Digital Marketing


If you’re fluent in the realm of digital marketing (or semi-fluent, even!), you have probably heard buzzwords like “CRM” and “SEM” more than a few times.

We know, we know—so many acronyms! The marketing world is filled to the brim with three-letter abbreviations, ranging from SEO to PPC. It can be hard to remember them all, but trust us: these two are need-to-know.

CRM and SEM are more than just buzzwords—or buzz acronyms, if you want to be more accurate. They are tools and strategies you can’t live without if you want to optimize your marketing for the new digital reality.

At Stream Companies, we’re here to show you how!

What is CRM in digital marketing?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. When people talk about it, they are usually referring to a CRM system—that is, a tool that helps businesses manage their relationships and interactions with previous and (hopefully) future customers.

A CRM system stores all the data you need to successfully market to prospects. This data includes—but is not limited to—contact information, purchase history, and even what stage a prospect is in during the sales journey.

No modern company can afford to be without a CRM solution of some kind. These systems help businesses stay connected with customers and prospects—and just as importantly, streamline their processes. The result? More profitability.

CRM terminology: What you need to know

To have a fruitful discussion about CRM, it may help to first familiarize yourself with a few terms. Know these words and what they mean:


A contact is any individual within your CRM system. These systems usually record a contact’s first and last name as well as their email address, but even more data about a contact can be collected if it’s relevant to your marketing efforts.


A lead is a contact who has expressed an interest in the product or service you are selling. There are a couple different types of leads: marketing qualified leads, who have interacted with your marketing content in some way, and sales qualified leads, who have been designated the best fits by your sales reps. 


Where your leads come from. Every business has multiple sources for their leads, and those sources may include webinars, forms on your website, or even in-person events. A CRM system can help you track conversions by sources, so you know which channels are most effective.


A deal is a potential sale, and as it moves through the stages of the sales process, your sales reps will have the opportunity to make it the real thing. A CRM system lets you link contacts to deals so you can see who is associated with what deal.

Deal stage

Your company’s deal stages may look different from the next guy’s, but every business should represent each step in the sales process with a deal stage.

By organizing the buyer’s journey this way in your CRM system, you’ll have a clear-eyed view of what’s working and what isn’t as your marketing and sales team work to drive more conversions.


Any action taken by a salesperson or a prospect typically falls under the Activity term. From emails and voicemails to product demos, these actions are important to identify so their effectiveness can be studied in your CRM system. 

The benefits of CRM

We’ve touched on the benefits of using CRM systems, but now, let’s take a deep dive. There are four key advantages worth mentioning:

1) Better customer experience

The more you know about your prospects, the more you can personalize your outreach to them. And what better way to enhance your knowledge than a system that lets you see all the actions they’ve taken at a single click?

We’re talking about every marketing email they’ve opened and every blog post on your website they’ve read. A CRM solution gives your sales team access to all this information. They can use it to customize your message from the start.   

2) More productivity

As your business grows, the potential for a CRM system to increase productivity also grows. The reason lies in automation—the key advantage of these systems.

With a CRM system, you can automate routine tasks like call and activity logging as well as reporting. Your team can spend less time on paperwork and more time getting in front of prospects—a winning way to drive more revenue.

3) Easier collaboration

Communication is so much easier when your business uses a CRM system. And as a result, it becomes easier to collaborate, too. What does this look like in practice?

Well, a sales manager can use the system to see when and how their salespeople are following up with prospects. And salespeople, if they’re on the same team, can see each other’s best practices when it comes to closing the deal.

As collaboration becomes easier, the marketing and sales funnel becomes more efficient. Yet again, that means less time wasted and more profits for your business.

4) Actionable insights

Take the point we just made about salespeople seeing each other’s best practices to its logical conclusion. You’ll have a system in which a sales manager is able to see how the team is performing from a variety of vantage points.

You can see what is working—and what needs improvement. At that point, it just becomes a question of willpower to make the necessary changes, as you already have the data and insights to guide your decisions.

How to use your CRM effectively

So now you understand the advantages to using a CRM system. But how can you see the best return on investment with yours? We’ve put together a few tips you and your team can use to master a CRM system.

Whether you’re just adding CRM to your growing company or are looking to optimize a system you already have in place, these tips will come in handy:  

1) Customize your CRM for your business

A CRM system can be a great tool for tracking customer relationships. However, it may benefit from some customization before it goes “live” for your business.   

