What is the Difference Between a CRM and Email Marketing?

What is the difference between a CRM and email marketing and email automation? And what does your school need?

With all the different types of email platforms, it’s easy to be confused. Yes, you may have an email service provider. No, that doesn’t mean you have a CRM. And vice versa.

Plus, having an email service provider doesn’t mean you have the capacity to do marketing automation.

Keep reading to learn about the differences between email marketing, marketing automation and a CRM. Having one or two of these doesn’t mean you have the ability to do accomplish your marketing goals.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the digital version of a direct-mail letter, postcard or printed newsletter. In a nutshell, email marketing involves text that is sent out to a subscriber list. Usually, your copy will be written and your email scheduled to go out at a certain time. Sometimes, though, you may want to send out a timely announcement or reminder to your families. In this case, you might write and send out your email blast immediately.

What is Email Marketing Automation?

Email marketing automation is a type of email marketing, but it is a separate type, and it operates differently.

Email marketing is an enhanced form of email marketing in that it uses workflows to send people information based on their actions and behaviors. These workflows are designed by a marketer using conditional branching. Conditional branching is a form of programming using if-then structures. Basically, IF a person takes a certain action, THEN a certain response occurs.

Let’s break this down further.

Let’s say you have a parent who fills out an inquiry form on your website. This would then generate an email inviting them to set up an appointment with an admissions counselor.

If the parent sets up an appointment, then they would receive a series of emails confirming the appointment, reminders of the appointment, and possibly asking them to complete an initial questionnaire.

However, if the parent does not set up an appointment, then they would receive an automated series of emails answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your school, financial aid process, additional invitations to set up an appointment, case studies, testimonials, etc.

Many school marketers draw people into marketing automation through other channels besides their website. They might use pay-per-click ads, social media teasers, and other methods to request a prospective parents’ email address as well as offer content designed to invite parents to fill out an inquiry form. Once the parent is a subscriber in the system, their behavior triggers different marketing automated series and messages on different timelines.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. The key difference between a CRM is in the “relationship” aspect of the software.

Email marketing, including automation, sends out messages to segmented lists of subscribers. Everyone on each list receives the same messages, except for personalization (i.e. key identifiers such as first names). Email platforms are considered broadcast services designed to reach a large volume of subscribers.

The focus of a CRM system is to help marketers and admissions teams nurture a relationship with a potential family. A CRM will help the team members track when they last reached out to a contact, what they discussed, and can receive reminders to prompt them to reach out to the contact on a timeframe previously defined.

In addition, CRMs have the ability to synchronize with email marketing as well as email automation systems.

Most CRM software programs include email marketing templates to make it easier for marketers to send out messages. Most CRM programs limit the number of people who can receive the same message at one time.

A CRM is software that allows organizations to better manage their interactions with potential customers (or families). It also improves communication and collaboration within the marketing/admissions team as well as decreases duplication because everyone involved with a family has the ability to view all interactions.

What Are the Advantages of a CRM?

One thing that’s very important is to understand how crucial it is to know your families. Without relevant information about the enrollment journey of your prospective families, it’s important for school marketers to implement a long-term strategy that meets the school’s goals.

For this reason, a CRM is a vital aspect of your school marketing. A CRM will ensure you have all the important data collected about the prospective family, as well as a record of all marketing and admission team action. This will allow your team to develop a dynamic strategy that works.

What Should You Look for In a CRM?

Your CRM needs to have the ability to:

  • Keep an updated record of the historical data of all interactions with your contacts
  • Online behaviors on your website
  • Preferences as stated by your contact
  • Socio-demographic data
  • Create segmented lists of your audience
  • Identify different communication opportunities
  • Adapt to changes that may happen
  • Be easy and intuitive to learn and use
  • Investigate potential family’s behaviors as well as record their actions
  • Maintain internal team communication

How Does a CRM Work With Email Marketing?

Ultimately, a CRM is a useful tool in email marketing, because it enables you to personalize your emails to better fit the intended audience. CRM software is able to provide pivotal information that makes targeted email marketing campaigns possible. CRM emails focus on individual recipients, as opposed to email marketing, which sends out messages to a large, generic audience.

Many email marketing platforms have the ability to integrate with or have a CRM built in to their software. CRM software works with email marketing by:

  • Syncing customer information with other systems
  • Sending automated internal alerts for sending follow-up alerts
  • Showing where a family is in the enrollment journey
  • Tracking a potential family with your school
  • Providing detailed information to create personalized email marketing campaigns

A CRM helps you work more efficiently by customizing and automating email marketing campaigns. Email marketing can be time-consuming; a CRM can save time. CRMs today use artificial intelligence and support multi-channel marketing, which is great for boosting communication.

