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CRM vs Marketing Automation…

The difference between marketing automation software and customer relationship management (CRM) software can be confusing. While they’re two distinct platforms, they often work side by side. Although these two platforms have the same end goal—revenue generation—understanding how they differ can help you properly integrate them for maximum results.

Main Differences Between CRM & Marketing Automation

CRM and marketing automation software are two different platforms that integrate. Sales teams use the CRM most often, and the marketing department handles marketing automation software. The sales and marketing departments within your company have a common goal (to win customers and generate revenue), but achieve that goal differently. This is the same for marketing automation and CRM software.

Marketing automation cannot exist without CRM. Your CRM serves as a centralized database (or “backbone”) where all customer information is stored. On the flip side, CRM can function on its own without marketing automation. Marketing automation relies on the customer information stored in the centralized CRM to communicate with those stored contacts.

What Is CRM?

CRM software is a cloud-based ecosystem that serves as the core of a business’ revenue generation strategy. It organizes contacts, accounts, leads, and customer interactions. CRM guides the sales process from start to finish while accelerating the speed and productivity of deals. While it’s the lifeblood of salespeople, it also allows collaboration between team members, such as account management and customer success.

Without CRM, businesses must keep track of spreadsheets, stacks of business cards, and contact sheets. Instead of using these fragmented files, CRM acts as a living record of vital business information. When you enter the correct information into the CRM, it becomes a robust analytics solution, enabling companies to pull reports and learn about their business.

You can learn more about how this software works in our more comprehensive guide explaining what CRM software is.

Benefits of CRM

CRM is known most notably for improving customer relationships—a vital aspect of a company’s success. Strong relationships with customers begin with your internal operations. Automated tasks and improved communication ensures that issues don’t fall through the cracks. CRM allows account and customer success managers to “wow” customers with diligent follow-through and remembering small details.

However, top CRM software also offer these additional benefits:

More Effective Management of Sales Leads

Sales leads typically come from multiple sources, making them difficult to follow up on and track. Instead of leads living in a static spreadsheet, CRM brings the process to life by automating lead distribution and reminder scheduling. CRM automates these features, allowing your team to stay on top of correct data entry and follow-up.

Boosts Revenue by Shortening the Sales Cycle

Shortening the sales cycle frees up time to work on other deals and generate more revenue. CRM reduces your sales cycle through automated lead follow-up reminders and generating useful sales reports. Lead scoring allows your team to focus on the leads with the highest probability of becoming customers. Reporting and forecasting features allow you to analyze sales process data. Having the correct information on your sales process is necessary to optimize it.

Saves Time

CRM software saves time and boosts productivity by eliminating manual tasks. CRM streamlines calling, emails, reports, and account reviews. Since CRM serves as a centralized database, it consolidates all customer information in one place, reducing time spent tracking down information across multiple locations.

Enables Accurate Reporting & Forecasting

Reports and forecasting allow you to know your status and make data-backed business decisions. With one click, each department can pull reports based on the information relevant to their role. For example, a sales manager can pull reports on team members falling behind on quota, and an executive can pull revenue stats to use during investor meetings.

Helps Your Company Run Smoothly

When your departments can collaborate, your company runs smoothly. CRM provides shared visibility into accounts and sales numbers, allowing smoother execution. For example, your finance manager can send a report on past due invoices, allowing account managers to reach out to customers and collect payments.

Allows Your Company to Scale

Repeatable processes are the hallmark of scaling your company. A repeatable process enables an action to go as smoothly while handling 50 contacts as it does when you have five. Because CRMs allow you to establish and follow steps and processes, it results in scalability.

Example CRM Providers

  • HubSpot
    HubSpot Automation Actions

    HubSpot customer contact card

    Who it’s for: Early-stage and rapidly scaling companies needing a basic CRM with a forever-free option, unlimited users, contacts, and tasks.

    Features: HubSpot’s most notable features are contact and pipeline management, email integration with email extension and tracking, and lead capture. It includes live chat, conversational bots, and inbox integrations in its platform. HubSpot is an excellent choice for startups that want free CRM with unlimited users, centralized communication, and the ability to capture leads 24×7.

    Pricing: HubSpot offers a forever-free option with unlimited users and room for up to 1 million contacts. It also offers contact website activity tracking, ticketing, and ad management. Companies requiring advanced features like sales process organization and goal tracking will need to upgrade to one of HubSpot’s paid plans starting at $40 per month for two users (billed annually).

