So how should you go about conducting an email campaign? First, decide who you want to run it. You have three basic choices: you can do it yourself, license the technology through an application service provider (ASP) agreement, or outsource the campaign completely.
If you follow the DIY approach, you need to ensure you have both the IT and marketing staff who can come together to send out campaigns. This is typically reserved for either very small companies that have modest marketing needs, or very large ones with the staff and deep pockets to maintain their own email team.
If using an ASP, you rent the software but needs an understanding of how to manage the campaign and send it out. For full-blown outsourcing, an email partner will devise a strategy, integrate it with other online and offline campaigns if necessary, design the HTML, write the copy, send out the emails, manage the responses, and give analysis and feedback on the campaign.
Complete outsourcing is useful for large companies, which typically argue that they don’t want to be diverted from their core business, and those just starting out in email marketing, which want to learn how a campaign should be conducted.
Finding a partner
How should these companies find an email partner? First, know your campaign. Who are you targeting? What are your goals? Are you acquiring customers or retaining them?
Once you understand your campaign, E-mail Vision’s David Hughes says the next step is to research partners. You can get information from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), trade fairs and the trade press to see who’s picking up and who’s losing accounts. The next step is to draw up a shortlist and to send them a short, focused brief of your campaign.
“Ask them to come back with ideas, not just a costing,” says Hughes. “If you’ll be sending out 100,000 emails a month, that’s a commodity market now and everyone will be offering around the same price. That’s not a big clue as to who to work with.”
He advises asking about how to manage the product and how they would add value in terms of thinking, strategy and hand-holding. Because many companies can offer similar levels of technology and cost, service becomes the key differentiator — which should show up in the quality of the brief. Are they offering the bare bones of what you asked? Are they offering support? Are they giving you alternative suggestions?
“Most clients won’t know the right, wrong or different ways of doing a campaign,” says Hughes. “It’s the role of the supplier to hold the client’s hand and guide them through what can be quite a daunting process if they haven’t used the medium before.”