(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Mailchimp, the popular email marketing software that’s enjoyed by millions of users around the world, is announcing a new Marketing CRM module.
I say duh because, well, isn’t it obvious? I can’t count the number of times that, when asked what CRM application they use, a small business owner replies to me with “Mailchimp” or “Constant Contact” or “Emma” or any number of a group of email marketing platforms.
But the thing is, these applications are not CRM applications. They are, as just mentioned, email marketing platforms. They allow their users to create campaigns, design templates, send out professional looking emails and then track the results. They also give these users the ability to store multiple lists of contacts targeted for their campaigns.
A CRM application does a lot more than just emails, of course. It provides for the nurturing of customers and prospects and provides information that helps companies sell more to them. The best ones manage contacts, accounts, leads, opportunities, quotes, orders, service tickets and other points of data entry. They integrate with calendars, email systems, websites and accounting applications. They track communications, activities, forecasted sales and completed calls. They remind when to contact a prospect, reach out to a customer or follow-up on a problem. That’s just a fraction of what CRM systems do.
The smart people at Mailchimp realized long ago that their product doesn’t do this. But I can attest that many of their customers think it does. So the solution is…drumroll: to just do it. Which is why this week the company launched a new CRM platform along with a website builder tool and pricing structure.
“Our email marketing product has helped millions of businesses grow, but our customers have been asking for years for us to build something that would enable them to do all of their marketing in one place,” Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp’s co-founder and CEO wrote in a company blog. “Small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have time to manage three, four, or five different platforms that each serve one specific purpose, and they don’t want their data all over the place: They need a tool powered by data and expertise that will help them know where to invest their marketing dollars.”
The new application will enable their users to be able to keep their data under one roof and then better use AI and workflows to leverage this information. It will give them new ways to search, share, tag and organize their data and evaluate a customer’s lifetime value. There will be expanded profiles of contacts so a user can dig into the actions that led up to a purchase, take notes and update a database with preferences and demographics.
“We believe with the all in one platform we’re creating we’re really hoping to establish what it means to be in all one platform for small businesses,” said Darcy Kurtz, the company’s VP of Product Marketing told AdWeek. “We feel we have the permission and credibility that we need to play in this space.”
Mailchimp is being careful.
I believe they want to offer what they’re calling a “Marketing CRM” product without stepping on the toes of their many CRM partners. This is why the application lacks basic contact management features, like calendars, activities, emails and transactions typically found in a full-blown CRM. Don’t hold your breath, though. I think it’s inevitable that Mailchimp will add this functionality in the not-too-distant future and let its customers decide their preference. Why? Because they have to.
A few other well-known small business marketing platforms like Hubspot have gone into the CRM business. And popular CRM platforms like Zoho have gone into the marketing business. These companies are doing this because small companies are getting tired of jumping into and out of multiple applications, sweating through integration projects, suffering when connected systems stop connecting and bleeding from the cost of paying developers and implementers (like my firm) to do the work, only to have to do it again and again once something breaks or changes.
So who’s next to jump on the CRM train? I’m betting a few of Mailchimp’s excellent competitors like Constant Contact and Emma are making their plans. Why wouldn’t they? Their customers already think those platforms are CRM. They might as well live up to those expectations.