5 guidelines to abide by when choosing to integrate email into your CRM suite.
Posted May 2, 2005
CRM strategists are constantly striving to develop customer-centric technologies that lead the market in analyzing customer behavior and activities. The latest CRM suite products allow you to gather, compute, and extract all types of information, from data points to lists. And you can interpret exactly who to target and when to take action with your customers.
You now hold the golden egg you've been waiting for, but how do you convert the data into dollars? What good is your information if you can't communicate your message to the intended audience?
Several of today's CRM solutions--from the least sophisticated software to the priciest integrated offerings--contain a module for email marketing. Email marketing is the most efficient, measurable method of communicating with your most valuable customers, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. However, it's essential to ask yourself if your CRM solution can offer the sophisticated functionality to create, track, schedule, and deliver your messages in today's changing email marketing climate. With limited attention paid to creating, managing, and especially delivering email, how effective can your email marketing be with a system designed to report data?
Many CRM suite email packages significantly lack functionality in four critical areas of email marketing:
message template creation
email reporting and tracking
delivery technology and expertise
domain experience in email best practices from a technical and marketing perspective
The lack of functionality in your CRM application doesn't mean you are resigned to second-rate email marketing technology to connect with your customers. Today, there are several full-featured email marketing solutions that can be integrated with products like Epiphany Onyx, PeopleSoft, SAP SAS, and Siebel, to give you the best of both worlds--full customer data and a way to communicate with them.
Not all email marketing solutions are built to integrate with CRM products, so there are requirements to consider before making your choice. Here are five guidelines to abide by when choosing to integrate email into your CRM suite:
Ensure your provider can create dynamic message content
Email marketing isn't just about creating pretty templates and graphics and pushing "send." Your message content should be dynamic and easy to navigate. Your email service provider must have features such as multilevel personalization, viral marketing, conditional content, and subscribe/unsubscribe management. You can have an even bigger advantage if your provider can deliver international language email and personalized or conditional subject lines.
Request full reporting and tracking functions
Your CRM tool is probably highly analytical and knows customers inside and out. Why shouldn't your email give you the same standards? Reporting and tracking of email programs and messages are essential to fine-tuning content strategy and detailing the activities of recipients. You can even request reporting functions not available in most CRM suites, such as: tracking of opens, click-throughs, click-throughs by position, cross-campaign reporting for in-depth analysis, 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 dilemma for email marketers is managing filters, ISPs, and blocking of messages. Some email marketing solutions offer services to help emailers test and increase deliverability, all while remaining compliant with governmental regulations. Some features can also help with email delivery, like bounce management and processing, from-address options to allow for personal address book/whitelisting, time stamp on messaging, confirmed opt-in, and double opt-in when desired.
It's essential to choose an email service provider with experienced in-house communications experts who provide pre- and postsale consulting on equipment needs and email infrastructure advice. An incisive customer support team will help manage email marketing best practices and training for your business.
Get creative and have a little fun
Implementing an email marketing program doesn't have to be arduous or time-consuming. Your CRM solution tells you which customers are your most valuable, so you are making contact with those who want your messages. Some e-mail service providers offer project management, full service creative implementation and deployment, and other initial "hand-holding" that may be required for email marketing novices. Choose a provider that can help maximize your ROI without compromising your brand.
Married with CRM, email 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 seamlessly communicate your messages.
About the Author
Tricia Robinson is CMO for Socketware Inc. Socketware's Accucast solution is a pioneer in the field of email marketing. Tricia speaks around the country on successful email and Internet marketing tactics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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