Marketing & SEO

CRM and Marketing Automation Software: the Main Differences

Elliot Duran 22 September, 2020

When you’re running a consumer-oriented business, success means more than completing a purchase transaction. You need to maintain a stable and steady relationship with your target audience if you want to achieve long-term success. However, with all of the different sales and marketing techniques and channels that are used in the contemporary business world, this is not as easy as it might seem to the average layman. From landing page SEO optimization to social media advertising, businesses are constantly at the forefront of interaction with their consumers. Managing your relationship with them is more complex than ever before. That’s why using proper marketing automation tools and customer relationship management software is essential for the success of any digital marketing enterprise. But what do these different software platforms entail, and what are the main differences between CRM and marketing automation software? We’ll explore the question in depth below.

CRM and marketing automation software - differences

Marketing Automation 101

Before we get into the differences between CRM and marketing automation software, we need to determine what these software solutions are used for, in the first place. In short, marketing automation software is used to streamline the process of marketing a product or service to a select audience. But are these platforms necessary for your success?

These days, e-commerce is a bigger part of the global economy than ever before. The ability to market to an online, worldwide audience has expanded the horizons of every business, from small mom-and-pop enterprises to corporate conglomerates. In this situation, the competition in any niche is bigger than ever before, as is the target audience.

funnels and marketing automation software

That’s why marketing tasks cannot feasibly be performed manually without a huge waste of time and resources. Even if you’re catering to a local audience, it could still number in millions. If you want to build an effective marketing funnel, automation software is practically a must.

Automation Software Features

Such software solutions offer a variety of features. Yet, most of them are geared towards automatically completing menial data entry tasks, as well as the detailed measuring of all the necessary metrics. If you want to work in performance marketing, this type of software becomes obligatory because it allows you to track both your actions and your progress in detail.

Practically every aspect of modern marketing requires some sort of assistance from automation software. Just think of the always-useful email marketing campaigns. These days, the lists of prospective leads are incredibly expansive even in the most specific niches.

Pulling off a successful campaign manually is practically impossible if you want to maintain productivity and not burn through your marketing budget. Instead, all of the repetitive stuff like scheduling specific emails can be automated through the use of proper software.

Plus, high-quality marketing automation software allows you to maintain the semblance of a personal touch even with drip campaigns that you’ve fully automated and created using templates.

If you’re building a sales funnel for your customers regarding a specific product, email autoresponders and lead nurturing are most easily performed with this type of software. And seeing as we’re on the topic of lead nurturing, we’re slowly encroaching on the territory of CRM software and customer retention.

Customer Relationship Management 101

We use marketing automation software to track the behavior of our most prospective leads and to easily provide them with content that is most likely to convert them to paying customers. However, once they buy into your brand, CRM software becomes far more important. If we look at the entire transaction between a customer and a company through the lens of a sales funnel, marketing automation software is most useful at the widest part of the funnel, while CRM software is most crucial at the bottom.

What is CRM?

The acronym CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. And the software platforms used in this process contain features related to sales and contact management. Also, it is worth pointing out that while marketing automation software is mostly generic, the CRM market caters to specific niches.


In other words, while an email marketing platform like Mailchimp can be used by a variety of industries, the CRM used for the development of moving businesses is different from the CRM utilized by a real estate firm. Of course, there are general-purpose CRM solutions as well, but these are cheaper and offer fewer industry-specific features.

Aims of CRM

A high-quality CRM system has a set of goals. These include increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of a company’s sales team, as well as increasing their chances at upselling already profitable customers. Additionally, the metrics and information provided by CRM software can help companies gauge their customer service and pricing policies more adequately, creating a more consumer-focused service offering in the process.

At the core of the CRM software experience is the ability to create consumer profiles, keeping detailed and unified records of relevant contact information. Regardless of which agent works on a specific account, they’ll have instant access to everything from the contact’s birthday to their social media links and email addresses.

This works for B2B marketing purposes as well — you can easily see what position your prospects have at a given company. Such information allows you to fully personalize your sales approach, and build a long-lasting relationship with valuable contacts.

The Main Differences between CRM and Marketing Automation Software

Now that we’ve defined the basic principles of both CRM and marketing automation software, the question is — what are the main differences between them?

CRM and Marketing Automation Software in Digital Marketing Campaigns

marketing automation software for campaigns

First of all, marketing automation software is primarily used to automate and design your digital marketing campaigns. While this includes things like the provision of landing page templates, it’s about more than creating the right platform for your copy and content.

We need to differentiate marketing automation software and marketing software in general first. Software for SEO optimization is definitely a digital marketing tool as well, but automation software is designed to replace the manual performance of repetitive tasks.

While SEO audits are important, automation tools are there to help you set a system of triggers and predefined conditions that will make sure that your campaign largely runs itself. In order for a campaign to succeed, both types of marketing software are needed.