  • Salesforce
    Salesforce Contact Interface

    Salesforce customer dashboard

    Who it’s for: Companies of all sizes wanting a reputable, customizable database that provides real-time analytics and forecasting.

    Features: Salesforce’s features give companies a clear overview of leads, customers, and sales opportunities, helping you better manage your sales process. The activity management and automation features also help eliminate repetitive manual tasks, which enable sales teams to be more productive, making it the right choice for companies that need a robust set of built-in tools.

    Pricing: Salesforce’s pricing options make it an excellent CRM for small businesses, offering core sales and service cloud features for $25 per user, per month (billed annually). It allows sales teams to manage sales processes from both desktop and mobile devices and focus on the activities and opportunities that matter most.

  • Pipedrive
    Pipedrive dashboard

    Pipedrive dashboard

    Who it’s for: Startups and small businesses that need an intuitive CRM with integrated automatic email and a visual pipeline.

    Features: Pipedrive is highly regarded for its ease of use and helpful reporting tools. Its robust, straightforward interface allows visibility into several different pipelines within your organization for easy tracking and performance management. Its best features are its analytics and reporting, contact management, and lead capture.

    Pricing: Pipedrive’s Essential entry-level plan is $12.50 per user, per month (billed annually), which includes customizable pipelines and custom fields. The Professional plan adds advanced features, such as email tracking and workflow automation, for $24.90 per user, per month. It also has higher pricing tiers: Professional ($49.90 per user, per month) and Enterprise ($99 per user, per month).

What Is Marketing Automation?

Companies use marketing automation software to create scalable, automated marketing campaigns for each broad audience and drive revenue. Marketing automation software targets customers with preselected messages through mediums like email, web, social media, and even text messages.

Marketing automation software streamlines time-consuming, manual tasks that slow marketers down. Their most basic function allows marketers to create a digital marketing strategy without sending each message to an audience individually. Where marketing automation becomes more sophisticated is the level of targeting and customization.

A simple example would be a newly hired marketer who wants to send out a promotional email to existing customers. Instead of tracking down each company that qualifies and creating a list, the software will automatically parse the contacts based on preset filters. This automation function allows companies to send highly targeted messages that convert to sales.

Benefits of Marketing Automation

Any software that automates manual tasks will result in more efficiency. According to an article by Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, marketers save 80% more time setting appointments and meetings with clients by using automation software. The same source also reveals that by using automation to schedule ads and social media posts, marketers saved upward of six hours per week.

Marketing automation frees up time so that the marketing team can focus on ideas and strategies versus busy work. Marketing activities that used to take days now take hours. Activities that used to take hours now take minutes. There’s no denying that automating marketing activities will boost productivity and cut down on wasted resources.

Other benefits of marketing automation software include:

Boosts Lead Generation

Lead generation is arguably the most valuable use for marketing automation. Marketing automation produces leads in a few ways. First, it automates your entire email marketing process, from the initial opt-in to when your audience performs your desired behavior. When a potential customer opts to receive your emails, marketing automation software sends them a sequence of messages to increase their interest in your product or service, then adjust the emails automatically based on their behavior.

Automated workflows within marketing automation allow control over what content the recipient sees, increasing the likelihood of making a purchase or other desired behavior that qualifies them as a lead. The result is more effective marketing processes that produce leads on their own.

Improves Relationships Between Sales & Marketing

Salespeople are motivated by money and winning deals. They know that the key to winning deals is filling their pipeline with leads and opportunities. When a salesperson is responsible for prospecting, handing them leads will be the way to their hearts.

There’s often tension between sales and marketing departments because salespeople feel that lead generation efforts on the part of the marketing department is lacking, which ultimately makes their job more difficult. While marketing teams may be achieving growth in their metrics, executives ultimately want to know how those activities convert to closed deals and revenue. Marketing automation soothes these relationships by producing a steady stream of high-quality leads.

Makes Better Use of Marketing Dollars

In business, especially for growing companies, time is money. Marketing automation reduces wasted time and resources, which you can then reinvest into more profitable activities. Marketing automation software enables your marketing budget to be less tied up in labor costs so you can invest in the critical decisions that will take your organization to the next level.

One of marketing automation’s most valuable features is measuring and reporting. Automation software allows you to concretely gauge return on investment (ROI) so you can be particular about which activities produce the best results. Channeling your marketing dollars toward the most successful activities is a recipe for success.

