Starting a business can be stressful because on top of all the survival and growth related challenges you also need to build a stack of tools. It can get especially overwhelming when you see the prices on the software market. A good arsenal of applications can total up to a small fortune.

But should it? The question of CRM and email marketing for small business can be solved with a single tool that combines the functionality of both - an email marketing CRM.

That’s right! You can save a lot of money without having to give up your email marketing aspirations. It’s all about choosing the right solution.

Read this article to find out more about email marketing tools, email marketing CRM systems and which one is the best fit for your small business.

Let’s get growing!

What are email marketing tools?

Email marketing tools are the collective name for all the software used to create, test, optimise, send and track email marketing campaigns.

The main purpose of email marketing software is to increase conversion rate through improved, more accurate and efficient lead nurturing that helps to build more robust relationships with leads and customers. Email marketing software seeks to streamline and automate as many email marketing processes as possible so that managers don’t have to worry about mundane repetitive tasks and use their time more efficiently.

Depending on the type and the vendor of the email marketing tool you decide to add to your small business’ digital marketing stack the features it offers will vary. So will the price of the solution. More functionality almost always equates to a higher price - so if you want to get your hands on some advanced functionality, be prepared to write off a hefty check.

Some of the most common and popular features offered by email marketing tools are:

  • What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Editor. Starting off with the more email marketing-specific features, email marketing tools offer an email template builder that lets you see exactly how your campaign will appear in the recipients’ inboxes before launching. The usual composition of WYSIWYG editors includes drag-and-drop functionality, photo editing and ready-made responsive format email layouts that can be customised. More advanced software e.g. Stripo can also offer additional features like animation and rollover effects for you to gamify your email marketing campaigns.
  • Email templates. All good email marketing applications allow their users to create, edit, store and use templates, either coded manually or made with the help of the drag and drop email template builder.
  • Mailing List Management. This feature allows you to segment the general mailing list into smaller, better-targeted groups of contacts based on custom or pre-made criteria. Some email marketing solutions feature automatic segmentation based on geolocation, demographics, autoresponder feedback, etc. It’s possible for the same contact to belong in several groups that match their profile. That way, you can send separate email campaigns to different subgroups of your mailing list.
  • Bulk Email Sending. This feature lays at the core of any email marketing solution as it allows you to fire off your email campaigns to multiple recipients at once instead of sending them individually one by one.
  • A/B Testing Tool. This functionality lets you conduct split tests of different elements of your emails such as the subject line, design, and copy to find the combination thereof that appeals the best to your target audience. You can send different variants of your emails to a small group within your mailing list and have the software measure the crucial email marketing metrics on each of those. That way, you can fine-tune your campaign and receive the best results.
  • Merge Tags.  While sales and marketing experts keep saying that it’s not enough to simply add the recipient’s name in the subject line to achieve total personalisation of your outreach, it’s a good place to start.  This feature brings personalisation into your email campaigns by replacing variables in your copy with personal elements. Sounds good, {{first-name}}, doesn’t it?
  • Analytics and Reports. You can’t know if your email campaign was successful without seeing how it performed. The analytics and reports feature allows you to track the key metrics of your campaign like open rates, CTRs, readers’ length of stay on your email, trending content and demographics. Basic email marketing software only grants you access to these once the campaign is over, but more advanced solutions feature a real-time campaign tracker that streams metrics as they occur. That way, you can make changes to your campaign quicker.
  • Autoresponders. This feature allows you to set key metrics like engagement level and send targeted content to your mailing groups whenever they qualify for it.
  • CAN-SPAM Rules.  With the privacy laws getting stricter by the year, you need to ensure your email campaigns abide by all the rules for them to even reach the recipients’ inboxes. This feature analyses your email’s deliverability based on its HTML structure, whether or not it’s CAN-SPAM and GDPR-appropriate, contains elements that can trigger spam filters and broken links.
  • Trigger-Based Emails. A lot of high-end email marketing software offers an email marketing automation feature that allows you to send out email campaigns automatically when the recipient takes a set action or meets certain criteria.

The aforementioned features define the advantages of using email marketing software:

  • It saves your small business money as you don’t need to hire more professionals to handle email marketing.
  • It allows you to better personalise your email marketing activities.
  • It scales out your outbound email outreach.
  • It allows you to create different types of email campaigns for different purposes.
  • It improves your emails’ deliverability.
  • It’s time-efficient as it automates the emailing process.
  • It helps you track the performance of your email campaigns.
  • It helps to increase conversions as you can fine-tune your campaigns using A/B testing.

What is an email marketing CRM system?

An email marketing CRM system is a piece of software that lets you keep track of your interactions with prospects, leads and customers, manage their data and nurture leads to convert them into paying customers via multiple touchpoints, including email.

The main difference between an email marketing tool and a CRM system with an email marketing feature is that the latter combines the functionality of the two solutions and lets you handle both processes more efficiently:

  • Email marketing functionality of such CRM systems helps you reach your customers quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.
  • Customer relationship management functionality lets you manage all your company’s interactions with current and prospective customers.

