Connecting with your customers, enticing them to buy, and providing exemplary post-sale support all present opportunities for automation. When considering CRM vs. marketing automation for your own business, the premise can seem the same. But you should be aware that there are distinct differences between the two. 

Both options deserve equal merit in their own right. Still, if you have to choose, there are several things to consider regarding CRM vs. marketing automation.

Many people assume CRM and marketing automation are interchangeable, but it’s important to distinguish what each concept entails. We compare the benefits of both so you can decide how best to proceed.  

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing involves getting the message to potential customers and building loyalty and repeat business from existing customers. A large company may dedicate an entire department to marketing and advertising.  

A marketing department’s goal is to engage customers and entice them to purchase. It does this by designing effective print ads, mailers, mass emails, and other materials, and determining when to use each. This generates purchases or potential leads for the sales force to pursue.

Marketing automation can put many of these touch points on autopilot through a variety of methods. For example, you can use marketing automation software to send customers on your mailing list a welcome email introducing yourself and what you have to offer. The marketing automation software also collects their contact information for future campaigns.

Similarly, you can send personalized emails to customers on other trigger points such as asking for information, placing an order, booking an appointment, watching a demo or webinar, or subscribing to a newsletter. E-commerce businesses can remind customers of abandoned shopping carts or re-engage past customers through recommendations and promo codes.

You can create retargeted ads to push customers who show interest in a product, and also schedule blog posts for specific times and dates. Regularly scheduled emails keep your brand fresh.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites are prime conduits for reaching customers who might express an interest in your product or service. Those social media posts can be automated as well, allowing you to deliver messages across all of these platforms simultaneously.

How Can Marketing Automation Grow Your Business?

Marketing automation can help close a sale when there’s no need for personal contact with a particular customer, but it generally sticks to customer engagement. Marketing automation allows you to foster a relationship with your customers through content building, and as you gain trust, you guide them toward further interaction.

Information gathered through a targeted marketing strategy builds a contact database, which can include past customers, blog subscribers, trial users, or anyone else who has indicated interest.

This data can include subscription dates, gender, location, age, and function. With this information, you gain insight about who your customers are, what they’re interested in, and what triggers them to buy.

From this information, marketing analysts can determine customer behavior, which helps you figure out how to tweak your web pages and marketing campaigns to reach even more customers.

What Is CRM Automation?

While marketing automation’s main focus is engaging the customer, CRM automation zeroes in on sales and ultimately closing deals. With CRM automation, you involve and assist your sales force.

Customers start their journey with marketing, but they continue it through the sales funnel with CRM automation, which guides them past the sale and into onboarding and customer support.

Marketing automation gathers information, but CRM automation tools take the leads to the next level. Customers who have shown credible interest are now ready for sales force intervention through demos and personal phone calls.

With extensive customer data built into a CRM tool, the sales force can create a targeted sale. This data can include email addresses, phone numbers, websites visited, and social media profiles.

Tracking and interpreting customer behavior lets you identify the exact point that resulted in a sale. Every step of customer interaction, whether through the website or personal contact, is recorded and can be studied.

Data is the key to it all. The information gathered throughout the entire marketing and sales processes helps you design interactions that enhance the customer experience. 

CRM Automation and Operations

CRM automation’s strongest assets are tools that help the sales force. Personalized account management is easy with built-in calendars and direct ways to reach out through VoIP phone service.

CRM automation can generate reports, legal documents, forms and any other paperwork required for a proposal or sale. Quote generators and order configuration contracts are built into the system, available with the click of a button. 

With less time spent on repetitive tasks, the sales force can use its valuable time to build customer relationships that lead to repeat business.  

CRM Automation and Collaboration

One system that houses all information related to customer data keeps the entire sales force on the same page. When everyone knows where the customer is in the process, handoffs to colleagues or collaboration among multiple sales agents on the same account are a snap.

Team members can share the data generated from customers and sales or use it to creatively pursue other avenues such as sales campaigns or resale opportunities.

Management can generate reports to guide the sales force, providing critical insights that can help improve efficiencies. 

CRM vs. Marketing Automation: Which Is Better?

Now that we’ve touched on the main points of each automation system, which one do you think is better? The answer is that you ultimately need both.  

Combining the two provides a well-integrated system that covers all the bases and allows collaboration between the systems for a truly two-way street.

Marketing automation directs leads into the CRM system. In turn, CRM automation provides the detailed data that can shape effective marketing and advertising campaigns.

While marketing automation can create emails based on customer actions, CRM automation can design campaigns based on demographics and behavior.

Your decision might depend on the size of your organization and the extent of your product portfolio. If you’re in a competitive industry, both marketing automation and CRM automation help you keep up with demands and innovations.  

If you don’t have a ton of customers or a huge mailing list, marketing automation might be more useful. The more products you have, the more marketing automation can help you manage and reach out to a greater number of potential customers.

We mentioned marketing automation as a tool for short-cycle sales. CRM automation is used for more complicated products that require personal intervention. Still, you need both to cover the majority of sales in your funnel.

Why Not Both?

Traditionally, marketing and CRM are handled by different departments, but some available systems integrate the two. Often, you can start with a CRM system that includes marketing automation features. 

A marketing automation system ties into a website or app, gathering information about users when they sign up for your mailing list. Then the CRM system works its magic by revealing site statistics that offer invaluable insights.  

You can build a marketing strategy off this information, focusing on clicks. Add emails and retargeted ads and you can hit customers from many sides. 

Your marketing department and sales force can collaborate on what works best for both parties. Sharing feedback will create a well-rounded team.

These tools are newer and may need a bit of customization to get them to work the way you want. If you’re innovative, they could give you the competitive edge in the marketplace and create a unique work environment.


The fact is that both systems save time and money, just in different ways. Repetitive tasks can be automated quickly and easily.

If you’re early in your business and building a customer base, you can benefit from a marketing automation strategy. If you have an extensive mailing list, you need to develop and convert those customers with a CRM automation strategy.  

The point is, you have many ways to reach your customers, nurture them to sales, and provide everything they need and want. Today’s customers are savvy and have many options.

Your company needs to reach those customers in a unique and memorable way. Whatever you decide regarding CRM vs. marketing automation, remember that they can’t replace a great product, intriguing message, or amazing customer experiences, but they definitely have the tools to get you well on your way.

If you’re looking to find out more about marketing automation or the SharpSpring Revenue Growth Platform, feel free to reach out to us for more information today.

Rebecca Wentworth