Marketing Automation Platforms vs. CRM: What’s the Difference?

Estimated read time 16 min read

As a marketer, you are likely familiar with customer relationship management or CRM software. CRM helps you organize and manage customer data to build better relationships. However, to truly scale your marketing efforts in today’s digital world, a CRM is no longer enough. You need a robust Marketing Automation Platforms that can harness customer data and use it to automate, personalize and optimize your marketing campaigns across channels.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation platforms like help businesses streamline and optimize their marketing efforts. They provide tools to automate repetitive tasks, allowing marketing teams to focus on high-level strategy.

What Exactly Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to software that automates marketing processes like email marketing, social media, and other website actions. It allows you to automatically trigger a sequence of messages to contacts based on their actions and behaviors.

For example, if a visitor downloads an ebook from your website, they would automatically receive a series of emails related to the ebook topic. Or if a contact frequently visits product pages but hasn’t made a purchase recently, they may receive an automated email with a coupon or offer.

The benefits of marketing automation include:

  • Increased efficiency. Automating repetitive tasks frees up time for marketing teams to work on more important initiatives.
  • Improved lead nurturing. Automated email sequences keep your company in front of leads and move them down the sales funnel.
  • Enhanced personalization. By tracking contacts’ behaviors and actions, you can send targeted, personalized messages.
  • Better analytics. Marketing automation platforms provide robust analytics so you can see how contacts are interacting with your brand and optimize your efforts.
  • Scalability. As your business grows, manual processes become unsustainable. Marketing automation allows you to scale your marketing to match the size of your organization.

In summary, marketing automation leverages software and technology to automate your marketing processes and make the most of your leads, contacts, and customers. When implemented properly, it can have a huge impact on your business’s bottom line.

Marketing Automation Platforms Explained

Marketing automation platforms like help businesses streamline and scale key marketing activities. They provide a centralized hub to execute, monitor and optimize complex campaigns across channels.

Lead Management helps generate and qualify leads through built-in forms, landing pages, and gated content. It scores and routes leads based on attributes like demographics, behavior, and lifecycle stage. You can then nurture leads with targeted content and messaging.

Email Marketing lets you create, send, and track email campaigns to engage your subscribers and convert leads. Use pre-designed templates or build your own, and tap into advanced features like A/B testing, segmentation, and automation based on triggers or lifecycle stages.

Social Media Management

Schedule and publish posts across major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Engage with followers, track key metrics, and spot opportunities or issues. can also curate and repost content.

Analytics and Reporting

Gain insight into how your marketing campaigns, content, and channels are performing. provides real-time reports and dashboards highlighting metrics like open and click-through rates, form submissions, social engagement, traffic sources, and lead conversion. Identify successes to build upon and failures to optimize.

While a CRM like Salesforce focuses primarily on sales, is geared toward attracting and converting leads through marketing initiatives before handing them off. The two platforms integrate well, creating a seamless experience for both marketing and sales teams. For small to midsize businesses, provides a simple yet robust solution to automate and improve key marketing processes.

How Marketing Automation Platforms Differ From CRM

Marketing automation platforms and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are both integral tools for managing key aspects of your business. However, they differ in their core functions and how they operate.


A marketing automation platform like Lookinglion focuses specifically on marketing campaigns and lead generation. It helps you plan multi-channel marketing strategies, create targeted content, and analyze the effectiveness of your efforts. In contrast, a CRM system centers around managing customer data and sales interactions. It tracks customer information, communication history, opportunities, and revenue. So while a marketing automation platform handles outbound marketing, a CRM system handles inbound sales.


The two systems can work together through integration to provide a comprehensive solution for your business. A marketing automation platform can pass leads to your CRM system, which then helps nurture those leads into customers. By integrating the systems, you get a clear view of how your marketing initiatives translate into sales. Data is shared between the platforms, providing insight into how customers move through your sales funnel.


Both systems provide reporting and analytics to help optimize your efforts. A marketing automation platform gives you reports on campaign performance, lead generation, and content engagement. A CRM system offers reports on sales productivity, customer retention, and revenue forecasts. By accessing data from an integrated system, you can analyze how marketing and sales performance impact one another and make data-driven decisions to improve results.

In summary, while marketing automation platforms and CRM systems serve different primary purposes, integrating them can provide a powerful combination of tools to help grow your business. Lookinglion, when integrated with a CRM, gives you a robust solution for attracting, engaging, and converting more customers.

Top Benefits of Using Marketing Automation Platforms

Marketing automation platforms like offer many advantages over traditional CRM systems. They provide robust features tailored specifically for marketing teams to optimize their efforts.

One of the biggest benefits of using a marketing automation platform is the ability to create highly personalized experiences for your leads and customers. By tracking individuals’ interactions with your brand, you can craft customized messaging, content, and call-to-action based on their interests and needs. This type of personalization has been shown to significantly increase engagement and conversion rates.

Another key benefit is enhanced lead nurturing. Marketing automation platforms allow you to automatically send a series of emails to new leads to educate them about your products or services. You can include useful resources and continue the conversation to build familiarity and trust over time. This drip campaign approach is an effective way to nurture leads until they are ready to buy.

