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Using CRM with e-mail

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Question: Can my CRM solution be used for e-mail marketing?

Answer: Several of today's customer relationship management solutions contain a module for e-mail marketing. However, most e-mail packages in CRM suites significantly lack functionality in four critical areas of e-mail marketing: message template creation; e-mail reporting and tracking; deliverability technology and expertise; and experience in e-mail best practices.

However, the lack of functionality in your CRM application doesn't mean you are resigned to second-rate e-mail marketing technology to connect with your customers. There are several full-featured e-mail marketing solutions that can be integrated with products such as Siebel, SAP, PeopleSoft, SAS, Microsoft CRM and Epiphany. Not all e-mail marketing solutions integrate with CRM products, so here are four guidelines to abide by when choosing to integrate e-mail into your CRM suite:

Ensure your provider can create dynamic message content. Your message content should be dynamic and easy to navigate. Your e-mail service provider must have features such as multilevel personalization, viral marketing, conditional content and subscription management.

Request full reporting and tracking functions. Reporting and tracking your e-mail campaign is essential to fine-tuning content strategy and detailing the activities of recipients. Some reporting functions aren't available in CRM suites, such as tracking of opens, click-throughs, click-throughs by position, cross-campaign reporting and remarketing tracking so you can pinpoint and create new campaigns from previous recipient activity.

Make deliverability a guarantee, not a hassle. The single greatest challenge for e-mail marketers is managing filters, ISPs and message blocking. Some e-mail marketing solutions offer services to help e-mailers test and increase deliverability, all while remaining compliant with governmental regulations.

Get creative and have a little fun. Implementing an e-mail marketing program doesn't have to be arduous or time-consuming. Use an e-mail service that provides project management, full-service creative implementation and deployment, and other initial "hand-holding" that may be required for e-mail marketing novices or those looking to improve e-mail marketing for their organization.

Married with CRM, e-mail marketing can offer the immediate, measurable results that can't always be provided with a CRM solution alone. The combination closes the circle of customer analysis, allowing you to track behavior, study buying patterns and communicate your messages seamlessly.

Tricia Robinson is chief marketing officer for Atlanta-based Socketware Inc., provider of Accucast e-mail marketing solution. She can be reached at robinson@socketware.com.

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