What Is the Difference Between a CRM and a Marketing Automation System?

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What Is the Difference Between a CRM and a Marketing Automation System?

Content Strategist
6 minutes read
March 29, 2024

Managing an association means ensuring that operations are optimized, members are engaged, and the organization is growing.

Two essential tools that can help you achieve these goals are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and marketing automation systems. But what exactly are they, and how do they differ?

Keep reading to discover.

Key Takeaways

  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems help you manage interactions with current and potential members, providing a 360-degree view of your members’ data, interests, and behaviors.
  • Marketing automation systems streamline and automate marketing tasks such as email campaigns, social media posts, and lead nurturing, allowing for targeted and personalized outreach.
  • Integrating CRM and marketing automation systems through an Association Management Software (AMS) provides a seamless experience for members while offering valuable insights into their behavior.
  • Glue Up's AI-powered AMS combines the functionalities of CRM and marketing automation, enabling associations to create personalized experiences, increase engagement, and drive growth.
  • Real-world examples, such as the International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) and the National Rural Education Association (NREA), demonstrate the success and benefits of adopting an AMS to enhance operational efficiency, member engagement, and membership growth.

CRM to Manage Member Interactions

CRM for member interaction

A CRM system is designed to help you manage your association's interactions with current and potential members.

It's a centralized database where you can store member details, track engagement history, and manage your membership pipeline.

Your CRM gives you a 360-degree view of your members, allowing you to understand their interests, preferences, and behaviors.

For example, you member who regularly attends your events and engages with your content. With a CRM, you can track these interactions and thus tailor your communications and offerings to their specific needs.

This is why the average ROI for CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent. In fact, organizations using CRM experience increased conversion rates up to 300% (Salesmate).

Marketing Automation Scales Your Outreach

marketing automation system

On the other hand, a marketing automation system is designed to help you scale and automate your marketing efforts.

It allows you to streamline repetitive tasks, such as marketing campaigns, social media posts, and lead nurturing. It helps in segmenting your audience based on their behavior, interests, and demographics, ensuring that your messages are targeted and relevant.

For instance, let's say you want to promote an upcoming conference to your members.

With a marketing automation system, you can create an email campaign that automatically sends personalized invitations based on each member's location, job title, and previous event attendance.

According to a report by Epsilon, automated emails have a 70.5% higher open rate and a 152% higher click-through rate than generic email newsletters.

Can We Combine CRM and Marketing Automation Systems?



Marketing Automation

CRM Software

AMS (Combines Both)

Primary Focus
Focuses on automating marketing tasks like email campaigns, social media posting, and lead nurturing. Focuses on managing a company's interactions with current and potential customers.

Combines these aspects by facilitating marketing automation tasks while also managing customer and member interactions.

Main Users
Primarily used by marketing teams to streamline and enhance marketing efforts.

Primarily used by operations teams to manage leads, customer information, and sales processes.

Used by associations' staff, including both marketing and operations teams, to manage members, events, and communications effectively.

Key Features

Features include email marketing, landing page creation, lead scoring, and analytics.

Features focus on contact management, lead management, sales forecasting, and interaction tracking.

Offers a blend of features from both, such as email marketing, event management, member databases, and analytics.


To generate more leads and convert them into customers by automating marketing processes.

To build and maintain relationships with customers, improving customer retention and driving sales growth.

To manage member engagement and retention, streamline operations, and enhance both marketing and sales efforts within associations.

Integration and Data Sharing

Can be integrated with CRM systems to pass leads to sales teams but operates mainly independently.

Focuses on centralizing member data for sales teams, and can integrate with marketing tools to receive leads.

Naturally integrates the functionalities of both systems, providing a unified platform for data sharing and process management across departments.

While CRM and marketing automation systems serve different purposes, they work best when integrated.

This integrated data management system is called Association Management Software (AMS).

Thus, an AMS provides your members with a seamless experience while also gaining valuable insights into their behavior.

Read more: AMS vs CRM: What is The Best Fit for Your Association?

Consider this scenario for a moment:

  • Your CRM captures a member's interaction with your association's website.
  • Based on that interaction, your marketing automation system triggers a personalized follow-up email.
  • The member engages with the email, and their behavior is recorded back in the CRM.
  • This data helps you score the member's engagement level and tailor future communications.
  • By integrating CRM and marketing automation, you can create seamless, data-driven member experiences that foster loyalty and drive long-term success for your association.


Glue Up AMS

This is where Glue Up makes its mark. As the first global AI-powered Association Management Software with comprehensive functionality, Glue Up combines the strongest features of both systems.

It offers a robust CRM system that allows you to manage your member data, track engagement, and analyze member behavior.

At the same time, it also provides powerful marketing automation tools, enabling you to create targeted email campaigns, automate event promotions, and nurture your leads.

With the robust power of CRM and marketing automation at your fingertips, you can create personalized experiences for your members, increase engagement, and ultimately drive growth.

Real-World Examples of Success with AMS

If you’re still confused about whether you should purchase a CRM, or a marketing automation system or consolidate them in the form of AMS, consider the following case studies from two well-known associations.

International Inbound Travel Association's Transition to Self-Management with Glue Up

The International Inbound Travel Association (IITA) faced the challenge of managing their operations more efficiently while engaging their members meaningfully.

The IITA transitioned to Glue Up's comprehensive AMS to combine the functionalities of both CRM and marketing automation.

Aside from enhancing operational efficiency, this transition also increased member engagement and satisfaction, demonstrating how AMS is transforming associations.

“Glue Up improved our management processes by combining systems that were initially separate onto one platform. I cannot overstate the value of this all-in-one solution, especially for small non-profit organizations with neither the time nor resources to use multiple software for membership management.”
Lisa Simon, Executive Director of the International Inbound Travel Association

Read the full success story here.

National Rural Education Association's Membership Increase

The National Rural Education Association (NREA) leveraged Glue Up's AI-powered AMS to address the challenge of increasing their membership base and improving member retention.

As a result of integrating Glue Up's software, NREA streamlines the membership renewal process, enhances member communication, and gives members access to valuable digital experiences.

This strategic adoption of AMS led to a significant increase in memberships, illustrating the critical role of digital solutions in growing and maintaining an association's membership in today's digital age.

“We’ve increased tremendously to the point where we’ve already surpassed our goal in membership for the year, which is partly because we’re able to gain memberships from ones we used to miss out on in our old system.”
Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association

Read the full success story here.

Get Started with Glue Up’s AI-powered Association Management Software

Ready to see how Glue Up can transform your association?

Schedule a demo today and discover how our all-in-one platform can help you manage your members, automate your marketing, and grow your organization.

If you want to explore more functionalities and tools to build strong relationships with your members, feel free to download our ebook on effective association management in just 25 minutes.

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