Customer Lifecycle Management Software and CRM: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between CLM and CRM

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Do you ever feel confused when trying to figure out what type of software your business needs? You’re not alone. It can be a tricky world to navigate, especially when solutions — like CRM software and customer lifecycle management software — appear similar on the surface.

Yes, CLM and CRM systems both involve uploading and tracking a lot of customer data. They can have many of the same functions that help sales, marketing and customer service teams interact with leads and customers or document activities that happen in an e-commerce portal. But these two separate tools provide different specialties to help businesses evolve.

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Best Customer Lifecycle Management Software


This article will help clear the air so you understand how CRM and CLM are different, as well as where they overlap. We’ll also look at some of the top customer lifecycle management software on the market.

CLM vs CRM: What’s the Difference?

Let’s break down what CRM and CLM are and how they differ so you gain a better understanding of how they most effectively fit into your tech stack.


Customer relationship management has been one of the biggest buzzwords in enterprise vendor software over the past few years. CRM platforms have become a standard component of what businesses use to compete in the data-centric and digitally connected 21st century.

The core focus of customer relationship management is capturing information about the interactions between a customer and a business. This concept is broadly applied to CRM software suites. These systems allow users to create detailed files and profiles on individual clients, track a deal through its various phases and use business intelligence to target messages to particular customer sets.

The key word here is “relationship.” CRM features are designed to help businesses work more closely with their customers and provide the convenient, personalized experiences people expect.

CRM software is commonly divided into two categories, depending on whether the system targets B2B or B2C customers.


Customer lifecycle management is a little different.

CLM (which may also be known as client lifecycle management software) is an analytical tool first and foremost. It often focuses on showing the outcomes of certain business processes, including those that rely on a CRM platform. In fact, multiple experts online talk about customer lifecycle management as “measuring your CRM program’s success over time.”

There’s a lot of talk about CLM metrics and CLM as a metrics-based approach. In essence, customer lifecycle management software analyzes an entire chain of transactions and processes to present the results in a digestible way.

Conducting this analysis lets you categorize different levels of customer interaction. For example, separating the customer interest phase from the transaction process, and developing another category for loyalty programs and customer retention.

Customer lifecycle management software examines things like purchase history, post-sales service and support, and a customer’s general history of interactions to help companies attract and retain larger numbers of customers over time.

However, those actions are also handled by many CRM applications, pointing to the fact that there can be quite a bit of overlap between CRM and CLM software. For example, much of the analytics that CLM systems perform use data created by and stored in the CRM system.

Often, CRM and CLM solutions will have overlapping features. Here are a few examples:

  • Customer behavior tracking
  • Customer segmentation based on different characteristics
  • Email marketing
  • Comprehensive customer profiles
  • Dashboards and reports

When comparing CRM and CLM systems, it’s good to keep their differences and similarities in mind. It’s also important to remember that CRM solutions are much more common, acting as the main driver of customer processes for many businesses.

Any company, no matter the size or industry, can benefit from using CRM software. Whether you add a customer lifecycle management platform to the mix will depend on your needs and the range of capabilities available through your CRM tool.

Your company has to decide what type of product offers the best fit. To do that, consider factors like:

  • What type of customer data is most important to you
  • How you currently manage the processes handled by CRM and CLM software
  • What types of extra functionality might improve your sales process
  • Whether you have users that will need to use the solution in the field
  • What your growth and retention goals are
  • Whether it makes more sense to buy separate solutions or go with a CRM that includes CLM capabilities

If you think you’ll need a customer lifecycle management solution, we have you covered. The next section breaks down some of the best products to kick-start your search.

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The Best Customer Lifecycle Management Software

Now that we’ve explored the differences between CRM vs CLM, it’s time to look at the top customer lifecycle management systems. Our research team has compiled a best-of-the-best list. Let’s get started!

Note: You can visit our Leaderboard for a list of the top CRM software.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides cloud-based engagement tools that let you build 1:1 journeys across the customer lifecycle. It offers a robust suite of features for executing data analysis, email marketing, advertising, content creation, social monitoring and more. A predictive analytics tool facilitates smart decisions so you can create a better customer experience at every touchpoint.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Customer 360

Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides customer segmentation for targeted tracking.

As part of the larger Salesforce Customer Success Platform, it can seamlessly connect with Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud to deliver end-to-end CRM capabilities.

Marketing Cloud is suitable for businesses of any size. It comes with a high price tag compared to other solutions, but it offers several editions to give users cost and functionality options.

