What is marketing automation software?

Marketing automation software is an advanced platform designed to help marketers capture leads, nurture them further down the funnel, and analyze lead behavior and campaign performance. No longer experimental technology, marketing automation tools are now an essential resource for B2C and B2B marketing and sales departments looking to grow their business.

Marketing automation software is designed to help marketers capture leads, develop relationships, and move prospects through the sales funnel at scale. This includes several categories of functionality: email, social media, web marketing, multi-channel marketing, and analytics. Marketing automation is an out-of-the-box method for harnessing customer data from multiple sources and developing marketing strategies and tactics that work across different mediums.

Benefits of marketing automation software include:

  • The ability to segment prospects into appropriate mailing lists based on past interactions with your company or their interests and preferences.
  • Lead nurturing functionality, letting you automatically send triggered emails at the time a person is most interested in your product or service. You can also schedule a series of emails in a “drip” campaign, so your company stays top-of-mind with prospects.
  • Once a campaign has ended, the system generates analytics showing how successful the campaign was.

Marketing automation software helps foster leads and get them ready for your sales team. Once the lead has progressed to the bottom of the funnel to become a qualified sales lead (and eventually a customer), that’s when companies typically start tracking interactions with a CRM tool.

Best examples of marketing automation software include:

  • HubSpot Marketing – An advanced system that brings all of your marketing efforts together to help your team grow traffic and increase conversions. It helps your team prepare and optimize engaging content, and distribute it to the right audience. You can test its features at no cost when you sign up for a HubSpot Marketing free trial here.
  • Marketo – A comprehensive platform for marketing automation, customer engagement, and marketing management. It has robust social marketing capability, allowing you to share, engage, and promote through social media.
  • Active Campaign – All-in-one marketing platform that offers a variety of tools to help SMBs acquire and engage customers. It offers built in CRM and sales automation functionalities to help you manage leads through the whole sales journey.

What is customer relationship management software (CRM)?

CRM is an acronym that stands for customer relationship management. Customer relationship management is any tool, strategy, or process that helps businesses better organize and access customer data. It all started with handwritten notes and Rolodexes, but with the advent and proliferation of digital technology, it eventually evolved into databases stored on individual computers, and then the CRM definition shifted into something far more complex. It was no longer just notes. Managing your business’s relationships with customers became a complicated process. Now, in order to compete in any industry, you need a reliable system built on CRM software.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a business strategy that stresses good ongoing relationships with customers. It holds that maintaining these relationships drives growth and profitability. There are two core elements of this customer-centric strategy:

  1. Presenting a unified face to the customer
  2. Providing a seamless customer experience

CRM software can help by synchronizing customer communications among business units. Sales, marketing and customer service can all get on the same page. It acts as a system of record for contacts and accounts throughout the customer lifecycle. With CRM tools companies can track, automate, analyze, and optimize customer interactions. At its core, a CRM is a database of contact information and interaction history for each individual contact.

Multiple departments may be using the CRM within one organization. These include sales, marketing, customer success or service, and potentially other teams too.

Benefits of CRM software include:

  • Sales personnel can see where a customer is in the sales process and help close the deal.
  • Your business can offer targeted promotional material that’s more likely to lead to a sale and build good faith between you and your customer.
  • When speaking to a customer, you can have a full picture of who they are and their history with your company, which helps make the conversation as personal and successful as possible.
  • Many CRMs can also sync with social media platforms so you can keep track of which channels are driving the most traffic, and what people are saying about your company.
  • CRMs can send internal alerts when a call is scheduled, when a client’s account is set to renew, or even when a customer’s birthday is coming up so that your sales and service reps know to reach out.

Simply put: CRM systems help secure sales by making the sales process a more personal experience for the customer.

Popular examples of CRM software include:

  • HubSpot CRM – a fully integrated CRM platform for SMBs that carry all essential CRM features. The highly regarded CRM is completely free and connects to all contact and customer channels, offers unlimited storage, has wide integration, and keeps a centralized hub of information for sales, marketing, and service support.
  • Freshsales – designed for high-velocity sales teams to keep track of contacts while solving their inquiries. It can track emails and events, offers interactive pipeline management, and has an advanced lead scoring system.