The element that ties the two together is the sales and email marketing automation feature that feeds into both email marketing and CRM. That way, not only does it help you nurture leads and build a robust relationship with customers via the means of email communication but it also handles the other stages of the customer journey.

A CRM is capable of streamlining the whole sales process starting with prospecting to lead capture to lead nurturing to winning the deal and the subsequent post-sales push. Here are the common features of CRM systems with email marketing functionality that make that possible:

  • Analytics and Testing that go beyond basic email marketing metrics. This feature allows you to assess the performance of your email campaigns not only in terms of the email marketing metrics e.g. opens, clicks and unsubscribes, but also in terms of conversions at the later stages of the customer journey. You get to follow the journey of each individual lead through the sales funnel and see how each of your email marketing efforts contributed to their conversion. Moreover, it allows you to test different combinations of customer outreach and effectively weave email campaigns into your broader outreach strategy.
  • Advanced Multi-Profile Segmentation. A CRM solution allows you to segment your target audience into groups based on a number of factors. Unlike email marketing software that only enables email-related segmentation, a CRM lets you divide and conquer by adding different contacts into different subgroups based on their purchasing history, their stage in the sales funnel, their customer behaviour and more.
  • Lead Records. This feature allows you to collect and store all the information about your leads in one place. No details go unnoticed and you can see the full map of your relationship with the lead as every interaction gets automatically recorded in the system to provide you with a full context in the future.
  • Custom Views. Thanks to this feature, sales reps and marketing managers can create custom views, including Leads that haven't been contacted for X amount of days, Leads that don't have any activity for X amount of days, Deals expected to close this month/this week, Territory filter: all the deals in a certain country/city/area. That way, your email marketing is always timely and appropriate and can prevent you from losing leads and sales opportunities.
  • Notifications and Alerts. This feature, too, helps to time your email campaigns. You can set up notifications and alerts to be sent to your team whenever something noteworthy happens in the sales pipeline after a certain email campaign is sent. That way, they act on it immediately.
  • Lead Nurturing. This feature allows you to score your leads and see exactly where they are in the sales funnel, so you can better personalise your email campaigns.
  • Integrations. A CRM solution can be integrated with a heap of other applications such as Intercom, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messages, WhatsApp, chatbots and others for you to ensure a continuous conversational experience.
  • Mass Emailing. All respectable CRM systems that offer email marketing functionality provide you with an opportunity to create, save and send email campaigns to your mailing list. You can easily fire out thousands of emails from within the solution.
  • Email Marketing Automation. This feature allows you to set up drip campaigns and send out emails to recipients whenever a trigger is triggered. The main difference between email marketing software email marketing automation and the CRM system is that the latter offers a much broader selection of triggers, a lot of which are related to the changes in the sales pipeline. Moreover, a CRM gives you the ability to automate the subsequent customer journey based on the results of your email campaigns. For example, NetHunt CRM’s Workflows has an algorithm to move a lead to the next stage based on the lead’s email response. It can automatically change the lead's Stage from ‘New’ to ‘Negotiating’ when a lead responds to your drip campaign. When this happens, a rep is assigned the relevant task which should be carried out, based on the stage that the lead is moving into.

There are a ton of advantages that stem from the aforementioned features of CRM for email marketing:

  • It helps to centralise your leads and customers data.
  • It ensures the data is up to date, complete and clear.
  • It enables a multi-channel approach as you can connect your email marketing activities with other marketing channels.
  • It helps to create better-targeted, more personalised email campaigns.
  • It simplifies the process of creating appealing, responsive emails.
  • It betters the quality of your performance analytics and helps to pinpoint opportunities for improvement - you can send out a campaign and calculate your ROI straightaway.
  • It increases conversions.
  • It helps to easily calculate the ROI of email campaigns as you can track in the CRM the deals that you won after sending every email campaign.

Make sure you read our articles on things to consider when choosing a CRM system for your small business and the list of the best small business CRM solutions.

The Bottom Line: Which one to choose?

Both email marketing software and CRM systems have their unique selling points. Ideally, you would want to invest in both to strengthen your marketing stack to the max.

Unfortunately, as a small business that is likely tight on money, you can’t afford to pay for both solutions at the same time. It’s not financially viable and, quite frankly, doesn’t make sense. You need to make a choice.

With all pros and cons weighed and all features discusses, it becomes apparent that you can survive without email marketing software, but it’s virtually impossible to grow your small business without a reliable CRM solution. At the end of the day, the majority of email marketing software benefits such as analytics and reporting can only be leveraged when you integrate it with a CRM system to see a broader picture.

Our verdict is that the best way out of this sticky situation is to purchase a robust CRM solution with email marketing functionality and seek the missing email marketing-specific features such as HTML email template builders elsewhere. There are plenty of free attention-worthy solutions to aid your success!

Once your small business gets bigger, you can add more tools to your stack.

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