Email Marketing

CRM email vs. acquisition email: The key differences (and superpowers) to know

No matter how much consumer behavior fragments within today’s digital landscape—across platforms, devices and channels—the power of email remains undiminished. Despite the fact that the majority of industry headlines tend to focus on the shiniest and newest options in the room, such as emerging social media destinations and expanding CTV opportunities, marketers inherently understand that email continues to be one of the most reliable and profitable investments when it comes to marketing time and resources.

In 2022, more than 333 billion emails are being sent every single day. And yet, despite what seems like an overwhelming amount of activity, email marketing efforts continue to generate an astounding return on investment—an impressive $36 for every $1 spent. From a marketer’s standpoint, that means every conversation about how to invest marketing dollars needs to consider not just new platforms and opportunities worth testing, but also new ways to expand the already-well-established power of email as a foundational tactic.

That’s where the discussion of CRM Email vs. Acquisition Email comes in.

For decades, marketers have cultivated, invested in, and refined their CRM Email programs as the data-driven art forms they are. That’s because the ROI has been so self-evident: When you pour time and resources into your CRM Email program, it comes back to you many times over.

However, CRM Email’s superpowers can only take companies so far. By virtue of what CRM Email suggests—that is, that it fosters communication and conversion among known contacts within a company’s own database—CRM Email is all about retaining and maximizing value from existing prospects and customers.

But what about acquisition? To foster growth, maintain a robust sales pipeline and ultimately deliver on a company’s core KPIs, marketers must constantly be looking to nurture and acquire new customers. To do so, many turn to channels such as paid search, social media advertising and higher-funnel branding efforts in TV. But what about email marketing? Why is this well-established channel, known for its incredible ROI, so often left out of acquisition programs? What we’ve seen at Data Axle is that a lot of marketers simply aren’t as familiar with Acquisition Email as an opportunity. Or, if they are, they might still have some misconceptions about Acquisition Email as it compares to CRM Email. Let’s change that.

CRM Email vs. Acquisition Email

Almost every marketer understands the power of CRM Email. But Acquisition Email moves the needle for brands in completely different—but equally compelling—ways.


First, let’s talk about program goals. When it comes to CRM Email—that is, campaigns targeted to known prospects and customers who have subscribed to brand emails—email marketing goals tend to be two-fold: to drive deeper purchase or engagement interest among warm prospects, or to engage existing customers with the hope of deepening relationships, driving repeat or additional purchase, and overall increasing the lifetime value of those customers.

On the flip side, Acquisition Email operates within an entirely different realm of the marketing funnel. Rather than retention and reengagement, Acquisition Email focuses heavily on raising brand awareness and acquiring new customers—often ones that exist outside of a brand’s known set of prospects. In this sense, Data Axle’s Acquisition Email represents a cost-effective and high-performance addition to any acquisition program. Unlike other acquisition channels, brands leveraging Acquisition Email gain full visibility into how their campaigns are performing, right down to the direct impact on the bottom line. In fact, with Data Axle’s attribution reporting, brands can see who opened and clicked in their emails, as well as tie recent acquisitions back to individuals who received the brand’s email.


While the goals of CRM Email vs. Acquisition Email exist on opposite ends of the marketing funnel, you might be surprised to know that they still tend to look and feel quite similar. Both CRM Email and Acquisition Email campaigns can be delivered as fully designed HTML emails.

Of course, we realize that not every brand has in-house resources to take full advantage of the rich creative opportunities inherent within Acquisition Email campaigns. That’s why, at Data Axle, our services include not only a review of creative best practices that can guide clients’ internal teams, but also access to a design team that can support the creation of email HTML and ensure messages are on-brand, memorable, and likely to inspire action.


Now, let’s talk lists—another area where CRM Email and Acquisition Email diverge on a fundamental level. With CRM Email, the lists used for campaigns come directly from—yes, you guessed it—a brand’s own CRM. That is, they are sent to the contacts who have subscribed to receive a brand’s email. These lists can be tailored according to what a brand knows about their own contacts based on past interactions, or CRM data can be enriched with compliant third-party data to uncover new dimensions shared by subscribers and segment accordingly.

On the flip side, Acquisition Email lists are uniquely created for each campaign and can be sent to a variety of target audiences, whether that’s a brand’s current prospect list, a list of deanonymized website visitors, or a custom-designed, modeled audience. For example, at Data Axle, our data science team can take a brand’s current audience profile and identify shared traits and patterns that reveal what kinds of people are most likely to become a brand’s customer. Leveraging our own industry-leading data, Data Axle can then build target audience lists for a brand and send out Acquisition Emails directly to those high-potential individuals.


Here’s an area where a significant amount of confusion exists among marketers. How does privacy compliance work in the context of CRM Email vs. Acquisition Email? Most marketers feel comfortable with CRM Email because they understand it to be a 100 percent compliant tactic in which all contacts have opted-in directly to receive a brand’s communications. But what about Acquisition Email?

According to a recent Data Axle survey, nearly 28 percent of marketers who don’t use Acquisition Email say they haven’t employed this tactic because they didn’t think it was compliant. But that’s simply not the case. Like CRM Email, Acquisition Email is 100 percent compliant with privacy regulations because the contacts used for acquisition campaigns have opted-in to a third party. Thus, by using privacy-compliant, permission-based Acquisition Email in concert with other marketing channels, brands can maximize a campaign’s ROI.


Finally, what about platforms? In other words, how does CRM Email compare to Acquisition Email when it comes to how campaigns are delivered? As most marketers know, CRM Email campaigns are typically delivered—no surprise here—via a brand’s own CRM. This isn’t the case with Acquisition Email, however.

To deliver successful Acquisition Email campaigns, brands need to tap into the capabilities and tools of established, reliable partners like Data Axle. One of the key factors to look for in an Acquisition Email partner is data hygiene. If a brand is not tapping into an exceptionally high-quality email database for their Acquisition Email efforts, results will prove disappointing.

At Data Axle, all of our records are opted in to receive third-party offers or have actively opened an email from a Data Axle advertiser providing permission. In addition, each and every Data Axle record must pass through our hygiene process, which includes both email and traditional postal hygiene, along with an overlay of Data Axle’s proprietary behavioral models. In fact, every consumer email in our database contains a full postal address for each record that is linked to the IP address of every single permission-based record. In other words, Data Axle knows how to leverage acquisition email as a part of your omnichannel campaign and can provide you with strategic guidance on everything from strategy to audience development, creative and execution.

Over the past two decades, Data Axle has worked with more than 2,000 brands to deploy compliant Acquisition Email campaigns that drive results. Impressively, Data Axle sends more than 1.5 billion Acquisition Emails every year, with an average delivery rate of 97 percent.

Are you ready to get started with Acquisition Email, or to up-level your existing program? We’d love to talk! Contact us to learn more.

Natasia Langfelder
Content Marketing Manager

As Content Marketing Manager, Natasia is responsible for helping strategize, produce and execute Data Axle's content. With a passion for writing and an enthusiasm for data management and technology, Natasia creates content that is designed to deliver nuggets of wisdom to help brands and individuals elevate their data governance policies. A native New Yorker, when Natasia is not at work she can be found enjoying New York’s food scene, at one of NYC’s many museums, or at one of the city’s many parks with her two teacup yorkies.