What is the difference between a CRM and DMP in cross-channel advertising?

What is the difference between a CRM and DMP in cross-channel advertising?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and Data Management Platform (DMP) products are complementary and competing software for targeting people digitally.

A CRM tracks only your registered customers (prospects, loyal, and churned).

A DMP tracks unregistered and registered audiences of your digital media and advertising, which can be a larger set of user profiles than your CRM.

Both technologies are important to data-driven marketers looking to personalize advertising with unique ads to unique sets of targets via a creative solution like a creative management platform.

How do CRMs and DMPs work?

A CRM receives customer data when buyers or sellers of a product fill out information that gets uploaded or inputted into the CRM. The CRM is the database of all this information. A CRM like Salesforce allows a marketer to store information on the customer including who is the customer (name, address, contact info, etc.) and what a customer cares about (what have they bought, inquired about, etc.). A CRM can export this data generally in the form of lists of users with whatever information associated with the user.

For example, for a bank, its CRM can spit out a list of customers who have signed up for a credit card but haven’t signed up for a checking account. This list may be used later for marketing to customers that may be enticed to create a new bank account that can link to the existing credit card and be eligible for a financial incentive like $100 sign up bonus for having both.

A DMP collects audience data by tagging pages of a website with trackers that collect info on who visited certain pages or by importing data from other sources. The DMP then allows you to create audience segments by grouping or excluding people of similar activity or characteristics. These audience segments can then be shared with other marketing systems so they can find and target these segments for different purposes like media buying or creative messaging.

For example, a DMP can track people who visit a page about checking accounts and people who have logged into their credit card account and see if there is any overlap and who don’t overlap so that the appropriate audience segment can be created.

How do CRMs and DMPs complement each other?

CRM information is very useful for creating “audience segments” of users similar to each other based on a characteristic that you define. CRM data can be on-boarded into a DMP.

Services like LiveRamp help marketers do this by translating customer lists into targetable DMP segments that can be seen the on open web via ad exchanges and other programmatic marketplaces that facilitate the buying/selling of ads based on data and automation.

Some DMPs and data service providers can match up different user profiles like from your CRM to another party’s DMP customer ID of the same person (which may be a cookie or some other identifier). They do this by comparing known information from both sources to see if anything matches. For example, if you have the cell phone number of your customer in your CRM and the other party has the cell phone number also for that customer ID, then they can “match” it and link the customer ID with your CRM ID of that customer so you now have an audience segment full of people who exist in on your CRM list that can be targeted with ads elsewhere on the internet even if they never visited your own website.

So in effect, together a CRM and DMP can help a marketer target known customers across the open Internet. A DMP can also help create “lookalike” segments where they may have access to more audience profiles than an individual marketer has and can find people who look like the people in the CRM list given (so other people a brand may not have been in contact with that share the same characteristics as the brand’s existing customers). This is why these technologies are powerful together.

How do CRMs and DMPs compete with each other?

A CRM by itself cannot find audience profiles online. However, a CRM can do one important thing that a DMP cannot do for the most part — find your customers in certain “walled garden” environments like Facebook or Instagram.

These publishers have an immense set of data on their own users that can be used to match with CRM data in what’s known as “custom audiences” or CRM matching. By matching these sets of data, you can target your known customers on these publishers who otherwise refuse to let you bring outside data into their systems for targeting purposes since they’re also worried about you taking out data about those very same customers.

A DMP audience segment can be used in the “open web” like most websites so it’s still extremely useful for scale reasons to have.

CRMs and DMPs are increasingly competing to be the system of record for targeting customers, but they are both necessary for any scaled marketer.

How do CRMs and DMPs work with creative?

CRM and DMP can both enable audience segmentation for creative messaging.

A DMP’s audience segments can be shared with a DSP for media targeting and also assigning an uploaded creative from your CMP to that target group. Alternatively, a DMP’s audience segment can be shared with a DCO app to create a creative decision tree based on the audiences the creative is seeing and prioritizing messaging for.

For a CRM paired with a walled garden publisher or a DMP for the open web, you can create a target audience and build a creative version specific to that audience which you can tie together in Facebook or for open web in your DSP or DCO solution.

CRM managers looking to experiment with CRM-only segmentation and messaging would best be served with a CMP that can push or upload its creative versions into Facebook and other walled gardens where they can then be targeted to the custom audience segments created by the CRM.

3rd-party pure DCO apps at this time cannot utilize CRM data inside walled-garden publications to do dynamic messaging to CRM segments based on a messaging decision tree logic programmed outside of the walled-garden. Unfortunately, walled-gardens prohibit that activity but they will allow a CMP to upload individual creative versions to be tied to a targeting logic within the walled-garden.


Most marketing teams already have a CRM which allow most marketers to get started with person-based marketing in some fashion. Ironically, smaller marketers may have a harder time utilizing a CRM-only strategy. Because they will inherently have fewer customers and customer data they will also have lower matches and therefore lower reach for marketing. Big marketers can match more but they also are in a better position to leverage DMPs for even greater reach as well as sharing data with partners without exposing too much customer data.


In the end, all marketers will eventually have a CRM and DMP to enable personalized marketing, but they will need these two marketing technologies for different situations.