One of the more recent announcements in Saelos was in regards to the first plugin written for the Saelos platform. As you can probably imagine, this plugin focused on the relationship between Mautic and Saelos (for rather obvious reasons: I’m a bit of a Mautic fan). But this plugin represents so much more than just another CRM to marketing automation integration. This “Mautic mix-in” forces us to ask the question: what’s the difference between marketing automation and customer relationship management? Should you use both these systems? (and what’s the difference) I know I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, so on the off chance that this is something you’re curious about as well….read on.

What is marketing automation

I’m not going to lie, writing this headline and starting this paragraph I almost cringe a little. I feel I’ve read a million articles answering this exact same question. I really don’t want to go down that same path answering the same question so in order to preserve my motivation to keep writing, I’m going to give you a callout with a definition of marketing automation and then share some slightly different thoughts about marketing automation.

Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. — Wikipedia

That’s the Wikipedia definition of marketing automation. It’s a bit dry, possibly a little outdated, and even a bit vague. But this is the same general consensus you’ll read over and over. I think there’s a missing element here. I have heard it touched on when I meet with others, or attend conferences (like the awesome SiriusDecisions Summit).

Marketing automation has an incredible task of also being the manager of the brand. Sharing the voice of the company with the world, as broad as everyone and as specific as each individual. Just as we talk about the customer’s voice – the company has a voice as well. Marketing (in most instances) takes the primary role in conveying this voice to the public, to future customers, and to existing customers. (This is your first hint in answering the question)

What is customer relationship management

If the idea of answering the question about what marketing automation does is a difficult one to write about; then I’m sure you understand the even greater reticence I have regarding this paragraph’s title. What is customer relationship management (or as most everyone in the world knows to be a CRM)? Again, I’m taking the time-saving method of giving you a definition you can find yourself with a 2 second search and then I’ll give you a thought or two about my take on something different to consider.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth. — Wikipedia

Again, thank you Wikipedia, you’ve given a wonderful definition that’s both highly explanatory and equally difficult to easily digest. (Side note: I love Wikipedia and get sucked into the site at least once a week)

So CRM systems have been created to manage the customer (and future customer) and improve relationships with them. This is probably the point where confusion starts to creep in. It appears that the CRM is doing the same thing as the marketing automation tool. “Manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers” — yep, sure sounds like overlap. But I actually believe there’s a subtle nuance here to be explored and understood better. CRM systems are focused on customer retention and sales growth, aka closing deals and making sales. (Second hint in answering our question)

Why you should use both systems

Okay, we’ve got excellent “book” definitions of both marketing automation and customer relationship management systems and rather than introducing clarity it seems we’ve only made things more convoluted and increased the questions surrounding potential overlap. But I left you hints along the way, lets get into this now and see why you should have both a marketing automation system and a customer relationship management system.

We read how marketing automation is designed for marketing on multiple channels and carrying out automated tasks. We then saw that the CRM is designed for managing relationships and increasing sales growth. When it’s filtered down to those two sentences there seems to be less overlap. This is step one. We have to understand not what each system does, but what their purpose is. And now that we have this knowledge let’s build on it to understand why you should use both systems and possibly more importantly why they should be linked.

The “Voice of the Company”

If you believe in the marketing automation being the voice of the company than you will naturally agree that messages sent by the company should be shared with that voice. The value of a unified company voice is incredibly important and has been the topic of books and blogs the world over. If you don’t have a strong link (continuous bi-directional sync) occurring between marketing and sales you won’t have a unified voice. But, why is this true? Let me explain.

Brand management & single communication source

Marketing automation handles the brand, we discussed this already and determined that this management of the company voice was one of the key functions of a marketing automation platform. Or to put it a different way: Marketing handles the communication for the company. This leads us to the reason why you should consider using both marketing automation and customer relationship management platforms (Big deep breath, this is what you’ve been reading for…):

A CRM manages your interactions and relationships and your marketing automation is responsible for sending the messages.

This means your sales team should be sending messages to their customers, and future customers, through the gateway of your marketing team (Remember, they manage the brand and the company voice). This is where we begin to see the slightest crack starting to form in the world of today’s software systems and where I believe Mautic and Saelos begin to differentiate. (Does that interest you? You should subscribe to my blog and I’ll tell you more about it in a future article)

Source of Truth

The source of truth for each contact record lives in the CRM, because as we learned today the CRM is responsible for managing the relationship; but this doesn’t mean the marketing automation system should have less information. Instead, the marketing automation platform must know everything about the contact, plus be able to correctly determine the best channel, time, and message to be sent to them. That message might be a marketing message, but it might also be a sales message coming from the sales team directly.

Two systems, two purposes, one connection

All of this understanding and enabling between the CRM and the marketing automation requires an integration or mechanism for this data to be shared openly between these two systems…a plugin (or in Mautic term’s, a mix-in). And this two-way sharing of information between marketing and sales is what happens today, but it’s not complete yet. We have not yet seen the complete integration between the two platforms (primarily because both are fighting, incorrectly, to be the source of truth).

Why data control isn’t the answer is a great topic and I’d love to say more, but I have written entirely too much for this post; expect to see a separate post soon!

And so, hopefully as you’ve read through the purpose and focus of these two systems you begin to see the value in both as well as the extreme importance placed on linking the two of them together. The answer to the question should you use both systems is a solid yes; because each system has a unique, distinct and important focus.

What comes next is even more exciting. I’ve hinted at it throughout this post, so if you want to know how Saelos pushes CRM and marketing ahead elegantly and beautifully you’ll need to keep reading.