It's easy to get frustrated when mapping out the complexities of integrating email marketing with a CRM application. Companies want to view all customer data, including email marketing statistics, in one easy-to-use application. However, few CRM providers have mastered the art of email marketing.
Some organizations attempt to build their own email tool within a CRM application for managing email marketing, but this often results in poor deliverability. A new system can't immediately leverage the whitelisting status that reputable email marketing companies work hard to maintain. Also, by bringing email marketing in-house, a company must dedicate staff time to developing relationships with ISPs.
Many firms turn to an API, or application-programming interface, as the solution. APIs bridge the gap between CRM and other third-party software applications, which is useful for organizations that wish to manage customer data and email campaigns in one interface. A user may view sales data, demographic, and other customer data in the CRM system. The API is simply a bridge between the two systems, allowing them to talk with one another.
Why is integration important? Simplicity. By using a single interface, users can quickly gather information from various sources rather than logging into different applications. Everything they need is available by the click of the mouse from their CRM's interface.
OK, I'm ready to integrate my CRM with an email marketing solution. What next?
Before you do hours of research on an email marketing company's API, ensure that your own system has an API. If you're using a CRM that does not allow third-party applications to connect, it may be difficult to achieve this level of integration.
Assuming you have a system that can plug in, you may begin shopping for an email marketing API. Your first step is to perform the standard email marketing litmus test:
- Is it whitelisted with the major ISPs?
- Does it use third-party services to measure deliverability?
- Does it offer Sender-ID and DomainKeys?
- Does it ban rented or purchased lists from their system?
- Does it offer and encourage double opt-ins?
- Does their feature set meet my needs?
- Does it screen resellers and API users to ensure they aren't abusing the system?
If the answers to those questions are favorable, then one can move on to evaluating the API. At this point in the evaluation process, you should pull in your development team, if applicable.
What Does the API Need to Do?
Automatic contact subscriptions
One of the main uses of an email marketing API is to subscribe people automatically to email lists from a third-party system. For example, when a customer is added to your CRM, an API call can be made to automatically add that person to an email list. Without the API, your marketing manager will be pulling double duty adding the email address to both the CRM and the email application.
Leverage whitelist and deliverability setup
Email campaigns kicked off by using third-party API services use technologies such as DomainKeys and Sender ID so that mail coming from your clients will be seen as legitimate mail.
In addition, the IP addresses of the sending servers will already be set up on whitelists giving the highest possibility of getting in the inbox.
Finally, third-party API servers will be set up on feedback loops with the ISPs. This means that when anyone reports a message as spam to an ISP, generally through the "spam" button inside the mail reader interface, a notification of that will be sent back to the sending server.
This allows email marketers to unsubscribe the recipient and keep track of how many people are complaining and take appropriate actions if those complaint rates spike.
Open and click-through tracking provided automatically
Those who might be thinking of adding email capabilities into their applications may soon be asked to provide statistics on how the email performed, meaning how many people opened or clicked on the message, how many messages bounced back, and how many people reported the message as spam.
Writing the code to deliver those statistics takes lots of time and testing, which is the reason many people choose to leverage an email marketing API. Those statistics come "built-in," which means they can be reported back to the senders, giving them actionable intelligence.
Unsubscribe and bounceback management
Managing subscription status is an important component of an email marketing system. When using a third-party email marketing API, an "Unsubscribe" link will automatically be added to all emails going out. The system tracks unsubscribes and does not send to that address again. In addition, any recipient mail that bounces back—either temporarily or permanently—will be tracked and reported back to you. All this ensures that you are CAN-SPAM and whitelist compliant, and yet another potential headache you don't have to worry about.
Speed of delivery (and message throttling)
Third-party systems are built to send mail and can deliver it quickly if need be. However, to ensure maximum deliverability, third-party providers enable throttling capabilities to ensure ISPs don't get mail faster than they are willing to accept it. This helps with deliverability.
There isn't a magic button to bring all these components together. Integrating your email marketing application and your internal databases will take time and planning. By selecting an email marketing application, along with an open CRM application, you can increase efficiency and ROI by bringing these powerful tools together.