December 1, 2022

CRM vs Marketing Automation: Differences & How to Combine Them in Your Strategy

Reading time about 10 min

Marketing automation and CRM are two different types of software. When used in tandem, they make for a powerful combined sales and marketing strategy. 

Let’s take a look at the differences between CRM and marketing automation software as well as how you can use them together to create a unified marketing and sales funnel.

What Is Marketing Automation Software?

Marketing automation software allows you to streamline and automate marketing tasks by creating workflows. Repetitive tasks like segmentation, lead generation, lead scoring, and customer engagement campaigns are common use cases for marketing automation.

With a marketing automation solution, you can set up triggered messages and actions based on user behavior. For example, if a contact hasn’t opened your email marketing campaigns for the past three months, you could automatically add that contact to a re-engagement list. 

They would then receive an automated re-engagement campaign to continue your lead nurturing without the need to manually follow up with individual contacts. 

Marketing automation is closely related to drip marketing. A drip campaign consists of a series of triggered emails automatically sent to contacts at certain intervals or after predetermined actions. Some common drip email campaign examples include abandoned cart emails, welcome emails, onboarding emails, reactivation emails, birthday emails, and product recommendation emails.

What are the benefits of marketing automation?

Increase conversion rates

A major benefit of marketing automation is that it can increase the conversion rate of your marketing campaigns. This is often attributed to the fact that marketing automation is not only time-saving but that it also allows you to deliver a more personalized customer experience. 

Consumers appreciate personalization in marketing. Research by Accenture found that 83% of consumers are willing to share their personal data in exchange for personalized shopping experiences. 

This then translates into conversions, with 77% of marketers having seen an increase in their conversion rate after implementing marketing automation.  

Reduce repetitive tasks

By automating your marketing processes, you’ll cut down time spent on time-consuming repetitive tasks. That way, your marketing team can spend more time focusing on your strategy and the bigger picture.

Improve the customer journey

As we touched on above, marketing automation is a great way to improve your customer experience. It lends itself to personalization, a game-changer in crafting positive customer journeys and extending the customer lifecycle.

Boost lead generation

Another benefit of marketing automation is that it helps drive lead generation. After implementing automated campaigns, 80% of marketers had an increase in leads coming from marketing campaigns.

What is CRM Software?

Customer relationship management software allows you to store, process, and analyze lead and customer data to build strong relationships and, ultimately, grow your business.

A CRM is where you store information about your customers, including contact information, purchase history, how long they’ve been a client, notes from phone conversations, and more. 

Basically, a CRM helps you handle everything related to your customer relationships and interactions. It’s an organizational tool to keep track of various sales processes and follow leads through the bottom of your sales funnel.

For this reason, CRMs are primarily used by sales teams for optimizing their workflow, assigning tasks to sales reps, and generally staying organized. That said, anyone using customer data can make use of a CRM. 

What are the benefits of CRM software?

Better manage your sales pipeline

The main benefit of using a CRM is being able to manage your sales pipeline. CRMs allow you to replicate the stages of your own sales process within the software, meaning you can follow along as leads become customers.

Keep track of every customer interaction 

Another benefit of a CRM system is that you can log all your touch points with leads. Never doubt where your team left off with a lead. Instead, store all your touch points, documents, and notes for one client within your team’s CRM solution.

CRMs are also great for being able to analyze your previous sales and deals. Know what worked and didn’t work in the past, and plan accordingly for future deals.

Collaborate better

A CRM is an essential tool for collaborating within client-facing teams, especially necessary for larger sales teams, who may have so many leads and clients that manually tracking them would be impossible.

For small businesses, too, a CRM is a great way to store information about your customers and stay organized within a small team. 

How Do CRM and Marketing Automation Work Together?

While marketing automation and CRM software are distinct tools serving different purposes, you don’t have to choose one or the other. The two types of software can be used in tandem to support different parts of your sales and marketing funnel.

Marketing automation is more of a marketing tool, whereas a CRM is more of a sales tool. In this way, marketing automation software has the greatest impact on the upper end of your funnel. CRM software is most useful at the bottom of the funnel.

In practical terms, you could use a marketing automation tool for lead generation and lead nurturing. It helps build relationships with potential customers before sending them to sales teams. 

And once they’re qualified leads, sales reps already have leads’ engagement history in the sales CRM to be able to provide a seamless customer journey.

To make the most of these two software solutions in tandem, you’ll need a solution that integrates both CRM and marketing automation tools.  

