What is the difference between marketing automation, email marketing and CRM systems? Do I need all three?

Marketing Automation is complimentary to CRM systems like Salesforce, MS Dynamics, NetSuite, Sugar and others, and is the natural next step to your email marketing campaigns. Think of email as like a single-track road - it only offers one-way email capability. Sometimes it can link to the CRM but it doesn’t cure the siloed approach to marketing, which is where the real issues lie.


Marketing Automation is more like a roundabout - a central customer or prospect hub for all your marketing, into which other roads and marketing communication silos can feed. A Marketing Automation platform encompasses email but also a digital library for image reuse and tweaking, a database for lead scoring and nurturing, full automation so you get set and forget, web analytics for customer and prospect behavioural analytics, and complete CRM integration, to the point that one is embedded within the other.


So in an ideal world if organisations want a truly comprehensive approach to marketing and sales, they would invest in both Marketing Automation and CRM.


If you are new to Marketing Automation there are numerous platforms and they all have their strengths, but it can be confusing for marketers to decide on an appropriate solution. Consider your CRM system and which Marketing Automation vendor will best integrate with it. Some are aligned to one vendor, others are platform-agnostic. There are other questions you need to ask, and to be successful you firstly need to understand your business/marketing objectives, and the resources you have internally. Then you can embark on finding the technology to support both.


Obvious considerations are; what constitutes success? Do you have the marketing resource to manage or do you need campaign support from external agencies? How many campaigns do you send to your database every month? Do you need to consider a mobile strategy or link to other platforms, like social media? Is the sales team onside (they should be, with bi-directional feeds from the Marketing Automation platform to the CRM, it will provide complete visibility of how prospects and customers are engaging with the company and its web site in real-time). Have you got the right data to embark on successful campaigns? The database is the bedrock of marketing campaigns, bad data will result in low response rates.


A key question to consider is how you are going to decide which leads to pass on to sales and when? This is a critical part of your sales and marketing workflow. Too many leads go awry between marketing and sales – this technology aligns the processes and ensures marketing prospects stay in the system.


Marketing Automation technology also has a surprisingly low cost of entry – and if you are talking about it increasing your leads pipeline by over 300% as some clients do – it really is about saving resources as well as improving profitability.