Marketing automation and CRM: what differences and complementarities?

Marketing automation and CRM are two distinct concepts, linked to different IT tools. This article should help shed some light on their respective usefulness. You will also learn how these marketing automation and CRM tools are increasingly used together in business.


What is CRM?

It is necessary to dissociate the CRM, which is a concept whose definition is given below, from the CRM tool, which is a software allowing to increase the profitability of a structure.


CRM definition

CRM is an acronym for “Customer Relationship Management”, an expression that translates into French as “client relationship management”. In management science, it is considered that any client of a company, and prospect by extension, maintains a relationship with the structure concerned.


This relationship, like any human relationship, can be made of trust and satisfaction, or on the contrary of mistrust and frustration. Managing the customer relationship, for a structure, involves establishing a strategy that promotes the creation of a healthy relationship base. It is on this relational basis that loyalty and the chances of future purchases are developed.


However, the relationship of a company with a customer is defined by all the past interactions between it and him.


To best meet their current needs, desires, concerns or frustrations, a company must therefore have an overview of past interactions with their customers. This means having kept track of it somewhere, especially when you have to manage relationships with hundreds or even thousands of different customers. This is where CRM software comes in…


Why use CRM software?

CRM software centralizes the data which is distributed in the various applications of the teams in charge of customer relations, in particular marketing, after-sales service and the sales team.


This centralization of data facilitates team cooperation. Indeed, traditionally, the exchange of information is done by email. Company employees must therefore often record information by hand, which is time-consuming and confusing.


With CRM software, the transmission of information is automated. This frees up time and allows you to be more responsive, resulting in better customer satisfaction for the same effort.


For example, thanks to a CRM tool, the after-sales team can see in real time which offers the customers who contact them have purchased. No need to ask them or call the sales teams, since the CRM already has the information in its database. In this way, the after-sales service team can respond more quickly to customer expectations, and in a personalized way.


Another example: thanks to the CRM, the marketing team keeps a real-time overview of the main causes of customer tickets sent to the after-sales service. The marketing team could then notice that a function of the product sold poses difficulties of use. It will then be able to respond upstream to these difficulties by creating an educational support. This will increase customer satisfaction, relieve the after-sales service, without the latter even having to create a report or enter his hierarchy.


There are many CRM tools on the market. HubSpot and Salesforce are two of the most famous solutions to date.


What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a fairly broad concept, which brings together several different practices. We say that a company does marketing automation as soon as it automates part of its marketing process. The goal ? Gain in productivity.


Marketing automation for emailing or SMS campaigns

On the one hand, marketing automation can concern email newsletters or SMS promotion campaigns. In this context, we can use marketing automation software, capable of collecting and processing data on your contacts. All you have to do is program action scenarios that the software will execute autonomously, based on the data collected on the behavior of each contact.


For example, through tracking, marketing automation software can know which contacts are spending time on your website and visiting product pages. It will then be a question of asking your software to send email campaigns focused on the call to purchase to these specific contacts. With a large contact list, automation is needed to personalize the messages sent to everyone. However, personalizing marketing messages both in terms of content and sending timing can increase sales conversion.


Marketing automation for social networks

On the other hand, marketing automation can concern the content strategy in connection with social networks. Imagine q whether you have multiple accounts affiliated with the same company on different networks. However, you know that the optimal time for performance of your posts varies depending on the network.


In this case, you would benefit from scheduling the creation of your future posts in advance. This will save you from having to think about it during your work day, and it even allows you to post when you are on the go or on vacation.


Other marketing automation practices…

While the two aforementioned practices are the most common, marketing automation also comes in other forms. For example, it is possible to automatically segment contact lists, so that your company's offers evolve in real time.


It is also possible to automate the transmission of a lead to the sales teams, to make a phone call at the most appropriate time. This leads us to talk about CRM, and its link with marketing automation…


You can even automate the sending of loyalty gifts by generating a request by API or file sent by FTP to your router partner for sending branded gifts. This type of scenario can be based on the anniversary date of the customer who has already made an order volume greater than such amount, on the anniversary date of the last order, etc.


