email_campaignEmail campaigns. Check. Every CRM has this as a checkbox on their feature list. Whether it is integrated as part of the system, as is the case with NetSuite & Oasis, or acheived through a partner integration, ala Salesforce and Campaigner, no CRM system is complete without it. Doing it well and making it easy, however is another story. Having been a marketer for longer than I care to admit, suffice it to say I have had plenty of experience with email campaigns…(not to date myself, but can you say mailmerge & Eudora?)

Ah but I digress. After struggling in this area with our previous CRM system, I was psyched to be able to quickly and easily generate targeted, personalized email campaigns. (and better yet, teach my team to do this as well!)

Zoho works like other CRM systems in terms of splitting up leads, accounts, and contacts. It is very easy to create email templates in either plain text or HTML, and use these templates for emailing out to leads or contacts. The text editor is simple and straightforward, and to add your own HTML creative you simply cut and paste. Adding wild cards for personalization is suprisingly easy, and acheived by simply choosing fields (in plain english!) from a drop down list and copying and pasting into your template.

By making the templates available to everyone who uses the system my team can personalize their messages and add wild cards for their signatures – leveraging content that is available for everyone to use yet giving the messages their own personal flair. Again, not a new concept but deceptively simple in Zoho.

Once the template is created you then go to either the Leads or Contacts database (depending on your desired targets) and select the Mass Email feature (this is easily located at the bottom of the main page of the Leads and Contacts databases.

This takes you to the Mass Email page, and is the area where you will select your email template and records to send it to. To select your template just choose one from the drop down menu. Then click on the “Select Records” tab to choose your recipients.

This is the area where Zoho really shines. While this is undoubtably the most important aspect of any direct response effort (selecting the actual targets for communication) – many systems fall short when it comes to being able to quickly get to the right target list. In fact, this basic ability was completely lacking in our last system without having to directly create a SQL database query. Not impossible, but for a marketing team not the most practical approach. 

In Zoho there are a few basic ways to search for and select your email recipients. The first way is to use the “Custom Views Criteria.” This will use any of Zoho’s standard or user-created Custom Views to select the recipients. You can create custom views into your data based upon certain criteria (such as geography, timeframe, etc.) or you can choose your recipients based on Zoho’s out-of-the-box views such as “My Leads” or “Today’s Leads.”

From this view you can choose to send to all or manually select which contacts you want to receive the email. This feature alone is extremely valuable, especially in the case of not having a complete up-to-date, clean list, which can often happen right after a trade show, webinar, or some other event. This basically gives you a quick and easy way to opt out people that you do not want to receive the email, or weed out duplicates without having to clean the entire database. This is a great feature that has alowed us to continue to communicate effectively without having to go through an arduous database cleanup exercise.

The other method to select your recipients is to utilize the “Manual Criteria” feature. This allows you to select criteria from a number of fields to get to the right list. Say uou wanted to send a thank you note to all prospective customers who visited you at a recent regional trade show. You could search for all records with the lead source “trade show” and narrow it down to the specific show, account owner, territory, etc.

 Again, not rocket science, it just works. And not only does it work, it’s simple enough that my entire team is now empowered to be more effective in their outbound communications. Once the target list is specified they can quickly choose from that list who should receive the email and who should not.

Overall for us it has never been easier to generate targeted, personalized, and effective email communications. While we will always continue to send out general HTML-based meassages that highlight news and offers for a mass audience, we are now able to more effectively communicate with our customers, partners, and prospects. There are many more features in Zoho that my team is utilizing and in future posts will discuss more about how our entire process is improving the more that we continue to use the system.