CRM vs Marketing Automation: Differences & Which One Is Right for You

Keeping a stable relationship with your customers is an essential aspect of your success. However, with the multiple marketing channels and sales processes, customer relationship became quite complex to manage. If you don’t use customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing tools, you’re leaving money on the table.

To help you out, I’ll outline what the difference is between CRM and marketing automation and the benefits of each.

This guide includes:

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The Differences Between CRM and Marketing Automation

automation crm together

Marketing automation is software used to perform repetitive marketing tasks, measure and enhance your overall conversion rates.

Doing all your marketing tasks by hand is becoming more complex, if not impossible. It is a challenging business ecosystem.

Marketing automation executes your campaigns and repetitive tasks such as scheduling and sending email marketing, social media updates and lots of list management on autopilot.

Marketing automation CRM

The marketing automation technology makes these tasks easier to manage and execute. Even though it is automated, it still can be highly personalized.

Marketing automation is best used for lead nurturing, email autoresponders and leads qualification to advance prospects through a predefined customer journey.

What differentiates marketing automation from CRM, is that you can track your engaged leads’ behavior and monitor their data to automate personalized lead nurturing campaigns.

marketing automation CRM differences funnel

Mainly Marketing automation is most used at the top of the funnel, while CRM is stronger at the bottom of your funnel.

What is a CRM tool?

CRM is short for Customer Relationship Management. The term CRM marketing is synonymous with the CRM system, software that is used for contact management, sales management, customer relationships, and interactions with existing and potential ones.

CRM tool

The goal of a CRM system is to:

  • Enhance ability to target profitable customers
  • Enhance sales force efficiency and effectiveness
  • Improve pricing
  • Improve customer service
  • Create customer-centric products and services
  • Connect customers and all channels on a single platform

The CRM software organizes and creates customer profiles to keep a record of both your customers and partners. it records contact information such as:

  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Websites
  • Social media profiles, etc.

All these contacts’ information helps you to create better customer profiles. This allows marketers to have a clear view of the customer journey.

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”
– Peter Drucker, management expert

You can see which company your prospects are from, where they are based, if you already contacted them and what they’ve said.

You are capturing interactions, using the information to personalize your sales process, and ensuring a better relationship with your customers.

What is the difference between Marketing Automation and CRM?

Marketing Automation allows automating your marketing campaigns using predefined conditions and triggers.

Marketing automation is mostly used for short purchase cycles. When a B2C business doesn’t need to extensively contact customers or move them through a complicated sales funnel.

CRM helps you manage your sales processes and keeps your sales team organized using a database.

It automatically assigns tasks to sales reps as leads move through the sales funnel.

CRM benefits businesses with long purchase cycles. B2B and SaaS companies are known for complicated sales funnels. Their sales funnel involves sales reps to convince buyers to move to the next stage of the funnel and convert.

marketing automation crm goals features

Let’s dive further into the reasons why you need CRM and marketing automation software.

4 Reasons You Need Marketing Automation Software

1. List management and segmentation

Marketing automation software such as email marketing tools allows you to manage your contact database in lists and segments.

It somehow works as a ‘mini CRM’ to keep your contacts organized based on their engagement and who they are:

  • Customers
  • Blog subscribers
  • Trial users
  • Lead magnet downloaders
  • Etc.

Through email marketing automation you can manage your contacts based on their behavior and interests. This way you’ll be able to send personalized content that resonates with their interests.

Customer Relationship Management Customer Knowledge

Using your contacts’ data you could segment your emails based on contacts information:

  • Age
  • Specific ebook downloaders
  • Paying customers
  • Subscription date
  • Contacts’ function
  • Gender
  • Geo-Location

By the end, you won’t have to communicate the same message and content to your whole contact list. You can send relevant offers based on contacts’ life-cycle stage, interest, geo-location and more.

2. Triggered email autoresponders

Managing email marketing on a large scale is not something that could be managed manually. You’d struggle with just ten customers.

Email marketing automation and workflows allow you to create triggered emails to be sent on specific customer actions.

  • Website visitor filling a contact form
  • Placing an order
  • Booking an appointment
  • Sign up for a product demo
  • Registering for a webinar
  • Subscribing for an email newsletter, etc.

Email autoresponders would help you automate your confirmation emails and respond to customers’ actions instantly and when they are most interested in you.

3. Nurture your leads

Marketing automation is your medium to communicate with leads once they are generated, with an objective to qualify them to sales-ready leads.

You’ve spent money and energy on your lead generation process, now use lead nurturing to not let your leads go to waste.

Lead nurturing lets you have your most qualified leads at the bottom of your sales funnel ready to convert to paying customers.

During the lead nurturing phase, you’ll be able to:

  • Introduce yourself to your leads
  • Share content that resonates with their interests
  • Duide them to the next stage of your funnel.

You can’t just say “Hi, buy my product”, nurture your leads to establish trust and authority first.

4. Access your marketing analytics

In one dashboard, marketing automation tools generate analytics and reporting to show how successful your campaigns are.

