The importance of choosing the right set of digital tools or technology in support of your insurance agency’s operational and growth strategies cannot be understated. A daunting number of vendors are offering platforms designed to perform or support virtually any and every business operation. As agencies continue to increase their adoption of the big three digital tools – agency management systems, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and marketing automation software – the risk of making a poor choice can have long-lasting consequences.

As agencies equip themselves with software to help with sales and operations, many ask if they need both an agency management system (AMS) and a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. So, what is the difference and is having both an unnecessary redundancy?

The main purpose of an AMS is to manage the daily operations of an insurance agency. It allows for storage of client information, policy documents, and notes. It helps manage information about carriers, tracks commissions, and provides extensive reporting capabilities critical to measuring performance. Agency owners should consider an AMS foundational to their business and an essential element to their errors and omissions documentation.

In contrast, a CRM platform is not industry-specific, and its main purpose is to help sales-driven businesses manage the relationships and data of clients and prospects. A CRM offers agency producers a system to track where prospects are in the sales process. Many CRM systems offer some level of marketing automation to assist with moving leads and prospects along the sales journey. Some CRMs offer auto dialers, texting systems and website integration.

As agency management systems become more and more advanced, some may perform many of the functions of a CRM and marketing automation platform, usually offered as an enhancement or add-on at additional cost. These all-in-one platforms may be a good approach for an agency without deep integration capabilities, or looking to add capabilities over time.

Ideally, if you choose to invest in the combined power of an agency management system, a CRM, and a marketing automation system, the software would be integrated to maximize the power of each with workflows and automation designed for exceptional sales and service capabilities. Having systems that don’t “talk” with each other can lead to inefficiencies and duplication of data entry.

Any evaluation of technologies for your insurance agency should factor in existing tools, as well as short- and long-range plans, and (of course) budget. Changing systems later is not impossible, but can be disruptive or costly in the long run. Even the smallest startup should plan for a tech stack that they can grow into.