CDP v. AMS v. CRM: What’s the best tool for you?

    Last updated: June 23, 2023

    CDP. AMS. CRM.

    All of these tools can help you manage your audience data, improve your customer experiences and drive revenue.   

    But they don’t collect, manage and activate audience data in the same way, nor are they fully suited for all industries and use cases. And when it comes to MarTech, you can’t afford to purchase the wrong platform. 

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    So before you book demos and sign contracts, you need understand the key differences between these tools to decide what’s best for your business needs.  

    Quick note: CDPs, CRMs and AMS tools can be used together, but they’ll almost certainly have overlapping functionalities. So it’s worth investigating the pros and cons of each to see which solution can cover more of your top priorities.   

    What is a customer data platform?  

    Customer data platforms (CDPs) collect, unify, and manage customer data from every touchpoint (like email and web activity), then store it in one easily accessible database. This gives you the most current, complete and accurate view of each individual that interacts with your company, regardless of how or where they engage with you.  

    Say that Mary Jane visits 5 pages on your website, then two months later, she opens one of your emails.  

    Without a CDP, you would need to check your website analytics to see what website content resonates with Mary, then cross-reference it with your email analytics to get a full picture of what Mary wants to hear from you. That’s fine if you’re sending a one-off cold email, but it’s tedious if not impossible to replicate with thousands of contacts.  

    With a CDP, you get a single, complete history of every action that Mary has taken. (You also get native website tracking and lead scoring to make this job even easier.) Marketing, sales, and support can tailor their resources to Mary’s needs, and move her closer to a sale, renewal, etc.   

    When does it make sense to use a CDP? 

    With data unification and integrations, CDPs are good for any organization that wants to create more actionable marketing segments and execute more personalized customer experiences across different touchpoints – but their value increases as the organization gets bigger.   

    TLDR: The more data you have, and the more marketing touchpoints you use, the more your organization will benefit from using a CDP.   

    How do people use CDPs?  

    • Eliminate data silos and streamline workflows, reducing cost per acquired customer as well as opportunity costs from excess busy work. So you can spend less time pulling files and transferring data between systems, spend more time on the creative tasks that set you apart from the rest. Note: Of the three tools in this post, only CDPs can address the issue of data silos — so if streamlining workflow is your top priority, look long and hard at a CDP.  
    • Use the insights generated by your CDP to personalize marketing, communications and offers to individual users.   
    • CDPs (like Omeda) include native website tracking and convert unknown website visitors into known contacts and leads. 
    • Improve advertiser ROI and shore up your revenue streams by providing more predictive and revealing audience data.  
    • Store all of your customer data in one powerful database that can be queried by anyone in your organization, then use it to power marketing campaigns across multiple channels.  
    • Create more actionable and specific marketing segments based on the most accurate and relevant data.  

    What is an association management system?   

    Association Management Systems (AMS) combine all of the technology necessary to run a membership organization into one platform. An AMS combines your basic membership platform with your: 

    • Integrated website  
    • Content management system (CMS) 
    • Online transaction management tool  
    • Online member engagement community  
    • Event management platform 

    When does it make sense to use an AMS?  

    AMS platforms are designed specifically for associations, nonprofit organizations and other membership-based organizations, like professional associations, trade unions, and charitable organizations. Data management and consolidation is typically a secondary consideration for organizations using these platforms. 

    How do people use AMS tools?  

    Some common use cases for association management systems include:   

    • Membership management, including member lists and advanced search
    • Payment management, including automatic renewal reminders, recurring payments, customizable renewal workflows
    • Event registration, including with custom registration forms, online ticketing and payments, premium branding options  
    • Membership communications, including branded emails, automated notifications, and surveys

    What is customer relationship management software?   

    Customer relationship management software manages all of your company’s relationships and interactions with customers, both current and prospects. This encompasses every point in the customer journey, from demo requests to support requests and calls, etc.

    CRMs also have native marketing automation and lead scoring, so you can nurture leads over time, then adjust your strategy based on their responses.   

    Like CDPs, CRMs give you a history of each person’s actions with your company (content downloads, support requests, demo requests, etc.). But they’re limited to actions that someone takes with you, whereas CDPs also take in data from website tracking, offline interactions, event engagement, etc. CDPs also convert unknown website visitors into known records, while CRMs are limited to known audiences.  

    When does it make sense to use a CRM?   

    CRMs provide valuable insights into individual customer journeys, so they’re well suited for sales, marketing  and support teams across many industries.   

    How do people use CRMs?  

    Some common use cases for CRMs include:  

    • View a complete history of actions that a customer or prospect has taken with your company — and adjust your approach/message accordingly.  
    • Improve your customer retention by tracking and evaluating customer support interactions in one place.   
    • Send trigger-based emails based on previous engagement.  
    • Mark leads as hot or cold based on prospect responses.  

    CDP v. CRM v. AMS: What tool is best for you?   

    Just want the pros and cons? No problem. Here’s a comparison of each platform’s key capabilities — so you can decide which tools are best for your tech stack.   

    • CDPs are the only tool of the three that eliminates data silos. If tackling tech bloat is your top priority, consider a CDP.  
    • CRMs and AMS tools include marketing communications as part of their core product. However, some CDPs — including Omeda — have native integrations with email and marketing automation solutions, so you can unify, manage and action your audience data from one central place.  
    • CDPs ingest data from all on- and offline sources, but CRMs and AMS platforms only collect data from specific interactions that a lead has with the company.  
    • CDPs create a single profile for each customer encompassing every marketing channel, while ASM tools and CRMs capture data from specific touchpoints in the customer journey.   
    • AMS tools are most suited for membership-based organizations, but lack the data management, segmentation and profile management capabilities offered by a CDP.  
    • AMS tools are the only ones that include built-in event management and registration that is integrated with your membership data. They’re also the only ones to include native membership billing features, like automated renewals and recurring payments. (Want all of these features and the benefits of a single customer view? Consider Omeda, which combines subscription management and billing with a native CDP and marketing automation solution.)  

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