CRM and marketing automation: The challenges and benefits of integration

These foundational elements of the martech stack work better together, if you get the integration right.

Customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation platforms (MAPs) are two of the foundational elements of modern martech stacks.

CRMs are used by both marketing and sales teams to manage customer data, including information about contacts, from their job title to their engagement history, to information about companies, including their revenue, headcount, competitors and more. 

Marketing automation platforms help operationalize data on prospects and customers. MAPs rely heavily on email for outreach, but they also help marketers build and deploy website forms, which help collect information on prospects. They also automate workflows, using data and engagements as triggers to send relevant messages.  

In an ideal world, this is orchestration at its finest. A prospect fills out a web form, a record is created in the CRM and the prospect can now receive outreach as part of an automation or a future campaign. This includes the initial outreach, which might simply be an auto-responder after the form fill that thanks the prospect for the inquiry. 

These two vital tools are often inter-connected, which is why many of the biggest names in the martech space, including Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and HubSpot, offer both tools. And as you might expect, working with one vendor ideally offers the easiest path to integration. But we don’t operate in an ideal world.

There are a number of martech stacks out there that mix and match tools because of decisions made by a former leadership team, mergers and acquisitions or just because the process of building a stack over time isn’t always as smooth as how you want to draw it up.

Regardless of the reason, there are a number of benefits available to marketing teams that can integrate their CRM and marketing automation systems. 


The benefits of integrating CRM and marketing automation

At a high level, integrating CRM and marketing automation systems helps you collect and store data on prospects and customers and then put that data to use to grow your business. 

There are a number of ways in which adopting and integrating these systems can benefit organizations:

Personalized communication

By integrating the data in your CRM with marketing automation, your organization gains the ability to create highly personalized marketing campaigns tailored to individual customer preferences, behaviors or their purchase history. This personalized communication helps  improve engagement and build stronger relationships with customers and prospects.

Improved lead management

CRM integration enables seamless transfer of lead data between sales and your marketing team, ensuring your leads are properly nurtured and receive the correct follow up. Marketing automation automates lead scoring and nurturing processes based on predefined criteria, allowing your organization to prioritize leads and focus resources on those most likely to convert.

Timely and relevant messaging

Marketing automation systems allow your organizations to send timely and relevant messages to customers and prospects based on their interactions with your brand. When you leverage your CRM data to trigger automated campaigns, your team can deliver messages at key touchpoints in the customer journey, including such timely notices as birthdays, anniversaries or abandoned shopping cart reminders.

Streamlined customer journey

Integrating CRM and marketing automation helps your team map out and optimize the entire customer journey, from initial contact to post-purchase engagement. Marketing automation software actually automates workflows. It uses triggering actions based on customer behavior, which lets you guide prospects through the sales funnel more effectively and provide a seamless experience across all touchpoints and channels.

Enhanced customer segmentation

CRM integration allows your organization to segment its customer database based on various criteria, such as demographics, purchase history or engagement level. Marketing automation systems can then use these segments to deliver targeted messages and offers to different customer segments, increasing relevance and engagement.

Data-driven decision making

Your organization can gain valuable insights into customer behavior and campaign performance when you integrate CRM and marketing automation. This data-driven approach allows marketers to track ROI, measure campaign effectiveness and optimize marketing strategies based on real-time feedback.

Common challenges when implementing CRM and marketing automation together

Many marketing teams would love to Improve their customer insights, streamline communication and better target their marketing efforts. 

But first, there are several challenges organizations will have to confront when they explore integrating their CRM and marketing automation systems.

Data consistency and quality

One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that data is consistent and of high quality across both systems. Discrepancies or inaccuracies in customer data lead to ineffective marketing campaigns and miscommunication with your customers.

Integration complexity

Integrating CRM and marketing automation systems can be complex, especially if the systems use different data structures or APIs. Organizations can invest significant time and resources into developing custom integrations or working with third-party integration tools.

Process alignment

CRM and marketing automation systems often serve different purposes and may have different workflows and processes. You organization will need to align these processes to ensure a seamless experience.

User adoption

Change is hard for many people. Introducing new technology platforms can bring resistance from users who are accustomed to existing systems or workflows. Your organization needs to provide adequate training and support to ensure employees effectively use the integrated CRM and marketing automation systems.


