Marketing automation complements CRM in helping your company to build business. MA's job is to automate workflows and other tasks associated with the marketing function. This includes automating marketing campaigns and routine marketing functions in an effort to get the jobs done more efficiently.
Marketing automation doesn't replace CRM, but it supplements it by working very closely with the existing CRM system. Many CRM systems come with marketing automation functions built in and it can be hard to draw the line between CRM and advertising automation.
In fact, lack of definition is one of the problems in dealing with MA. Many vendors claim to offer MA in their products, but what a lot of them are contribution is an additional room of CRM. Often these products are tremendously limited in what they can do and only cover part of the MA function.
For example, while an application that can automatically send an email to a prospect when convinced trigger conditions are met is performing a MA function, it doesn't really qualify as a MA system.
MA is so diverse that MA packages differ considerably in what they can do. Some are limited to a few functions. Others can manage the entire marketing function.
This is good because it gives you a lot of choice in selecting a MA package, but it means that you have to inquire carefully in order to understand just what the vendor is offering under the rubric of Marketing Automation.
A complete MA package provides a range of features for supporting the marketing function. Here are some of the things you should expect to find in the software.
Lead generation features such as templates for common jobs, a customizable interface, campaign landing pages, support for forms and a call to action, should all be available.
Lead nurturing features should include collecting real-time marketing data and support for email marketing. Lead scoring is also important.
Analytics for functions such as monitoring your website is also important. By keeping track of things like pages viewed, time spent on the site, content downloaded and such, you can turn more website leads into customers.
MA can also help integrate your marketing and sales departments by aligning teams around hard data rather than someone's opinion. This can save enormous amounts of time and cut down on friction between the teams.
In selecting a MA package, integration and compatibility are important. MA has the ability, in theory, to tightly integrate with the CRM system. You want something that will work closely with your CRM function and integrate into a unified whole.
For example, at the root of both systems is the customer database. Ideally both the MA and CRM functions are working off the same database.