Email marketing and CRM are a natural fit, and connecting both applications together is one of the most valuable business actions you can take. CRM comes in all shapes and sizes from simple spreadsheets to enterprise level implementations, but whatever the solution, 91% of companies with more than 11 employees use some form of CRM.
CRM is big business. With worldwide revenues expected to reach around $36bn (around £27bn ) next year (that’s around 10% of spend on all enterprise software) and a steady 12% year on year growth, it’s no surprise that the big boys of the information world are keen to grab market share.
It’s a fairly top heavy market. According to market analysts Gartner around 45% of the total CRM market is serviced by the top 5 players, and between them the top 10 suppliers account for around 60% of the total.
Of the top 5, Salesforce.com leads the market with 19.7% market share. Founded in 1999 and now worth over $55bn, Salesforce.com pretty much invented cloud-based CRM. The other major players in the top 5 are SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Adobe.
Of these, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Adobe are all growing their CRM revenues in excess of 20% per year. That’s significantly higher than the industry as a whole.
Below this the market comprises a long tail of hundreds of other CRM systems – SugarCRM, Zoho CRM, Insightly and Pipedrive are just some of those you may have heard of. Along with others, Capterra and Business News Daily publish handy references to many of these systems. There’s also a significant market of open source and custom built CRM applications.
What is CRM?
CRM (that’s Customer Relationship Management) or sometimes referred to as CEM (Customer Engagement Management) has a wide range of definitions. The common ground is that it’s an approach to managing the day to day interaction with a company’s contacts. The objectives of CRM also differ, but again a common theme is the progression of contact relationships with the view to increased sales growth and improved customer retention.
A significant point here is the word ‘approach’. It’s easy to think of CRM as a software application, or even as a database, but in practice it’s neither. Anyone who has successfully implemented CRM will know that it’s much more than either of these. The major players are also keen to emphasise that CRM is actually a methodology, even a mind-set, which encompasses aspects of strategy, software and service implementation, and user execution. The software applications and the data itself are almost by-products of a successful CRM approach. However, some of the common points of understanding regarding CRM can be summarised as:
Consolidation – the ‘single view’ of multiple customer contacts, and any associated information, is a commonly described goal of CRM. It’s about creating a unified understanding of how a customer ‘is’.
Automation – CRM approaches commonly include automated tools and workflows for things like sales progression, marketing outreach, contact/call management and help-centre operation. Automation is an important part of how CRM helps a business to successfully scale.
Intelligence – rather than just a mechanism for the collection and retrieval of data, much focus is placed on the potential of CRM as a source of intelligence. A successful CRM Implementation will almost certainly include ambitions as a predictive tool, for example in forecasting and performance indication.
Social – possibly the fastest growing aspect to CRM is the capture and use of social data. All of the major CRM players now include the integration of social content as an important component of the single customer view.
In terms of implementation, CRM can either be on-site (on premises) where the application is physically installed on a company’s in-house IT infrastructure, or cloud (web-based) where users access the applications through a SaaS (Software as a Service) agreement. SaaS is the fastest growing method of implementation and is a highly cost effective solution, especially for many smaller businesses. Gartner note that 2015 marked the tipping point whereby over half of CRM implementations are now cloud-based, with the prediction that this will reach 80-85% by 2025. Since SaaS implementations involve applications and data which are hosted remotely, businesses can implement a cloud-based CRM with a minimum of in-house expertise and IT infrastructure. It also addresses another rapidly growing CRM trend, that is access via a mobile device.
Integrating email marketing with CRM
CRM systems are a natural fit with permission based email marketing and so CRM is often the first consideration when designing an integrated data approach. After all, a better understanding of your customer relationships, specifically their needs and interests, is fundamental to designing relevant and engaging email communications. Keeping the processes of CRM and email marketing close therefore makes a lot of sense, irrespective of the scale of your business.
Can’t email marketing be done from CRM?
Some CRM systems include a basic inbuilt capability for email marketing. However, there are many good reasons why your CRM system is not the optimal platform for creating and delivering your email campaigns. Email marketing is generally not a core CRM objective, so you’re unlikely to find the specific tools and same level of functionality as in a dedicated email marketing platform. Deliverability is another key factor. While campaigns may be created and sent directly from a CRM system, the established reputation and sender credentials of a dedicated email service provider (ESP) are likely to result in superior performance when it comes to bulk campaign delivery.
Can’t CRM be done from email marketing?
On the other hand, while an email marketing application will inevitably include the ability to create, store and organise contact data like subscriber lists and associated profile information, CRM systems will invariably win in terms of efficiency, speed and capacity when it comes to data storage and manipulation. Email marketing systems simply aren’t designed in the same way. Email and CRM have other common objectives too, but a typical email marketing application will also fall short in other areas of dedicated CRM functionality.
As with many other data applications, integration is the ideal solution. Connecting your email marketing and CRM systems together allows you to exploit the dedicated functionality of each while maximising the value of the data by sharing it between the two applications. It’s the best of both worlds.
Creating a 2-way connection
Integrating CRM with email marketing works best as a 2-way connection. New subscribers and updated contact details from your CRM system are valuable fuel for your forthcoming email campaign. Transferring data from your CRM to your email system therefore ensures that your campaign audience is always up to date with the latest contact information. Similarly returning information from your completed campaign to your CRM system will update your sales team and other CRM users with valuable intelligence on subscribers’ engagement, interests and preferences. This can be used for specific follow up or as useful insight to steer future conversations in a more customer orientated and profitable direction.
