If you want to reach your customers through email marketing, you probably aren’t planning to fire off emails in the dark and hope for the best. Rather, you’ve got a plan and you want a platform to implement it – one that lets you build email templates, automate responses, track email metrics, and so on.

A dedicated email marketing platform could accomplish this. So could a more robust marketing platform that provides automation and analytics across channels and qualifies, scores and nurtures leads. But you don’t necessarily need a dedicated platform for email marketing – chances are you’ve got enough tools for it in your CRM.

CRMs have expanded to include many features – the templates, automation, analytics – essential to email marketing. Whether you’re in the market for a free CRM with a mobile app or a subscription service with fuller features and more support, here are 6 CRM features to look for that can roll out your email marketing strategy.

 

Feature 1 – Send Mass Emails 
No matter what it’s called, the concept is the same – sending the same general message to a select group of contacts at a scheduled time. This is effective to sending newsletters, offering promotions, re-engaging past customers, notifying partners to organizational changes, and so forth. Even besides email marketing, mass email is fairly baseline within CRM – you can expect even a free option to provide some mass emailing functionality.

CRM providers commonly refer to this feature as:

  • Mass Emails
  • Bulk Emails

One CRM that provides mass emailing is Insightly. For a deeper look, check out our Insightly overview.

 

Feature 2 – Track Recipient Engagement
Email marketing largely depends on the ability to tailor your approach according to what works. You can determine what percentage of recipients open the email, click certain links or download attachments through email tracking. An email tracker might take the form of a read receipt or return receipt, but with email marketing it’s typically done through tiny invisible tracking images with separate codes for links or attachments. These individual response events are aggregated; over time, the CRM (or email tracking software) provides fairly accurate metrics on click-through rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, engagement over time, and so forth, all of which can be visualized in reports to give a sense of campaign performance.

One such CRM that offers email tracking tools is Agile CRM.

 

Feature 3 – Automate Email Responses 
This feature allows you to configure specific triggers that prompt the automatic sending of an email tailored to that triggers (this ties in to Email Templates below). When comparing CRMs, look for the word ‘trigger’, which should suggest the ability to determine what prompts the email – a customer visits your pricing page, visits your website a certain number of times, has items remaining in their shopping cart, and so forth. The ability to customize triggers further allows you to refine your automatic responses to your specific business use. Successful email marketing largely depends on sending the right messages to relevant parties at the right time – with the right email and the right offer, you could hit all three at once and increase your chance to cross-sell, upsell or re-engage a lost lead.

CRM providers commonly refer to this feature as:

  • Email Triggers
  • Triggered Emails

Infusionsoft is one CRM that allows users to set email triggers. For a closer look, check out our Infusionsoft overview.

 

Feature 4 – Allow Custom Email Templates
Email templates tie into the automated email responses mentioned above. Many CRMs provide email templates for specific use cases – a welcome message, a notification of payment received – but custom email templates allow you to refine the message for your specific business use. After all, you know your customers and services best. Many CRMs also enable you to personalize the message to include the recipient’s name and other details through an easy copy/paste of a small bit of code. Custom email templates also allow you to conduct A/B tests to determine which type of messages are best received by certain customers.

Hubspot offers templates that work within Gmail, Outlook, or the Hubspot CRM.

 

Feature 5 – Provide Real-Time Alerts 
Real-time alerts within the CRM can be sent to company agents to direct their attention to a specific event – a customer opens an email, clicks a link, watches a video – which allows a more personalized follow-up. CRMs often come with built-in notifications but many allow custom ones. Knowing which customers are engaged with your message, and in which formats, allows a follow-up more suited to their tastes.

CRM providers commonly refer to this feature as:

  • Alerts
  • Notifications

Base CRM provides real-time notifications on email recipient activity, which allows you to reach out to potential customers with knowledge of specific types of behavior.

 

Feature 6 – Integrate with Third-Party Software 
Third party software can expand the functionality of your CRM. While you don’t necessarily need a dedicated email marketing platform to implement a campaign, there are certainly advantages to using one – and it’s better to have the option of native or ‘official’ integration than not. An official integration refers to a built-in collaboration between the CRM and the external software. Some CRMs have a small number of them, while others have thriving developer communities and Marketplaces bustling with integrations for download, subscription or purchase. Most CRMs provide a developer API so users can create custom integrations; for most other cases, an external workflow automation service like Zapier can connect your CRM with other software.

With regards to email marketing, email marketing solutions like MailChimp, which allows drag-and-drop email design and triggered emails, or GetResponse, which simplifies email scheduling for drip campaigns, provide features beyond what many CRMs offer out of the box. While both services are paid (MailChimp offers some free features), you may be better suited finding a lightweight CRM for contact management and customer views that integrates with a dedicated email marketing service.

CRM providers commonly refer to this feature as:

  • Integrations
  • Add-Ons
  • Apps
  • Extensions

Capsule CRM is one such CRM that integrates with MailChimp. For more information, check out our Capsule CRM overview.

 

CRM and marketing automation complement one another. Depending on your use case and the systems you currently deploy, you might prefer a lighter CRM that integrates with robust marketing software, or a 2-in-1 CRM with seamless built-in marketing features. There are plenty of solutions that combine the strengths of CRM with marketing automation to increase customer engagement and improve your marketing ROI. Visit our CRM providers page to compare for yourself which options can best achieve your email marketing goals.