In the past, customer relationship management was used mainly as a way to group of answer choices

More administration means less time for everything else. An active sales team can generate a flood of data. Reps are out on the road talking to customers, meeting prospects, and finding out valuable information — but all too often this information gets stored in handwritten notes, laptops, or inside the heads of your salespeople.

Details can get lost, meetings are not followed up on promptly, and prioritizing customers can be a matter of guesswork rather than a rigorous exercise based on data. And it can all be compounded if a key salesperson moves on. But it's not just sales that suffers without CRM.

Your customers may be contacting you on a range of different platforms — including phone, email, or social media — asking questions, following up on orders, or contacting you about an issue. Without a common platform for customer interactions, communications can be missed or lost in the flood of information, leading to a slow or unsatisfactory response.

Even if you do successfully collect all this data, you’re faced with the challenge of making sense of it. It can be difficult to extract intelligence. Reports can be hard to create, and they can waste valuable selling time. Managers can lose sight of what their teams are up to, which means that they can’t offer the right support at the right time — while a lack of oversight can also result in a lack of accountability from the team.

Mailchimp offers all the CRM tools small business marketers need, allowing them to aggregate, organize, and manage audience data in one place. In fact, many Mailchimp customers already use the platform as their CRM.

Although some Mailchimp users do have more complex CRM needs (which is why there are integrations available for other standalone CRM solutions), for many marketers, the most important function of CRM is collecting and interpreting customer reports to improve campaigns. And Mailchimp provides all the tools needed to meet these goals, so you can get organized and start putting your customer info to work for you—without adding unnecessary (and expensive) complexity to your workflows.

Most Mailchimp customers know their campaigns generate helpful data reports, but many don’t realize Mailchimp also provides tools to organize and interpret that info on a higher level. Best of all, many of these tools are free, so they’re a great option for businesses that are just getting started.

Here are a few of the ways that Mailchimp can help you start using reports to improve your campaigns and build better relationships with your customers.

Having all of your audience data in one place makes it possible to identify patterns: You can see what’s working (and what’s not), you can figure out what to send, when to send it, and who to send it to. And with Mailchimp as your central hub, you can quickly turn that knowledge into action.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or you have existing info you need to organize, Mailchimp makes it easy to create a single view of your audience. For example, with e-commerce customers, connecting your e-commerce store to Mailchimp automatically imports all of your customer reports into our platform. With this information, we’ll give you a cross-channel view of who your customer is, how they interact with your marketing, and how that leads to purchases. These insights come from data points like their age and geographical location, when they last clicked on one of your campaigns, and when they bought something.

Learn more about how to connect your store to Mailchimp.

Even though you want all of your customer insights in one place, you’ll almost never want to talk to them all in the same way. That’s why Mailchimp makes it easy to segment your audience based on shared characteristics.

Just by bringing your customer data into Mailchimp, you’ll automatically gain access to pre-built segments based on audience info that’s already in your account, like where your contacts live, how old they are, or which people click on your campaigns most often.

These pre-built segments can be very useful for sending targeted messages, but you can also build your own segments based on what’s useful to you. You can keep your segments simple, or you can create highly complex segments by layering on as many as 5 criteria in your query—so that you can talk to your audience in an even more targeted way. And if you need something even more complex, Mailchimp offers advanced segmentation.

Learn more about segmentation in Mailchimp.

How you need to organize and access information about your audience will vary depending on your business’ needs, what’s important for you to know about your contacts, and how you gather insights. That’s why Mailchimp offers several tools—including segments, tags, and groups—that work in slightly different ways to help you get the information you need when you need it.

Tags are customizable labels you can create for your contacts—like "social media influencer" or "uses coupons”—based on information you know about them. They’re completely flexible: You can tag multiple contacts at once, add multiple tags to a single contact, and use them to create segments or automatically trigger campaigns. Groups, on the other hand, are created through a form field that people fill out to subscribe to your marketing—while tags are assigned by you, groups are self-selected by the people in your audience. But just like tags, you can segment and filter your audience by groups to send them the right messages, based on information they told you about themselves.

