Which bulk email option is right for you, on-premise or outsource?

Email is central to increasing customer and employee engagement, and it isn’t uncommon for a company to send up to a billion messages in a month.  But you have the option to manage that email effort using on-premise resources or outsourcing the duty to an email service provider (ESP).  There are pros and cons with both approaches, so here’s what you need to consider.

Simply put, the greatest benefit of an on-premise infrastructure is control over the sending infrastructure and visibility into every step of the process. Additional perks include superior scalability, a real-time view into deliverability, the ability to implement immediate changes and, of course, integration with all of the data points.

On the flip side, you might not have the resources to build and manage a successful on-premise solution. In order to succeed, you must have adequate resources in place or utilize a Rackspace-type service for building and maintaining servers. Your company must also have the knowledge in house for campaign authoring and list segregation, etc. Depending on the size of the company, this can be too costly and time consuming.

If you don’t have an in-house creative team or a data center/database of knowledge, you’re better off leveraging an ESP. Campaign creation interfaces have come a long way from basic WYSIWYG editors.  It is now easier than ever to create campaigns, both marketing and transactional, as well as monitor their effectiveness, through the cloud.  It may come at the cost of making changes on the fly or having access to all of your data in real-time. But if real-time visibility and flexible responsiveness aren’t critical to your business – a rather significant “if” – then an ESP could be the wise way to go.  

No one solution is better than the other. The question is, which solution is a better fit for your company. Factors such as available resources and volume of outbound messages will come into play when you’re deciding which solution is best.

More often than not, a small to medium sized business will succeed with an ESP as it requires fewer creative resources, and the business processes and data requirements are not complex. There is no need for an advanced knowledge of the infrastructure behind an email system. Reporting and analytics can be as simple as a click of a button.   

A larger organization that sends several hundred thousand to millions, or even billions of emails per day will likely want to choose an on-premise solution. One or several teams of folks will need to be responsible for the creative, as well as server builds and monitoring, etc.  

Effectiveness has a clearer delineation.  During the receiving process, a mail server will complete a reverse DNS lookup to ensure the message is coming from the IP address it says it’s coming from.  If the lookup returns with a different IP address, there is a considerably higher chance of that message being tagged as spam. There are safeguards that can be put in place, but they require more collaboration between networking and marketing teams from both the company and the outsourced option.  

With an on-premise solution, messages are originating from the IP addresses of the sending domain and are not shared with other companies for their marketing purposes.  Home IP message origination alone can be one of the most powerful delivery agents to consider in comparing on-premise and outsourced.

How can an organization decide?

While there is no easy way to decipher which is best for a company, here is a good rule of thumb: Look at the marketing budget. If it is creeping up because of volume, consider an on-premise solution.

To figure out if volume is getting too high and if you’re ready to move to on-premise, analyze your digital communications strategy by asking the following questions:

• How many messages are you sending per day and how often?

• How much integration with either in-house or third party applications does there need to be? (This will come down to resources.)  

• Do you have the necessary resources to dedicate to an on-premise infrastructure or does an increased cost for outsourcing, dependent on volume, make more sense?  There are costs and benefits associated with both options.

Regardless of which solution you choose, the goal is the same: deliver a message that will resonate with customers. To do this, you must stay in tune with how customers are reacting to the market.  Marketing messages should take into account what a customer wants to see.  If you send messages that are rarely read, you should send out a message to ensure the recipient is still interested and offer an easy opt-out option.  

Engagement with customers is going to be a key to inbox deliverability to a greater extent going forward.  ISPs today place much greater emphasis on group action. The way this works in is, with a large bulk mailing, they’ll allow 5% or so of that mail to flow through to recipients. If 99% open the email without marking the message as spam, then the ISP will let the rest of the bulk mailing through because the test group found the content relevant by a large percentage.

If, on the other hand, half of the messages in the test group get marked as spam, the ISPs will give that mailing greater scrutiny or maybe block it. As such, a company’s audience largely determines whether its mailings succeed or fail. If recipients judge mailing to be irrelevant, an organization’s reputation as a sender will suffer.

Email marketing best practices are more important than ever. A company should always keep subject lines short and to the point, and ensure that the content of the message is clean without multiple links to different servers to retrieve images.

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