The Difference between CRM and E-mail Marketing

The Difference between CRM and E-mail Marketing

What’s the difference between e-mail marketing, marketing automation, and CRM? And what do you need?

With all the different types of e-mail platforms, the FrogDog team has run into a proliferating amount of confusion among clients and contacts.

Yes, you may have a CRM. No, that does not mean you have an e-mail marketing platform. And vice versa.

No, your e-mail marketing platform does not mean you’re doing or have the capability to do marketing automation. (Vice versa applies here, too.)

We’ve covered the difference between e-mail marketing and marketing automation in a previous article and we received a lot of a-ha feedback. (Glad we helped!)

So let’s tackle the difference between e-mail marketing, marketing automation, and CRM. Because just having one or two of the three doesn’t mean you have the other.

Quick Review: E-mail Marketing and Marketing Automation

E-mail marketing serves the same function as a direct-mail letter or postcard, printed newsletter, or catalogue—just in a digital form. With e-mail marketing, set marketing pieces go out on a set schedule to a set list.

Marketing automation uses marketer-created rule sets to send out a series of e-mail messages encouraging different types of action based on the behavior of each person on a contact list. Someone who clicks one link in an e-mail will get a different e-mail follow-up than someone who clicks another link—and an even different follow-up e-mail than someone who doesn’t click a link at all.

For a full overview of these complex marketing functions and the systems that enable them, click here.

CRM Defined

CRM stands for customer relationship management. The key difference between CRM and e-mail marketing and marketing automation platforms rests with the “relationship” component of the term.

E-mail marketing and marketing automation send segmented lists of contacts targeted e-mail messages. Everyone in each list receives the same message (with key identifiers, such as first names and company names, swapped out). These are broadcast platforms that enable your marketing efforts to reach contacts at scale and volume.

A CRM system—which may synchronize data with marketing automation and e-mail marketing systems to show which marketing pieces each contact has received and opened—helps sales teams and relationship managers keep tabs on their contacts. They can see when they last reached out to a contact, what they discussed, and can receive reminders and triggers to encourage them to reach out on a timeframe they’ve defined by their relationship to that individual contact.

Although most CRM systems provide template e-mail messages for users to employ as needed with contacts, and some allow users to send the same e-mail message to more than one contact at a time, CRM systems limit the number of people who can receive the same message at once, typically.

A CRM is a tool that allows companies to better own, oversee, and manage their relationships with their contacts; helps enable collaboration and reduce duplication of effort across employee teams who work with the same contacts; and gives leadership oversight of the work of salespeople and relationship managers.

Do You Need All Three?

Seems like a lot of platforms. Heck, we’ll give it to you: It is a lot of platforms.

Do you need platforms for e-mail marketing, marketing automation, and customer relationship management? Should you get one platform that covers all three? (They do exist.) Do you even need all three functions, regardless of how many platforms they require?

We wish we had one simple answer for you. As with everything, what you need in terms of marketing, relationship management, and sales depends on your goals.

Want some help puzzling through it? Contact FrogDog.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Posted: Jun 12, 2017
Updated: Oct 07, 2019
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