CRM Systems and Marketing Automation Difference, Overlap

While most of our readers are adept at distinguishing features and functionality of CRM and marketing automation platforms, we field enough questions about distinctions and overlap between the systems that we wanted to quickly revisit a very high-level look at the relative strengths and goals of the two technologies.

At the highest level, CRM was designed to aid customer-facing employees in strengthening and broadening existing customer relationships, consolidating all aspects of clients’ data in a central location, accessible to everyone within the organization who needed it and streamlining operations by reducing or eliminating redundant/unnecessary tasks and supporting more informed and effective decision-making by individuals interacting with customer accounts in such roles as sales, marketing, and customer service. Powered by its relational data infrastructure, the volume and range of data collected and made available in CRM systems enables massive improvements in organizations’ ability to assess and manage using metrics that had not previously been available.

Marketing automation platforms, on the other hand, boast powerful demand generation capabilities that nurture prospect relationships on a one-to-one level, applying nuanced weighting, scoring, and segmentation analysis to prospect behavior and responses to various marketing tactics. In an increasingly customer/prospect-centered marketplace, they shine in addressing the fundamental question of what to do with mid-funnel prospects who are not yet ready to buy, for whatever reason. Marketing automation at its core is centered around engaging prospects on their own timeline, in ways that are best for them and center around their unique preferences and requirements, all with the goal of continuing to provide the appropriate and optimal level of education and engagement to ultimately produce qualified opportunities to sales.

While some CRM systems do indeed include aspects of marketing automation, the incredible B2B nurturing and demand generation capabilities of pure marketing automation platforms mean very real advantages for companies who use both platforms to complement one another. As we help clients evaluate which systems and vendors may best fit their requirements, we’ll continue to provide you with information we think might be relevant or interesting to you and your organization. If there’s a topic you’d like us to cover, please leave us a note in the comments section and we’ll do our best to address it!