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Marketing Automation: a substitute for classic CRM?

Marketing automation – software that automatically carries out repetitive marketing tasks such as promotional emails, social media posts, website updates, etc. – is often considered as a subset of customer relationship management (CRM). But it is perhaps more than that: marketing automation may have the potential to actually replace CRM in its conventional form.


Marketing automation software synchronises customer data, databases and CRM systems, so that marketing communications campaigns can be planned, carried out and evaluated more efficiently. As data is available in real time, follow-up campaigns can be performed even more efficiently and also reach target micro-groups. As an example of how this relates to pharmaceutical marketing professional circles, say 18 people have attended conference A, downloaded a whitepaper and have sought advice from the sales force over the last six months; they will receive emails that specifically refer to this user journey. Marketing automation therefore follows the principle mentioned in the first article of this series about digital transformation: “…paving the way for further new applications of digital technology.”

Marketing automation focusses on lead generation

Numerous software providers are scrambling to enter the marketing automation space. Heading these (at the time of writing) are existing CRM providers such as Salesforce, bpm’online and Microsoft. There are also specific marketing automation platforms like Mautic (open source) and SALESmanago, whose business models focus purely on marketing automation. In contrast to “traditional” providers, they primarily focus on lead generation by emails, landing pages and other digital touchpoints such as social media.

Will marketing automation eventually replace traditional CRM? Perhaps. In the meantime, it is a vital part of the modern marketing mix and at the forefront of digital transformation.

This is article 4 of our “Digital Transformation in Marketing” series. The other five articles of the series cover the following topics: Digital Transformation, Internet-of-Things, Customer-Relationship-Management, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.

Our author Thilo Kölzer is a member of the board and responsible for Digital & Mobile, Performance Marketing and the Internet-of-Things at antwerpes ag.

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