CRM vs Marketing Automation: Which is Best for Your Business?

CRM VS Marketing Automation

This is a guest post by Azat Eloyan. Azat is a digital marketer and mobile marketing enthusiast. With over 5 years’ experience in content marketing and SEO, he believes that valuable and informative content is the key.

He’s currently working as a marketing specialist at SendSMS, which is providing SMS marketing service globally.

We live in a digital-centric world.

There’s no doubt about it.

What’s also true is that the digital space is full of enormous data and content on scales never quite seen before.

According to a report from IBM Marketing Cloud, 90% of the total digital data worldwide was created within just two years, with an upward future trend being almost inevitable.

All this data and content provides a whole host of benefits to businesses, their salespeople, and their marketers. However, before businesses, salespeople, and marketers can truly take advantage of this vast swathe of data and content, they need to manage it correctly.

Which is where CRMs and marketing automation software come in.

But what are the differences between the two? And what will your business benefit from most?

Our digital-centric world doesn’t have to be a confusing digital-centric world.

That’s why, in this CRM vs marketing automation post, I’ll be discussing both CRMs and marketing automation software, how they differ, how they overlap, the benefits that they bring, and what the signs are when your business needs to start using either piece of software.

Navigate through the sections below to get the gist on CRMs and marketing automation software:

Let’s get learning!

What is the CRM definition?

“CRM” is an acronym that stands for customer relationship management. CRM software helps you to manage customer relations as it stores all their relevant data and information in one, easy-to-access place.

As the team at Salesforce – which is a piece of CRM software – explain:

“When people talk about CRM, they are usually referring to a CRM system, a tool that helps with contact management, sales management, productivity, and more.

A CRM solution helps you focus on your organization’s relationships with individual people — including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers — throughout your lifecycle with them, including finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.”Salesforce, What is CRM?

From this, you may think that CRM software is, simply put, one big database of information.

While that’s technically true from a layman’s perspective, a CRM is also far more than just a big ol’ database of contact details.

Let me explain why, and how your business can capitalize on using a CRM tool.

What purpose does CRM software serve for businesses?

CRM software
(Source)

During our everyday life, we use the Contacts app on our phones a lot. After all, it helps us to organize contact data, and we can access that data at any time.

But for businesses, managing so many contacts – potentially thousands – with a mobile device is almost impossible, nor does it make much sense.

For a business, an address book contains much more than a phone number, name or address. In addition to all the basic contact information, you need to gather data regarding what products people are interested in, what services they used that your company offers, as well as other helpful forms of data (i.e. what line of work they are in, age, gender, location, and more).

CRM software allows you to store and organize such data in a coherent manner that can be accessed by anyone working in your company and at any given time.

This helps your company to better manage its relationship with current and prospective customers, fostering customer loyalty, engagement, and reducing churn in the process.

A CRM tool is also an ideal way to get a better understanding of your customers. That’s to say, you can learn everything you need to know about a certain client because you can access all the information stored about them!

Specifically, this information can range from basic details about the client, to any and all interactions your company has had with them. So, the next time you are contacting or meeting a potential lead, you can know exactly what to talk about or suggest before communicating with them.

The value of CRM is further highlighted by its revenue forecasts and the fact that it is the fastest-growing software in the market.

The global CRM market is even projected to grow up to $35 billion!

Suffice to say, using a CRM system could be exactly what your business needs.

But the operating word here is could. If you’re still not sure, read on to the next section, where I’ll discuss how CRM can be used in other different ways.

Four example uses of CRM software

Now, there’s a plethora of CRM tools, systems, and software available on the market. Each CRM has a specific focus or set of business tools tailored for a certain type of usage.

Seeing as CRM software can be used for a whole range of scenarios – almost too many to cover! – I’ll be discussing the four main types of CRM: conversation CRM, leads and deals CRM, marketing CRM, and contact CRM.

Conversation CRM

This type of CRM tool is focused on company-customer communication. In other words, a conversation CRM tool is built around emails and phone calls your company has with customers.