Marketing automation also provides in-depth analytics and reporting to help optimize your marketing strategies. You’ll have insight into how contacts are moving through the sales funnel, what content they engage with, and where drop-offs are occurring. You can then make data-driven decisions to improve results, such as changing email frequencies, trying new subject lines, or revising landing page content.

Other benefits include:

  • Streamlined campaign management. Easily create, launch, and track the performance of email, social media, and advertising campaigns in one place.
  • Enhanced website personalization. Dynamically display content and offers based on a visitorโ€™s profile and behavior.
  • Increased productivity. Automate repetitive tasks like email newsletters, social media posts, and lead follow-up so your team can focus on high-impact projects.
  • Deep integrations. Sync seamlessly with your CRM, email service provider, social platforms, and other tools for a cohesive Martech stack.

In summary, marketing automation platforms provide powerful capabilities beyond standard CRM software. By utilizing the robust features of a solution like, your marketing team can achieve new levels of efficiency, improve lead generation and conversion, gain valuable insight into performance, and deliver highly personalized experiences that resonate with your audience.

Features to Look for in Marketing Automation Platforms

When evaluating marketing automation platforms (MAPs), there are several key features to consider to determine if the tool will meet your needs.

Robust Analytics and Reporting

A good MAP should provide in-depth analytics and reporting to track how your marketing campaigns and assets are performing. Look for a platform that offers:

  • Campaign analytics to see how each email, social post, and ad is performing. Metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and ROI are important to measure.
  • Lead scoring to determine how sales-ready each lead is based on their engagement and activity. This helps identify hot leads for your sales team.
  • Dashboards and reports that provide an overview of all your marketing data in one place. Customizable reports allow you to view the metrics that matter most to you.
  • The ability to track leads through the entire customer journey to see how they are nurtured and converted. This end-to-end visibility is key to optimizing your marketing funnel.

Email Marketing

Most MAPs offer robust email marketing tools to create, automate, and optimize email campaigns. Key features to look for include:

  • Drag-and-drop email builders with pre-designed templates to quickly and easily create great-looking emails.
  • Seamless integration with your CRM and website to automatically sync email lists and enable lead capture.
  • Advanced segmentation and personalization to target the right messages to the right people at the right time. Personalized emails have higher open and click rates.
  • Automation tools like drip campaigns, welcome series, win-back campaigns, and more. This allows you to engage leads and nurture them over time without manual intervention.
  • A/B testing to optimize your email content, subject lines, send times, and more. Continually improve open rates and click-through rates.
  • Mobile-responsive email templates that display properly on mobile devices. Over half of all emails are now opened on mobile.

Landing Pages and Forms

The ability to quickly build customized landing pages and forms are important for capturing leads, promoting content offers, and more. Look for a MAP that provides:

  • Drag-and-drop landing page and form builders with numerous professionally-designed templates.
  • Options to embed forms on your website, social media profiles, and ads to capture leads from various sources. – Form management tools to view leads, scores, page views, and more all in one place.
  • A/B testing for landing pages and forms to optimize conversion rates.
  • Integrations with payment gateways to sell products or services directly on landing pages if needed.
  • Options for multi-page forms, file uploads, surveys, and more.

Does this draft section meet your needs? Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand on any points.

Use Cases for Marketing Automation Platforms

Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) like can benefit your business in several key ways. Maps allow you to nurture leads through targeted email campaigns and content offers based on their level of interest and engagement. You can also use MAPs to onboard new customers through a series of welcome emails with helpful resources.

Maps enable you to segment your contacts into lists based on attributes like demographics, behaviors, and interests. You can then tailor messaging and content specifically for each segment. For example, you might send an email focused on basic product features to new contacts, whereas long-time customers may receive an email highlighting new offerings. Personalized communication like this helps build stronger relationships with your audience.

Lead scoring is another useful feature of MAPs that helps identify sales-ready leads. As contacts engage with your emails, content, and website, the platform assigns points to determine lead scores. Those with the highest scores are more likely to convert and can be prioritized for sales outreach. Lead scoring provides an objective way to focus your sales teamโ€™s efforts on the most promising opportunities.

With the insights gained from MAPs, you can refine and optimize your marketing and sales processes. Review email open and click-through rates, content downloads, and other metrics to determine whatโ€™s resonating with your audience. Make improvements to underperforming campaigns and double down on the successful ones. MAPs give you the data you need to strengthen lead generation and move contacts smoothly through the sales funnel.

In summary, marketing automation platforms offer benefits for demand generation, lead nurturing, onboarding, personalization, lead scoring, and optimization. When leveraged fully, MAPs can have a significant impact on the productivity and ROI of your marketing programs. and other platforms provide a robust set of features to support your customer acquisition and retention efforts.

Integrating Marketing Automation Platforms With Other Tools

Integrating your marketing automation platform with other business tools is key to maximizing its effectiveness. When systems are connected, data can flow between them, providing a more complete view of your customers and streamlining workflows.

