't that appreciated in the first place.

Today, we can use CRM systems which can track pretty much all of our online marketing activity. The sales reps can also join the party if you have a combined marketing database and CRM system - a central repository for everyone to use. 

So the data is there - we just need to familiarise ourselves with how to access it and use these insights to define KPIs and improve our performance. Today's CRMs provide us with a multitude of insights on our content and campaign performance, so you can track engagement for each social media channel, blog posts published, CTA downloads, email marketing, web traffic sources, customer conversions...and the list goes on.

The whole sales process can also be tracked and managed with lead scoring, lead nurturing, customer touchpoints, closed deals and more.

Admittedly, we have to go through a steep learning curve of familiarising ourselves with today's CRM systems and getting everyone on board. 

Over the last few months I've been learning as much as I can about HubSpot's CRM - worth checking out as you can start with a free version and it really does provide the insights needed to demonstrate how marketing (and sales) is doing. More importantly, it has the tools you need to build effective long term relationships with your customers.

I enjoyed this post by Smart Insights '6 ways marketers are misusing CRM data and how to improve it' as it provides top tips on improving the quality of your CRM data. Worth a read.