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CRM vs CMS: Which System is Right for Your Business Needs?

Understand the difference between CRM and CMS and choose the right one for your business needs.

Digital infrastructure is vital for every business and organization in today's online-focused economy. Every company, regardless of size or industry, needs a website and a platform for managing data from customer interactions and sales processes.

Company websites and investment in web-related services and systems are essential for success. Large companies have sophisticated internet-connected platforms, websites, and customer data collection and analysis tools.

However, small and medium businesses without internal web designers and IT staff also need a system that is not overly complicated and simple enough to operate, even if the user does not have a technical background.

Smaller companies can often benefit more from sophisticated content and data management systems because they allow automation and take care of tasks that would otherwise require a huge time commitment.

Two of the primary platforms that businesses use are customer relationship management (CRM) systems and content management systems (CMS).

Both have advantages. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two to make an informed decision about which one to use for your business or how to combine both effectively.

Often, the question is not whether you need to choose one or the other, but which will serve as the primary platform for your online business and marketing efforts. Here is a closer look at the differences between CRM and CMS.

What is a CRM?

Customer relationship management software manages customer data related to sales and interactions.

It is a comprehensive software system meant to handle potential customers as they move through the sales funnel. The programs are more sophisticated and cover end-to-end relationships with your customers, partners, and vendors.

The overall framework helps businesses organize, track, and nurture their sales relationships by providing lead management with a comprehensive view of all data related to each customer.

CRM software will typically include a database connected to the interface where sales team members can input data related to customer demographics and interactions with the company. The data could come from customer service contact, website browsing, interactions with marketing emails, or other activities.

One of the key functions of a CRM system is the ability to manage automated marketing and sales processes. The programs can also help with lead and contact management, sales automation, customer service, reporting and analytics, inventory management, and customer segmentation.

CRM tools will also bring the following benefits (if properly implemented).

  • Improved customer service because of the ability to see preferences and needs,

  • Increased customer loyalty due to personalization,

  • A better sales process because of the ability to track sales funnel activity,

  • Improved lead conversion because of better targeting and segmentation,

  • More effective marketing team collaboration because of better data visibility,

  • Increased sales efficiency because team members all have access to the same data sets.

Overall, customers tend to be more satisfied when the company uses a CRM system to manage and personalize interactions and log preferences.

What is CMS?

A content management system (CMS) is an application that helps create, manage, and store web content.

CMS systems enable non-technical users to easily produce, edit, and publish content without needing to understand web design or code.

These platforms make it possible for an organization to maintain its website without an in-house IT team or contracting work to third-party web designers or developers.

A CRM helps businesses improve their lead and customer management, leading to increased sales and revenue. With the ability to provide valuable insights, CRMs help sales teams plan and execute successful strategies to achieve their goals.

A CMS also facilitates data collection on customer activities and interactions with the website.

Here are the key features of a CMS platform.

  • User management: The system allows administrators to create different accounts with different levels of access for authors, editors, administrators, and other people involved with the website.

  • Content creation: The CMS provides the ability to create and store different types of content, such as blog posts, pages, images, and other files. Users can call up these saved items at any time for updates or editing.

  • Search and filtering: The company can also find content quickly with built-in search and filtering features, cutting down on the time needed to find files and content.

  • Workflow management: The CMS can automate the content creation and approval processes by giving users specific permissions to create, save, edit, publish, change, or delete content. After each step, the team member can automatically pass it to the next person who needs to work on the content.

  • Media management: A CMS provides the ability to store and manage media files such as images and videos.

  • Integration with other tools: A CMS allows you to integrate third-party applications, such as analytics and social media engagement tools.

A key benefit of the system is that it allows businesses to easily manage and update website content, allowing up-to-date communication with customers and members of the target market.

Other benefits include the following.

  • The system also ensures that content is up-to-date, secure, and optimized for search engine performance.

  • A CMS can also help simplify content creation and publishing by allowing users to format and layout pages without technical expertise.

