CRM Integration w/ 3rd Party Email Campaign Service

Which is the better alternative for using an in-house CRM solution (let's say, Microsoft CRM, for this example) on the backend with a 3rd party email solution like Silverpop? Help me to understand vendor-speak.

I have a vendor who says their service is better because their application has built-in integration with Microsoft CRM; I have come across other vendors like Campaigner and Siebel that have API capabilities. Are these two integration solutions talking about the same thing, or is one superior to the other?
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Serena HsiMarketing ConsultantAsked:
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crm_infoConnect With a Mentor Commented:
One bit of advice: To get more responses to this question, add it to the Microsoft Dynamics Zone - you'll get some more Microsoft CRM folks in that group.

Most CRM solutions offer some direct integration with various different email campaign services (for example, Microsoft CRM can integrate with solutions from Exact Target and c360).  The integration is usually "good" but not "great" (in other words, the integration may or may not create campaigns for you in your CRM tool - and click-throughs almost never create campaign responses in CRM ... you'll usually have to track those directly in your email tool).

So it really depends on what you want to accomplish.  

(1) CRM: If you have a lot of goals for a CRM tool (improving your sales pipeline management; providing a better view of customer data to sales, service and marketing; automating customer service; tracking all your campaigns - not just email - in one tool; etc, etc), then you should get a CRM tool.

(2) EMAIL: If you do a nominal amount of email marketing, then you might find that the email capabilities build directly into your CRM tool are sufficient for your needs.  But if you do a lot of email marketing (i.e. more than 1000 emails sent monthly), then you will certainly want to look into using a third party email tool (usually hosted is a better solution in this case).

(3) INTEGRATION: If you need both a CRM tool and an EMAIL tool, then why not look for a combination that integrates well with each other?  This will improve your trackability in addition to (most likely) making you a more efficient email marketer.

(4) HOW TO INTEGRATE? If you decide that it is a good investment to have both tools - then you need to decide:
* Do you need "best of breed" for both tools - in which case you may end up having to do the integration on your own
* Or, will you look for a tool that has some built-in integration options?

Every good CRM and EMAIL tool on the market today offers an API.  So if you've selected good tools, then writing your own integration should certainly be an option.  However, all except for the largest businesses with large budgets should probably look for a cost-effective integration solution.

Back to your example of Microsoft CRM - you should probably look into what c360 and Exact Target offer if you want to have an integrated solution.  We're also big fans of Vertical Response and Constant Contact - although neither of those email marketing solutions have integration options for Microsoft CRM yet.



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Serena HsiMarketing ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Our current setup uses Microsoft CRM with Vtrenz as our email campaign provider (Vtrenz is owned by Silverpop, but the Vtrenz ECMS doesn't offer the same features as Silverpop); anyhow. The ideal use is to have a email campaign details populate customer records in CRM; and to be able to segment customers for targeted campaigns in Vtrenz (or whatever service) using CRM tables and pull that data out for broadcasting. This is what we're currently working on.

I was just asking if a 3rd party vendor with API was as good (or better) than a 3rd party vendor that offers Microsoft CRM integration with its email capabilities. Maybe they're the same. I don't know. I've only used solutions with API capabilities; and standalone customer lists with Vertical Response.
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crm_infoCommented:
I probably don't have enough experience to share much on the differences between those options.  But it certainly seems to me that a 3rd part that offers MS CRM integration is probably going to be pretty powerful and much easier to manage than creating your own integration through an API.

Exact Target seems to have a very good reputation.  Though I cannot speak from personal experience, I've talked to several who have a very high opinion of them.  They are also quite expensive.
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Serena HsiMarketing ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your input.
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