Integrating Sign-Up.to with Salesforce.com
Salesforce.com is probably the place to start when it comes to integrating specific CRM applications. It’s the most widely used of the commercially available systems, it’s fully cloud-based, so is accessible anywhere by mobile users, and it’s ultimately customisable to suit virtually any contact progression workflow. It’s included within Sign-Up.to as a pre-built integration so other than have accounts in each application all you need to do is switch it on.
As described above the Sign-Up.to integration with Salesforce.com is a 2-way connection. This allows you to import your Salesforce.com contacts into Sign-Up.to so you can send them emails and SMS messages, and to return information on subscriber engagement to your CRM. You can see records and reports of campaigns which you have sent to contacts by logging into Salesforce.com.
As a pre-built integration, making the connection is relatively simple. You can find further details in our Knowledge Base guide, but the essential steps are as follows:
Connect Salesforce.com to your Sign-Up.to account. You’ll find this in the integrations section of your Sign-Up.to account (look for the cog symbol). To do this you’ll just need to add your Salesforce.com account details and security token.
Import your Salesforce.com contacts. To populate Sign-Up.to with your starting Salesforce.com contacts you’ll need to complete an initial import. You’ll find an import from Salesforce.com action in the Collect section of Sign-Up.to You can import from either the Contacts or Leads entities in Salesforce.com. When you’re ready simply use the filters to match up your Salesforce.com profile fields with the equivalent ones in Sign-Up.to. This will ensure that the data points will have the same meaning in both systems.
View your results. Once the integration is set up you can create and execute your campaigns from Sign-Up.to in the normal way. The return update from Sign-Up.to to Salesforce.com happens automatically. Inside your Sign-Up.to account you’ll be able to see records of each completed email campaign. Details of who opened, clicked and unsubscribed from each campaign will be updated automatically.
Integrating Sign-Up.to with Microsoft MS Dynamics CRM
Microsoft’s CRM solution, MS Dynamics CRM, has been gaining popularity and growing above the industry average for several years. Apart from the native Windows environment and its obvious synergy with other Microsoft applications, part of its appeal is the ‘out of the box’ usability of the various versions.
The arguments for connecting Sign-Up.to with MS Dynamics are the same as with Salesforce.com and while both are pre-built integrations the MS Dynamics implementation is a little different. The MS Dynamics integration is available via Sign-Up.to Technology Partner C2 Software Solutions.
C2’s implementation provides a full synchronisation of Sign-Up.to email campaigns and MS Dynamics CRM data. It allows you to manage your email recipient data and synchronise your post-campaign results all directly from within the MS Dynamics CRM environment. Your email campaigns have real time access to your CRM contacts, leads and accounts and your campaign interaction results progressively build on the intelligence associated with each record.
For smaller businesses or those investigating CRM integration there’s an entry level self-service solution. For larger implementations there’s a fully hosted C2 Software solution. This also includes direct first level support from C2 Software.
Again further details are available on request but the basic steps in integrating Sign-Up.to with MS Dynamics are as follows:
Set up segmented marketing lists. These are set up inside MS Dynamics and can be static (that is, manually created) or dynamic (that is, contacts are added or removed automatically as needed according to pre-set inclusion rules)
Synchronisation. Synchronising these lists makes them available for use in Sign-Up.to campaigns.
Campaign creation. The process of campaign creation (using the Sign-Up.to interactive email editor) takes place within Sign-Up.to but directly from the MS Dynamics interface. This maintains the single user login and the consistency of the MS Dynamics approach and interface.
Prepare for sending. Once checked and saved your campaigns are then re-synchronised with the recipient data ready for sending. This sends the underlying HTML and all of the other campaign assets such as title, subject, from-name etc. back to the CRM environment. All of the synchronisation happens automatically via a designated MS Dynamics workflow.
View your results. On successful completion campaign results are automatically returned to Dynamics CRM as an Email Marketing Activity. This allows you to track and manage your recipients’ interactions with the campaign. Results can be viewed from within the campaign history and are also tracked on the individual contact records of the contact, lead or account. Results synchronisation is automatically processed every 4 hours for the first 24 hours and twice more over the next 48 hour period. A manual synchronisation is also possible if required.
Integrating Sign-Up.to with other CRM applications
Between them Salesforce.com and MS Dynamics already account for a large number of CRM implementations. However a wide range of other Sign-Up.to to CRM integrations are available via Zapier.
Zapier is a plug-and-play integration service which allows you to easily connect hundreds of different data applications. There are currently over 500 supported applications, including Sign-Up.to, and including a wide range of CRM systems.
Zapier is available as a free service for entry level integrations. Beyond this there are a range of commercial plans which provide further levels of integration functionality and support.
The basic steps of creating a Zapier integration are as follows:
Select your applications to integrate. There are over 500 but there’s a handy search functionality and they’re grouped so you can find them easily.
Set up a workflow. Zapier call them ZAPS. They determine how data is transferred between each application and how to complete the necessary actions. They can be a single actions or multi-step zaps.
For everything else…
Sign-Up.to is built with integration in mind. The PMAPI (Permission Marketing Application Programming Interface) is a set of rules and tools which are designed to help developers connect together most forms of data application.
So, if you can’t find the CRM integration you’re looking for or if you have a specific CRM need or custom system, then the API is going to be a good place to start. There’s a simple guide to APIs and integration if you want the just basics and some more in-depth PMAPI documentation if you need more detail. Give us a call – our Integrations Team also perform custom integration work as a professional service.