Primary Features and Benefits

  • 360-Degree Customer View: A comprehensive view of each customer’s journey lets you identify customers who need to be re-engaged and prioritize essential interactions. Frequency caps and business rules ensure that interactions are relevant to customers.
  • Journey Builder: With this feature, you’re able to personalize campaigns based on customer characteristics such as preferred channels, demographics and behavior.
  • Campaign Optimization: Marketing Cloud refreshes data in real time, enabling campaigns to use the most current information. It pinpoints contacts who no longer interact with your company so you know who to target with reconnection efforts. It also provides campaign insights that allow you to pick out and remove poorly performing ad campaigns.
  • Behavior Tracking: The system consolidates customer data, such as purchase history and browsing behaviors, from different sources and uses it to inform personalized messages, which can be delivered across multiple channels including landing pages, ads, email and apps. Event-based triggers can be set up for when customers download a mobile app, make a purchase or take other actions within their journey. Sales teams can create visual representations of individual customer journeys.
  • Email Templates: Equipped with drag-and-drop functionality and interactive content, these templates offer a variety of customizations so you can deliver the right content. Responsive design ensures the emails render properly on mobile devices.
  • Social Intelligence: Marketing Cloud provides monitoring for social media channels through image recognition and ML-based sentiment analysis. This lets you stay on top of campaign results, brand health and customer interactions. The ability to follow conversations at the granular level helps you take action on customer service issues.
  • Mobile Support: The solution supports mobile campaigns and customer segmentation. Using the chat messaging feature, you can gather profile data like preferences and behaviors. It offers geofencing, so you can target customers with promotions or coupons when they’re in range of a physical store.
Price: $$$$$

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Pega 7

Pega 7 is a web-based platform from Pegasystems that facilitates building apps for CRM, robotic process automation (RPA), case management, BPM and AI, all with the goal of optimizing complex customer lifecycle management tasks at the enterprise level. Together, these elements help you craft consistent messages, make relevant offers and build personalized experiences.

Pega Robot Manager screenshot

Dashboard for tracking and managing Pega’s RPA tools.

The system integrates with Pega Pulse, a social stream panel built into the case management interface. This lets users share information such as files and messages as well as process open customer service cases.

Despite its depth of functionality, even non-technical users can operate Pega 7. Its model-driven architecture offers an environment that doesn’t require coding knowledge.

Pega 7 comes in three different editions, one of which has a 30-day free trial.

Primary Features and Benefits

  • Cosmos: This feature provides a range of UX and UI tools. A pattern library lets you create a variety of app views based on a user’s role or the device they’re using. It features layered architecture so you can easily reuse common UI elements across processes and regions.
  • Prediction Engine: You can access a wealth of data such as current actions and the user’s context to structure effective experiences. The system will also make real-time recommendations of the next-best-action to take.
  • Robotic Desktop Automation: You can build and deploy “personal robots” that automate workflows and tasks to bring greater productivity and efficiency for customer service agents. It also enables multiple apps to communicate seamlessly.
  • BPM: This element supports and optimizes business processes via automated data retrieval and delivery, screen customization, and customer interaction improvement. The Situational Layer Cake tool provides flexibility, allowing you to match processes to the current situation. It does this by taking into account factors like geography, customer type, channel, time and product.
  • Mobile Applications: The system lets you build and deploy native apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices. App functionality includes touch ID, signature capture, push notifications, barcode scanning and GPS tracking. Using Pega Mobile Mashup, you can embed business processes into any app.
  • Intelligent Virtual Assistant: A key part of Pega’s platform, this feature lets you provide conversational AI assistants for multiple channels such as email, Facebook, SMS and Alexa. The Conversation Builder tool lets you manage dialog. Using these digital assistants lets you provide an enhanced experience since they can make suggestions, anticipate needs and execute tasks.
  • Customer Decision Hub: Pega 7 leverages a library of algorithms to present relevant, contextual offers. With it, you’re able to anticipate customer needs and know what to take action on next. Drag-and-drop tools and filtering simplify the process of plugging machine learning algorithms and big data into business strategies.
Price: $$$$$

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Offered by Right On Interactive (ROI), Customer Lifecycle Marketing is a SaaS customer engagement solution. It’s most suitable for small and mid-sized businesses and helps them acquire and engage leads throughout their journey, turning them into brand advocates. Capabilities include email marketing, landing pages, lead nurturing, social marketing, analytics, automation and website visitor tracking.

Users can access product training via webinars, online sessions, documentation and in-person sessions.

Primary Features and Benefits

  • 3D Scoring: This feature evaluates a customer’s journey to discover what relationship they have with your company and how to maximize value. It cuts down on lead acquisition cost, enables targeted marketing efforts and cultivates engagement to create better sales opportunities. It’s part of the Lifecycle Package.
  • Multichannel Marketing: The product allows your company to connect with prospects across multiple channels, including email, website, SMS and direct mail. The ability to get in front of people on their preferred channels increases reach and makes your efforts more effective.
  • Email: An editor lets you use built-in templates or create your own, with the option to send a test email before delivering it to your audience. It offers segmentation for delivering targeted communications. Engagement scoring rules let you know how recipients are responding so you know what they care about the most.
  • Customizable Reports: The software’s reporting options lets you keep track of your most valuable KPIs — cost per lead, marketing ROI and other campaign metrics. Comparing how your channels and campaigns perform leads to better decision-making and more effective marketing efforts.
  • Web Analytics: You can track how prospects interact with your marketing messages to optimize for more conversions. This feature helps you determine and act on behaviors to personalize experiences across the customer lifecycle.
  • Integrations: The system offers a prebuilt integration with Salesforce pro, enterprise and unlimited editions.
Price: $$$$$

Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Gainsight Customer Success

Gainsight Customer Success (CS) provides organizations of all sizes with tools to drive engagement, glean insights, promote team collaboration and collect feedback via its SaaS platform. Offered by Gainsight, a well-known customer lifecycle management vendor, it’s best for medium and large companies.