Why Are Email and CRM Marketing Important for Marketers?

Email marketing is a pillar of marketing today, despite those who think it is becoming less relevant due to social media marketing. Research shows email marketing has continually grown; it is estimated that there will be 4.3 billion worldwide email users by 2023. CRM is also growing; it is now the largest software market in the world.

As a school marketer, it is crucial you include both email marketing and a CRM into your overall marketing strategy. These two different, but complementary tools, provide valuable knowledge, resources and applications to help you get the right messages out to the right audience.

The primary purpose of a CRM is to nurture your relationship with a potential family. It collects information about each family and then allows you to use this detailed information to send targeted emails to encourage them to take the next step in the enrollment journey. It can also help you identify gaps in your marketing funnel.

What are the Benefits of Email and CRM Marketing?

 There are numerous benefits of email and CRM marketing, whether the CRM is an integration or it is a CRM-enabled email program.

  • Central place for audience data

Using a CRM and email marketing service together provides a single, centralized digital hub for all potential family data, which then can be accessed by anyone on your marketing team. The CRM stores a myriad of information, such as:

  • Names
  • Contact information
  • Phone calls
  • Customer notes
  • Inquiries
  • User behavior, and more.

This can reveal patterns and key discoveries about the prospective family.

  • Easy connection to marketing channels

When your CRM is integrated with your email marketing service, it makes it easier to track customer insights and convert them into actionable tasks, like personalization or segmentation. This ensures the information collected will remain secure and functions will work together to provide you with the information you need.

  • Clear picture of your audience

With all your prospective family data in one place, it’s easier to gain a clear picture of the family, its hopes and needs. It also lends itself to determining what strategies will fit best with each family, and areas in which your admissions team can improve.

  • Targeted, personalized campaigns

The most effective campaigns are those tailored to the audience’s individual needs, interests, and preferences. A CRM makes this easier because it collects and organizes family data.

  • Easy to create appealing, responsive emails

A CRM-enabled email marketing platform includes a feature that generates easily customizable email templates that are responsive across every device (mobile phone, tablet, or laptop). This is vital for a consistent, engaging user experience and can help boost your campaign engagement. 

What Are the Features of Email and CRM Marketing?

There are several features that are important to examine before investing in a CRM software program.

  • Inquiry nurturing

Nurturing inquiries is an important feature of a CRM program. Many CRM-enabled email marketing platforms automate the inquiry nurturing process, which can save you time and money.

  • Integrations

Make sure any CRM tool your considering includes the integrations you need, such as Outlook or other marketing platforms. Integrations allow you to broaden your efficiency and provide a better service to your audience.

  • Automation

Marketing automation is the use of technology to schedule and manage marketing processes across multiple channels. Automation saves staff time and gives team members time to devote to more, important tasks. Common automations include drip campaigns and task alerts. Make sure whatever platform you invest in includes robust automation features. Read more: How to Use Automation to Save Time and Improve the Performance of Your School Marketing Projects

  • Mass emailing

Sometimes you need to send a bulk email. Look for a service that includes this feature so you can efficiently send content out to your audience if needed.

  • Email recipient tracking

Email marketing requires marketers to make changes when they realize what they’re doing isn’t working. This means your CRM tool needs to be able to see which recipients opened your email, which clicked the links, who didn’t open it at all, etc. This allows you to modify your approach until you find something that works. Look for conversion tracking, which helps you better understand your families’ behavior.

  • Analytics and testing

Marketing is an ever-changing game of testing, tracking, analyzing and refining. A CRM-enabled marketing platform, such as Hubspot, provides the tools needed to track, analyze, and test data and various campaigns. For example, analytics provides the ability to track how many recipients clicked on the link included in your email and determine the success of a campaign.

If your school has yet to adopt a CRM, or CRM-enabled email platform, now is the time to invest. And if you can only access your CRM solution through a desktop or laptop, it’s time to go mobile.

When evaluating your CRM software options, it’s best to give your team members the possibility to work on whatever device they choose, anywhere they need to or want to work. The more comfortable they are in accessing the platform, the more likely they are to use it. And that will be the key to their CRM and email marketing success!

Does your school use a CRM and email marketing service or CRM-enabled email platform? How well is it working for you? Please share your experience in the comments below…

Training and Community for K12 School Marketing and Communications Professionals

In The MarCom Society, we train your team to be better school marketers so you can stand out from other schools, earn more inquiries from prospective families, and understand get the most bang from your marketing dollars
.

The MarCom Society

MarCom Society