So – you finally have your CRM system at the implementation stage. Congratulations! Visions of 360-degree customer views, revenue forecasting, sales automation and just-in-time and perfectly personalized messaging swirl in your head.
Armed with this – and facing a budget decision – you are asked by your CFO to forego your email service provider (ESP) because your CRM offers or includes an email marketing “module.” While it seems to make sense, in most cases it does not. Actually, having BOTH a CRM and a professional email provider puts you in a superior position to maximize both your CRM and ESP investments.
This article is not intended to be an exhaustive comparison of specific, different products. Rather, read on to learn the primary differences in the goals and methods of each application.
CRM: manage those customer relationships!
The typical CRM system is an enterprise-grade system designed and optimized for many users (with multiple roles) within an organization. The primary goal is to centralize key customer (and, sometimes, prospect) information to enable accurate and relevant communications at the individual and segmented level. In many cases, users are provided basic modules and templates to send personalized messages to specific contacts, usually pertinent to some customer action or request, or to better target communications about new products and services.
That one-to-one functionality is critical to customer-centric organizations. However, one-off and small segment sends don’t have the individual (or collective) impact of professional mail campaigns. Most CRM-based email campaigns tend to be simplistic by nature, as it needs to serve a variety of users. State-of-the-art email platforms possess tools and power that just cannot be replicated by CRM modules, or untrained email professionals.
ESP: manage those campaigns and metrics!
Professional-grade email marketing is a complex task, requiring a broad range of technical skills, from responsive design to dynamic data support, delivery optimization, campaign analytics and scheduling, among others. It’s a discipline that demands focus, experience and knowledge of complex tools used to create and deliver winning campaigns.
And, unlike CRM systems above, campaigns alone are not very good at one-to-one communications – unless you’ve also enabled some automation to reply to certain recipient triggers (opens, clicks, etc.) What email campaigns can do, however, is connect with CRM or other Business Intelligence platforms to indicate subscriber activity (read: potential interest) so that the CRM platform can be used for one-on-one follow-up. This can typically be done with batch file transfers or real-time notifications.
In addition to its ability to support CRM’s overarching mission, a professional email provider offers other critical functions that preserve and enhance customer communications.