Email Marketing Platforms vs. CRM Software: How to Choose Which is Right for Your Brand

Learn which factors to consider when deciding between an email platform and CRM software 

Email has an ROI of 4,200 percent, generating about $42 for every dollar spent—so be sure to take advantage of this powerful tool to reach subscribers and grow your audience. If you’re looking for a robust platform for email marketing for your business or nonprofit but aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Brands have two main options to consider for their email marketing needs: a dedicated email service or a more robust CRM (customer relationship management) system that combines data, marketing, sales, customer service and more. Here’s what you need to know about both types of email marketing platforms before deciding on the best option for your brand.

Email Marketing Platforms and CRM Systems: What’s the difference?

Email marketing platforms let brands create emails and engage in marketing communication—from welcome workflows and monthly newsletters to promotional emails and more. They provide an avenue for businesses to design their own branded templates and send email to a list of contacts for different purposes. Most email marketing software providers have free options that get the job done and often limit the number of email sends and subscribers. Paid plans typically unlock features like send-time optimization, A/B testing and list segmentation along with more templates and more involved reporting. Examples of email marketing providers include Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

CRM systems also allow users to send marketing emails; however, these robust software bundles center on collecting and organizing information on contacts and customers and then turn that data into a powerful tool to customize the marketing experience. This often includes contact details, purchase or donation history and interaction history. CRM systems allow brands to target all aspects of marketing and CRM from the same platform, including email marketing, social media monitoring, blogging and more. They also provide options for add-on software to integrate sales, customer service and more. CRM software uses data to nurture leads through automation and cross-software insights. Combining the data of a CRM with marketing allows for a more targeted approach by personalizing the communication—and performing the necessary marketing actions automatically. Examples of CRM systems include Hubspot and Salesforce.

Factors to Consider When Deciding

When deciding between an email marketing platform and an integrated CRM, consider your brand’s needs and budget. Is having a single platform to house all of your marketing efforts, such as sales, social media and blogs, worth the price tag? Or does it make more sense for your brand to keep them separate, relying on free services where possible? Balancing different platforms for blogging, social media and email, each at different price points, can relieve your budget. However, larger CRM bundles that combine email communication with other marketing channels, and potentially integrate sales and customer service software, may be more efficient, provide interconnected insights and also save time. But does your brand even need all the software that these platforms provide?

Map out what you need from a marketing platform. From there, look at the various factors that differentiate email marketing services and fully stacked CRM platforms. Then, weigh the factors that will drive the biggest impact within budget.


How much is your budget for email marketing alone and how much can you spend on a full-service marketing platform? The best email marketing platforms often offer a wide variety of packages based on included tools. The amount can range from free to $10 to $45 per month for standard plans and $800 to $3000 per month for larger enterprise businesses with tons of contacts and users. With these heftier fees come additional services beyond email, allowing businesses to bundle all their marketing needs together with one fee.


What other software does your business use and can it “speak” to the new platform you’re considering? For example, some email platforms integrate with WordPress to add a subscribe button on your webpages or Shopify to add product placements to emails. Or, can a CRM hub replace the different platforms and unite your business software on the same service? 

Platform User-friendliness

Most modern platforms are easy to learn and use—from managing contacts to drawing insights from analytics to building email templates. But before deciding on one, check out a tutorial or two to make sure you feel comfortable using the software. Better yet, set up a call with an email marketing platform or CRM you’re considering to get the full rundown.

Maximum Contacts and Monthly Sends

Between free, standard and professional account types, most services limit the number of contacts a business can add. Some services also have restrictions on how many emails you can send each month to your contacts, so be sure to know how the service works before signing up. Determine your needs ahead of time and leave room for growth.

Number of Admin Users (Seats)

For smaller companies or nonprofit organizations, only a few people may need to access the email platform as an admin. Align ahead of time on how many users will require access, whether one, three, five or more. 

Number of Audiences (List Segmentation)

Setting up different audiences, or lists, allows a brand to either target multiple audiences or subsets of a single audience (for example, customers who recently made a purchase vs. general email subscribers). Segmenting an audience is a way to target a specific group, and according to Hubspot, segmented campaigns have resulted in as much as a 760% increase in revenue for brands.

Automation Features

Do you need access to a platform where certain actions—like form submissions or a purchase—will trigger an email campaign? Automating email marketing processes can make a big impact for customers while also saving time.

Our Recommendations

We frequently recommend both email marketing platforms and CRM systems to clients depending on their specific needs. In general, we break it down like this: for smaller businesses, dedicated email services offer competitive email marketing features at an affordable price. CRM systems, on the other hand, are pricier but provide a solution to much more than email marketing, making it ideal for businesses looking to do more with the same platform—from social media and blogs to website landing pages and more. With CRM systems, a higher-tier plan may be required to unlock features, and while user-friendly, additional expertise may be needed to fully utilize them.

For businesses and organizations that primarily need access to a reliable, user-friendly platform to send only marketing emails, we recommend starting with an email marketing provider like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. They’re accessible for beginners and have most of the tools needed to grow a business and an audience. However, brands looking for an all-in-one marketing platform may benefit from investing in CRM software like Hubspot with features including automation, custom smart reporting, social media management, blog services, SEO recommendations and so much more.

If you need help deciding which email marketing platform best fits your needs, Yakkety Yak can lend a hand. We also offer marketing content creation services and have experience designing and implementing newsletter templates, fundraising and promotional campaigns, automated email workflows, contact and list management and more.


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