The platform presents a single customer view by aggregating data from different sources, letting users see NPS feedback, support tickets, open alerts and other customer information. Users can sync Gainsight CS with Outlook and Google calendars. A collaboration module helps teams communicate and maintain accurate records. It offers team views, shared notes, a timeline, to-dos and integrated emails.

Gainsight Customer Success Dashboard

A dashboard view in Gainsight CS.

Primary Features and Benefits

  • Dashboards: Gainsight CS allows you to create dashboards that fit your processes and quickly display essential information. They can be tailored based on user role and customer-facing functions. A point-and-click interface makes it easy to put rules in place to filter data so you always have a clear picture of your customers.
  • Health Scorecard: This feature calculates your company’s health by capturing a combination of inputs — for example, product usage trends and Net Promoter Score (NPS). You can choose what data to include, so the resulting scorecard reflects the areas that are most important to your business and provides a complete assessment of your customer sentiment. When a metric changes and needs to be addressed, the software automatically alerts the appropriate person to take action.
  • Playbooks: This tool provides several capabilities to streamline and improve your customer success efforts. Automated notifications alert team members when tasks need to be completed, such as jumping on a new opportunity or reminding a customer about an upcoming contract renewal. With AI built into the workflows, users can view a priority score so they know which actions to focus on.
  • AI Bot: The system’s AI bot, named “Sally,” serves up customer insights and notifications to the appropriate teams.
  • Video Message: Integrated into the platform, this tool lets you record one-minute videos you can send to customers. You can use real-time analytics to understand how your audience engages with the videos.
  • Interactive Surveys: Gainsight CS offers a prebuilt library of elements so you can create custom surveys. You can gather customer feedback and design better experiences as a result. With machine learning and text analytics, the platform can glean sentiments to provide insight into trends and overall customer opinion of your brand. Surveys can be used in tandem with playbooks to create a seamless customer success workflow.
Price: $$$$$

Company Size Suitability: S M L


ChurnZero is a SaaS customer success platform aimed at small and medium B2B companies that use a subscription model. It helps businesses understand customer sentiment toward products, automates customer experience  processes and predicts how likely customers are to renew their subscription. Capabilities include lifecycle management, revenue management, win/loss analysis, account management, customer engagement and usage tracking.


ChurnZero Customer Health Score screenshot

A customer health scorecard in ChurnZero.

Integrations with CRM software and other business systems used by your organization allow a unified approach to tracking customer data and creating customer-centric experiences.

Primary Features and Benefits

  • Health Score: ChurnZero is backed by big data analytics to help manage your customer base and understand each customer’s health. By logging every customer activity performed, it can determine a customer’s likelihood to churn or anticipate changes in a customer’s success.
  • Real-Time Alerts: A dashboard lets you keep track of customer engagement and usage data in real time. The system also sends alerts when important events take place so you’re always informed.
  • Account Tracking: You can design customer journey workflows, building different segments within each journey such as for onboarding and advocacy. You can then visualize the progress and identify obstacles during each stage.
  • NPS Surveys: ChurnZero integrates with NPS surveys, which inform overall customer health scores. The surveys can trigger alerts and automatically start campaigns. You can deliver them via email or within the platform, helping increase response rates.
  • Customer Segmentation: This feature lets you group your audience based on unique personas so you can send communications that are relevant and therefore more effective. The ability to tailor messages, content and timing lets you personalize the experience for customers.
  • Native API Connectors: The software provides native integrations with more than 30 popular business systems and apps for CRM, accounting, email, tickets and support, single sign-on (SSO), project management and more. Specific integrations include Gmail, Google, Salesforce, Slack, Zendesk, Outlook, QuickBooks, Jira, Stripe, Freshsales, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Wrike, Intercom, HubSpot, HelpScout, Zoho CRM and Okta.
Price: $$$$$

Company Size Suitability: S M L

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Final Thoughts

CLM and CRM, while both concerned with customers, have different specialities. CRM solutions focus on developing, managing and maintaining relationships while a CLM platform focuses on optimizing those relationships so your efforts are more effective.

If you’re having trouble determining what type of system and accompanying capabilities you need, check out our free comparison report. It will give you information on dozens of different products in one easy location. You can brainstorm exactly what you need out of both CLM and CRM systems and figure out which vendor offerings fit your budget, business strategy and operational needs.

How can using a customer lifecycle management platform improve your company’s operations? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Zachary TotahCustomer Lifecycle Management Software and CRM: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between CLM and CRM

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