CRM and Marketing Automation Software Solutions

Let’s take a look at some popular solution providers for marketing automation and CRM software and their baseline paid plans.

SolutionCRM software Marketing automation software
Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)Free
10 users
2,000 contacts
MailchimpIntegration necessary$17/month
500 contacts
2 users
1,000 contacts
1 user
Unlimited contacts

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)

Email automation example by Brevo for sending a welcome message. It is set up so that the message sends two days after the contact signs up for the email list.

As a full CRM suite, Brevo offers an all-in-one marketing and sales solution. The platform integrates marketing automation and CRM capabilities, meaning there’s no need to switch between different software solutions as leads move down the funnel. 

The marketing side of the platform provides you with everything you need to set up triggered emails and SMS, automation workflows, and automated contact management.

Plus, the intuitive workflow builder allows you to automate marketing processes without any technical knowledge. And with pre-designed workflow templates, most of the work is already done.

And thanks to native plugins for ecommerce, you can easily connect your online store to Brevo. From there, you can set up triggered messages for abandoned carts, automated contact management, product recommendations using dynamic personalization, and more! 

Brevo automations dashboard with buttons for making automations such as welcoming emails, birthday emails and more.

In the CRM tab, you can store all your contacts and data in one spot and stay organized as you grow your business. Define and customize your own sales process on the platform to match your business’s funnel. Then use it to collaborate with team members, assign tasks, and share notes and documents. 

There’s even an online appointment scheduling software within the CRM. Brevo Meetings allows you to quickly and easily manage your schedule with custom online booking pages for clients to book themselves into your calendar. In addition, you can host video calls directly in your browser — no need for any separate apps or downloads.

The best part is that Brevo marketing automation is free for up to 2,000 contacts. Try out the features you need before committing to a paid plan. Likewise, Brevo’s CRM is completely free to use for up to ten users!


Screenshot of Mailchimp's marketing automation platform.

Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing platforms. In addition to email marketing campaigns, the solution allows you to create marketing automation workflows. Mailchimp offers pre-made workflows to help you get started with automation and contact management features as well.

While Mailchimp supports marketing automation, it doesn’t offer a CRM solution. You can choose from dozens CRM integrations (free and paid) to connect with your existing CRM, but you won’t have the ease-of-use of a single, unified platform.

Learn more: Take a look at these Mailchimp alternatives!


Screenshot of HubSpot's marketing automation platform.

Like Brevo (formerly Sendinblue), HubSpot is another solid choice when it comes to all-in-one marketing automation and CRM software. 

The platform’s visual workflow editor makes building your automation sequences easy and requires little technical knowledge. And like Brevo, HubSpot offers plenty of pre-defined automation scenarios/templates to make set-up easy.

HubSpot’s CRM platform offers powerful features, including a real-time analytics dashboard, task management, and sales automation. Plus, the higher-level plans include impressive options for customization.

HubSpot’s main drawback is that it’s not built for small and medium sized businesses. Enterprise-level companies are typically the ones to reap the greatest benefit from HubSpot.

Check out our article comparing HubSpot competitors to find the right match for your business.


Screenshot of Salesforce's CRM platform.

Salesforce is a well-known player in the field of marketing and sales tools. It offers advanced features like workflow automation, pipeline and task management, AI-powered lead scoring, and a web services API.

The all-in-one platform also supports marketing automation, with features like triggered emails and SMS, detailed reports and dashboards, and an automation studio for custom workflows.

It’s a powerful tool with pretty high-level capabilities and customization options. For this reason, Salesforce is often the preferred tool of large organizations. That said, it’s not nearly as user-friendly as other solutions on this list.

Further reading: CRM Sales Management: A Beginner’s Guide to CRM Software

Integrate Your CRM and Marketing Automation

CRM and marketing automation software have two different purposes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used at the same time. For many businesses, using both solutions helps optimize their sales and marketing funnels. 

Marketing automation attracts leads at the upper end of the funnel, and CRM software helps sales teams narrow down those leads into paying customers. 

This sounds well and good, but adding another software to your tech stack probably isn’t one of your top priorities. That’s why an all-in-one solution with both CRM and marketing automation capabilities is so important. 

With Brevo, get both tools in one easy-to-use platform. Use all the CRM and marketing automation features you need for free and get email marketing, transactional emails, live chat, and appointment scheduling too!

Try Brevo’s FREE Sales CRM

Unlimited contacts, deal pipeline management, tasks, inbox, automation, meeting scheduling — all free forever.

Open my free Brevo account now >>

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