However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.
There are ways to automate activities in almost every CRM, especially if you tie in your other apps with Zapier. You can have new contacts automatically added to your CRM when they've filled out a form, and then automatically emailed a personal follow up note two weeks later—or just about anything else you can think of that'd be helpful for your business.

Selligent Marketing Cloud is a marketing automation platform that enables B2C brands to engage consumers across all critical channels. Built for the relationship marketer, Selligent Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud built on single code base, featuring artificial intelligence and a Customer Data Platform with a universal consumer profile at the core of every action. More than 700 brands across retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services rely on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s proven platform. With 10 offices across the United States and Europe and more than 50 agency partners and resellers, Selligent Marketing Cloud serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service.
Delivra is a platform built on the knowledge that automated email open rates are 95 percent higher than regular email open rates. With that in mind, the company tries to maximize customer engagement by offering help with SMS and email drip campaigns; it also assists with direct mail and uses A/B testing and alerts when engagement or purchase “tendencies” have been spotted.
The main differences are on type of users, core function, goal and role in the buyer’s journey. CRM and marketing automation are different processes with different purposes and utilize distinct tools. The confusion usually arises because both CRM and marketing automation typically deal with the same information (contacts, lists, profiles, etc.) and similarly work with leads. How each of the system manage and utilize those leads and information are entirely separate matters. To get a clearer picture, let’s go over what CRM and marketing automation do.
There is extensive evidence supporting the value that marketing can bring to marketers. According to a report by VB Insight, 80% of marketing automation users saw their number of leads increase, and 77% saw the number of conversions increase. Further, Companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates from initial response-to-MQL and a revenue growth rate that is 3.1% higher than non-users.
Email: A lead completes your form, follows up, redeems your offers, and still doesn’t convert. What do you do? You send an automated email, that’s what. You can customize your marketing automation software to end personalized messages based on user triggers. Think of this approach like a logic puzzle. If users take actions x, y, and z on your site, your marketing automation software will deploy message “q.” This process is something known as sequencing – which we’ll get to later. 																		

Marketing’s core objective is to feed the pipeline for sales. At the end of the day, the sales team is marketing’s number one client. Marketing’s role in the lead nurturing process has grown over the last decade to align with the lengthening sales prospecting process. Most B2B purchases—especially technology purchases—span multiple departments, which means there are multiple stakeholders involved in any buying decision. According to CEB, 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each purchase, this is 40% larger than it was 2 years ago.
It’s ineffective given the effort required to see meaningful results. When done correctly, effective marketing automation takes time, effort, and resources to implement and maintain for revenue growth. Even if your database is currently filled with top-notch, quality leads, how effective will your marketing automation be when you’ve either converted all those leads into customers, or when your database begins decaying at the rate of 23% / year (via unsubscribes, job turnover and a variety of other factors.) Even when they’ve invested the time and effort to master the art of “Amazon-like” marketing automation, without enough leads to work towards purchase many marketers end up unhappy with the ROI of their marketing automation investment.
“Set it and forget it” solution. Marketing automation is a remarkable tool that helps marketers achieve results. But those results don’t happen without a the right processes, strategy and effort set in place. Marketing automation is meant to enhance and support marketing and sales, NOT become a one-size-fits-all substitute. So don’t sit back and expect marketing automation to magically achieve goals without you.
What you’ll learn is that abuse reports are the norm rather than the exception—it’s normal to have 1 for every few thousand emails that you send. Some consumers are sensitive to email marketing (due to years and years of abuse), and others aren’t always familiar with the opt-out process. It’s a genuine mistake — people sometimes confuse “abuse reports” with opt-out forms.

Together, CRM and marketing automation provides a unified platform for all the teams to track and analyze customer activities and behavior. Accordingly, having discussions and strategies to turn a prospect into a customer and ensure customer purchase cycle is continuous. The same software also allows for the perfect balance required between the teams, continuous workflows and instills accountability.
A CRM is a software solution used by sales and service teams to cultivate deeper relationships with interested buyers and active customers. Used to house prospect and client data, the CRM system has a collection of information for each contact in your organization, information your teams can then leverage in their client meetings and communications.
Automation is a surefire way for small businesses to save time and money, and marketing is the perfect arena for doing so: Marketing automation maintains brand messaging while reaching thousands more people than a single person ever could. The key is simply determining which platform fits your company best so you can save even more time while building your bottom line.
Even the simplest CRM system will use a dozen database tables to manage these processes, and some of the tables are quite wide (it’s not at all unusual to have 200 columns for the Account table) and tables may have several children.  The tables, however, hold standard data types (almost never a BLOb), and documents that might be attached (pointed to from tables) are static files and not part of a document management system.  However, CRM systems typically have several integration points with other parts of the corporate infrastructure (such as contract management, electronic signature, shipping/distribution and accounting systems).

Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to automate and simplify client communication by managing complex omni-channel marketing strategies from a single tool. Marketing Automation assist greatly in areas like Lead Generation, Segmentation, Lead nurturing and lead scoring, Relationship marketing, Cross-sell and upsell, Retention, Marketing ROI measurement.

When customers leave your site without buying anything, retargeting creates the awareness they need about your brand and a clear path back to your store. Ideally, retargeting is part of a long-term strategy for businesses that already have a solid following. They are particularly helpful in specific moments, like when you want to promote your best selling stuff, advertise a new collection, or feature surplus items. See how retargeting ads work around the clock to keep your brand top of mind and encourage potential customers to take the next step.
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.

For companies that can’t decide on how to kill all the birds with one stone, it’s good to know that most of marketing automation functionality can be supported within a CRM system too! For example, everything that falls into lead management (lead segmentation, personalized email marketing, lead nurturing, analytics) can be activated within CRM software through either in-built tools or customization, depending on how complex requirements are. I tell more on the benefits of this approach for SMEs here: https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/benefits-of-crm-software-for-smes
Though it's not the easiest marketing initiative to execute on, marketing automation is certainly not impossible. Imagine you're trying to grow a plant. First you need fertile soil ripe for the growth of your plant. Next you need seeds themselves to care for, and last you need water and light in order to nurture those seeds into a lush, blooming plant.  It's not foolproof, but it's not impossible. In our story, effective marketing automation looks just like nurturing this plant does. At the end of the day, we hope we've nurtured our leads (the seedlings) well enough to produce actual paying customers (a lush, full-grown plant.)
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