Will Scully-Power

Marketing Automation vs. CRM :: What is the difference between Marketing Automation and CRM?

educationAn open letter to all Australian & New Zealand marketers:

After many years selling both Marketing Automation databases and CRM databases, services and solutions in the Australian / New Zealand marketplace, I have decided to clearly explain the difference between a Marketing Automation database and a Customer Relationship Managment or CRM database.

It seems that there is still some confusion in the local market as to how these two databases differ, how they work together and the value of integrating these two databases together.

The objective of this post is to simplify the jargon, clearly explain the key differences and empower you as a marketer to make smart data-driven decisions.

What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Database:

Simply, this is a database designed to allow an organisation to do three core things:

1.) Sales teams to input, manage and track their leads that are generated by their marketing team
2.) Customer service teams to input, manage and track customer service and support quieries
3.) Marketing teams to segment customer/sales data e.g. which customers bought an iPhone in the last 6 months.

Examples of CRM databases which are stored (on-premise) i.e. database physically stored inside an organisation on their own servers are:  Siebel, Oracle, Microsoft etc.

Example of a CRM database which is stored (off-premise) i.e. database physically stored outside an organisation on the vendors servers is: Salesforce http://www.salesforce.com

In today’s enviorment, most organisations across Australia & New Zealand and globally have or are in the process of moving to (off-premise) CRM databases like Salesforce.com for the costs savings and ease of use.

To access the database all a user needs is a username, password and a web-browser, as the data from the database is delivered within a users web-browser.

These types of CRM databases are referred to as any of the following: Software as a Service, SaaS, On-Demand, Cloud-based and Cloud Computing.

Ok, so as a marketer if you have a CRM database in your organisation, FANTASTIC!

It’s a start, but it only allows you to segment customer/sales data.

Today’s marketers are using multi-channels for both inbound and outbound marketing.

These channels include:

– Email (Inbound, Outbound)
– SMS (Inbound, Outbound)
– Paid Search (Inbound e.g. Google Adwords)
– Paid Display (Inbound e.g. Banner Ads)
– Landing Pages (Inbound e.g. Email, Google Adwords, Banner Ads)
– Telemarketing (Inbound, Outbound)
– Social Media (Inbound, Outbound e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Widgits)

So does your CRM database allow you to set-up, build, manage, track and optimise all of the data that is generated from the above channels?

The answer is NO! Regardless of which CRM database you are using, it does not allow you to do this, nor were they designed to.

Now, the problem that you as a marketer face is simple. When you look to execute any inbound or outbound campaigns, your data is siloed, often stored in multiple databases in multiple locations, often managed by multiple rostered agencies and/or vendors – leaving you as a marketer with little to no visibility of four of the most important things within marketing:

1.) A 360 degree view of how marketing have touched the customer or prospect i.e. which campaigns were they sent
2.) The behaviour of the customer or prospect i.e. how did they or didn’t they respond to those campaigns (conversions)
3.) What variables performed better within those campaigns i.e. creative, call to action etc
4.) Where the customer or prospect is within the customer lifecycle or buying lifecycle

Q. So how does a marketer solve this problem?

A. A Marketing Automation Database

The objective of  implementing a marketing automation database is to get all the information marketing needs to acquire leads in one place. Marketers implement a marketing automation database to see all of marketing’s interactions with each prospect and customer. They also use it to keep data clean by automating the de-duplication of  records within the database.

A marketing automation database is a SEPERATE database, designed to allow an organisation to do 7 core things:

1.) Lead Generation
– Objective: Make sales happy with more qualified leads.
– How: Convert website traffic into leads, automate lead development, identify when prospects are ‘sales ready’, automate sales tasks and track follow up.

2.) Lead Nurturing
– Objective: Drive revenue by nurturing raw inquiries into ‘sales ready’ leads.
– How: Nurture relationships with qualified prospects, educate leads before passing them to sales, trigger relevant responses to prospect behaviours and automate repetitive marketing tasks.

3.) Lead Scoring
– Objective: Improve sales effectiveness by passing only qualified leads to sales.
– How: Automate lead qualification processes, measure prospect interest and engagement, score leads using demographic data and behavioural data and focus sales resources on the best opportunities.