Helps Revenue Generation

By automating cross-selling, upselling, and customer follow-ups, you’re more likely to see an increase in your customer lifetime value. Combining this with better lead management will produce a better ROI. The benefits of marketing automation outlined in this article all incrementally contribute to increasing deal size and revenue.

Example Marketing Automation Providers

  • HubSpot
    HubSpot Automation Actions

    HubSpot’s automated workflow process builder

    Who it’s for: Companies that want top-notch integration ability with HubSpot’s Sales and Marketing Hubs. HubSpot provides a powerful, all-in-one option for small businesses that use content marketing strategies like blogging, lead nurturing, and social media to generate new customers.

    Features: HubSpot’s marketing automation product is best known for its lead capture forms, website chat widget, and lead management and nurturing. Sales and marketing teams alike can take advantage of the customizable email templates and email tracking features.

    Pricing: HubSpot’s free version includes the most common CRM features for up to 1 million records. When upgrading to paid packages, you’ll get add-on functionality available through the Sales Hub and Marketing Hub, ranging from $40 to $800 per month (billed annually) based on the number of contacts.

  • Mailchimp
    Mailchimp Lead Generation Landing Page

    Lead generation landing page templates by Mailchimp

    Who it’s for: Small-to-medium sized businesses that need free email marketing software with automation, segmentation, and testing features.

    Features: Some of Mailchimp’s most helpful free features for marketers are multi-user accounts, email campaigns, landing pages, and pop-up lead capture forms. Their upgraded package includes send time optimization and predicted demographics technology.

    Pricing: Mailchimp offers a Forever Free version of its software that allows 2,000 subscribers and 10,000 email sends per month. Its paid packages start at $9.90 per month for 50,000 subscribers with 500,000 monthly email sends.

  • Constant Contact
    Constant Contact marketing automation

    Constant Contact marketing automation email campaigns

    Who it’s for: Companies that need user-friendly, automated email campaign management with a subscriber- and time zone-specific capabilities.

    Features: Constant Contact also includes features like A/B testing for email subject lines, allowing users to optimize their campaigns for the best engagement rates. In addition, the calendar view makes it easy to plan out and execute marketing campaigns based on your overall strategy and timeline.

    Pricing: Plans are available at $20 and $40 per month for up to 500 contacts, and a 60-day free trial is available for the base plan.

How CRM & Marketing Automation Work Together

CRM collects many different types of data on each lead, which can be overwhelming. By pairing it with your marketing automation system, you can assign scores to each lead based on the data. Lead scoring is when you let your system rank leads by most likely to close to least likely to close before sending the data to your sales and marketing teams. Everyone on the team can access this essential data and act accordingly. This process allows both teams to communicate and understand each other better.

Lead flow using marketing automation and CRM Software Infographic

Lead flow using marketing automation and CRM software

Systematically prioritizing leads prevents salespeople from wasting their time with “tire kickers” or leads that aren’t a match for your company’s product. It also allows marketers to create better marketing initiatives since some campaign types will produce higher quality leads than others.

However, you can also use the two software to do the following:

Prime Leads Before Sending to Sales

CRM and your marketing automation solution work together by nurturing leads before handing them over to a salesperson. This work saves time for salespeople while increasing their chances of closing the deal. Salespeople won’t have to sort through sales data to determine the right way to nurture the lead since marketing automation software already takes care of it.

Your software will analyze data and send the right information to the right team member. The automated workflows will move leads through the sales funnel and qualify them. By the time a salesperson receives the lead, they’ll be much more knowledgeable about them, making it easier to convert them to a customer.

Create Closed-loop Reporting

Closed-loop reporting means that marketers gain a complete understanding of the results of their marketing campaigns and activities. Closed-loop reporting requires that marketers get feedback from the sales team on what happened with the leads they produced and handed them.

CRM and marketing automation working in conjunction enables this closed-loop reporting.

Independently running, these two processes don’t allow you to see the whole picture. You’ll be able to see that you’re generating revenue, but you won’t know how. Without this information, you won’t be able to hone your marketing campaigns.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between marketing automation software and CRM is vital in successfully integrating these two systems. CRM solutions like HubSpot and Salesforce serve as centralized databases that organize contacts, accounts, leads, and customer interactions. Marketing automation platforms like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign use CRM data to create scalable, automated marketing campaigns that reach broad audiences.

You can pair CRM and marketing automation to score, qualify, and prime leads before sending them to the sales team to close. Closed-loop reporting allows visibility into what activities are most successful in converting customers. This visibility can only occur when you create the right synergy between your CRM and your marketing automation software.


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