Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Splitting the Email System- Inhouse and Outsourced

My experience in the late 90s was that many clients wanted me to setup internal email systems. Recently I’ve heard mention (see links at bottom) of bringing inhouse email systems. What I’ve seen work quite well is to have internal, transactional analysis and segmentation, but external email systems for sending, managing large email data systems, response reporting, and managing content.

Reasons not to host your own email send systems:

  • Sender reputation is so extremely important, trust that to the specialists.
  • Bandwidth is not free or infinite- and it’s crucial to keep operational email on separate systems from marketing emails. Never impact company email systems with large marketing blasts.
  • To me, there’s just not a big reason to do it. Marketing users, and their millions of customers will just never know that the email came from a server at the real business address versus an email vendor’s servers. It takes a few AOL postcards stating that you’ve received complaints to realize that the outsourced specialists can handle the risk far better.
  • Most compelling, though, is that by now, reputable email providers really understand their specialty in delivery, managing ISPs, creating emails that work on every browser and all of the lovely, ever-changing elements of the technical side of email marketing. Getting that know-how in-house would be very costly, and I doubt someone with that skill would be content managing an internal system, and in my experience it is hard for them to keep up to date in this industry.
  • Competitive analysis: Email vendors can give you metrics, daily, on how you compare to their average clients in similar verticals.

Double checking, double filtering, and good process
I’ve largely worked on 3rd to 4th generation systems where campaigns have been going out in a dependable process for years. In these systems, there are usually many double checks and double filters. Opt-outs are double-filtered, usually. If one system fails for some reason there is another system behind it. Respect the process (I sound like a Jedi) because it works- changing it fundamentally, such as bringing email send systems inhouse, would increase the risk and remove one of the double-checks.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater
Having said that, there are some aspects of the email system that I think work very well on systems internal to the company:

Analytical datamarts that enable business users to quickly slice and dice their customer’s behavior. Sure, these too can be offsite with access from inside a company. But I see mroe merits to internally hosted analytical systems:

  • The systems themselves aren’t expensive.
  • If inhouse, maintenance is rather cheap and quick.
  • It can be tweaked and added onto from business users inhouse, with a short discussion or a drop by the cubicle.
  • Quick on-site training on the reporting interface (must be done in person) for new business users with a quick visit to a cubicle.
  • Ongoing data appends from other departments or information vendors, regarding customer demographics can be quickly applied to the system.
  • There is a knowledge of internal legacy datasystems that is managed inhouse already, so the company is leveraging a core competency inhouse.
  • Sensitive customer data is managed internally, reducing risk and helping with compliance.
  • An added bonus is if these reporting systems can take the same intelligence gleaned from customer behavior and readily create a segmentation strategy for an upcoming campaign. So marketers can quickly deploy new email campaign ideas based on transactional data and recent customer behavior.

But we already have a lot of databases…
Unlike operational, transactional databases, small analytical databases are unique beasts:

  • They are loaded once a day, so they are built for querying and reporting, not for insertion (OnLine Analytical Protocol (OLAP) vs. OnLine Transactional Protocol (OLTP))
  • Usually much smaller than operational systems, requiring less hardware
  • Web interface reporting
  • Tied in with other systems in the company, such as finance, operations, and customer service, and hopefully a data warehouse

Other reading and sources

Excellent article, a review of a Forrester report, on ClickZ by Brady Brewer: “A Case for Outsourcing”

Solid list of reasons why email service providers make sense: 5 Reasons to Outsource Email Send by Jeanne S. Jennings

Different view on instead of a split architecture as I propose here, bring a fully integrated system internally: DM News “Why outsourcing email could hinder your business” by Mike Puterbaugh. My response to his proposition is that email vendors still have the lock on keeping up in the industry with new techniques at deliverability and testing.

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Written on Saturday, 30. June 2007 at 11:37 In the category mechanics, technology. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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1 Comment »

  1. [...] What I *Think* They Should Read – Email Design for iPhones. Mobile mail has been difficult for a while now. With the spread of more iPhones, and the tough requirements of Gmail, I’ve noticed many issues that email marketers should consider to get this early adopter customer segment. – Why Bulk is Bad. Companies still want to send big blasts to get the big money. What they’re missing out on is lower costs and even higher revenue percentages. This is the argument of why transactional emails are better than bulk, but seen from the bulk viewpoint. – Splitting the Email System- Inhouse and Outsourced. A client wants to bring the entire outsourced email system inhouse. What I’m proposing is a mixed solution: inhouse and outsourced. [...]

    Pingback: Adventures in Email Marketing » Adventures in Email Marketing Recognized in Top 20 List | – 02. October 2007 @ 10:36 am

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