How to use email CRM for your small business

What is email CRM, who are the best providers, and how can you use it to drive more engaging, effective, and energetic email marketing campaigns?

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According to research carried out by The Radicati Group, email is still the primary form of business communication. And that's why email is one of the primary communication channels that CRM systems are used for tracking and managing.

Gmail alone has over 1.5 billion active users worldwide, three quarters of whom use their Gmail accounts on mobile devices. Whether it’s on their morning bus ride, during their lunch hour, or on their commute home, your customers are checking their emails – so it’s vital that you get your email marketing right.

That’s where email CRM comes in. But what is email CRM, exactly? How can you use it to provide tailored, targeted marketing to your customers? To create emails with effective subject lines that will lead to more opens, clicks, and reads?

Read on to find out.

Alternatively, you can skip straight to the good stuff and compare quotes from leading email CRM tool suppliers with us. Simply provide us with a few details about your business and the kind of CRM solution you’re looking to accept. We’ll do the rest, and you’ll receive bespoke quotes from email tool providers that match your requirements.

What is email CRM?

First things, first – CRM. It stands for customer relationship management, and it’s software that allows businesses to store information about their clients in a single, accessible hub. Names, companies, clients, prospects, contact details… the lot.

CRM helps businesses streamline and supercharge their efforts in sales, customer service, and – you guessed it – email marketing.

Email CRM, then, can be defined as how you use this customer data to inform, execute, and analyse the efficacy of your email marketing campaigns. It’s a strategy, a process, and an information bank – all rolled into one.

So how can CRM software help you boss your email marketing campaigns? Let’s take a look.

Keen to learn more about the functions and features of CRM systems? check out some of the other guides in our series on CRM software plus key trends around marketing and selling to customers and providing customer service.

How does CRM email marketing work?

CRM software allows you to create emails via simple drag-and-drop functionality. You can put together impressive marketing communications in moments, or save even more time with a range of preset templates. Then, you can send your emails in bulk to your existing mailing list, directly from the interface of your CRM system.

However, you won’t be sending emails blindly into the ether. Email CRM involves utilising the data stored in your CRM system’s database to deliver emails targeted to a specific audience. You can tailor emails to your audience based on their:

  • Name
  • Contact details
  • Lifecycle stage
  • List membership
  • Previous purchase history
  • Prior engagement with your business

Whether that’s sending tailored offers and discounts to lure lapsed customers back into the fold, or engaging a specific demographic with products designed for them, the possibilities are endless. Your emails don’t even need to be commercial – they represent a great opportunity to build your brand, develop a consistent tone of voice, and engender trust and customer loyalty.

Take this delicious email from Starbucks, for instance, which does all of the above:

best crm email marketing examples starbucks

Of course, a marketing campaign is no good unless you can monitor its metrics. How?

Well, after your emails have been delivered, you’ll be able to track their success from your CRM software via a set of live dashboards. You’ll receive real-time reports into how many people have opened your emails and clicked the content within – and be able to attribute any subsequent revenue to your winning, data-driven campaigns accordingly.

Ultimately, email CRM systems are the key to bridging the gap between your business’ crucial lead, client, and prospect data and more profitable email campaigns. That’s why choosing the right email CRM provider for your business is so important.

Read on to browse our top three picks for small UK businesses.

The best CRM providers for email marketing

Which one is the right fit for your small business?


Best free plan

HubSpot lets you achieve what you’d once have had to pay a designer or tech hotshot to do – create aesthetically pleasing emails from scratch. Alternatively, you can simply pick from its wide range of goal-based templates to make sure your emails are doing what you need them to do – whether that’s engage, convert, or build your brand’s reputation.

HubSpot also sports an excellent free plan, even if it's not the best the CRM world has to offer. Though it’s limited in terms of features and scale (and you’ll almost certainly want to upgrade when your budget will stretch to it), HubSpot's free plan is a good way to get to grips with email marketing – and how a CRM system will change how your business does it forever.


Best for usability

With an outstandingly user-friendly interface and a simple, stripped-back look and feel, Zoho Campaigns is fun to look at and even easier to get to grips with. With advanced permission-based marketing and dynamic email personalisation features, Zoho ensures your emails will hit the right inboxes, and make the best impression.

And, when it comes to measuring the impact of your email marketing drives and tests, Zoho Campaigns has you covered. It turns pages of figures and stacks of unintelligible data into intuitive, colourful reports that you can understand – and that investors and stakeholders will appreciate.


Best for businesses new to email CRM

Ideal for email marketing newbies, SugarCRM is a leading CRM software provider with big benefits for small businesses. Its ‘Wizard’ mode walks you through setting up an email campaign step-by-step, providing all you need to know about tracking, targeting, and tailoring your efforts.

You can schedule and automate your campaigns to send when your readership is most engaged, and easily specify the size of each email batch. Plus, all this is backed by some of the finest analytics on the market, allowing you to test, refine, and drive value at every turn.