CRM Integration

Integrating your MAP like with your customer relationship management (CRM) system is one of the most valuable connections you can make. By syncing contacts, accounts, and leads between the platforms, your sales and marketing teams can work from a single source of truth about your customers and prospects. They’ll have visibility into the entire customer journey, from the first marketing touch to the closed deals.

MAP-CRM integration also enables advanced functionality like lead scoring, where your MAP automatically scores and routes leads based on behavior and attributes. The highest-scoring leads are passed to your sales reps in the CRM.

Email Service Provider

If you use an email service provider (ESP) to send marketing emails, connecting it to your MAP is important. Your MAP can automatically populate email content with dynamic fields from its database, then pass the emails to your ESP for delivery. Open and click data is tracked back to contacts’ profiles in your MAP.

Social Media

Many MAPs offer integrations with top social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These connections allow you to publish content, advertise, and engage followers from within your MAP. You can also import social contacts and see individuals’ social media behavior and interests to build more personalized experiences.

E-commerce Platform

For companies selling products online, integrating a MAP with your e-commerce platform is valuable. Product data, purchases, and on-site behavior can be imported into your MAP, providing a robust set of attributes to use for segmentation and personalization. Your MAP can also feed product recommendations and retargeting ads to your e-commerce site.

By connecting your MAP to the other technologies your organization relies on, you’ll gain a holistic view of your customers, simplify processes, and enable the type of personalized cross-channel experiences that drive real results. Integrating systems may require initial investments of time and money, but the long-term benefits to your business can be well worth it.

Comparing Leading Marketing Automation Platforms

When evaluating leading marketing automation platforms like, itโ€™s important to compare their capabilities and features to determine which solution is the best fit for your needs. Two of the top platforms to consider are and customer relationship management (CRM) software. While and CRM platforms share some similarities, there are some key differences to understand.

Functionality platforms are designed specifically for marketing teams to automate and optimize marketing campaigns and workflows. They provide functionality like email marketing, social media management, lead management, campaign analytics, and more. In contrast, CRM platforms are focused primarily on sales teams and provide tools for managing customer data, sales pipelines, contact records, and sales analytics. Some leading CRM solutions include Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and Zoho CRM.


Both and CRM platforms can integrate with a variety of third-party tools to extend their capabilities. However, platforms typically offer tighter integration with other marketing tools like social media management, content management, and web analytics platforms. CRM platforms usually provide stronger integration options for sales-focused tools such as phone dialers, e-signature services, and quote/proposal software.


Pricing structures also differ between the two platform types. platforms usually charge monthly subscription fees based on the number of contacts and marketing users. Fees often range from $50 to $500/month. In contrast, CRM platforms typically have more complex pricing based on the number of users and functionality. License fees can range from $25 to $300/user per month. Some CRM vendors also charge one-time setup fees for implementation and training services.

In summary, while and CRM platforms share some similar features, they are designed to serve different purposes and users. Evaluating their unique functionality, integration, and pricing models can help determine which solution is the best fit for your marketing and sales needs.

FAQ: Answering Common Marketing Automation Platforms Questions

Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) like and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are both useful for managing key aspects of your marketing strategy and sales pipeline. However, they have some key differences in their functionality and intended use cases:

What is a MAP?

A marketing automation platform automates repetitive marketing tasks like email marketing, social media posting, and website personalization., for example, allows you to automatically send a series of personalized emails to new subscribers, schedule social media posts in advance, and customize website content based on visitor attributes. The goal of a MAP is to streamline marketing workflows and improve campaign effectiveness.

What is a CRM?

A customer relationship management system helps manage your organizationโ€™s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. A CRM like Salesforce tracks leads and accounts, stores customer contact information, logs interactions, and provides sales insights to help convert more leads. The primary goal of a CRM is to improve sales productivity and customer retention.

How are they different?

While MAPs and CRMs are complementary technologies, they differ in their core functions:

  • MAPs focus on marketing automation and optimization. CRMs focus on sales pipeline and customer management.
  • MAPs help generate and qualify leads. CRMs help convert leads into customers and manage ongoing customer relationships.
  • MAPs personalize marketing content and campaigns. CRMs log customer interactions and store account/contact details.
  • Maps measure marketing KPIs like open rates, clicks, and form completions. CRMs measure sales KPIs like opportunities created, deals closed, and customer lifetime value.

Using a MAP and CRM together provides a robust set of tools for managing both your marketing and sales processes end-to-end. However, for budget-constrained organizations, evaluating whether you need more support for lead generation or sales management can help determine which system may be the higher priority. The answers to these common questions should help clarify the differences between these two technologies and determine what is right for your needs.


As you’ve seen, marketing automation platforms like and CRM software have some similarities but also key differences. Both help businesses better manage customer relationships and interactions, but marketing automation focuses on the acquisition of new customers through targeted marketing campaigns. CRM, on the other hand, centers on existing customer retention and relationships. For small businesses looking to scale growth quickly through digital marketing, a marketing automation platform is likely your best choice. For those with an established customer base seeking to strengthen loyalty and lifetime value, a robust CRM system may be preferable. In the end, the right choice comes down to your specific business goals and needs. With an integrated marketing and sales strategy, utilizing the strengths of both types of platforms, you’ll be well-positioned to build a foundation for success and growth.

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