What is the difference between CRM and marketing automation software?

One of the main differences between these software types is who they target. CRM software is primarily sales-focused, while marketing automation software is (aptly) marketing-focused.

  • Marketo-a leading marketing automation software provider—describes marketing automation software as a system that “allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows.”
  • Salesforce—a leading CRM software provider—defines CRM as: “A strategy for managing all your company’s interactions with current and prospective customers.”

In terms of where marketing automation and customer relationship management fall in the buyer journey that looks like this:

Marketing Automation allows automating your marketing campaigns using predefined conditions and triggers.

Marketing automation is mostly used for short purchase cycles. When a B2C business doesn’t need to extensively contact customers or move them through a complicated sales funnel.

CRM helps you manage your sales processes and keeps your sales team organized using a database.

It automatically assigns tasks to sales reps as leads move through the sales funnel.

CRM benefits businesses with long purchase cycles. B2B and SaaS companies are known for complicated sales funnels. Their sales funnel involves sales reps to convince buyers to move to the next stage of the funnel and convert.

Type of Users

Marketing automation platforms are used by marketers while CRM programs are utilized by sales people. Both offer automation, analytics and reporting features to streamline daily tasks and provide users with important metrics and insights on the progress, efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns as well as sales activities and efforts. As said earlier, they may handle the same customer information but employ it for different activities and operations.

 Key Function

The primary function of marketing automation is to generate leads from marketing campaigns. A lead can be an individual or business that express interest in your product or services and may come as a result of referral or through direct response to your campaigns such as promotion, publicity, or advertising.

In other words, any of the top marketing automation software solutions help the marketing team generate leads which are potential customers. To do that, the marketing needs to know all it can about the lead or contact such as email address, buying preferences, etc. and store the information in a database.

On the other hand, CRM assists the sales team to nurture those leads from information collected in the contact or lead database. Sales people use CRM to analyze the information gathered, categorize and qualify contacts, and follow through with offers or discounts and other similar campaigns, all aimed at transforming leads in to buying customers.

Furthermore, CRM is used by the sales team for retaining existing customers. The software has tools to gather information and feedback from various customer channels, and analyze said information to provide the sales team with customers’ behavior, interaction history with your company, and purchasing trends, among others. Armed with customer knowledge, sales teams can craft targeted offers and loyalty campaigns to enhance customer retention.


Marketing automation is designed to help generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to be handed over to sales. Meanwhile, CRM’s goal is to convert MQLs to sales qualified leads (SQLs) and ultimately to sales. MQL basically pertains to engaged leads while SQL refers to vetted prospects. Although the respective goals are different as you can see where one ends and the other begins in the sales funnel, marketing automation and CRM have complementary roles in the effort to transform leads into customers.

Let’s cite an example. Your marketing team puts up landing pages in your business website, brings in clicks, and captures leads interacting with your content. These leads are commencing contact but how much they are interested has yet to be determined, so your team engages them by providing relevant info. Leads are then scored depending on the actions or responses they take. These contacts become MQLs up to the point they are ready to be transferred to marketing.

The next part of the process is triggered once the sales team takes over, continues engaging with the leads, and vets for their level of interest as well as capability to purchase. When leads have been assessed as viable prospects, they now become SQLs. In this specific journey from MQL to SQL as well as the overall process that cover the stages from lead to customer, the features and capabilities of marketing automation and CRM come into play. Now, there is a variety of lead prospecting automation techniques that can help you realize the said goals.

Role in the Buyer’s Journey

From the above example, you can picture the roles played by marketing automation and CRM. The former is to create awareness of your products and services while the latter is to set up or prepare for purchase. They are separate roles but at the same time complementary, unifying the two funnels that make up the buyer’s journey. Below you can see the stages in the sales pipeline that are handled by marketing automation and CRM.

This list was brought to you by Adstuck which itself is a market service provider.


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