Learn more about Mailchimp’s tools for organizing your audience.

Once you’ve created your unique organizational structure based on what makes sense for your business, you can use your reports to send customers tailored messages that feel like they were meant just for them.

Mailchimp makes it easy to add merge tags into emails to include specific customer information (like their first name or a product they’ve been considering) and allows you to personalize send times based on what time zone a customer is in or when they’re most likely to open an email. If you have a connected store, you can even predict your customers' gender and age range so you know how to talk to them. This makes it simple to send people the messages that matter to them—and makes it more likely they’ll keep listening to what you have to say.

Learn more about Mailchimp’s personalization tools.

Not only does organizing your data make it easy to send targeted messages, you can send those messages automatically. By harnessing the power of your data and our automations, you can upsell to customers with the right recommendations and reward them for their loyalty.

Mailchimp offers several kinds of automated campaigns that can use data to help drive conversions:

Mailchimp will automatically keep track of revenue generated by each automation, so you can see what's working and optimize your strategy. As you determine what’s working, you can continue to prioritize and optimize.

Learn more about Mailchimp automations.

Mailchimp’s optimization tools make it easy to see what’s working (and what’s not) so you can focus your efforts. Understand how messages resonate with your audience, test different elements of your campaign (subject lines, images, and more) to compare results, and get a detailed breakdown of how your campaigns are performing. Our growth, engagement, and revenue reports will help you learn more about the behavior of your contacts and discover what type of content works. And the more you do with Mailchimp, the more data you have to work with.

Learn more about Mailchimp’s optimization tools.

Mailchimp’s CRM tools are good for more than just optimizing your existing relationships, they can also help you build new ones. With your data consolidated in Mailchimp, you can make data-backed decisions about who to talk to next and where to focus your advertising budget.

For example, when you create Facebook ads in Mailchimp, you’re able to use your data to create a lookalike audience of your best customers and target them with an ad with just a few clicks. By targeting the people who are most likely to appreciate your message or product, you can make your budget go further. And once you’ve got the interest of someone new, you can use everything you’ve already learned to effectively manage and personalize your communication with them and other new people as your audience grows.

Learn more about what you can create in Mailchimp to drive conversions.

As you can see, Mailchimp offers many tools and strategies that fall into the category of building and managing customer relationships as a marketer. Here are a few high-level examples of how different types of businesses might use a combination of these tools to get strategic with their data and accomplish their end goals:

  • An e-commerce marketer might connect their site using an e-commerce integration to sync existing customers, purchase, and store data into Mailchimp. To get started, they could set up a pop-up form to collect information from prospects who visit their site, build a landing page to advertise a sale or promotion, and create a process to import data they collect offline. With all of their customer information in Mailchimp, they can use tags to keep track of where they met customers and what they’re interested in—and that information can then be used for personalized marketing.
  • A business that sells digital products, like SaaS applications, might integrate their solution with Mailchimp to ensure all new and updated user data gets synced over. Using a Mailchimp API wrapper, they can also tag users based on in-app behavior, which becomes a powerful marketing tool. For example, they could set up an automated welcome series for app users to help guide them through onboarding and best practices. To do this, they’d use tags to identify app users, then create a segment based on tag data.
  • A marketer that promotes a content network may use groups to gather information from customers when they subscribe through an embedded Mailchimp form. By understanding customer interests, they’re able to create more relevant content, and by knowing more about who their subscribers are and how they engage, they’re able to improve their approach. For example, maybe their customers are most likely to engage on Sundays, or maybe they all live in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever patterns emerge, they’re likely to spark some new content ideas.

If you do find that you need a more complex and sales-driven process for CRM (often the case for enterprises with a business-to-business focus), keep in mind that Mailchimp offers integration options with stand-alone CRM solutions, so you can share contact and customer data with the platform that works for you. But for most small business marketers, Mailchimp offers all the tools needed to start collecting and organizing contact data, and using it to build better relationships with customers.

You can also read how Mailchimp's free CRM for small business compares to the competition.