CRM and Marketing Automation Software in Short-term Planning

In comparison to CRM tools, marketing automation is more useful for short-term planning and purchase cycles. If you’re running a strictly B2C company that doesn’t rely too much on return customers, chances are that you’ll be using marketing automation software more extensively.

CRM and marketing automation software in shopping

B2B companies and those that have complex sales funnels need CRM more. This sort of software provides sales teams with the necessary aid in handling large sets of consumer data. If the success of your business relies more on your sales representatives than on your online advertising, CRM will be what you use more.

SaaS and B2B companies that have more extended purchase cycles are more likely to rely on CRM. Logically, if a sales rep has to interact with high-value accounts in each step of the sales funnel, a customer relationship management platform is essential.

Still, all companies use both types of software. There are plenty of reasons to use CRM and marketing automation software. It’s only the matter of which you’ll need more.

Why Marketing Automation Software Is Useful

Email marketing tools are some of the most commonly used types of marketing automation software. These allow you to manage prospect databases via segments and lists. In a way, it’s a micro version of CRM software in terms of contact organization. This sort of segmentation is useful because it allows you to communicate a different sort of message to specific parts of your target audience, increasing conversion rates in the process. After all, even though we live in a globalized culture, the right approach to individual consumers depends on a variety of things, from their geographical location to their education and preferences.

Marketing Automation Software for Nurturing Leads

It’s not all about lead generation either; marketing automation software can help you nurture existing leads. That way, you can more easily guide them towards potential conversion. The last thing you want is to spend resources on lead generation, only to find yourself falling in the closing stages and wasting money.

marketing automation software in repetitive tasks

Lead nurturing is important because it guides the most prospective leads right to the very bottom of the funnel, making them eager to become paying customers. You can do this by sharing the right content with the right segments of your audience.

If you’re handling huge lead lists, that becomes increasingly difficult, but marketing automation software helps you build authority and trust with everyone, without alienating sections of the audience in favor of others.

Marketing Automation Software and Data Analytics

Also, marketing automation software is invaluable in terms of data analytics. These tools generate accurate reports that aid you in pinpointing the exact efficiency of your marketing campaign, as well as its drawbacks that should be eliminated.

Sure, you may have access to this information anyway, but the right software can do a lot in terms of putting data in the right context. Having these key performance indicators clearly laid out can help you quickly make the necessary adjustments if your conversion rates are too low, or the funnel revenue is shaky.

In short, the right marketing software eliminates guesswork as much as possible. Thus, it helps you steer your business towards a more data-based way of doing things.

Why CRM Software Is Useful

Let’s have a look at the reasons why CRM software is beneficial.

CRM Software for Creating a Flawless Customer Journey

CRM and marketing automation software for sales

Firstly, CRM software provides your sales team with a clear view of the position of each individual customer. They can clearly see where consumers are in regards to the structure of the sales funnel, and map their journey easily. You can be closer to your consumers than ever before, by visualizing and recording each interaction with a given consumer.

If you want to design a flawless customer journey, your company will need a useful piece of CRM software that tracks interactions across all sales and marketing channels. This part is crucial because that’s the only way to have all of the relevant insights regarding each individual customer. And that includes interactions with customer support teams, marketing staff, and sales personnel.

CRM and Marketing Channels Integration

Speaking of the integration of different marketing channels, this is precisely one of the biggest strengths of high-quality CRM software. These days, succeeding in digital marketing takes a multi-pronged approach. Most companies have websites, email campaigns, and social media marketing efforts all at once. Managing the complete customer experience across all of them can be difficult.

However, proper CRM tools help you integrate and coordinate the disparate marketing channels in sync. A CRM platform can record each customer interaction, from a like on your Twitter feed to a sign-up for your newsletter.

Plus, while CRM does not have the word “automation” in its name, most platforms of this sort have some sort of automation features as well. Basically, CRM does for your sales team what marketing automation software does for your marketing team.

With so many CRM tools on the market, you’ll no doubt need some help deciding on which one is right for you. This in-depth list from EmailToolTester highlights CRM software that also comes with marketing automation features, so you can keep everything under one roof.

automation tools

After all, closing a sale means more than convincing a consumer to make a purchase. There are plenty of menial tasks therein, including a variety of reports that you should file, forms that your staff has to fill, as well as invoices and other legal documents that it’s necessary to issue.

One of the main differences between CRM and marketing automation software is that the former actually helps you automate such repetitive jobs and saves your sales teams valuable time and money. And this is time that your staff can spend more productively; from optimizing existing processes to implementing new features and procedures. At the end of the day, they just might have a bit more free time to themselves, thus raising office morale.


There isn’t much of a choice between CRM and marketing automation software. Both of these types of platforms handle different stages of the sales funnel. Thus, each has their own distinct uses. And both are definitely necessary for a successful company in the long run!

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Tags: customer relationship management marketing automation software
Author: Elliot Duran
Elliot Duran is a freelance author and marketing expert, mostly helping companies with web design and SEO optimization. Besides writing software reviews, Elliot frequents mountain resorts and enjoys hiking on challenging terrain.