4.) Website Tracking
– Objective: Know exactly who is visiting your website and where they go.
– How: Track all prospect interactions online, identify which companies are visiting your website, monitor known and anonymous visitors and automatically alert sales reps of new prospect activity on the website

5.) Email Marketing
– Objective: Don’t just email prospects, engage them in a dialogue.
– How: Deepen realationships with triggered, multi-step campaigns, get to the inbox using the latest deliverability technology, raise and open click rates by targeting segments and track and score who opens and clicks on each email.

6.) Landing Page Optimisation
– Objective: Create, publish and test targeted landing pages.
– How: Launch new landing pages in minutes, use your own branding and subdomain, maximise conversion rates through A/B testing and capture leads with smart forms that recognise know customers and prospects.

7.) Marketing Asset Management
– Objective: Store, distribute and track content and other marketing assets.
– How: Upload and manage documents and image files, publish customised URLs for each asset, track which piece gets viewed by prospects and notify sales reps whenever key marketing assets are viewed by a customer or prospect.

Now, to get the true value out of all of the above – organisations should integrate their CRM database (which holds sales data) with their Marketing Automation database (which holds marketing data).

Why? Three simple reasons.

1.) Instead of manually exporting ‘sales ready’ leads from a marketing automation database in excel and then having your sales team manually upload the list into their CRM database, this integration automates the transfer of the marketing data from the marketing automation database into the CRM database.

2.) Sales teams are now empowered as they now have all the marketing history of how a prospect or customer has been communicated to by marketing, how they have or havn’t responded and most importantly the prospect or customers behaviour. So what that means is that the sales or telemarketing team have all of this rich actionable insight about what they prospect or customer is interested in before they make an outbound call.

3.) Closed Loop Return on Investment (ROI) reporting – by integrating your marketing automation database (marketing data) with your CRM database (sales data), you can now attribute which campaign(s) drove not only conversions but repeat purchases.

Marketing Automation databases are referred to as any of the following: Software as a Service, SaaS, On-Demand, Cloud-based and Cloud Computing. To access the database all a user needs is a username, password and a web-browser, as the data from the database is delivered within a users web-browser.

Hope this post helps to explain to all marketers across Australia & New Zealand the difference between a Marketing Automation database and a CRM database, and the power of integrating the two for full closed loop ROI analysis.


25 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Very clearly differentiated between Marketing Automation database vs. CRM database .

I like the way you had explained 7 core things about automation database:It shows your experience in this field “Will”

Great post & I would like to subscribe for RSS to read upcoming posts regularly

Comment by CRM for small business

Good to see thought finally being expressed on something I have felt I’ve been living with for several years now.

As you know XMPie have years with of case study data (much of it well documented by infotrends, capv, and PODi http://www.podi.com.au)… that talks about the benefits of harnessing CRM data and campaign based “marketing automation data” for better results in trigger based 1:1 campaigns.

I’ve actually got slide presentations that I was showing 4-5 years ago presenting the concept of how CRM data could be enhanced through 1:1 trigger-based, multi-channel marketing. Unfortunately, some of the concepts are only now being taken on board and it’s only in the last 12 months or so that I’ve got case customer results to back this up.

Keep up the crusade… I definitely think it’s worth it.

K. Duane Mackey
Fuji Xerox Australia

Comment by K. Duane Mackey


This is a wonderful post, highlighting the core differences in what CRM needs, what marketers need, and why CRM along with email list-and-blast is not the enough for the current B2B marketer.

Another difference worth mentioning is that the marketing database is a much larger set of the world given the prospects, suspects, leads, and customers involved, where the CRM database is generally a subset (from a contact and account perspective).

I’d also throw a small plug for another marketing automation solution, Silverpop’s Engage B2B, for which I work. 🙂

Comment by Will Schnabel

thanks for the beautiful information, i am feeling proud to comment in your website.

i will definitely keep in touch with your web site and i want to see all the post daily..

thanks alot,

Comment by CRM Services, CRM Sales, CRM Solutions

thanks for the information and the way you expalined is awesome, keep it up and have a bright future.


Comment by Blind Care Foundation

Great points Will. I think the difference will become startlingly clear to any organization as soon as they begin to demand truly qualified, sales-ready leads from their marketing team. Then the “why” for the various capabilities becomes crystal clear.