  • Because they are cloud-based, today's CMS platforms allow collaboration. Different users can work on the same pages, blog posts, or marketing materials even if they are not located in the same office.

With a high-quality CMS, a company or organization can manage its own online store and presence without having to rely on technical personnel to create and update its site.

Factors to consider when choosing between CRM and CMS

CRM and CMS systems are both useful. However, you need to choose one to serve as the primary system for managing interactions with customers, facilitating sales and marketing teams' operations, and collecting and analyzing data.

Factors to consider when choosing between CRM and CMS:

Here are five considerations to help you decide which option is the best for your company.

Business goals and objectives

When choosing between a CRM and CMS for a business, it is vital to consider the specific aims of the business. Once you define these, you can decide which system best helps you achieve your goals.

If you are looking to build relationships that lead to loyal, long-term customers, then CRM might be the best choice. On the other hand, if your goals and objectives focus on increasing your website traffic and engagement, then CMS provides the best option.

Size and complexity of the business

The size of the company can also play a role in software selection. A small business with a limited customer base might opt for a CMS to engage with new and existing customers.

The more-limited analytics and data-collection features of this content-focused system are often sufficient to manage customer relations as well as keep the website growing and updated.

Mid-sized and larger companies will often opt for a CRM to handle the vast amounts of data generated by customer interactions. Corporate digital marketing specialists and departments may integrate a CRM and CMS system into one platform to get both content and customer data management in one place.

Combining complete systems can add complexity and require professional IT assistance. That said, services like Mailchimp can help integrate content management and customer segmentation tools into existing systems. This type of plug-in approach can work for companies of any size wanting to add features to their existing operations.

Customer and content management needs

You should consider the types of customers you are trying to engage, and the content varieties you need to manage. This determination requires deciding how you plan to engage customers and the relationship you plan to build with them.

If the primary value is developing an ongoing relationship with your customers, then a CRM is the better tool. These situations could include a business-to-business (B2B) arrangement, such as a supplier or service provider working directly with other companies in an ongoing capacity.

Some subscription-related businesses, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, or equipment or systems manufacturers may also prefer the CRM-centered approach.

On the other hand, companies that engage customers and target audience members through website content, social media, and other online platforms may prefer to run their marketing operations through a CMS.

Budget and resources

When choosing which system to embrace for your business, you should also consider the cost of implementing and maintaining it. What expenses can you expect?

The costs for your chosen system include licenses, hosting, and training employees and IT personnel to use the new platforms or tools.

In addition, you should consider the resources required to successfully manage and maintain a CRM or CMS, such as personnel, technical expertise, and time (which translates into employee wages).

All these costs can add up, so make sure you consider all of them when deciding on the type of system and its complexity.

Integration and scalability

When choosing a system for your business, also consider integration and scalability. These factors involve your current tools and growth plans.

Firstly, you will want to ensure any current tools that you rely on will work with your new CMS or CRM software. Second, you can learn if your chosen platform allows you to add features, applications, or software to increase overall usefulness and functionality.

If you hope to grow your business over time, you want a system that can handle this expansion without requiring you to completely change your setup.

In terms of CRM vs CMS, integration and scalability are more questions of product features than platform type. For example, MailChimp offers an array of integrations that can add functions like dynamic content creation and placement to your existing setup.

When to use CMS vs CRM software

Consider the scenarios you are most likely to encounter in your business. Then, you can decide which system will better help you deal with these situations, providing a clear answer about which option is best for your business processes and needs.

Scenarios where CMS is the best choice

Here are some scenarios in a business where choosing a CMS over CRM is the best choice.

