What’s The Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation Software?

people around tables on laptops and phones

When it comes to sales and marketing automation technology, the choices are extensive.

In fact there are thousands of different options, including a wide range of CRM and marketing automation systems.

And on the surface, CRMs and marketing automation platforms do the same thing, right?

Well, not exactly. The reality is that each has their own unique value when it comes to connecting with and nurturing potential or existing clients. So, to get started, here are definitions of the two from two leading sales and marketing platforms:

Salesforce on CRM:

“To define CRM, you should first understand its history. CRM is an acronym that stands for customer relationship management. Customer relationship management is any tool, strategy, or process that helps businesses to better organise and access customer data.”

Marketo on Marketing Automation:

“Marketing automation is a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”

So let’s explore three main differences between the two:

Difference 1: Their target

CRM automation software is sales-focused and marketing automation software is marketing-focused. It’s not necessarily a case of choosing one or the other for your business. Similar to sales teams and marketing teams, they can often work effectively in tandem.

Marketing automation software is typically used to engage your target audience in a pre-sales process, with the objective of capturing and qualifying potential leads. The same lead can then be transferred into a CRM system, with the aim of converting to sale.

Difference 2: The data they store

When browsing through a CRM, you’ll find data such as client names, addresses, phone numbers and interactions. And by looking at client data within a CRM system, you’ll find how long a client has been with you, how much money they’ve spent on your services and even how many emails you’ve received from them.

With marketing automation software though, you’re more likely to find campaign performance data than the kind of rich, individual client data a CRM might provide. We call this ‘top-of-the-funnel’ activity, which would include things like website visits, blog reads, email opens and appointments booked. These conversions are often a key step on the client journey.

Difference 3: How It’s Used

CRM software is often used for recording one-on-one interactions, creating and managing individual personalised communications. With the click of a button, you can quickly see where a prospect is in your sales process, and what the next step needs to be.

By contrast, marketing automation software is typically used for scheduling and tracking marketing campaigns sent to a wider audience (albeit on an individual basis); creating and managing ‘buckets’ of data; and ensuring your contacts get the right message at the right time, based on their behaviour and interests.

Why would you choose a CRM platform?

  • If your business would benefit from a planned and consistent sales process that allows you to identify and maximise the best opportunities, as well as track sales performance
  • If you lose track of clients and where they are on the sales journey
  • When your make-do Excel spreadsheet or manual process simply just can’t hack it any more.

Why would you choose a Marketing Automation platform?

  • When your CRM tool needs more quality leads that take them through to the sales process
  • When you want to share content, engage, nurture and interact with you database.
  • When you want to continually and consistently invest in building a relationship with your clients and wider audience, without demanding more of your time and resources

So now you know a bit about the difference, which is best suited to your business – CRM software, marketing automation software or both?

If you’re still not sure and want some expert advice, book a free consultation and we can help you decide.


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