Integrating CRM and marketing automation systems can involve additional costs, including licensing fees, development costs for custom integrations and ongoing maintenance and support expenses. Your organization will need to carefully evaluate the return on investment to justify these expenses.

Security and compliance

Handling sensitive customer data requires robust security measures to protect against data breaches or unauthorized access. Your organization needs to ensure the integrated CRM and marketing automation systems comply with relevant data privacy and security regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA.


As your organization grows, the integrated CRM and marketing automation systems should be able to scale accordingly to accommodate increased data volume and user activity. You need to consider the scalability of both systems when choosing vendors and designing the integration architecture. The number of records and the number of users often factor into licensing costs. Both of these will likely grow with your company. 

How leading marketing organizations approach CRM, marketing automation integration

Integrated CRM and marketing automation systems bring a lot of functionality to the table as well as a wealth of data. While data-driven marketing is all the rage today, marketing teams still struggle to put their data and MAPs functions to work. 

The teams that are seeing the best return on their investment in CRM and marketing automation integration take an approach that focuses on: 

Defining clear objectives

Clearly define your goals and objectives when you set out to integrate CRM and marketing automation systems. Common objectives include improving lead generation, increasing customer retention or streamlining communication processes. Having clear objectives will guide decision-making and ensure alignment across teams.

Invest in data quality and integration

Prioritize data quality by ensuring your CRM data is accurate, complete and current. Invest in robust data integration processes to ensure seamless synchronization between CRM and marketing automation systems, allowing for a single source of truth for your customer data.

Map out customer journeys

Map out your customer journey across all touchpoints, from initial contact to post-purchase activities. Identify key touchpoints and opportunities for automation to deliver timely and relevant messages to customers and prospects at each stage of the journey.

Segmentation and personalization

Utilize CRM data to segment your audience based on demographics, behavior or other relevant criteria. Leverage marketing automation to deliver personalized messages and offers to different segments, increasing relevance and engagement.

Aligning sales and marketing teams

Fostering collaboration and alignment between your sales and marketing teams will ensure a seamless experience for customers. Encourage the sharing of insights and feedback between teams to optimize lead management and customer engagement processes.

Implement lead scoring and nurturing

Implement lead scoring models to prioritize leads based on their likelihood to convert. Use marketing automation to nurture leads through targeted campaigns and personalized communication, moving them through the sales funnel more effectively.

Measure and analyze performance

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your CRM and marketing automation efforts. Track metrics such as lead conversion rates, customer acquisition costs and campaign ROI to identify areas for improvement and optimization.

Continuous optimization

Continuously optimize your CRM and marketing automation strategies based on data and insights gathered over time. Test different messaging, offers and workflows to identify what resonates best with your audience and refine your approach accordingly.

Invest in training and support

Provide adequate training and support for your employees who use the CRM and marketing automation systems to maximize adoption and usage. Invest in ongoing education to keep teams updated on best practices and new features.

Focus on customer experience

Leading marketing teams prioritize the customer experience in every interaction. They use CRM and marketing automation tools to anticipate customer needs, provide relevant and helpful content and deliver seamless experiences across channels. By putting the customer first, they increase loyalty and help establish long-term relationships.

An integration worth pursuing

Tightly integrated CRM and marketing automation systems give marketing teams the automation and scale they need to engage customers in a highly competitive world. For many organizations, the competition is just a click away, which means businesses that deliver, timely, relevant and engaging messages stand out.

Combining accurate customer data from your CRM with workflow automation for capturing information and conducting outreach is essential in this environment.

The post CRM and marketing automation: The challenges and benefits of integration appeared first on MarTech.


About the author

Mike Pastore


Mike Pastore has spent nearly three decades in B2B marketing, as an editor, writer, and marketer. He first wrote about marketing in 1998 for (later Jupitermedia). He then worked with marketers at some of the best-known brands in B2B tech creating content for marketing campaigns at both Jupitermedia and QuinStreet. Prior to joining Third Door Media as the Editorial Director of the MarTech website, he led demand generation at B2B media company TechnologyAdvice.