So, give it a visual theme that aligns with your business model—and more importantly, make sure every department has the plug-ins or apps installed that it needs to successfully contribute to your business goals.

Your business will likely require a unique reporting module, including dashboards and workflows. Generate custom reports by setting up your CRM system beforehand to cater to your business’s unique needs. You need to optimize it to serve your business as best it can!

2) Update the data in your database

Your CRM system isn’t infallible. It’s only as good as the data in its database, and to that point, you should make an effort to keep your customer information as up to date as possible. A few different solutions can help.

Your business may want to invest in a mobile CRM system—in other words, one that supports mobile functionality. Your people in the field shouldn’t have to safeguard the data they collect in their heads until they return to their desktop or laptop to enter it in.

It makes far more sense to give them the capability to enter data from a mobile device, so they can do it on the spot. This ensures that the information you collect is more accurate from the beginning and that small details don’t get lost.

It’s important to start off on the right foot. But for continuing data cleaning, we offer our clients a revolutionary system: Lifecycle by, an integrated AdTech platform and owner retention solution.

One of the built-in benefits of the system is the opportunity to see just how good your team is at capturing the right information at the point of sale or service. It’s a solution with the capability to help you:

  • Identify missing or corrupted email addresses in your customer database
  • Mobilize your customers to update their own data via innovative programs like Vehicle e-Wallets

3) Train your employees

This may seem obvious, but the benefits of your CRM system are best reaped by a team that knows how to use it—how to leverage all its capabilities to the fullest.

The extra overhead it takes to train your team will be well worth it in the long run. Show your employees how the system can improve their productivity and performance and get them over that initial “hump” of resistance to learning.

New software takes time to master, so take the time to teach your employees everything they need to know to use your CRM system to its fullest potential. Training can take time and effort, but that initial investment will reap so many rewards moving forward.

How to “Lifecycle” your CRM

Now that we’ve covered CRM systems in depth, you may be wondering how best to make use of the data collected in yours. How can you use your customer relationship management data to convert more customers? Answer: You need to “Lifecycle” it!

You need an integrated AdTech platform and owner retention solution—one that can intelligently put all that customer data you’ve collected to use. In partnership with, we offer our clients Lifecycle, the AI-powered platform that makes your customers’ lives easier and keeps them engaged.

So, how does it work? The platform is tailor-made for Stream’s automotive clients but has plenty of value for non-automotive clients as well.

1) “Lifecycle” with targeted messaging

When you input customer data from your CRM system, Lifecycle will do what it does best: activate the right customers with the right messaging.

Based on that data, Lifecycle harnesses the power of AI to merge 20+ messages into one monthly statement that arrives in users’ inboxes. And because it intelligently markets with targeted messaging, these emails see sky-high open rates.

In fact, email open rates tend to reach 20 to 30% or even higher, well above the average for all industries. From these emails, users can access and update a personal virtual vehicle wallet that houses their vehicle information (if you’re partnered with, that is).

That wallet stores vehicles owned or leased as well as their mileage, service history, and remaining payments. It’s the information you need to know to market service and new car leases and purchases at the opportune moment. Strike while the iron is hot— can help!     

2) Use a self-cleansing data solution

Every business is on a quest for the same holy grail of marketing: a system that cleans data for you. And while that solution hasn’t yet been found—not in full—Stream and have come closer than ever before with Lifecycle.

Via their virtual vehicle wallets, users can edit mileage and loan payoffs as well as add independent service and remove vehicles they no longer own or lease. While Lifecycle intelligently estimates this data month to month, customers who fine-tune it will receive even more relevant marketing emails.

Of course, email marketing campaigns depend on capturing the correct customer data at the point of sale or service. Just how good is your team at accomplishing that? With Lifecycle’s hygienics center, you can see for yourself.

From the hygienics graph, your team will be able to see the percent and number of sales and service households with:

  • Missing emails. Were the email addresses collected at the point of sale or service? If not, you know where you can improve. 
  • Corrupt emails. Email addresses that are no longer (or never were) correct.
  • DMS opt out. “I bought from you, but I don’t want marketing emails!”

3) Make sure your Email cleaning errs on the side of caution

Some data cleaning tools use email appending, a practice by which known customer data is matched against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses.

It sounds great in theory, but in practice, it often yields inaccurate results. We know because we’ve tested many of these tools.

The Lifecycle platform errs on the safe side. It focuses on fixing a smaller number of corrupt email addresses rather than “going big” and losing data that was accurate in the first place.

