<img src="http://www.srv2020real.com/74680.png" style="display:none;">

Often when I'm explaining to people what One Red Bird does, I talk about marketing automation technology.

Many people don’t know what marketing automation is, so I frequently find myself using customer relationship management (CRM) software as a comparison point. After all, marketing automation and CRM software share a lot in common.

Their ultimate purpose is the same—to grow sales. And they both help accomplish this by using software to engage and manage leads and customers. 

They also both enable sales and marketing teams to do their jobs more efficiently.

But despite their similarities, there are crucial differences between the two. CRM software (SalesForce, Oracle, Siebel, Microsoft, etc.) assists with tracking and managing leads already generated by marketing. Marketing automation software helps produce those leads.

CRM software is useful for aggregating data about sales-qualified leads and existing customers, but it’s essentially a database, with limited marketing capability. Marketing automation, on the other hand, is designed as a communication platform, with many inbound marketing tools to help move leads to sales-readiness.

By facilitating consistent, coordinated, and relevant demand generation and lead nurturing strategies, marketing automation increases the “flow” of the sales funnel. Whereas CRM doesn’t engage customers until they’re passed on to sales, marketing automation connects with them at the very top of the funnel and helps them move through the purchase process.  

Lead scoring (based on a prospect’s activities in relation to criteria you set) allows for an automatic determination of the appropriate strategies and content for prospects, wherever they are in the sales funnel. Particularly in B2B marketing—with its longer sales cycles than B2C marketing—this personalized approach is vital as prospects explore, learn, evaluate, and decide.

Why Is This Important?

Understanding the differences between CRM software and marketing automation makes it clear why they aren’t interchangeable. They do important, but different, things—and growing businesses need them both.

Marketing automation software and CRM software complement each other.

If you have CRM software but no marketing automation, you’re neglecting the top of your sales funnel. You have a big bucket at the bottom, but you may not have enough coming through to fill it.

But you can’t ignore CRM software either—marketing automation needs to be tied into CRM software to facilitate sales and marketing alignment and make use of historical CRM data to guide marketing strategies. And because CRM software is the primary tool used by salespeople, failing to integrate marketing automation into it will inevitably result in uncoordinated strategies and duplicated efforts between sales and marketing. 

Like your sales and marketing teams themselves, CRM software and marketing automation both work best when they work together. Making use of this synergy can give you a key edge in building sales.

What Can You Do?

If you’re implementing marketing automation, you’ll need to diligently compare the various products available, because there’s a wide variance in features—some are little more than automated email systems, while others have the full capabilities necessary to help you grow your business. Be sure you know what you’re getting before you invest.

One of your key technical considerations should be whether the marketing automation software has CRM integration capability. Leading marketing automation providers such as Marketo and Hubspot have built-in integration with CRM software. However, built-in integration isn’t necessary if the marketing automation can be integrated with CRM through an API.

A final but critical point: in your focus on features and integration, don’t forget that software solutions are only effective in support of good strategies—they can’t make bad strategies succeed. For this reason, it often pays to consult with a B2B marketing services agency that has experience in both the technical and strategic aspects of marketing automation.

The Bottom Line

Marketing automation software and CRM software aren’t an “either/or” proposition. When effectively integrated, they complement each other—working together to increase leads, conversions, and profit! 


Image courtesy of istolethetv, Creative Commons.

Topics: leads, marketing automation, sales and marketing alignment, customer engagement, sales funnel