CRM vs. Marketing Automation A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between Them


Many people and businesses are wondering the difference between CRM vs. marketing automation. If you’ve done any research, you already know that combining CRM & marketing automation is highly recommended. But, you still may be wondering what the actual difference is since you’ll likely have to invest in 2 different solutions.

Get our CRM Comparison Matrix or Marketing Automation Comparison Matrix.

The truth is CRM and marketing automation should just be combined into one technology. Some companies are already doing that (e.g. Salesforce and Hubspot), while others are standalone technologies that are creating out-of-the-box integrations with each other. Top marketing automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Act-on, eTrigue) almost all integrate with some of the top CRM platforms, including Salesforce, SugarCRM and Microsoft Dynamics.

At a fundamental and technical comparison, marketing automation primarily manages digital campaigns/email marketing, lead activity tracking/scoring and landing pages/forms. That is a very simplified overview. Here is a full list of marketing automation features.

On the other hand, CRM manages the sales pipeline process: individual emails, lead status tracking, task management, opportunity tracking and pipeline reporting. Again, this is oversimplified – here’s a huge list of CRM features as well.  

Is There a Difference?

One may think that the key difference between CRM versus marketing automation is that each platform manages database contacts at different stages in the marketing/sales cycle. This is no longer true.

Marketing and marketing automation platforms can assist sales all the way to closed deals. Marketing automation feeds information into the CRM as well as draws information out of it to execute segmented campaigns, lead nurturing, update lead scores and more.

The difference on the marketing automation side of the equation is the execution of campaigns. Campaign management is at the core of marketing automation. Everything else (activity tracking, lead scoring, form data) is passed through to your connected CRM platform.

Conversely, the key difference of CRM is opportunity management. Moving leads to and opportunity and managing those opportunities is native to CRM and not available in marketing automation platforms. In fact, if it is available, that platform is a CRM Marketing Automation combo.

Note that the differences stated above are the key high level ones – there are other more minor functionality differences that are useful features but not core business functions.

Don’t Compare CRM to Marketing Automation

In my expert opinion, however, you shouldn’t be comparing crm vs. marketing automation as far as choosing one over the other. For most businesses, the combination of CRM and marketing automation is critical and necessary. You need marketing automation to allow marketing to manage digital campaigns and help prioritize leads. You need CRM to help sales manage these leads and opportunities.

That being said, you will still likely need to select separate platforms, even if you are going with a company that has both. Click here to evaluate CRM solutions and click here to evaluate marketing automation solutions.


  1. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i came
    to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to enhance my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of
    your ideas!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here