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Customer Relationship Management, Marketing Automation Platform, or Email Service Provider? Which Should You Go With?

Okay, let’s start by stating the obvious: The marketing landscape and ways in which we can engage with customers and prospective customers is more than complex . You need the proper marketing infrastructure and tools in place to engage with and manage current and prospective customers. But, building the appropriate infrastructure can be daunting. The biggest challenge? Knowing which systems/tools you need and which you don’t. Specifically, when we're referring to a marketing infrastructure, we're concerned with what  Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Marketing Automation and/or Email Service Provider is set in place.

First, what's the difference between a CRM, MAP or ESP?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A CRM is primarily used to track and manage sales opportunities and the total sales pipeline. A CRM allows sales teams to enter notes on where sales opportunities are in the lead cycle and helps sales teams manage those relationships. Sales can directly communicate with leads through the CRM via email messages. This tool is mainly for sales people, not marketing.
CRM Platforms: Salesforce, Zoho, Dynamics 365, Sugar, Pipedrive CRM Comparisons

Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)

A MAP is more of a CRM and marketing tool combined and is used more often by the marketing team than sales. Marketers can track many different interactions such as specific website visits, video views, landing page downloads and lead form collections, email engagements and more. Marketers can also segment and create dynamic data based on interactions and score audiences based on their propensity to purchase. With this data, marketing teams can personalize nurturing campaigns comprised of more targeted, automated (or drip) emails and landing pages to help capture more leads and they can also pass qualified leads on to sales teams.
MAPs: HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Act-On, Pardot, Marketo MAP Comparisons

Email Service Provider (ESP) ESPs are just that - they provide email services. But these days, many ESPs also offer similar capabilities of some marketing automation platforms (just not as robust). With an ESP, marketers are able to host and manage email subscriber lists, segment lists by customer interests and past behaviors and report on email performance. Many ESPs will also allow brands to set up automation programs based on segmentation and filtering rules, but often the ESP will rely on API calls to pull in external data to perform triggered sends.
ESPs: Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Adestra, Silverpop
ESP Comparisons

Now that you know the differences, how do you decide which to go with? Choosing between a CRM, MAP or ESP should ultimately be based on your business model, business size, business goals, annual sales, service/product costs, lead acquisition cost, internal resources and budget. In the early stages of your business, you may not need all three (a CRM, MAP, and ESP), but with growth, integrating them all may be a wise choice.

It's best to map out your sales goals, internal operations needed to support sales and how your marketing efforts can help you achieve defined goals to determine the best tools to effectively get the job done. Careful evaluation should go into making the decision on whether to implement a CRM platform, MAP or ESP or a combination of these tools. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you determine which tools you may need:

  • Do you need to manage customers, prospects, or both?
  • Do you have a dedicated sales team? Are they responsible for maintaining existing business and/or acquiring new business?
  • Do you need to keep record of conversations, emails, documents, and other notes around customers and/or prospects that sales team members can share?
  • Do you have numerous reports and data on customers/prospects that you need to condense or compile into one system?
  • Are you looking for additional lead sources?
  • Do you have newsletter subscribers, information on event attendees, data from contest entries, etc. that you would like to leverage for marketing and sales activities?
  • Does your website, social channels or blog generate traffic and new visitors that aren’t being captured as new leads?
  • Does it seem like you are performing numerous marketing tasks manually through many different tools that you would like to automate?
  • Do you have valuable resources to offer customers/prospects and/or opportunities to run contests?

These are just some of the questions Rhythm would go over to determine the platforms/systems needed to help brands achieve their goals. Rhythm has worked with many different CRMs, MAPs, and ESPs and can provide the right recommendation for your needs.

When integrating a CRM, MAP or ESP, it’s a good idea to clearly understand the purpose of each one individually and the goal of having two or more platforms working together. 

Depending on which solutions are recommended, there’s always a learning curve and set of new challenges that come along with implementing new systems and tools. It’s always nice to have an experienced partner like Rhythm on your side to get you up and running quickly and/or take the reigns to help you drive more customer engagement and sales.

Thinking you may be in need of a CRM, MAP or ESP? Reach out to Rhythm today.