The software monitors any conversation you have with a customer, regardless of the channel (email, phone call, SMS), and assigns them to the correct customer profile.

This way, you can see what kind of previous conversation your business has had with a customer.

Leads and deals CRM

This is by far one of the most popular kinds of CRM software.

With this type of CRM software, you can track potential customers (labeled as leads) and add info every step of the way when trying to convince them of a sale.

Once a client pulls the trigger on a sale, you turn them from a lead to a deal. The CRM software, in this regard, helps you log and trace all those interactions with potential leads — from the first contact to a finalized deal — which helps you know where you stand with a potential customer. At all times.

Considering that, in the end, what matters most for businesses is closing deals to generate more sales to make the business more profitable, lead and deal CRM software is hugely useful.

Contact CRM

As the name suggests, contact CRMs are focused solely on customer contact details.

This type of CRM software lets you collect as much contact information as you can about a certain client, take notes while you speak to them, and log all interactions you have with them.

All of this is stored in the CRM, so when you contact the same person again at a later date, you can simply pull up their profile and have all in the information you need right there in front of you!

Marketing CRM

A marketing CRM software is what puts all the collected customer data into action by contacting them automatically through emails.

In addition to including similar features of a lead and deal CRM software, marketing CRM tools also include automated marketing related workflows, like automatically sending a customer an email when they click on your website’s link.

That’s why marketing CRM software is also known as marketing automation, or marketing automation software.

Not sure where CRM ends and marketing automation begins? Or where you stand on CRM vs marketing automation?

I’ve got you covered.

What is marketing automation?

As the stellar team at Capterra – a business software platform – rightfully say:

“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. In actuality? They serve two distinct purposes.

[…] One of the main differences between these software types is who they target. CRM software is primarily sales-focused, while marketing automation software is (aptly) marketing-focused.”Capterra, What’s the Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation Software?

So, although there’s a fair amount of overlap, marketing automation focuses on the marketing-side of affairs, while CRM is all about the sales.

Simple, right?

Let’s now delve into marketing automation further, looking at the benefits it can directly bring to your business.

What are the benefits of marketing automation?

Marketing automation benefits
(Source)

As mentioned in the above section, there is an overlap between CRM software and marketing automation software.

That’s why, when using marketing automation software, you’ll gain some (not all) of the advantages of using a traditional CRM, while also gaining marketing-focused benefits.

These include:

  • Improved organization of data. 💻
  • Marketing automation software can help organize data you collect about your customers in an efficient and organized manner, accessible easily for anyone within the company – no matter if they’re in sales or marketing.

  • Customer service and communication enhancement. 🗣
  • The improved organization of data can assist in resolving customer issues quicker, thus enhancing your communication with them (more on that in the next point!).

    In terms of communication, marketing automation software that also has an organized database of customer information can be used in conjunction with SMS marketing to communicate with customers (learn more here) more efficiently and easily.

  • Customer satisfaction. 💪
  • With a better communication system between business and customers, customers remain happy and satisfied.

  • Targeting and segmentation. 🏹
  • Gathered and organized data can assist marketers in targeting people based on certain criteria, thus separating them into segments for a more personalized marketing approach.

  • Automated marketing workflows. 🤖
  • With a digital marketing automation tool, you can automate marketing-related tasks and streamline your overall workflow. Marketing automation tools are designed to make your life easy by handling all the “dirty work”, so to speak, meaning you can spend time on more important tasks.

With those listed benefits, this may be the point where you’re thinking “This all sounds great! But when can I tell that my business needs – not just wants – marketing automation software?”

If that thought – or one similar to it – has crossed your mind, the Capterra team created a list of signs for when your business needs to start using 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? Marketing automation software ensures 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.”
Capterra, What’s the Difference Between CRM and Marketing Automation Software?

To add to Capterra’s list, I’d like to include another important sign: Not having enough time in the day to complete everything on your marketer’s todo list.

