A Complete Guide to the Differences Between CRM and CMS

At the core of every modern business, there are two acronyms: CRM and CMS.  These two acronyms are the most often confused or transposed in the whole glossary of digital marketing. The fact of the matter is that every modern business that runs on software and has a website needs both a CRM and a CMS – and to manage them expertly as two separate, integrated systems.

But what exactly are a CRM and a CMS? How do you keep the two acronyms straight and handle both with the ease needed for a growing business? By the end of this article, you’ll be well on your way to expertly managing both your CRM and your CMS – or ready to make an informed decision on the right software solutions for your business.

What are CRM and CMS? What is the Difference?

Quick Answer: CRM and CMS are both software that your business needs. The CRM, or Customer Relationship Manager keeps track of customers has features for marketing and communication. The CMS or Content Management System is a website engine with features to create pages and manage content.

A business’ CRM and CMS are often integrated to facilitate personalized website experiences, continuous customer service, and digital marketing strategies.

What is a CRM?

  • Customer Relationship Management software
  • Example: Salesforce CRM & HubSpot CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management (software). It is an interactive and self-updating archive of all your leads and customers who have ever engaged with your company. At your core, your CRM is your record of customers, but also contains analytics, marketing automation, and communication software to, eponymously, manage your customer relationships.

What is a CMS?

  • Content Management System
  • Example: WordPress & Squarespace

CMS stands for Content Management System. A CMS is a website engine that is designed to help you build and edit pages. On the back-end, it is run by a database of pages and content, arranged using software themes and HTML code.  Because most of a business website is static, readable pages, a CMS can be used to quickly build everything you need except embedded portals like e-commerce shops or web games – for which there are modules you can plug in. A CMS comes with pre-built themes and structures for your basic “Home”, “About”, “Contact”, and “Blog” business website. Plugins build onto your CMS core to add features that are more than flat content, like shops, user portals, maps, and tools.

The Difference Between a CRM and CMS

A CRM manages a database of customers and details about them. A CMS manages the content of your website.

What You Can Do with a CRM?

Leads, Customers, and Dormant Accounts

At the core of a CRM are the records of your leads and customers. There should be three types of records; Leads that have not yet converted, customers who are active and due to return, and dormant customers who may eventually re-engage. Some brands also have a temporary entry for website touch-points that are not yet data-available leads.

A Customer’s Entire History with the Company

Your CRM will make a customer record as soon as an interaction is registered. Once a customer has a record, every interaction with the company (integrated with the CRM) is recorded. This builds a customer’s entire history with the company and allows you to create a continuous relationship with each customer – and analyze their trends. This can include their browsing, shopping, blog-reading, and customer service contact records.

Communicate with Customer with Automated Record Keeping

Many CRMs include call, chat, text, and now video conference features to reach out to customers directly through the platform. Most can integrate with the leading communication platforms to do the same. When connected through the CRM, every interaction is recorded and can be used or referenced later.

Personalized Marketing and Automation

  • Birthday rewards
  • Personalized deals and offers
  • Personalized email content

Perhaps the most useful thing about modern CRMS is automation of personalized content. Your CRM can help send personalized email campaigns where the names and even the preferences and shopping history of your customers are used to create a greater connection with each customer. Your CRM can send birthday wishes and help your e-commerce engine craft offers uniquely appealing to each customer based on their history.

Analysis Trend Prediction and Optimization

CRMs can also offer analysis of customer trends by processing the data of individual and group history. Your CRM can help predict customer behavior and potentially build a strategy to optimize a customer’s predictable patterns.

What You Can Do with a CMS

Start a Business Website

The core function of a CMS is to build a website and host content pages to be visited and read. With a CMS, you can build any structure of pages. The appearance and layout of the content on each page is determined by your theme, which you can select or build custom. Content includes text, images, and embedded tools like video players and calculators.

Any business can start a website with a complete CMS, and any of the leading CMSs available. If all you need is a few landing pages and service pages, this can be built by any tenacious non-programmer in a single day using a modern CMS.

Build a Homepage and Service Pages

Most CMSs make it easy to build your basic business pages right out of the box. Start with any basic website theme to build a homepage for your website and a navigation bar of service pages. With any WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get, or “Whisywig”) engine, you can visually arrange each page as you build or edit without the need to program.

Manage a Blog and Information Center

The CMS design was built for blogging. A blog is, essentially, a database of page URLs and content, arranged according to a design theme. It’s just a database of HTML and CSS at its core. This makes it easy for anyone today to build a vast blog navigated by menus. Create a more comprehensive knowledge base and navigation menu system and you have a professional information center built from the same pieces.

Fun fact: You can actually build a non-CMS website, then host a CMS inside as a blog portal. In reverse, you can build a CMS website and host other web structures as plugins.

Increase Your SEO Ranking

If your concern is SEO, a CMS is the center of any business’ SEO strategy. You have to have content pages in order to win search results. The more comprehensive service pages and useful blog articles you have, the more page results you can provide to your targeted user searches. In fact, Google ranks pages by performance criteria that are specific to the CMS, like page load speed, the order in which assets (images, text, and embeds) appear on your page, and how well your CMS can be used on mobile devices.

Track Website Analytics

Most modern CMS’ now include (or plugin to include) the ability to track your website analytics. Analytics are essential to quantitative growth for any business. If you want to increase your website traffic or improve conversion funnels, you’ll need the analytics connected through your CMS.

Set Up Admin and User Accounts

Every CMS has admin and user accounts, which can be expanded for both back-end and customer-facing features. Your admin accounts are editors and those allowed to manage the content, while you can often create controlled ranks of user accounts for customer-access permissions and limited staff account permissions.

Expand with Plug-In Website Features

A CMS isn’t truly complete without a full stack of plugins. Cybersecurity, e-commerce, and dashboard analytics are the top three, but you will likely find close to a dozen plugins that your business needs or should try when building your website. Be cautious, most popular CRMs have an unvetted plugin community, so be sure to choose only the most trusted software to plug into your business website.

Integrating Your CRM and CMS | Personalize Your Customer Experience

Now that you know the difference between a CRM and CMS, let’s conclude this exploration with what they can do together.


Most businesses start by building their website with a CMS. From there, they create customer accounts where customers can take actions like shop, buy, and earn loyalty points. The CRM, when integrated, tracks these behaviors and records them as an archive of personalized data for each customer. This data can then be used to predict customer behavior, offer personally tempting deals, and personalize email outreach later on.

CRMs can create lead records through your CMS by creating a temporary record for each IP address that explores the website without logging in. If this IP results in a customer account, their pre-account data can even be added to the record – determining the exact moment and original interaction with the brand.


Your CRM can also send useful data back to your CMS. Your CRM can tell the website when to greet the customer with birthday wishes and which “product suggestion” panels each customer is most likely to respond to. The CRM can tell the CMS if the customer prefers dark mode, or if their holiday shopping patterns are about to repeat.

What is the Difference Between a CRM and CMS?

The difference between a CRM and CMS is that a CRM manages your customer data while a CMS manages your website pages.

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