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Five Reasons to Outsource E-mail Send

Jeanne S. Jennings, Consultant and Author

It's not that I'm against managing your e-mail send in-house; it's just that I've found it to be better in theory than in practice. Clients hire me to optimize their e-mail marketing efforts; they're looking to increase their return on investment. And often, outsourcing to a reputable e-mail service provider (ESP) is part of the solution. Here are five good reasons to outsource your e-mail send, along with the number one objection for doing so (and why it's a paper tiger).

Building Relationships with ISPs

Recent research found false positives (opt-in mail filtered as spam) running as high as 19 percent, or nearly one in five e-mails sent. Getting into the inbox is critical to your success with e-mail, and a good ESP can help you accomplish this by having relationships with ISPs, the "gate keepers" of your recipients' inboxes.

Could you do this yourself in-house? Maybe. You'd need at least one person dedicated full-time to the task who pro-actively reaches out to the ISPs you are mailing to before there's a problem. Even then, you may not succeed. At a recent conference, representatives from AOL and MSN confirmed that they really don't have the personnel to build relationships with every small mailer out there and prefer to work with ESPs who represent multiple mailers.

Tracking and Reporting

Another big issue-without metrics like open rates and click-throughs, it's hard to know which parts of your e-mail campaign are working and which could use some tweaking. Effective e-mail marketing isn't about the send—it's about the results of the send. And that means tracking and reporting.

Some in-house systems offer tracking and reporting, but my experience has been that many companies don't use it. They cite resource limitations ("the tech folks haven't had time to set it up"); unusable data ("we get reports, but I'm not quite sure what's what"); cost ("adding opens rate tracking would require an upgrade to our system"); or some combination.

But the bottom line is this: If you're serious about e-mail marketing and you want to optimize your return on investment, you need to have robust, reliable, and timely tracking and reporting. In most cases, using a good ESP is the easier way to get it.

Keeping up with the Technology

E-mail is constantly evolving. When the large ESPs starting tracking open rates, I requested our in-house system do the same. "It's not technically possible," was their response. Even though I was a marketing person at that moment I knew more about the technology of tracking open rates than my technical team.

ESPs must stay up on technology—it's their business, their bread and butter. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their service and provide additional value to their customers. It's a competitive field. Few in-house technology teams have that kind of motivation. And even those who do have the motivation often find themselves understaffed and over their heads very quickly. Small things, like an unsubscribe link that goes bad, can cause big problems. For most organizations, it's not worth the risk.

Managing Subscribes, Bounces, and Unsubscribes

Some in-house systems handle this, but others require you to do it manually. While it may not seem like much effort with a small list, a larger list requires much more attention. And now, with CAN-SPAM, not only do you have to remove people who unsubscribe it must be done within ten days.

Any outsourcing solution worth its salt will handle these things automatically. In addition to saving you time, you'll get things your in-house system probably didn't provide—like differentiation between types of bounces, automatic removal after a certain number of bounces, and immediate unsubscribe to stay ahead of CAN-SPAM.

Another perk: double opt-in, the gold standard for permission-based marketing, can be daunting to manage on your own but is usually a breeze with an ESP. Why? Because they've got it down to a science and you can take advantage of their knowledge and experience to optimize your confirmations.

Getting Sound Advice

Another benefit of working with an ESP is the advice they can provide. Even if you don't pay for one-on-one consulting, most ESPs provide education to their customers, ranging from optimizing your list growth to avoiding spam filters to elements of good e-mail design.

They see themselves as an ally whose goal is to help make you successful, because if you're having success you'll maintain and perhaps expand your e-mail program. Few if any in-house solutions offer that-typically it's a technical sale with a one-time fee. They may help your IT folks set it up, but then you're on your own (especially where the marketing side is concerned).

But What About the Cost?

This is the number one objection I get from a client when I suggest they should outsource their e-mail send. But it's not a stopper. There are reputable ESPs that will fit into any budget-from $30 a month up based on list quantity and/or volume. Plus add up the benefits:

  • Increased deliverability
  • Enhanced tracking and reporting
  • Latest technology
  • Automated subscriber, bounces, and unsubscribe management; and
  • Great advice.

It's really no contest. I've found time and time again, with small, medium, and large businesses the benefits outweigh the costs.

© 2007 Jeanne S. Jennings. All rights reserved.

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