We love the idea of going big, and in the long run, that’s where we’re headed. But we want to get there the right way, so we’ll take the time to develop a more nuanced solution. A problem like this calls for a scalpel, not a hammer!

What is SEM in digital marketing?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. Broadly speaking, it refers to the tools and strategies you use to boost your website’s position in the search results. The term is generally understood to include paid advertising strategies. 

This is in contrast to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which generally refers to the unpaid strategies you use to boost your search engine rankings organically. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably, and SEM can be thought of as including both paid and organic strategies.

SEM terminology: What you need to know

Do you know the terms of the trade when it comes to search engine marketing? Just as with CRM, there are phrases you should know if you want to understand SEM and how it works.

Click-through rate (CTR)

The rate, expressed as a percentage, at which users click on an online ad. To find this metric, you divide the total number of clicks by the total number of ad impressions (the number of times your ad gets seen).

Cost per click (CPC)

Also known as pay per click (PPC), this is a performance-based advertising model in which the advertiser pays a set fee every time a user clicks on an ad. Most ads sold by search engines use a CPC model for payment.

Cost per thousand (CPM)

Under this model, advertisers will be charged every time an ad is displayed to a user—in other words, by the impression. The fee is based on every 1,000 ad impressions. Display ads, including banner ads, tend to use this model. 


This is the delivery of ads to the specific geographical location of the user. With geo-targeting, advertisers can produce more localized, personalized results and ensure their ads are more likely to be seen and clicked by an audience in their service area.


A word or phrase users enter into a search engine in the hopes of receiving relevant results. Many websites offer ads targeted by keywords, a model under which the ad will only display when a specific keyword is entered.

Quality score

Search engines assign a score based on an ad’s clickthrough rate, the relevance of the landing page, and other factors to determine the quality of a site. Sites with higher quality scores are rewarded with higher placement in the search results.

Search advertising

Also known as paid search, this is an advertising model in which advertisers bid to have the chance for their ad to display when a user searches for a specific keyword. You’ll hear it referred to as bidding on keywords.

These are text ads, usually displayed at the top of the search engine results pages above the organic search results.

Search engine results pages (SERPs)

After users have entered their search query, they’ll be presented with the search engine results pages, or SERPs. Every search engine uses an algorithm to deliver the most relevant results, and increasingly, that looks like a blend of image, video, and written content.

SEM best practices

At Stream Companies, we’re happy to help you dive into the deep end when it comes to strategies for improving your SEM game! Here’s an overview of some items to keep in mind when you approach search engine marketing:  

1) Pay attention to Google algorithm updates

The recent shift to mobile-first indexing and the coming (third-party) cookieless future are just two examples. Google is the biggest player in search engine marketing, so pay attention when they announce even the most minor changes.

2) Create educational content

Users (and search engines) like to see educational content on your website—content informed by the keywords your audience is searching for.

People come to the internet for answers to their questions without having to buy something—at least, not right away. If you use your content to provide answers to their questions, they may be more responsive to doing business with you.   

3) Leverage Amazon advertising

Amazon may not be the first name you think of when you think of search engines, but we promise you it’s exactly that. The benefits of advertising to your audience on Amazon are significant because users there have purchase intent.

With digital display ads and video ads, you can run a dynamic digital campaign within the Amazon network and reach or retarget your best prospects.

4) Refine your search keywords

There’s more to keywords than simply determining which ones your audience is searching for. Be sure to build out your negative keyword list based on search terms that give your ads unwanted impressions (views).

These negative keywords are the ones that lead a significant number of users to your ads but don’t result in clicks. For example, if you’re trying to sell, you may want to blacklist “how to” phrases that are informational in content.

For the right ad campaign, those phrases would be gold! But make sure the context of the campaign informs the keywords you use and those you blacklist.

Leverage your CRM data for SEM investment with Stream

Do you use the data in your CRM system as effectively as you could to get the most from your SEM strategy? CRM data is so valuable because it gives clarity to every aspect of your digital marketing program.

When you know who is searching your keywords, who is converting on your landing pages, and how leads are being evaluated and worked by your sales team, you can make smarter and more strategic decisions moving forward.

At Stream, we’re here to help you marry CRM + SEM to drive your digital marketing campaigns and see more retail traffic! Contact us for an audit of your digital strategy and see where you can improve with a new integrated agency partner.