Customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation tools are often misunderstood to be the same due to their overlapping features. While there is no doubt that CRM and marketing automation tools have similarities, when you dig deeper, you will start noticing the difference between the two.
Just when businesses were getting familiar with the concept of CRM, marketing automation entered the mix. The prevailing confusion regarding both the set of tools can be attributed to the fact that they more or less perform the same operational tasks.
Primary users of these tools believe that marketing automation and CRM should be fused together into a single technology. That is exactly why companies such as HubSpot and Salesforce are offering integrated solutions wherein the marketing automation and CRM are blended together.
Other players in the industry are offering stand-alone technologies with cutting-edge integrations with each other.
This blog will decode the differences between CRM and marketing automation so that you have a better understanding of how these tools work.
Topics covered in the blog:
- Differences between CRM and marketing automation
- What is marketing automation software?
- Core features of a marketing automation software
- Benefits of automation
- What is CRM software?
- Core features of a CRM software
- Benefits of CRM
- How to decide when your business requires different software?
- When to opt for a CRM software?
- When to opt for marketing automation software?
- Final words
Difference between CRM and marketing automation solutions
Let’s start with the basics. The fundamental difference between a CRM and a marketing automation tool is the target audience.
While a CRM system is primarily focused on sales, a marketing automation software is apt for marketing. A marketing automation tool is designed to simplify and automate marketing workflows. Marketing automation platforms play an important role in helping the sales teams to close deals.
On the other hand, CRM is referred to as a strategy deployed by companies to handle interactions and engagement with current or prospective customers. A CRM stores critical information such as phone numbers, email addresses, customer names, and their link with the company.
It is important to understand that these are only the most glaring differences between these two solutions. In fact, there are other minor functionality differences between marketing automation and CRM systems.
To understand these differences, let’s understand what these tools offer, their key features, and their benefits.
What is a marketing automation software?
Marketing automation is advanced software that allows marketers to streamline customer data management, segmentation, and campaign management. These tools enable marketers to offer targeted, data-driven, and real-time campaigns with improved efficiency.
Simply put, marketing automation software automates marketing tasks such as campaign tracking, customer segmentation, and campaign management.
Core features and functionalities of marketing automation systems
- Marketing automation tools enable users to generate and capture leads with web forms and pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
- Users can bifurcate the leads into various categories such as salary-ready leads, raw leads, etc.
- Once a visitor or a prospect fills the form, the tool stores their contact information in a central location.
- Marketing automation tools segregate the leads on the basis of different metrics such as preferences, product interests, location, website engagement.
- Users can create and deliver personalized messages to different customer segments to drive engagement and turn leads into customers.
- Most marketing automation software provides email templates that can be used to deliver campaign-related content.
Benefits of a marketing automation software include:
- A marketing automation tool plays a key role in detangling the knots present in upselling and cross-selling. Marketers can dish out tailored emails to customer segments and improve their chances of turning prospects into paying customers.
- The best marketing automation solutions highlight the best leads so that sales teams can focus on them instead of chasing unqualified leads.
- These tools provide a bird’s eye view of all the marketing activities at a centralized dashboard. As a result, the leadership can save considerable time since they do not have to jump from one platform to the other.
What is a CRM software?
Before we try to figure out what CRM software is, it is important to understand what CRM is. Customer relationship management is a business strategy that boosts profitability and revenue while simultaneously achieving customer loyalty and satisfaction.
A CRM software connects the missing links in this process and streamlines them. CRM systems play a key role in ensuring that your strategy is implemented optimally and also in the management of customer relationships.
The best CRM tools available today offer four major functionalities to businesses:
- Customer service
- Digital commerce
In simple terms, a CRM software helps you to build and manage customer relationships through the customer lifecycle.
Core features and functionalities of a CRM software
- A CRM platform allows users to create a searchable repository of current and prospective customers.
- A CRM tool simplifies the process of tracking and managing leads. Besides, it is also a powerful solution to capture and nurture leads.
- Most CRM solutions help users bifurcate their target audience or customer base on the basis of location, gender, age, and preference to deliver tailored messages.
Benefits of a CRM software:
- One of the best solutions to consolidate customer data in a single place. This ensures that data is easily accessible to customer and sales service teams.
- CRM tools not only provide a centralized database, but they also facilitate smooth and efficient communication and customer engagement.
- The best part about a CRM solution is that it provides actionable insights pertaining to a customer’s behavior.
How to decide when your business requires different software?
After understanding the various nuances of marketing automation and CRM, you will be able to make out whether your business is ready to implement these solutions.
Here are a few indicators:
- You are not able to keep track of your activities
- You are not able to retain your customers
- You have taken upon yourself a lot of responsibility
It is important to ponder over these points and turn to business tools to help you untie these knots. You would be surprised to learn that nearly 80% users saw a rise in sales after they started using marketing automation software .
We have another interesting stat for you. Despite the social media boom over the past decade, email is around 40 times more effective than Twitter and Facebook as far as acquiring new customers is concerned .
Email and marketing tech has proven to be extremely handy. Besides, using marketing automation along with your company’s email marketing strategy is one of the best ways to optimize your sales and marketing activities.
Ask yourself these important questions which will help you decide what you need.
- What are the bottlenecks your company is facing in the sales process?
- Which tasks are repetitive and mundane? Can you automate them?
- What are your leads and prospects looking for?
When you ask the right questions, you are bound to find the right solutions to answer them.
You should opt for a CRM software if:
- Your business is finding it difficult to understand and tracking customer journeys.
- Retaining customers is becoming harder.
- Your company has collected large volumes of data and leads that cannot be handled manually.
- The number of unhappy and unsatisfied customers continues to move in an upward trajectory.
You should opt for a marketing automation software if:
- Your team is investing a lot of time in replying to emails and follow-ups.
- Your sales team does not have sufficient leads to work with.
- Marketing campaigns fail to yield relevant results and data for the sales team.
- You are clueless about how to deliver your content to prospects.
Although CRM systems and marketing automation tools have a bunch of overlapping features, choosing one over the other is turn out to be extremely difficult.
Ideally, your approach should involve combining the best of both, CRM and marketing automation to streamline your sales processes.
As a matter of fact, you require marketing automation for the smooth management of digital campaigns and prioritizing leads. Whereas, you require a CRM to ensure your sales team can manage these leads in a timely and methodic fashion.
Having said that, you can either opt for a solution that provides the combined force of automation and CRM or opt for standalone solutions.
We understand that choosing the right software for your business requires considerable research and investment of time. Platforms like Tools Metric take that burden off your shoulders by comparing and reviewing business tools.
You can skim through our in-depth tool reviews that cover business tools from various categories such as CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) among others.
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  (2018) “The Rise of Marketing Automation — Statistics and Trends” Demand Gen Report [online] Available from: https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/infographics/the-rise-of-marketing-automation-statistics-and-trends/ [accessed April 2021]