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Bridging the Gap Between Email Marketing and CRM

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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.

Conclusions

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.


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Drew Adams is president of Contactology (www.contactology.com), an email marketing company. Reach him via dadams@contactology.com.

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Comments

  • by Doug Bowker Tue Jul 1, 2008 via web

    Good article. Many people think that they can use simple or homemade email tools to do the job of a true marketing platform, while others confuse email marketing with relationship marketing, without addressing the critical relationship management component - CRM and a well developed customer database. This unfortunately includes many email marketing platform vendors.

    I suppose that this situation will correct itself as the market matures, just as it has in the life cycle of other applications, but in the meantime half-way "solutions" that don't deliver the expected results will needlessly send users looking for other alternatives.
    Doug Bowker

  • by Brad Bylsma Sun Jul 6, 2008 via web

    Hi Brad here, I'm new to your newsletter and am highly impressed and grateful for the information you have provided.

    I was looking for a CRM solution to my list organizing and follow-up nightmare up to 2 months ago when I tested an online solution and have found it to be the answer I needed.

    This one is very targeted to the needs of people who market online and have tools specific to those needs, one is unique in all the CRM applications I looked at.

    Thanks.
    Oprius.com

  • by Joie Tue Jul 8, 2008 via web

    Nice! Glad the conversation is happening around bridging CRM gaps.

    It was this very issue that had me research a solution for my company over the past six months. I ended up going with OfficeAutopilot.com.

    It's CRM and marketing automation and email at it's finest. I'm amazed and stupefied. I have systems in place for that automate nearly every part of my business. I'm so pleased.

  • by Richard Rose Tue Jul 8, 2008 via web

    Most of the major email sending systems (experian, constant contact, exact target) support salesforce integration. For our Microsoft CRM system, exacttarget.com offered a pretty amazing integration. I have to say i've been extremely impressed with their support and the quality of the implementation. YMMV,
    RIch

  • by Vinod Nambiar Fri Jul 11, 2008 via web

    Great article. The need to combine outward marketing with internal analytics is key to define ROI and effectiveness.

    I came across LyrisHQ, a platform offers an integration of email and analytics (Clicktracks). Anybody used it before?

  • by Maria Fri Aug 1, 2008 via web

    Do you people know that the tecnology is so advance nowadays, where I have seen you doenload the Email list and than you can route it or upload in the email campaign platfrom and than you can really tarck all your emails and prospects can be directly transfer to a CRM

    yes i am talking about a newplatfrom which can make this possible form salesbrowser.

    its too good for samll and medium business. its call Intregated Marketing Suit, Recently Launch by a company called salesbrowser.

  • by Elaine Tue Sep 23, 2008 via web

    MailChimp.com has been a wonderful web-based solution for integrating my contact databases with my business email marketing needs. The seamless integration with Google Analytics and a continually developing API have given me the results I was looking for-- and the power to track what is (or isn't) working.

    After trying other, more cumbersome solutions, I was so relieved to find MailChimp!

  • by Angela Thu Oct 23, 2008 via web

    Thanks for the article Drew. Good information and your product puts the money where your mouth is. I was impressed by the robust nature of the Contactology api.

  • by Kingsley Sun Sep 13, 2009 via web

    Your CRM manages your contacts who are not necessarily subscribed to a newsletter. For example, contacts who send you e-mails using a contact form on your website.

    These contacts are different from those who subscribe to your Newsletters using a double optin.

    How do you import your business contacts into a third party service without raising questions?

    How do you bridge the gap between contacts and email marketing systems?

  • by Steve Tue Oct 6, 2009 via web

    we work with a product called IntelliClick (www.intelliclicksoftware.com) that integrates GoldMine, ACT or Outlook to send and track email and web navigation results back to the CRM system. It also has other cool features like one click call to action and sale rep alert features to shorten the sale cycle.

  • by DavidL Thu Nov 19, 2009 via web

    we use a product called Commence CRM which provides marketing campaigns and email marketing.

  • by CP Tue Jan 19, 2010 via web

    We are considering a solution like OfficeAutopilot but not sure it provides enough CRM functionality (we currently use a premium version of Act but a looking to migrate to hosted solution).
    Does anyone know a CRM that has an API so we can integrate these but that is less expensive the Salesforce (which is high price in the version that supports API).

  • by Vai Haridas Fri Jun 25, 2010 via web

    @ CP, Our hosted CRM solution is called Vantage CRM (http://www.vantageip.com). We are building an integration with Constant Contact Email marketing platform and our API is open for integrations with other email marketing platforms as well. Call us toll free at 866.353.8357 or visit us at http://www.vantageip.com

  • by Pamela Pearl Thu May 3, 2012 via web

    As a CRM consultant, I have been a fan of CRM email marketing integration for a long time. Sales and Marketing must communicate with each other in real time and that goes for their email marketing efforts as well. We offer GoldMine CRM integration with email marketing. For more informaiton, please visit, http:\\www.moreproductive.com

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