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

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Update 6/21/2018: This piece was updated to include the most popular CRM and marketing automation software options from Capterra’s Top 20 reports and an updated overview of the differences between the two solutions.

two employees sitting at desks representing CRM and marketing automation software usage

Customer relationship management (CRM) software and marketing automation software are different.

If you’re surprised by this, that’s OK.

At face value, they seem to be the same thing. In actuality, they serve two distinct purposes.

Marketing and sales leaders need to understand the differences between these software types in order to select the best system for their teams and improve company processes.

The wrong system can slow down or break a business’s funnel and harm its bottom line.

Today, we’ll help you differentiate between CRM and marketing automation software, and determine which your business needs.

What are the primary differences between CRM and marketing automation software?

One of the main differences between these two types of software is who they target.

Primarily, CRM software is sales-focused, while marketing automation software is (aptly) marketing-focused.

Marketo, a leading marketing automation software provider, describes marketing automation software as a system that “allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows.”

Further down the marketing funnel, Salesforce—a leading CRM software provider—defines CRM as: “A strategy for managing all your company’s interactions with current and prospective customers.”

A CRM system saves information such as a customer’s addresses, names, phone numbers, and interactions with the company.

Example of marketing automation and customer relationship management software funnel

Example of marketing automation and customer
relationship management software funnel

Let’s dive a little deeper into the differences between CRM and marketing automation software.

Marketing automation software

These systems let you follow a prospect’s top-of-funnel activities, including when they visit your website, open an email, read your blog, or fill out a form.

Marketers typically use marketing automation software to schedule and track marketing campaigns—especially email campaigns and mass business-to-customer communications.

Benefits of marketing automation software include:

  • The ability to segment prospects into appropriate mailing lists based on their past interactions with your company or their interests and preferences.
  • Lead-nurturing functionality, letting you automatically send triggered emails at the time that a person is most interested in your product or service. You can also schedule a series of emails in a “drip” campaign, so your company stays top-of-mind with prospects.
  • Once a campaign has ended, the system generates analytics showing how successful the campaign was.

Marketing automation software helps foster leads and get them ready for your sales team. Once the lead has progressed to the bottom of the funnel to become a qualified sales lead (and eventually a customer), that’s when companies typically start to track their interactions through a CRM.

Signs your business needs marketing automation software:

  • Your customer list is getting too big to manage manually. Are you lucky enough to have thousands of contacts on your email list? That’s great! But how are you handling all those emails? You need marketing automation software to make sure each contact goes through the right stages of your marketing funnel to nurture them into a good lead for your sales team.
  • Your customer list is too small. If you need to feed more leads to your sales team (and let’s face it, what marketer doesn’t want to generate more leads?) using marketing automation to homogenize your outreach experience is a must.
  • You have excellent content and no way to get it in front of your customers. Do you have a great blog or awesome research you wish potential clients could see? Marketing automation software can get your content in front of the right audiences, faster.
Ready to start looking for a marketing automation solution for your small business? Check out the top five solutions from Capterra’s “Top 20 Most Popular Marketing Automation Software” report:

  1. MailChimp
  2. HubSpot Marketing Automation
  3. GetResponse
  4. Infusionsoft
  5. SendinBlue

Customer relationship management software

CRMs store information including how long a contact has been a customer, past purchase records, the dates and notes of any phone conversations you’ve had with a contact, a record of inbound emails they’ve sent to your sales and customer service team, and more.

According to recent research conducted by Capterra, 56% of small businesses already have CRM software.

Sales and customer service teams use CRM data to optimize one-on-one interaction between companies and their clients to increase sales and customer satisfaction.

Benefits of CRM software include:

  • Sales personnel can see where a customer is in the sales process and help close the deal.
  • Your business can offer targeted promotional material that’s more likely to lead to a sale and build good faith between you and your customer.
  • When speaking to a customer, you can have a full picture of who they are and their history with your company, which helps make the conversation as personal and successful as possible.
  • Many CRMs can also sync with social media outlets so you can keep track of which outlets are driving the most traffic, and what people are saying about your company.
  • CRMs can send internal alerts when a call is scheduled, when a client’s account is set to renew, or even when a customer’s birthday is coming up so that your sales and service reps know to reach out.

Simply put: CRM systems help secure sales by making the sales process a more personal experience for the customer.

