The email marketing game changes when you shift from sending thousands of messages per month to hundreds of thousands to millions. Yet, many organizations fail to adjust their approach to email marketing during these paramount shifts. They continue to run their email marketing program using the same technology, processes and ideologies that work for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but aren’t sufficient for supporting enterprise applications and the unique data challenges they represent.
Large enterprise organizations have unique needs that often reach beyond the capabilities of the cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, known to most marketers as “marketing clouds.” For many enterprise marketers, data has become too complex and email volume too high for the marketing cloud to be effective as a solution for personalized email communication. For these “big-data”-centric organizations, it no longer makes sense to push such a high volume of customer data to the cloud and keep it in sync in perpetuity. So where do major brands go when they’ve “outgrown” the marketing cloud for email marketing?
What Lies Beyond the (Marketing) Cloud
The reality is marketers who are sending millions of emails per month have generally outgrown the inherent limitations of marketing clouds because today’s marketers need to utilize multiple data sources and access real-time data to be successful. However, this doesn’t mean that cloud services are extraneous altogether. It just means large organizations need to reconsider how they use the cloud for email marketing. To handle “big data,” organizations can use a hybrid approach where customer data is kept in-house in a centralized database and only the resource-heavy tasks, such as message rendering and delivery, are in the cloud.
Below are three signs your email marketing program has grown beyond the capabilities of a cloud-only approach.
1. Your “Real-Time” Email Marketing Takes Hours (or Days)
When an unexpected opportunity or event arises that requires immediate communication with millions of consumers, how long does it take for your organization to respond? A day? Two days? A week or more? Organizations with a small customer base are nimble, but the more data you have to sync, the longer your reaction time is. If your email marketing takes hours or days to execute, you have likely outgrown the capabilities of a cloud-only approach. No matter how quickly an email service provider sends information back and forth to databases, it can never match the accuracy and speed of using fresh data directly from your company’s internal systems.
2. You Send 25+ Million Emails Monthly
Marketing cloud models work great for email send volumes that range in the thousands or even low millions per month, but if you are sending more than 25 million emails a month, it no longer makes sense to upload such a massive amount of data to the cloud and keep it in sync. At this level of send volume, the cost-savings traditionally attributed to cloud computing diminish. In fact, enterprise organizations often use more IT resources to keep data in sync in the cloud. New research by MessageGears and The Relevancy Group found that organizations that house data in a centralized database that can be accessed by various cloud applications via hybrid cloud computing reduced headcount equal to approximately $75,000 in savings annually thanks to a reduction in the resources needed to keep data synced in the cloud. In addition, email marketers that use a hybrid-cloud approach had 27 percent higher ROI on email marketing.
3. Your CRM Data Doesn’t Live Inside a Marketing Cloud
A standard email marketing best practice is to create email where the data that drives your email lives. Does the source of your data for marketing campaigns live in a marketing cloud? If you have a small customer base, you may store your customer data in a marketing cloud and it would make sense to use that marketing cloud for email marketing. However, if your data lives behind a company firewall, which is usually the case for data-centric, enterprise-level organizations, it doesn’t make sense to move such a large volume of data to the marketing cloud’s software just to send email. It is expensive and adds no value. Most enterprise-level organizations have already invested millions in implementing and managing a secure database to handle data that is complex or raises privacy concerns. For these organizations, it makes more sense to tap into the internal database rather than duplicate data in the cloud.
Cloud computing in general has certainly revolutionized marketing for the better, but it is important to realize that it has its limitations for enterprise applications, particularly for email. This doesn’t mean enterprise organizations shouldn’t use the cloud; large organizations just need to be more strategic about how they use it.