In this article Spencer Kollas discusses whether to manage your email in-house or have it outsourced. Cost is a major factor in any in-house versus outsourcing decision, but there are other factors to consider as well.
Here are some of the merits of each approach:
Advantages of managing in-house
- You can develop your own expertise.
- The staff will be focused solely on your issues.
- You will own the relationships with the ISPs.
- You will not be dependent on an outside source.
- You may be able to amortize the cost of software over several years, gain more control over expenses and possibly save money.
Advantages of outsourcing
- You and your staff can focus on marketing strategy while the provider takes care of the technical aspects of email delivery.
- Good ESPs already have strong relationships with the ISPs and understand the evolving delivery landscape. Even large senders don't have the personnel to develop relationships with small mailers, preferring instead to work with ESPs who represent multiple mailers.
- You will have access to the latest email best practices.
- ESPs can share real-life solutions they develop by working with other customers.
- ESPs must keep up with technology advancements to remain competitive, which offers you added value.
- You avoid the costs of training and ongoing education to keep up with anti-spam legislation and compliance.
- You avoid the challenges of choosing technology that meets your needs and is also compatible with existing systems and networks.
- Good ESPs provide enterprise-class security and reliability, which may be better than an in-house solution.
- You will have access to tools developed specifically for email rather than relying on your own ad hoc solutions.
- You can benefit from the ESP's economies of scale in terms of bandwidth, shared servers and expertise.
- The money you spend all goes to deliverability solutions rather than to covering employee benefits, space and equipment costs.
- You will never have downtime due to employee illness or vacations.
- Providers are often members of trade organizations such as the Email Sender & Provider Coalition and others protecting legitimate email delivery.
Insider's guide to outsourcing
If you decide outsourcing is right for your company, it is imperative you do your homework before signing a contract. The market is full of email marketing service providers, and merely choosing the biggest or highest profile company isn't always the answer. Ask these questions to get the selection process started:
- Have I identified the specific deliverability issues my company faces? Does the ESP have experience in this arena?
- What best practices do they have in place to ensure security of my data and campaigns?
- Do they provide integrated solutions that allow migration of data between our two systems?
- Do they have the capability to scale their services as we grow?
- Which ISPs do they have strong relationships with?
- Do they offer delivery features and services such as blacklist monitoring, whitelisting, feedback loops, abuse board monitoring and support for authentication standards?
- What spam filters do they use to check deliverability?
- How do they check HTML code to ensure messages are delivered as intended? Do they have the expertise to help correct problems?
- What are their bounce policies? Do they categorize bounces so they can be analyzed and reduced?
- How do they report results such as open and bounce rates?
- What other mailers do they provide services for? Could any of them put us at risk of being labeled a spammer by association?
- Do they provide inbox and spam folder tracking to ensure our messages are being delivered?
- What industry trade groups do they belong to? How active are they?
- Is the company financially stable?
After using these questions to help narrow the field, move to your specific needs and priorities. Small business newsletter marketers, for example, may want to ask for more details about deliverability and reputation, while a high volume business-to-consumer newsletter marketer may be more concerned with strategic and tactical services. All are important, but making sure your priorities align with your provider's capabilities is key to a successful match.