It’s not uncommon for people to confuse the functions of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (such as and marketing automation. Once you understand the differences, it’s easy to see how these are both necessary tools that complement each other and help grow your business.

Definitions first

While there are complex definitions for each, for the sake of brevity, this is a more simplistic approach: CRMs are focused on organizing customer information and tracking customer interactions throughout the customer lifecycle, while marketing automation is focused on promoting one-to-one communication for obtaining new customers through marketing and sales activities. Both CRMs and marketing automation platforms are appropriate for businesses of all sizes –  small businesses and large corporations alike.


Marketing AutomationWho uses what

In general, both tools are used by the sales team and the marketing teams. On a day-to-day basis, your salespeople and account managers will mostly be in the CRM since it helps boost tracking and targeting capabilities with existing customer data files. The CRM was designed with sales in mind to help them make more effective use of their time and to provide a complete view of customers. Your marketing team will be in the marketing automation platform more often. Marketing automation was designed to help marketers reach out with personalized, one-on-one communications based on contact behavior. It helps build contact lists and ensure that the right message reaches a contact at the right time  

Once the leads come out of the marketing automation platform, however, the sales team will jump on them.

Do they play nicely together?

The beauty of a great marketing automation platform and a quality CRM is that they will integrate nicely with each other, making everyone more effective. Marketing automation helps fill in the blanks left behind by CRM and offers different capabilities for B2B marketing departments that allow them to segment leads and existing customers.  

Do you want to focus on tracking and managing your existing customer base? Login to your CRM. Do you want to spend time with one-on-one communication to leads? Login to your marketing automation platform.

CRM tools are able to help manage your clients in a general sense, but it really takes a lot of effort and expertise to try and nurture each and every lead that comes to your site with a CRM alone. You’ll need the help of marketing automation to effectively drive leads.

The best of both worlds

If you’re looking to try out marketing automation with a built-in CRM, or one integrates with any third-party CRM, sign up for a free demo with SharpSpring.


Maryka Burger
Maryka has worked across multiple industries ranging from hard news journalism to digital tech companies and advertising. She is an expert at building online presence, and offers a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing, social media and automation trends to agencies and digital start-ups.
Lindsey Sherman