Picking the right email CRM provider for your business can be as tricky as it is crucial. So let us help.

Simply provide us with a few details about your business' requirements. We'll ask about what features you need, how many users your system will have to support, and what (if any!) contact management software you're currently using to send marketing emails.

When we have all this, we'll match you with leading email CRM suppliers that are perfectly placed to help your business grow. They'll then provide you with quotes tailored to your specific needs, and help you take the next step towards email marketing dominance.

The form takes just 30 seconds to fill in, and it's free for all UK-based businesses.

How to write effective email subject lines

Now you know what email CRM is, how it works, and have (hopefully!) picked a suitable provider for your business, it’s time to… well, learn how to send emails that work!

The first thing you’ll need to do is get your customers actually reading your emails. And the only way to do that is to write a subject line so catchy that they’ll have no choice but to click. Here’s how:

Get to the point

Your customers are as busy as you are. They get limited time to check their emails, and if a subject header is too long, they won’t make the effort to read it properly. Worse still, they may even just delete the email before it gets a look in.

Make it personal

A marketing campaign should always feel personalised, so try and make your email matter to the person. Include their name or a topic relevant to them (such as their home city) in the subject of the email. It indicates that you care about them, and are invested in growing the relationship (rather than just your bank balance!).

Remember, this is easy with an email CRM marketing tool. You can set the system to autofill key demographic information, such as your customer’s name and occupation, thus saving time – and making for a highly clickable subject line, too.

Here's an example of a good email subject line that landed in my own email inbox, from none other than tourism giant TripAdvisor:

good email subject line example 3

A bit more digging indicated ride-sharing behemoth Uber are also in on the act…
good email subject line example 4
The two email subject lines here go for different strategies – one invites engagement by asking a question, while the other tugs on the heartstrings. Crucially though, what both have in common is that they're personalised. These companies are powered by multi-million pound marketing campaigns… so they must be onto something!

Beware the pitfalls

Avoid include the following terms in your email marketing at just about all costs:

  • Days of the week – if you send a message out containing the word ‘Monday’, but it isn’t read until later that week, it’ll come across as dated and irrelevant – even if the content is still important.
  • Needless adjectives – is your product ‘perfect’? It’s not for you to decide, and the user may struggle to agree if they feel you’re being too pushy. On the other hand, ambiguous words, such as ‘good’, don’t add anything to your reader's experience (except more characters to read, of course).
  • Technical terms – just because you understand details about your products doesn’t mean your reader does. Don’t be tempted to throw acronyms and jargon into a subject line to jazz it up. It won't work, and a lack of understanding will almost certainly mean your email winds up getting deleted.
  • Words that trigger spam filters – Because many unsolicited emails carry viruses or promote illicit activities, email programmes automatically filter out messages that appear to deceive and scam readers. Stay away from words like ‘free' and ‘cash', exclamation marks (however tempting!), and TYPING IN ALL CAPS to avoid falling into these traps.

Speaking of pitfalls, you'll also need to bear in mind a not-so-little piece of legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in the UK on 25th May 2018.

It threw a stick of dynamite into the way businesses can store and utilise individuals' personal information – and, if you're going to be experimenting with any kind of email marketing campaigns, you'll need to understand its implications for your business.

Choose a recognisable sender name

Use a sender name and email that accurately reflects your company. Would you open an email from a sender you didn’t recognise?

More importantly, encourage your customers to add your email address to their contact list. This will increase the likelihood of emails reaching their inbox (in email marketing, that's half the battle).

How to use CRM to improve your email open rates

Remember – you can also use email CRM software to manage all interactions a customer has with your company. This includes contact information, as well as purchase history and marketing preferences.

CRM software can be used at all stages of the email marketing lifecycle to improve open rates, and help you crank out one winning campaign after another. Email CRM will empower you to:

  • Plan – Create your email campaign goals to know exactly who you’re attempting to target, and why. You can then use these to segment your contact lists, and ensure you're delivering emails only to the most relevant audiences.
  • Test – Ever heard of A/B testing? It involves splitting your customer base up into different groups, and delivering different versions of the email accordingly. You can deploy A/B tests to find out which campaigns are more successful with which customer bases…and why!
  • Budget – In turn, this allows you to focus your email marketing campaign budgets solely on the emails that work, and free up that all-important cash flow.
  • Sell – More email opens mean more reads, more clicks, more conversions, and – eventually – more cash in the bank.

We'll leave you with some expert comments from Kate Robinson, former Senior CRM Executive at London-based lead generation powerhouse MVF Global, who adds:

“CRM allows you to learn about your customers – you’ll easily have access to how they interact with your emails, what they’ve previously purchased, and who they are. This allows you to target their specific needs and personalise their experience.

“Beyond benefiting your customers, you’ll also see more of an improvement in the operation of your own business, as CRM systems improve productivity, streamline your sales cycle, and offer additional product services for even happier clients!”

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