Andrew Witherspoon is the executive vice president of CloudCraze and head of its product group.

In this exclusive interview, Witherspoon offers advice on enhancing customer engagement in business-to-business relationships.

CloudCraze EVP Andrew Witherspoon
CloudCraze EVP Andrew Witherspoon

CRM Buyer: How do you see the relationship between CRM, sales, and marketing?

Andrew Witherspoon: Our experience has been that if there’s anything true about B2B service, you have to do it in the context of the customers themselves in order to be successful. That’s our philosophy.

What is the purpose of CRM and marketing? It’s to reach out, find and engage prospects, and to move them through a buying cycle. All those capabilities are on a CRM platform. Most other architectures can do all that on one platform, but then they’re sending you off to another platform to take an order.

In a traditional CRM system, you’d bring in a third silo: e-commerce. Each silo, though, has to have customer information. You’re essentially tripling the data and having to do complex handoffs. If you do it as much on one platform as possible, you’re able to move people through the platform, and you’re not handing people off.

Depending on the timing of the order process, you might have to go to three different architectures to go through with that order. By doing it all on one platform, you can engage at any point through the cycle, which is easier for employees at the brand and for the customer.

Omnichannel commerce is in fact created by knitting together four or five different architectures. By extending the data model to take the order in the context of your CRM, engagement dramatically improves your time to market and your flexibility to experiment.

CRM Buyer: How would you define good customer engagement?

Witherspoon: You need to understand what a person’s role is within the buying organization. Is it a procurement person, or someone who just wants to order a product quickly?

In the context of that understanding, you can treat them differently and cross-sell and upsell and provide content to them in a different way, in order to create a better experience.

To the customer, it seems like they’re just placing an order. You need to try to understand the context of the customer, and what kind of experience you can offer that makes sense within that context.

CRM Buyer: Can customers tell if CRM, sales and marketing aren’t combined and interrelated?

Witherspoon: Yes, that’s true. The reason I believe that is…