Do you need marketing automation software and a CRM?  They’re more or less the same thing, right?

If you find it hard to see the difference between these two tools and are feeling a bit lost, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

In this post, we’ll help you understand the differences between these two quite separate pieces of software. We’ll also explain how using the two together will both improve the effectiveness of sales and marketing and help you to generate more revenue. At the end of the post, we’ll look at the specific advantages of doing so.

In this post, we’ll look at:

  1. Marketing automation and CRM: two different tools with two different uses
  2. What they have in common: a focus on customer relationships
  3. 6 advantages of automating your customer relationships

1. Marketing automation and CRM: two different tools with two different uses

1.1 Marketing automation, your personal assistant

Simply put, marketing automation involves using software to automate and simplify repetitive tasks that would otherwise require a lot of time and effort each day.

Marketing automation records any new interaction a lead or prospect has with a page on your website or content you share with them. Based on this interaction, the software then generates scenarios (or sequences of personalized emails) which, in turn, generate further interactions.

Marketing automation software lets you generate leads, situated at the top of the marketing funnel, and move them through the buying cycle until they become what are called hot leads or marketing qualified leads (MQL).

Companies use marketing automation software to increase their efficiency but also to offer their prospects a much more personalized buying experience.

1.2 CRM, a photographic memory

CRM is an abbreviation for customer relationship management. A CRM is a piece of software that enables you to manage your relationships with both customers and prospects.

You could say that a CRM is a sort of database used by your sales team. They are the people who use the CRM on a daily basis. In it, they record any sales actions carried out with a prospect or a customer. So, the CRM is designed to support actions taken at the bottom of the marketing funnel, from the qualifying of leads by sales (SQL) to when prospects sign a contract and become a customer.

Each lead profile in the CRM is regularly updated. This can include personal information and contact details, but also things like what stage of the funnel leads are in. Salespeople don’t call it a “goldmine” of information for nothing!

A CRM is designed to optimize the quality of customer relationships with three goals in mind: retention, conversion, and loyalty. To do this, a CRM records your past sales and marketing activities, and based on these, helps you to determine what actions you need to undertake next in order to convert prospects and/or (re)convert existing customers.

But the CRM waits for you to carry out a new action. One of the major differences between marketing automation software and a CRM is the sequence of action:

  • marketing automation software is active. It nurtures relationships with leads and prospects by carrying out actions throughout the day in real-time, making a marketer’s job easier in the process;

the only action of a CRM – although a very important one – is to keep a record of all the information relating to a prospect. This then lets salespeople know how best to approach them.

2. What they have in common: a focus on customer relationships

Just so we’re clear, when we talk about customer relationships, we’re also talking about prospect relationships. In addition to being a specific tool, customer relationship management refers to the strategies that companies use to manage and analyse both interactions with and information from customers and/or potential customers throughout their lifecycle.

Now that we’ve talked about the differences between marketing automation software and a CRM, we’ll look at what they have in common, and how they can work together to produce even greater results.

The two tools have the following things in common:

they both enable relationships with customers to be improved on a daily basis, in real-time.

At Plezi, we integrated our marketing automation software with a CRM early on. Plezi sends personalized content to targeted prospects that provides them with value and enables them to increase their understanding of a particular topic. Our CRM then uses the information that marketing has collected to enable our salespeople to personalize their approach to prospects.

Used together in this way, marketing automation software and a CRM let you better track the buyer’s journey of prospects, enhancing what you know about them and enabling you to turn more of them into customers. The end goal is to provide your prospects and customers with a personalized, enjoyable buying experience.

Marketing automation software and a CRM should therefore be used together to complement each other. They certainly aren’t designed to be used completely independently of each other, without any communication between the two. On the contrary, by integrating the two tools with each other, you will greatly increase their combined effectiveness.

(An example of how Plezi integrates with different CRM’s)

3. 6 advantages of automating your customer relationships

By using marketing automation software and a CRM together, you’ll be able to track specific sales and marketing actions much more easily. Here are six reasons why you should integrate the two tools with each other.

