Outsource Solutions: E-mail Marketing
How Flexible Is Your E-mail?
I’ve been reading about the pros and cons of outsourced vs. in-house e-mail delivery systems for a long time now, and it occurs to me that there’s an important aspect of the decision that’s often overlooked by companies carrying out a typical cost/benefit outsourcing analysis: the impact this decision can have on the flexibility of your e-mail operations. While there are numerous areas in which relying on an external e-mail vendor can deliver significant cost benefits and/or operational efficiency, there are four areas where an in-house solution can result in greater flexibility that would be difficult to achieve with an outsourced solution.
For example, about a year ago, my team pondered the in-house/outsource decision, and chose to extend an existing relationship with Socketware and upgrade to the then-newest version of its Accucast software. We also built a significant amount of proprietary workflow and code around the software to provide for some of the more specific applications CNET Networks uses (e.g., ad serving, user profiling, etc.)
The in-house system not only has delivered on the financial and strategic benefits we hoped for at the time of our decision, but has delivered four significant benefits based on a more flexible infrastructure:
1) User Behavioral Targeting. Conducting a vibrant behavioral targeting effort requires tight coordination of on-site user profiling systems and e-mail deployment infrastructure. While this could, in theory, be built with an outsourced vendor, we find it significantly more flexible when done in-house. In particular, the ability to constantly evaluate and change the data we use to construct our behavioral profiles is critical. Having to work with an outside party to set up, test and refine this connection would have significantly hampered our efforts. Working with our in-house engineering team reduced time-to-market.
2) New Product Features. Particularly in our e-mail newsletter products, the ability to develop and deploy new features is a key component of our user-relationship management strategy. Having full control over these projects, and not having to rely on an outside vendor’s engineering staff and priority queue, has had a tremendous impact on our ability to be more nimble in developing features such as dynamic content modules, conditional messaging elements, content-targeted search links and user engagement features, such as quick polls, Q&As, etc.