Customer relationship management (CRM) software and marketing automation software typically go hand-in-hand.

In fact, to illustrate the beautiful relationship between these two software systems, we even wrote a Valentine’s Day-themed blog post this year all about their love story.

With that being said, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that may be making you feel like you need either one or the other. In fact, throughout your research, you may find yourself wondering out loud:

“What’s the @$%!& difference?!”

You’re not alone.

Today we’re going to highlight the key differences between CRM software and MA software so we can save you (hopefully) from pulling a Dwight ^^ 😂

In order to “same page” before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s define these two hefty software types, shall we?

What is a CRM system?

  • Stores all of your customer information (i.e. how long a contact has been a customer, purchasing records, contact info, record of emails sent/contact made, etc.)
  • Most commonly used and managed by Sales and Customer Service/Success teams
  • Used primarily to optimize one-on-one convos with companies and customers
  • Sales teams use CRM data to increase sales via improved strategy, tactics, and more
  • Fun fact: As of 2020, 56% of small business use CRM software

What is marketing automation?

  • Allows you to follow a prospect’s TOFU (top-of-funnel) behavior and activity (i.e. when someone visits your site, downloads a piece of content, reads a blog post, fills out a form, clicks on a CTA, etc.)
  • Marketers typically use MA software to schedule and track their marketing campaigns
  • MA focuses on the timing of a prospect via nifty features like lead scoring
  • For a fun, thorough overview, download our free Marketing Automation 101 Guide!

The reason we’re all here:

What are the main differences between CRMs and Marketing Automation?

I most often find that marketers and sales professionals see CRMs and marketing automation as one and the same.

They see them both as software tools that ultimately come down to one thing: generating revenue.

And to be honest…that’s about ALL they have in common. Sure, the end goal may look the same, but the routes, the tactics, and the data used to generate said revenue vary greatly. Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between the two:


Traditionally speaking, CRM systems are primarily sales-focused. If you haven’t already guessed, marketing automation is primarily marketing-focused.

That being said, both teams benefit from the other software — marketing teams love CRMs and sales teams ADORE marketing automation.

No, seriously. Read up on the four reasons why sales teams are going gaga over marketing automation!

But for the purposes of this post, it’s important to notice who these software programs are intended for. CRMs = Sales, Marketing Automation = Marketing.


Capterra created this fabulous graphic that does an amazing job showcasing a major difference between CRMs and marketing automation.

In my eyes, this is the largest difference between the two software.

Marketing automation is made for TOFU (top of the funnel) efforts. But CRMs are all about that BOFU life — they’re about sealing the deal and keeping current customers happy!


At the end of the day, CRMs and MA have very different end goals:

A CRM solution is all about managing customer relationships and improving the sales team’s performance. On the other hand, a MA solution helps you measure marketing’s contribution to ROI, generate qualified leads, and ultimately bridge the gap between sales and marketing.

While both software types have a bit of overlap, what truly sets them apart is what goals they set out to accomplish for your team.

At this point, you may be wondering which solution is best for you — a CRM or marketing automation.

Fortunately (or rather unfortunately for your bank account) BOTH systems work best when paired together. They’re the ultimate love story, remember?

However, if you only have the bandwidth and/or budget for one, why not get a professional opinion? Here at Net-Results, we strive to improve the lives of digital marketers everywhere. Sure, we’re a marketing automation company, but that doesn’t mean marketing automation is right for everyone.

Schedule an easy, no-commitment 20-minute chat with us today to discuss if a CRM or marketing automation software would be best for you at this time.

Want to get ahead of the game? Check out our post: 3 Signs You’re Ready to Purchase Marketing Automation Software (and 1 Sign You’re NOT)!

I hope we’ve worked to help clear up all of the “CRM or MA?” confusion, but just remember, if you have further questions, we’re always here to help!

Reach out to us via social (FB or IG), or schedule a 20-minute chat for further assistance. We have your back!

Cheers to your success,

Lexie Robbins

Digital Marketing Specialist

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Alexis Robbins

a seasoned copywriter, digital marketer, and social media connoisseur. Enjoys: anti-jokes, David Bowie, and mismatched socks.