Signs your business needs a CRM:

  • Reports of bad customer service. Your customers report less-than-pleasurable interactions with your sales and customer service staff. Bad customer service is a business killer.
  • Customers get lost. It’s easy to lose track of your clients if customers are routed to different departments during their journey. A CRM can track them down and optimize customer experience.
  • You’ve outgrown your lead data tracking system. If you have too many leads for a spreadsheet to handle, it’s time to use a CRM to track your customer’s data.
Ready to find a CRM solution for your small business? Check out the top five solutions from Capterra’s “Top 20 Most Popular CRM Software” report:

  1. Salesforce
  2. Zoho
  3. Odoo
  4. Microsoft Dynamics
  5. OroCRM

Does your small business need separate CRM and marketing automation solutions?

If you’re struggling to decide whether your business needs a CRM, marketing automation software, or both, look to your sales funnel to see where you have the biggest challenges to help guide your decision.

The differences between CRM and marketing automation systems make them more valuable to the unique teams they serve.

Typically, small businesses begin by adopting a CRM to optimize the bottom of the funnel and close more deals. As they grow and invest in marketing efforts, these businesses then select a marketing automation system that integrates with their CRM.

Most marketing automation solutions let you sync your data with your CRM, so that all of a prospects’ activities are accessible through one solution.

Companies can sync the information both ways, so their marketing team knows what’s going on in sales, and their sales and customer service teams know the marketing history of each prospect or customer.

Many CRM companies have developed or acquired marketing automation software, so there are a handful of systems out there that include both.

Looking for Customer Relationship Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Relationship Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Tirena Dingeldein

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Tirena is a Managing Senior Analyst for Gartner Digital Markets. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Writing Intensive BS in Biology with a focus in genetics, obtained a Masters in Public Health from George Mason University, a Writing Certificate from the University of Cambridge and a Marketing Certificate from Georgetown University. Follow her on @TJDingeldein for insights on marketing, data science, and startups.

Comments

Great info, thanks for this comparison. I would really love to see more examples of the software, and would really love to see an information on ERP software. Thanks again

[…] Source […]

CRM and Marketing Automation Software will rather be the same in meaning when it would ever come something that will overall attain good gains to any enterprise; absolutely inevitable tools. Technically defining, CRM will be like more concentrated on information and followups performed concerning the customers. Whereas, marketing automation tool will go with measuring company’s well-organized hierarchy to manage promotional activities – to escalate its progress; nicely detailed facts, appreciate!

[…]                                              The Lead Stage Categorization […]

[…] to find time to build and manage client relationships personally. The good news is that you can get sophisticated CRM software that does much of it on your behalf. It enables you […]

[…] Most people use the terms “CRM” and “Sales Marketing Automation” interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things. Here’s where they differ and why it matters. […]

[…] find time to build and manage client relationships personally. The good news is that you can get sophisticated CRM software that does much of it on your behalf. It enables you […]

I wonder when SFA software actually became CRM software! I mean, most of the CRM solutions you see around today are more SFA solutions. I was looking at one of the blogs your fellow analysts wrote and I think the name she uses, CXM is more what these solutions today are.

Great post and clarification. Personally I use http://www.myconversionbrain.com as it’s cheap and designed for small business owners like myself. It’s not so much of a crm but more of a marketing automation tool and lead tracking which helps my marketing efforts. The problem I find with most marketing automation systems is that its way too expensive for small business owners.

For companies that can’t decide on how to kill all the birds with one stone, it’s good to know that most of marketing automation functionality can be supported within a CRM system too! For example, everything that falls into lead management (lead segmentation, personalized email marketing, lead nurturing, analytics) can be activated within CRM software through either in-built tools or customization, depending on how complex requirements are. I tell more on the benefits of this approach for SMEs here: https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/benefits-of-crm-software-for-smes

You forgot Northern Ireland

Actually Josh, Great Britain only refers to the island of Britain itself. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official term for the political entity that includes both the island of Britain and the province of Northern Ireland.

CRM integration is definitely key to the success of marketing automation. While these are two similar tools, it’s the differences between them that make them so compatible. CRM is more focused on collecting knowledge about existing customer accounts and managing new-customer pipelines while Marketing Automation is more focused on orchestrating one-to-one communication with early-stage prospects and routing new prospects to manage subsequent marketing and sales actions.

Hey Tirena. Really Nice blog post. What I like to add is an awesome online service that’s useful for outreach specialists. It’s called Remail io. It helps with online marketing and boosts the number of online sales.

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