  1. Content-focused businesses: CMS software is the best choice for content-focused businesses because it provides users with the ability to easily create, manage, and distribute videos, images, and articles. A quality CMS is an invaluable tool for businesses that rely heavily on content, such as online media outlets, blogs, and streaming sites. It also helps any company that relies heavily on content marketing.
  2. Businesses with a large online presence: CMS software is the best choice for businesses with a large online presence. These firms often have large amounts of digital assets and media files that they need to manage. Companies in this category include e-commerce retailers and social media sites.
  3. Businesses with a need for content management and distribution: CMS software is the best choice for companies whose business model revolves around distributing content. Not only do these firms need to manage their own sites, but they need to handle large files and digital assets for publication on third-party platforms. Advertising companies and content agencies often fall into this category.

Any company with a large content marketing operation or a business that relies on digital assets for marketing or operations can benefit from a robust content management system.

Scenarios where CRM is the best choice

Here are some scenarios in a business where choosing a CRM over CMS is the best choice.

Sales and customer service-centric businesses

CRM software is specifically designed to help sales and customer service teams manage data and interactions. Obviously, this focus makes it the ideal choice for sales and customer service-centric businesses.

With robust CRM solutions, businesses will be able to better understand the needs of their customers and develop unique ways of connecting with them. In the long term, these connections are essential for driving up sales.

Businesses with complex customer data and interactions

CRM software is specifically equipped with powerful tools for categorizing and analyzing data for different types of customer interactions. The analytics capabilities can help companies turn all this information into useful insights that impact sales efforts.

Businesses with a high volume of customer interactions

In addition to helping categorize data, CRMs can automate the sales process. The system can crunch information as it gets it, providing insights and reports that would take humans a much longer amount of time to compile.

For businesses relying on customer data for personalization, targeting, and improved services, a CRM is the better choice.

Don't overlook hybrid solutions or integrations

In some instances, the specific scenarios a business encounters make the CRM vs CMS choice clear-cut. In other cases, a hybrid solution could be the answer.

Many companies have an online presence and collect customer data, but neither of these functions warrants a major investment in a feature-rich platform. Small and mid-sized businesses often have this problem, as do corporations in industries that don't require aggressive content publication or customer data collection.

What can these companies gain from opting for a hybrid of a CRM and CMS system?

  • Flexibility and customization: Users can find the right balance between a CRM and CMS to fit their needs.
  • Streamlined data management: Users can get the insights they need from their data without having to navigate complex analytics systems.
  • Improved efficiency and cost savings: Companies can scale and customize the software to get exactly what they need without paying for unnecessary extras.
  • Scalability: Hybrid solutions are easily scalable and allow users to quickly and easily add more features or adjust their settings as needed.

A hybrid system can have some drawbacks, however.

  • Increased complexity: Hybrid solutions can be more complex and challenging to set up, and you may need to worry about the compatibility of some plug-ins and features.
  • Cost: Hybrid solutions can be costlier than a CRM or CMS if they require outside technical support.
  • Security concerns: It can be difficult to ensure that both the customer data and content are secure when using different software packages that don't provide network-wide security.
  • Compatibility issues: Hybrid solutions may not be compatible with existing systems, requiring time-consuming data migration or expensive customization.

Hybrid or integrated solutions can offer a chance to get the best of CRM and CMS platforms without having to sacrifice media management or data insights.

Make the right decision based on your business needs

Ultimately, it is up to the business owner or department head to decide which system will provide the biggest advantages. Both CRM and CMS systems offer powerful solutions for managing and organizing customer data or content, respectively.

Though both offer useful tools, one may work better than the other depending on the size and scope of the business and its overall strategy for engaging its audience.

For some businesses, an individual CRM or CMS system may be enough to provide all the necessary functions for success. Other companies may need a hybrid system offering management and automation features for data analysis and content publishing.

By thoroughly understanding the needs of your business and the nuances of your industry, you can make an informed decision about which system is right for your operations.

In many cases, a hybrid or integrated approach, involving an array of email marketing tools like those offered by Mailchimp, can help you add specific features to your system without having to worry about compatibility.

Whether you need content targeting, a contact management system, or automated reporting, these tools can help you create the exact setup you need to succeed in your marketing and sales efforts.

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