Comment by Steven Woods

A very important topic, as a recent survey we conducted showed that many CRM users either do not understand marketing automation systems, or falsely believe they have marketing automation in place (their CRM system). Thank you for clearly differentiating the two and explaining the benefit of marketing automation systems.

I’d like to add a few items to your list of marketing mediums that can be automated with marketing automation systems:
-Direct Mail (postcards, greeting cards, brochures, letters, etc)
-Personalized URLs (dynamic landing pages and microsites)
-Sales rep follow-up reminders and tasks.

WARNING, BLATANT PLUG: My company (Engagement Systems) works within SalesForce.com CRM to automate the delivery of mail, email, Personalized URLs, SMS, voice broadcasting, and other marketing mediums. These can be delivered to individuals or groups, initiated by a user or triggered automatically.

WARNING: BLATANT COMPETITOR PROPS: We really feel that marketing automation systems that are embedded in the user’s CRM system (like Engagement Systems, Marketo and Genius.com) are also more efficient, as marketing and sales users can manage contacts and list and initiate marketing communications without exiting to another application or exporting files or lists to another system or an outside vendor.

All the best.

Comment by David Vogel

It’s great to see this explained clearly. I was fuzzy about it until now.


Comment by Marc Lehmann

great post. You clarified the difference etween CRM database and Marketing Automation database. I think this is the best reference material for them

Comment by Marketing Effectiveness

Great work Will.
This will do very well indeed . Much necessary

Comment by Tim Mooney

This really nails a distinction that’s incredibly valuable if followed through. Many vendors pitch CRM as a tool, but they don’t completely explain what the tool does, nor do they sell it based on the results that it can achieve.

Marketing automation, conceptually, is tool and process with a much clearer value offer and purpose.

Comment by John Haining

Good job Will,
This is a good succinct summary of the differences. The primary reasons for people to add a Marketing Automation system to their existing CRM are to automate outbound campaigns based on behavioral history of prospects, improve the inbound marketing capabilities with dynamic forms and data validation, and produce much richer reporting on marketing’s influence on the Sales funnel.
Best Regards, Kevin

Comment by Kevin Joyce

Nicely written — thanks!

Comment by josh

Will, a very solid and succinct post about marketing automation and CRM. Although the technology has been out for some time people are still wrapping their heads around the differences, especially in the SMB space.

This is a great starting point for organizations looking at segmenting their prospects based on ‘sales-readiness’. It is very easy to put the hot leads into your CRM system and give it to sales to turn it into revenue, but where the rubber meets the road is properly nurturing and managing prospects until they are at that point. Without a marketing automation system it is extremely difficult to properly do so.

Again, well said.

Comment by Matt Filios

You also could consider to integrate – on your own webpages – a web application to automatically identify and qualify the companies that visit your website.
So you’ll obtain every day a qualified list of fresh b2b leads and you could automatically deliver them to your sales networsk, to optimize and support their efforts.
A 20-days free trial is also available here: http://www.domodomain.com/ppc/index.html

Comment by B2B Web Leads

[…] (See previous post on Marketing Automation Database vs. Customer Relationship Management Database) […]

Pingback by What does the term ‘Marketing Automation’ actually mean? « Datarati :: Will Scully-Power :: Data, Analytics & Optimization in the World of Advertising!

Very concise explanation of the usefulness of a CRM vs a Marketing automation platform. CRM are not a marketing tool. Effective marketing needs data and marketing automation can provide that.

Comment by Alexandre Sagala


Good article and well thought out. I think that the key point is the lead handover. SO much rich information can be handed over, but at the same time it could all be noise for Sales. Getting that filter right is key.
Best, Leighton

Comment by Leighton Jenkins

Very nice write-up. I certainly love this website. Thanks!

Comment by email blast

Excellent post. I definitely love this site. Stick with it!

Comment by em-blast

Can I just say what a relief to discover someone who truly understands what they are talking about on the web.
You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important.

A lot more people really need to read this and understand this side of the story.
It’s surprising you aren’t more popular since you most
certainly possess the gift.

Comment by Quincy Ceaser

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