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Marketing Automation and CRM

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Customer Relationship Management

Next up, we’re going to talk about marketing automation and the CRM. In order to understand marketing automation’s place in a business, you need to talk about a CRM, which is Customer Relationship Management software. Over 91% of businesses with 11 employees or more are now using a CRM, so it’s more than likely that you are going to be using a CRM alongside your marketing automation. It therefore makes sense to understand how they can work together the best.

Combining marketing automation with CRM

When you are considering marketing automation solutions, one of the most important decisions will be deciding how does this combine with the CRM, because your sales team needs to be aligned with your marketing team. This is one of the core things we’re going to be exploring throughout this course. The marketing team cannot live in a silo away from the sales team, especially when it comes to digital marketing. It’s good to understand that a CRM cannot do what a marketing automation tool does. A CRM will not cover the tasks you will need. They may look similar, but they are built for different purposes.

A CRM is used to surface high-quality leads from what was generated from the campaigns created and run within the marketing automation tool. The CRM surfaces the information that sales reps need, which is not the same information that marketing people need. After a lead has been generated and qualified by the marketing team, it passes over to the CRM and out of the marketing software. Current leaders in the CRM space are Salesforce, HubSpot, Pipedrive, Sugar, and Zoho. You can already see that a lot of marketing automation providers are now starting to build their own CRM tools precisely because of this.


What are the primary functions of a CRM?

Sales focused

A CRM is sales focused, meaning it caters specifically to the needs of a sales and services team. Sales and services need to create direct, one-to-one relationships with the contacts they have. In marketing, you are not dealing with individuals, usually. You are dealing with a group of people who are in your persona. So the software required is a CRM, for the sales team, because you need to know a history of detailed conversations, email conversations, phone conversations, social media interactions, and your own personal notes per account. This is not what you’re going to need on the marketing side of things. The sales team need to be able to understand their own properties that they use to identify high-quality and low-quality leads. Their definitions may differ somewhat from marketing.

Alert to churn

They also need to understand behaviors such as when someone’s about to churn. Churn means when someone is about to leave, or not make a purchase, or cancel an account, and so on and so forth. They need to understand when a person is about to leave and other data related to direct, one-to-one relationships. This is not what you’re going to need in marketing automation.

Mass production of assets

Here you can really see the difference between marketing automation software and CRM software. Marketing automation software assists in the mass production of marketing assets. A marketing asset can be an email, a landing page, a site page, a social media message, and so on and so forth. Something that you can copy or duplicate across many different types.

Identifying segments

Secondly, marketing automation software is used to identify segments and qualify behavior within groups of people in your database, rather than looking at the individual. Then you can build tailored experiences for these groups and push them in those directions on your website. For example, when someone arrives at your website that is male or female, and you’re a clothing vendor, you can show male clothes to the male visitors and female clothes to the female visitors, if that is your choice and if that makes sense for your business.

Presenting a general view

It presents a general view of your database, rather than the individual view. You will be looking at your information with regards to lead generation, lead growth, and channel growth, and campaign analysis. This means that you will not need to make the individual notes or document individual conversations like sales people will have to do in the CRM. You are looking to see if, overall, you are attracting the right kind of traffic to your website and converting them at a good rate.


To recap on the differences between marketing automation and CRM:

  • Account management: CRMs facilitate account management. This is for the direct sales process and the post-sales process. It’s involved with the onboarding and training notes, the consulting notes. It is a very one-to-one and individual experience.
  • Sales leads and opportunities: The CRMs are built to identify and track the highest quality of sales leads and opportunities, whereas marketing automation will qualify these up to a point, but it will not take that personalized research approach that the sales tool will have.
  • Content creation and distribution: CRMs are just not built for content creation and distribution, which is demand generation. They cannot be used to edit your website. They cannot be used to create conversion pathways. They cannot be used to build the kind of email series that you want to build.

Synchronizing data between sales and marketing

Your CRM and your marketing automation tool rely on the information passing correctly from one to the other. This means you’re going to have to make sure that the contact property fields, which could be first name, last name, email – it gets very detailed as you go on – but those are the three key identifiers that you all start with. Make sure that those fields are the same in both CRM and the marketing automation software. In this way, you will collect and organize your data effectively so that marketing and sales teams are making the right decisions with the right data. If you do not have the same information synchronizing to both, it’s going to cause a lot of problems. It’s going to render your sales team inoperable. It’s going to make the quality of your marketing really poor.

So you need to make sure that you’re capable of maintaining this consistency across the two. You need to understand that sometimes synchronizing can take a couple of minutes or even a couple of hours, depending on the tools you’ve chosen. That’s an important thing to ask your sales engineer when it’s being set up. How long does it take for the data to pass from my campaign into the CRM tool?

Before you decide on a marketing automation platform or tool, knowing what you need out of it for CRM will always be the first question at the top of your mind. Tying your efforts closely to sales will result in the greater success for your team. The loss of opportunities will drop and the quality of what you’re doing will increase. That is, in a nutshell, why you need to always think about how these two pieces work together.

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Andrea Francis

Inbound marketing manager @ Poppulo

  • Inbound marketing manager in employee communications technology 
  • Worked at Relayr as a senior marketing manager, creating and implementing a global inbound marketing strategy
  • Worked with Hubspot as a marketing manager and funnel optimization specialist focusing on converting leads to qualified leads for the EMEA region
  • Content marketing and blogging with various SaaS startups at Startupbootcamp Amsterdam

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The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

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    Marketing Automation
    Andrea Francis
    Skills Expert

    This module begins with the fundamentals of marketing automation and looks at how businesses are using marketing automation tools with CRM software to create significant sales enablement, lead nurturing, and customer relationship management opportunities. It provides in-depth coverage on generating, managing, and nurturing leads, including topics on importing and managing contact lists, lead scoring and tracking, segmentation, retargeting, and using marketing automation data and social media automation tools to drive campaigns and to detect new business opportunities.