Should Your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform Be Your “Source of Truth”?

If you’re in B2B marketing ops, sales ops, or system administration, you’ve likely come face-to-face with this question before. Perhaps you joined an organization early on and had to drive this decision for your company or maybe you inherited a martech stack that had already defined its source of truth. Either way, the question of which system is the be-all-end-all of customer data is one that many organizations have had to address at one point or another.

We at Hull ask: Why do you have to choose?

The “one tool to rule them all”...or not?

The decision to choose one system over the other as the source of truth is one that we marketers and martech system administrators have gotten accustomed to making without question. But the choice incorrectly assumes that one system inherently holds the more accurate, cleaner, and better data; the “one tool to rule them all”.

One Ring

Realistically, the situation is more nuanced. Marketing teams fill MAPs with rich campaign engagement, tracking, and attribution data, while Sales teams color CRMs with the details of every customer and prospect email, call, and in-person interaction. Both CRMs and MAPs serve distinct purposes, have completely different end users, and are filled with different yet equally valuable information — so, why have we treated it as an “either/or” decision?

It all goes back to how the technology integrations were built in the first place. Builders of native data integrations in the past have primarily focused on speed over flexibility, putting limitations on syncing mechanisms, and forcing end users and admins to choose which system should be the leading one. This lack of flexibility can cause scenarios where the data you actually feel good about gets inadvertently overridden or wiped out.

Both CRMs and MAPs serve distinct purposes, have completely different end users, and are filled with different yet equally valuable information.

Enter: Raw data source categorization and unification

We heard our customers talk about these concerns over lack of flexibility when it comes to native data integrations between tools, and so we wanted to share a technique that we use at Hull to ensure that we can always surface the best data when available regardless of where it lives, without having to choose between our CRM or marketing automation tool to be the leading system.

This strategy categorizes the raw data by source. Categorizing the raw data by source let us keep the data from all of our sources (including CRM and marketing automation, as well as chat, data enrichment, and more) compartmentalized and separate, yet intact, inside Hull.

We did this for two reasons:

  1. So that we always have a digital trail of where a particular data point came from
  2. So that we have a way to “undo” any false merging that may occur, and be able to re-establish the original data value

If you’re a photographer, you already know by now that you typically achieve better results post-editing when you work with RAW file formats. The data is richer and you can always go back to the original source to make any changes in your editing. The same concept applies with sales and marketing data!

Data Groups Screenshot

Once we brought all of the data in, ensuring each source had its own distinct “group”, we decided which fields would be important to surface. These fields and their corresponding data values eventually became our unified data group. Our unified data group let us pick and choose which fields we wanted to highlight in Hull, and also let us pick the data source we wanted that field to be populated with.

Unified Data Screenshot

Now, let’s go back to the original question: “Which tool is the source of truth?”. With our unified data grouping, we didn’t have to choose just one system!

We can look at our data on a field-by-field level and say things like: We know Marketo probably has more accurate Lead Source data than Salesforce, so let’s make Marketo the “source of truth” for that particular field.

Or: We trust Salesforce for data on email and phone numbers because our sales reps are capturing this info straight from email signatures (a very authoritative source) and updating the CRM records with it.

Or: If someone fills out a form on the website with their current job title, let’s make sure we capture that answer and override the one that Clearbit gives us.

Builders of native data integrations in the past have primarily focused on speed over flexibility, putting limitations on syncing mechanisms, and forcing end users and admins to choose which system should be the leading one.

So, how do we get the data into our unified data group?

Once we made the decisions on which sources we believed to be more authoritative for each field, we needed a way to automatically fill our unified data group with the appropriate data. Key word: automatically. Not manually.

This is where the Hull Processor played a major role. Data processing, with the Hull Processor or other tool, involves either changing or generating new data by running rules against existing data. In this case, our Processor generated a new field value in our unified data group based on rules that we set.

For example: Populate Unified Data_Email Address with Salesforce_Email Address if available and Populate Unified Data_Lead Source with Marketo_Lead Source if available.

In the end, our unified data group was complete. We put a virtual spotlight on only the most authoritative, trusted data that became the result of decisions that we ourselves had made.

For each Contact and Account, the unified data group is where we look when we want to build segments for campaigns, circulate data across tools, or run reports. This process keeps our data in check and prevents us from accidentally overriding, merging, or deleting a field value we actually want.

Separating our data by source and then surfacing the best values when available gives us the flexibility that native integrations were never built for. We can make decisions about our data that are unique to our company, our processes, and our people instead of letting technology limitations guide our strategy.

Got questions?

Chat us below to talk about what we did here! Would something like this work for your organization?

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Angela Sun

Angela brings over a decade of B2B technology marketing experience to her role as the Director of Marketing at Hull. Prior to Hull, she spent 5 years at utility data aggregator, Urjanet, where she held various roles in demand generation, marketing operations, and product marketing.