If you’ve found yourself working into the evening (not having a good work-life balance), going back home feeling like you haven’t accomplished what you wanted to, or lagging behind on the tasks that have been assigned to you, then the automation part of marketing automation software can be of significant use.

Specifically, you can automate tasks such as the scheduling and tracking of campaigns, or push out automatically-triggered emails to leads. Essentially, automation will enable you and your business to save time, money, and effort.

Plus, you’ll be able to keep your todo list in check while smashing your marketing goals!

There you have it. The tell-tale signs of when your business needs to adopt marketing automation software!

Now, let me ask a quick question.

While looking to adopt either CRM software or marketing automation software, have you also considered using BPM software, too?

If not – or if you don’t know what it is – let me introduce you to Process Street.

Use Process Street with your CRM software or marketing automation software!

Process Street is superpowered checklists.

Superpowered checklists aren’t just regular, run-of-the-mill checklists (though they can be, if that’s what you’d prefer). Superpowered checklists have a range of additional features, like:

  • Stop tasks. ✋
  • Stop tasks ensure order is enforced and important tasks are never skipped.

  • Task permissions. 👀
  • With task permissions, you can choose which members of your organization can see (or not see) specific tasks, and therefore particular data, content, or information.

  • Task assignments. 👥
  • Task assignments allow you to easily assign people or certain groups to the tasks they need to complete.

  • Dynamic due dates. 🕐
  • Dynamic due dates enables you to dynamically change the due date of a task, based on 4 different triggers.

  • Approvals. ✅
  • Make sure critical tasks get approved (or rejected) before the user can progress onto further stages of an important process with approvals.

Why am I mentioning Process Street when this post is about CRM software and marketing automation software?

Because Process Street is the perfect complement to both CRM and marketing automation software.

Watch the introductory video below to learn about the state-of-the-art checklist app.

For instance, you can use Process Street to document your marketing department’s recurring tasks. Then, whenever one of your business’ marketers needs guidance for following a marketing automation software-related process, they can launch a checklist to make sure they go about it correctly, and human error doesn’t creep in.

Additionally, if my mentioning of automation piqued your interest, you can combine Process Street with CRMs and marketing automation software via Zapier, creating nifty, additional automations – from data capture to informing a Slack channel whenever a new lead comes in.

Check out the webinar on advanced Zapier and Process Street automations below.

It’s free to sign up and make a basic account with Process Street, so there’s no reason not try it alongside the CRM or marketing automation product you adopt!

Conclusion: In a digital-centric world, invest in the right software

Invest in the right software
(Source)

Now that you understand the difference between CRMs vs marketing automation software, it’s time to make a decision.

But before you do, it’s worth mentioning that investing in such a robust product can be costly. To boot, it might seem like an incredibly daunting endeavor – especially if you haven’t used either product in the past.

Nonetheless, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Successful businesses realize how important customers are. It can even be argued that they’re the most valuable asset – the driving force – for any business. That’s why CRM software is incredibly useful for customer communication, monitoring leads, and turning those leads into deals. Those initial doubts soon dissipate as you realize the value CRM software brings.

Meanwhile, marketing automation software enables you and your business to better your marketing efforts, all while streamlining your marketing processes to unprecedented levels.

In a digital-centric world – with the aforementioned abundance of data and content – it’s important to have the software which enables your business to capitalize on that data and content, so you can bolster your business exponentially.

The only question left now is which piece of software will you try out first?

Have you used a CRM or marketing automation tool before? If so, which would you recommend and why? Let the Process Street know by writing your comment in the section below! 💡

Get our posts & product updates earlier by simply subscribing

Thom James Carter

Thom is one of Process Street’s content writers. He’s also contributed tech-related writing to The New Statesman, Insider, Atlassian, G2, The Content Marketing Institute, and more. Follow him on Twitter @thomjamescarter.


2 Comments

Very well-written article as we can learn about CRM softwares and marketing automation tools. We use CRM software for marketing, customer contacting & communication, monitoring leads, and turning leads into deals.


Reply to Peter Evering

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

Get a free Process Street account
and take control of your workflows today.

No Credit Card Required