The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for every e-mail marketer should be relevance: sending the right message to the right person at just the right time. The best way to accomplish that relevance is by leveraging data, which can be a daunting task for many because the data doesn't likely exist in one place. But when you do have access to data through a CRM system, the possibilities are endless, which also can be counter-productive in trying to get a program under way.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, focus on the following three key areas when integrating your e-mail program with your CRM processes:
Timing: Having a firm understanding of how frequently your customers are being contacted, with what message and through what channels, is an amazing driver of where and when to plug into those conversations with your e-mail programs. Relevance is achieved in a number of ways—and timing, the right timing, is one of them. It is a reasonable expectation that your e-mail recipients may be more inclined to receive additional e-mail from you when they are highly engaged with your brand. For example, if you are ESPN providing March Madness coverage via e-mail, recipients may be more tolerant, and even expectant, of e-mail multiple times daily with updates throughout the tournament. But not at other times of the year.
Targeting: Leveraging the data available to you through your CRM tool to identify subsets of audiences within your database is another great place to integrate your e-mail with your CRM program. Having a holistic view of your customer provides you the clarity you need to really identify targeting opportunities based on defined stages within the relationship. If you were able to identify an audience of subscribers that traveled to Miami every year for four days around the holidays, you could leverage that data to drive offers and incentives to motivate incremental travel to Miami at other times throughout the year.
Content: When dialing into your CRM system, another great way to apply available data is to drive your content. Yes, I know, it is a departure from what you would typically use a CRM system for. But when you look at your audience, holistically, from 50,000 feet and from ground-level, you can gain a lot of perspective around what your customers may want to hear from you. Don't discount your CRM efforts—opportunities exist there to help you mold and direct your content, too. Through a single view of your customer, you may be able to identify a substantial audience of mothers with children five years old and under. Knowing that you have this audience, you could craft content in a way that would specifically resonate with the core values of this subset.
The possibilities for integrating your e-mail programs with your CRM data are only limited by your imagination (and unfortunately, your resource bandwidth). But you have a chance to dive in and get started with your timing, targeting and content. So why not?
Kara Trivunovic is senior director of strategic services at Redwood City, Calif.-based StrongMail Systems, a provider of online marketing solutions for e-mail and social media. She can be reached at email@example.com.