Marketing automation helps you focus on the most important KPIs by making it easily accessible for you. Mostly it puts your numbers in context, so all marketers can understand it even if you aren’t a business analyst.

Understanding your most important KPIs helps you identify what is working for your business, or where exactly on your funnel revenue is leaking.

This will help you reduce guesswork and make your marketing processes data-based.

An airplane pilot doesn’t take off without looking at his dashboard. Same applies to you. Your business can’t stand losing customers.

3 Reasons You Need Customer Relationship Management

1. Have a clear overview of your customer journey

Sales personnel can see where a customer is in the sales funnel and help close the deal with customer journey mapping. Which a CRM tool can provide you with.

Customer journey mapping is the process of visualizing how every interaction and contact made between your business and the customer is delivered.

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
– Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, and CEO of Apple

To paint a perfect customer journey you’ll need CRM that’s connected across multiple marketing and sales channels.

modern customer journey crm automation

CRM gives you the insights required around each customer you have. So proper Customer Relationship Management includes the transactions that happen from sales, marketing, and customer support.

By having a visual overview of your customer journey you’ll understand:

  • What is their experience like
  • Detect downfalls of their journey
  • What step did convert leads to customers

2. Integrates with different marketing channels

According to Salesforce, 94% of companies use a business website, 83% use email marketing, and 79% use social media marketing. To make a bold statement, I suggest you are using all those three, if not more.

CRM tools help you fully coordinate and integrate all your marketing channels by syncing your customer journey in one place. From the moment a lead likes your Facebook page, visit your website, sign up for a product, etc.

Every interaction your customer makes on any channel you are managing is recorded and synced in your CRM tool.

3. Automate your repetitive marketing taskss

Completing a sale is not only about convincing a customer to buy, and you get paid.

Alongside a sale, many other tasks that must be performed in order for everything to function properly.

  • Forms to be filled
  • Reports need to be sent
  • Legal documents and invoices to be issued.

These tasks a time consuming, and repetitive for each new sale.

The best CRM systems are designed to take care of these repetitive dull tasks.

This way you will be able to focus more on closing leads and resolving customer pain points, while CRM automation takes care of the details.

Conclusion: CRM vs Marketing Automation what to choose?

Between CRM and marketing automation you don’t have to choose one or the other. Know how to select the best CRM of course, and what you want to use in terms of automated email campaigns. CRM and Marketing Automation tools complement each other and serve a shared purpose.

marketing automation differences CRM

Moving leads from the top to the bottom of your funnel, converting more leads into paying customers.

Letting your automated tools handle the dull repetitive tasks saves you time. Time you can spend on optimizing and scaling processes, developing new products or features, or just more free time for yourself.

7 FAQs on CRM and Marketing Automation

1. What part of my marketing can I automate?

You can automate a very big piece of your marketing actions. Think to use automation for social media marketing, email marketing, lead generation, and nurturing. But also think about to follow-ups of physical events, or automating pieces though your online course and e-learning platform.

2. How can I use marketing automation for an eCommerce store?

Marketing automation can support eCommerce stores:

  • Rescuing abandoned carts
  • Re-engage past customers
  • Run segmentation fitting store product mix
  • Display recommendations in using dynamic content boxes on the web and in the messages
  • Send anniversary promo codes e.g. for birthdays

3. How can marketing automation improve my business?

Benefits of Marketing Automation are to boosted sales-readiness of your leads. You can improve the marketing and sales productivity and efficiency of your business.

Using marketing automation you can increase sales revenues and customer engagement through enhanced targeting.

It helps you to see which marketing campaigns bring in the most sales. You can see how each person is interacting with your brand.

3. How can CRM help me increase my sales?

The right CRM solution is considered a sales force. At the first level, CRM means putting account and contact information in a central and accessible place, so you accelerate and streamline the sales process.

On the second level, instead of having tons of yellow sticky notes around your laptop and spreadsheets to remind you whom to call, you can move leads through your sales team quickly and easily, as a team. You’ll know who to call, when and why.

5. Do I need a CRM for a small business or a startup?

Yes. If you have customers, you can benefit from CRM. Even if your customer base is small, no one can keep every present and future interaction memorized and organized. It would give you valuable business insights, and virtually connects employees at your company so they can collaborate as a team, without wasting much time.

6. Does CRM help with saving time?

A CRM for sales team will help you prioritize your tasks, highlight clients that require your attention and will help you analyze your activity and efforts. Yes, CRM saves time.

7. Does CRM solution help with teamwork?

You might think that because you’re a part of or running a sales team of 2-4 reps, it means that you’d want to know who’s doing what and with what results.
It’s impossible to keep track of such things even if there’s just two of you in a team. A CRM for sales team allows you to know if somebody is working with a client and to stay updated as to the state of current affairs without mingling with the workflow of your colleagues.

About Mor Mester

Mor Mester is the Head of Content Marketing at EmailVendorSelection. He's an email marketing and marketing automation expert with 6+ years of experience. Having tested and reviewed 100+ email marketing, marketing automation, CRM, ecommerce, SMS marketing, email verification, online course, and lead generation tools, he knows a good business software when he sees one.
After work, you can find him riding his bike on some trails.

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