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Digital ad growth is slowing, while investment in customer relationship management (CRM) is growing.

This makes total sense and points to further growth in email marketing.

Last week, eMarketer reported on a couple of outside studies indicating that companies of all kinds are spending more on CRM – because it improves sales and customer service.

First, a Duke University study found that spending on CRM outpaced brand spending over the last two years.

CRM outpaces brand spend-emarketer

eMarketer then matched Duke’s findings to research from Insightly showing that among creative professionals, CRM increased sales by between 10 and 49 percent.

CRM increasing sales

Ad spend uncertainty

Let’s put that in the context of the ongoing concerns advertisers have about fraud and ad viewability. That was highlighted by Omnicom chief executive John Wren in his agency’s most recent investor conference. Wren noted a slowdown in the growth of clients’ digital spending, saying they were tapping the brakes because of the lack of clarity about these issues.

The concern was echoed in a survey by adtech provider Mixpo. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed professionals at digital publishers said that viewability was their most pressing problem, according to Media Life. An equal number worried about attribution and measurement.

Antidote to ad waste

In my view, the antidote to industry woes is to double down on permission-based marketing.

As Terry Kawaja illustrated in his recent Lumascape about people-based marketing, connecting CRM data to data management platforms lets marketers merge first-party data with second and third-party data in order to reach consumers on a closer to one-to-one basis. This would be across the ecosystem and at any point in the purchase funnel.

Used well, email communications and CRM systems can create a virtuous circle.

Gaining a consumer’s email address is often the first step in permission-based marketing, while the email itself becomes the foundation of that CRM profile. Once the relationship has begun, email becomes an excellent channel in which to gain more relevant info about that person. Emails can include surveys, simple questions or multiple choice questions that can be used to guide further marketing, via email and other channels.

From the other side, once all the information is appended into the CRM and it is filled with rich, people-based profiles, powerful emails can be built that incorporate dynamic content that’s personalized to the recipient. The more the CRM knows about an individual – location, preferred time of day to receive offers, product or information preferences – the more it can deliver the best mix of information and offers. This improved targeting increases relevance and increases the likelihood of email opens and click-throughs.

But marketers can only gain these benefits if they have robust technology for both email and CRM. The above Lumascape shows a flow of information in multiple directions from multiple technology platforms and channels, including brand advertising and loyalty programs.

That’s why I think the increase in investment in CRM systems is healthy. It will make email marketing better and help provide that often elusive single view of customers across channels.

Until next time.