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October 19, 2021

ESP And CRM – What Are They, And Which One Do I Need?

ESP and CRM: Two key software tools that help your business easily and efficiently communicate with customers and potential customers. But what's the difference between them? Do I need to be using both? Which one is necessary for email campaigns?


In this post we'll focus on answering these questions, and clear up the confusion that sometimes surrounds these two digital strategies, to help you decide which one is best for your marketing needs. 

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

What Is ESP?

ESP stands for Email Service Provider. ESP's are tech platforms that enables your business to manage email marketing and communication, such as helping people create and send email campaigns. 

ESP is excellent for when you want to provide information to multiple people about your product or services, promotions or sale events, or even just sending out a monthly newsletter.

Basic functionality of an ESP is storing email addresses and sending emails. More advanced Email Service Providers have additional options such as email and marketing automation, website tracking, and upgraded storage space.

For a more in-depth explanation of ESP, we recommend this excellent article.

Some Of Our Favorite Email Service Providers:

  • Mailchimp
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Hubspot
  • Klaviyo
  • Zoho Campaigns
  • AWeber

What Is CRM?

Although CRM and ESP are closely related, they are not the same thing. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is a system used to keep track of the customer's journey.

This includes information such as contact details, what your customer bought and when, tracking email and/or phone conversations you've had, and more depending on what CRM you choose.

The wealth of data that a CRM provides helps marketers understand the needs and interests of the customer. And so it becomes a very useful tool in creating marketing campaigns, tailored to your customer's needs. 

Check out Salesforce, PipeDrive, or SugarCRM if you need a great CRM that includes top-notch features.

Quick Note

Many CRM companies also feature the functionality of an ESP for a "super tool" that brings everything together under one roof. Great examples include ActiveCampaign, Zoho One, and Hubspot.

ESP And CRM - Which One Is Best For You?

As you can see, ESP and CRM are used for different reasons. Whereas ESP focuses more on reaching people who don't already know you, CRM focuses on cultivating and maintaining the customers/subscribers you already have. 

Let's see what some of the benefits of both tools are, to help you decide which one (or both) will work better for you.

ESP:   The main benefit of working with email service provider is that it lets you engage with customers via email at scale. If you need to send out thousands or millions of emails at once, you need the technology with a capability of collecting all that data and then actually deliver the emails. 

Email is still the number one way most consumers connect with brands or companies they love, using a quality ESP will help to maintain customer relationship and subscriber's loyalty.

CRM:   The main benefit of using a customer relationship management system is the access to a clear overview of your customers. By implementing this tool, you can see your customer's entire history with you - from previous purchases, to customer service issues - all conveniently stored on a customizable dashboard. 

With such visibility and easy access to data, you can stay organized, increase productivity, plus provide better and faster customer service. 


Implementing ESP or CRM for your business

Which tool you choose to implement depends entirely on your business needs, size, and goals. Both of these strategies have valuable benefits. Most companies use a combination of both to get the most out of their workflow. 

If possible, we recommend that you integrate the two strategies to get the best results. In our experience it's not really an either/or issue - likely both platforms will be necessary to achieve your priorities.

But if you just want to go with one, and you're still unsure which is best for you, take your time to evaluate your business needs. If you are just in the beginning stages of your online marketing journey, then you'll probably need ESP only. 

If your business is centered around manual sales processes, then you should look into getting a CRM system.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which one will work best to achieve your business goals; both of them are great tools to optimize your online presence, and grow your business.  

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About the author 

Brenda Schlabach

Brenda is an artist and photographer from a small town in southern Kentucky. She enjoys working as a designer and content specialist for Troyer Websites Of Texas, a full-service digital marketing company.

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