Key Features of Marketing Automation and CRM

The roles played in the company by the CRM tool and by the marketing automation tool should now be clearer to you. Let’s summarize their respective characteristics:


Key marketing automation features:


  • Automation of marketing processes, such as editing content or sending email campaigns
  • Increased productivity within the strict framework of marketing
  • Personalization of the messages sent to each prospect or customer
  • Based on the creation of action scenarios upstream
  • Consideration of data from external sources (tracking, cookies, etc.) to adapt in real time to the behavior of each contact

CRM Key Features:


  • Centralization of data disseminated between the applications of the teams in charge of customer relations.
  • Automated transmission of information.
  • Increased synergy and cooperation between teams
  • Optimization of customer satisfaction, with equal effort
  • Global view of front-office performance

Main differences between marketing automation and CRM

From the characteristics of the two tools, their essential difference emerges:


  • The marketing automation tool automates marketing actions.
  • The CRM tool automates the transmission of information between all the teams in charge of customer relations (including marketing), but requires regular human actions to be useful.

From this essential difference arise distinct functions:


Marketing automation for the conquest of prospects (leads)

As we mentioned in the first part, the marketing automation tool intervenes upstream of the CRM in the customer journey. Indeed, a marketing automation tool can be used to create content on social networks, and post it at the optimal time and place.


The marketing automation tool thus makes it possible to attract a new audience, and to convert part of this audience into leads, for example by subscribing to a newsletter. It is only when an auditor becomes a lead that he enters the CRM database.


The CRM to qualify or disqualify a lead

At the other end of the customer journey is the intervention of the sales team. In many companies, the role of the latter is to call to establish a privileged contact with each lead. However, the outcome of a phone call leads to qualify or disqualify a lead.


Either the latter clearly shows his disinterestedness, or he is interested in the company's offer but is still thinking about it, or he has decided to buy and thus becomes an active customer.


Without a CRM, the marketing team cannot know the outcome of the phone calls made by the sales team. With a CRM tool, on the other hand, she is informed in real time. This allows him, depending on the qualification of each lead, to send the appropriate messages, by email or SMS.


For example, if there has been a purchase, the role of marketing will be to inform the new customer about additional offers, to send him a satisfaction survey or educational support to better use his product.


If, on the other hand, the prospect is still being considered, you must continue to send him messages to remove potential objections, or offer him an exclusive price reduction.


If finally, the prospect has shown his disinterestedness, it will be necessary to think of presenting him another offer, why not in affiliation with a partner structure.


More instant marketing automation in customer events

The marketing automation tool also makes it possible to respond quickly to customer events. We call The "customer events" all actions relating to a purchase that can be tracked: add to basket, checkout, validation of the order, etc.


While a CRM tool can immediately inform front-office teams of these events, the CRM tool is not designed to respond to them independently. However, if you want, for example, to catch up with a customer about to abandon his order after an addition to the basket, you must act quickly. The marketing automation tool allows you to have a quick response to this event, even on weekends or when your teams are on vacation.


Marketing automation at the service of CRM

It follows from everything we have mentioned so far that the action of the CRM tool and that of the marketing automation tool are not so dissociable. One continually feeds off the other. Thus, the marketing automation tool deploys its full potential when it relies on the data contained in the CRM tool by the sales teams and the after-sales service.


Indeed, it is possible to program scenarios to automatically send promotional email campaigns reserved for leads who have just been contacted by phone. It is also possible to program the automatic sending of educational support by email to new customers. These marketing automation strategies are based on the integration of the tool with a CRM platform.


In the same way, the CRM software itself feeds on the data transmitted to it by an integrated marketing automation tool. For example, it can centralize the opening rates of email campaigns, contact by contact, so that the sales teams target in priority the most active or the people who have reacted to a newsletter by clicking on a given product without going to the end of the purchase.


From then on both play their part both in the conversion of the acquisition and in retaining existing customers.

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