3.1 Saves your teams valuable time

Your sales team will no longer need to manually import and export data. They can also say goodbye to data entry, no longer having to enter data into tables for each lead. Knowing that a lead in the CRM relates to a prospect is a huge time saver for them. This is also an advantage for marketers, who no longer risk seeing leads they have generated leak out of the funnel.

And with sales and marketing teams working collaboratively on the same conversion funnel, lead scores are automatically transferred into your CRM from your marketing automation software. This enables sales to focus all their efforts on hot leads.

3.2 Improve conversion rates for prospects into customers

Salespeople can take advantage of valuable information collected by marketing and which is automatically entered into the CRM. This enables them to be more effective and focused when meeting with prospects and making it easier for them to sign new customers. Proof that working collaboratively can produce results!

Let’s look at an example. One of your salespeople contacts a prospect to make them an offer. The prospect tells the salesperson about certain obstacles that prevent them from making a purchase at the current time. The salesperson then records this information in your CRM. The information is automatically shared with your marketing automation software which generates a new automated scenario for them. At the end of this scenario, the prospect takes the desired actions. For example, they might look at your pricing page. This event, triggered by your marketing automation software, is also recorded in your CRM. Your salesperson can then contact the prospect again and, using this new information, is able to conclude the sale.

3.3 Ensure information in the CRM is always up to date 

By integrating marketing automation software with a CRM, prospects information is automatically shared between the two tools in real-time and is always up to date. For example, when filling out an online form, a prospect might be asked to indicate the industry they work in. This information will automatically be entered into the CRM, without requiring any action on your part.

If you use progressive profiling, this additional information about a prospect is collected gradually and naturally as a prospect interacts with your website and content. But to take full advantage of this technique, you need to be sure that this information isn’t lost. By integrating marketing automation software with a CRM, information is automatically shared with the two tools.

Plezi john hughes

(An example of a lead profile in Plezi)

3.4 Fine tune your marketing campaigns

By sharing information between your marketing automation software and your CRM in both directions, your marketing actions can be more precise. At Plezi, when we have prospects in the purchase stage of the funnel, we can see that they are being handled by our sales team and therefore take them out of a workflow or our Smart Campaign.

3.5 Ensure prospects are supported right through the funnel

Typically, leads are first supported by marketing, who will then hand them over to the sales team at a predetermined point. Sometimes, however, a salesperson might have almost moved a prospect towards purchase, but, for one reason or another (e.g., a project has been delayed), they don’t become a customer. In this case, the salesperson might plan to recontact them again in a few months. In the meantime, they can count on the marketing team to nurture the prospect again with content so they don’t forget about your company. In this way, the marketing team continues to provide the prospect with valuable content until the salesperson contacts them again. This lets you keep in regular contact with a prospect and saves valuable time for the salesperson. Long live marketing automation!

Plezi’s marketing automation software can be easily integrated with the Salesforce CRM. In our post on integrating these two tools, we explain how this has this made our sales team more effective. 

Salesforce lead

(An example of a lead in Salesforce)

3.6 Improve the responsiveness of your sales team

At Plezi, our marketing automation software provides salespeople with information about the actions of prospects in real-time, enabling them to time their contact with prospects perfectly.

As soon as a prospect completes an online form requesting a product demonstration, for example, a notification is sent to the sales team in both the CRM and via email, enabling them to contact a prospect immediately.

But our marketing automation software can also benefit our sales team in a range of other situations. We’ve done this after online events, for eample. Once done, we enter participants’ details into Plezi, which were then automatically sent to our CRM. This enabled our sales team to start a conversation with prospects while Plezi was still fresh in their minds. Salespeople could adapt their approach based on the fact that initial contact had already been made during the event.

Being able to easily pass information both ways between marketing automation software and a CRM greatly increases the effectiveness of the sales team and helps align the sales and marketing departments. That’s important because effective sales efforts are based not only on demographic information, but also on much more complete behavioural data than a CRM is able to provide. This lets you personalize your relationships with prospects and customers and ensure that they will be more profitable for you.

Do you use Salesforce and want to find out more about integrating your CRM with Plezi? Why not join our webinar coming soon to find out how to do just that?

Charles Dolisy