Managed Services

Full Service Email Marketing: Good Fit, Misfit or Myth?

Full Service Email Marketing

Today’s email marketing tools are incredibly user-friendly and increasingly affordable, yet there is growing demand for full service email marketing. But why?

By now we all know that email marketing produces the strongest ROI but building compelling emails (or an effective email program for that matter) takes both time and expertise.

So until the folks at MailChimp Labs can figure out how to create autonomous email marketing robot experts (which I’m sure they will do at some point), the tools are only as good as those who wield them.

But who are these companies that decide that full service email marketing is a viable option? And what does full service email marketing really consist of anyway?

Who’s going the full service route?

In my experience, those that decide to seek full service email marketing providers are a very diverse bunch indeed but they all have at least two of following characteristics in common:

  1. They acknowledge that email marketing, either directly or indirectly, is responsible or could be responsible for a healthy chunk of their revenue.
  2. They have found that hiring or training in-house talent is cost prohibitive, in relationship to their email-driven revenue.
  3. They are missing critical talent in their email production process.

As for their general makeup, these companies typically fall into the following classifications:

  • Small, one or two person, operations that either have a high-margin product or those with a small-margin product with a large email list.
  • Small to mid-size online sellers, be they consumer or b2b focused, that have in-house marketing talent. But that talent is either comprised of generalists or specialists with little to no email marketing expertise.
  • Large organizations, with heavy campaign output, who are missing production specialists or they are simply overwhelmed.

Who are the full service misfits?

For all the organizational types that may be a good fit for full service email marketing, there are many more that find little value in outsourcing their email production, such as:

  • Large to mid-sized organizations that have not seen historical or upside potential in email; those that typically send static newsletters and use email primarily as a cost effective ‘stay top of mind’ communication channel.
  • Email-driven organizations; those that are dependent on email to drive the bulk of their revenue, such as Living Social.
  • Traditional Publishers. With few exceptions, large or small, their email assets are so closely tied to their other products that it doesn’t make sense to outsource.
  • Certain B2B organizations, which have a manned sales force and refined sales process. They rely heavily on marketing automation and therefore have no need for ongoing services.

Full service email marketing, usually isn’t.

The most important thing to remember is that the term “full service” is often misused. What we’re usually talking about is managed email marketing.

The difference is that managed email marketing services are tailored to the needs of the marketer. The managed services vendor plugs in only those services that the marketer needs, such as a hybrid of strategic and production services or simply email coding and delivery.

It could be that the marketer truly needs full service email marketing, which typically includes strategy, execution, reporting, everything; all of the duties typically provided by and in-house team or team member. But more often than not, the marketer has some in-house talent, such as marketing managers or creatives, which they can leverage.

So why are companies really choosing managed email marketing?

As for those that decide to utilize managed (or full service) email marketing services, aside from the relief in their production burden and the efficiencies it might create, they are finding considerable value and comfort in knowing that their vendor is responsible for staying abreast of the tactics and strategies that truly drive revenue, their vendor has to. As a provider of managed email marketing services, we at Indiemark know that we have to perform as if our jobs depend on it, because it does.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is the Founder of Indiemark. He can be reached at scott@indiemark.com or indiemark.com

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5 Huge Email Marketing Mistakes You Can Fix Now

#1) Making an Unprofitable First Impression
First contact is typically the best opportunity to move the sale/relationship forward and a common email marketing mistake. Here’s the fix…

Create a Welcome Email that Means Business – A well-crafted, automated ‘welcome email’ will set the proper pace and garner a very nice ROI if the marketer doesn’t beat around the bush or blow smoke. This is the time to drive action and set mutual expectations.

Create an Onboarding Series that Tells the Tale – If the offer can support a series of emails, start now. Besides communicating the full value of the product/service an onboarding series will set the stage for putting an email marketing program on autopilot, the Holy Grail for smart marketers.

#2) Not Working Hard Enough Where it Really Matters
Email marketing eats man-hours and brainpower, so we’ve got to prioritize in order to maximize the human capital investment. But often times the best allocation resources and ROI has nothing to do with campaigns…

Invest More into List Growth – Email marketing is largely a numbers game. The bigger the email list, the more revenue that list will produce (assuming that the subscribers are qualified and receptive). Organic email list growth can seem painful and slow but if marketers would only be more strategic, and execute at every appropriate/feasible opportunity, they will see a substantial lift.

#3) Working Too Hard On the Wrong Things
Let’s face facts; it takes time to create a single email marketing campaign, much less a kick-butt email program. Marketers need to automate at every opportunity if they are to focus on the ROI. Here are two huge time savers…

Connect Your Lists and Applications - The exporting and importing of lists is not only a huge waste of time it’s also ripe for human error. Examples of connecting of customer databases, with that of an email service provider, include syncing lists with a CRM system, e-commerce platform or product recommendation engine. Marketers have already paid for these tools; why do they not use them to their fullest? Not only will syncing applications create efficiency, they can also automatically segment lists by activity, product, you name it. Going further, this will help to increase relevance by sending individualized messages, which are based on the subscriber’s actions and attributes. It’s a onetime fix that most of customers tell us was well worth the expense.

Let Automated Emails Do Most of the Work – Once these automated emails (a.k.a. autoresponders, triggered emails) are locked-down marketers need only to review/test their performance periodically. Even the simplest of today’s email marketing delivery tools offer some form of marketing automation. These triggered includes are typically date or user behavior based; examples include product expiration notices, birthdays/anniversaries, appointment reminders, and recommendations based on historical data.

#4) Sending Too Few Campaigns for the Wrong Reasons
Again, email marketing is a numbers game. Send more email, to more people, and more revenue will be generated. Simple stuff right? Yet this is usually the biggest failure. Here’s two fixes…

Consider Outsourcing Production - As we all know, it takes a considerable amount to time and expertise to plan and execute an email program. If an organization doesn’t have the resources for their program to be effective, managed email marketing services might be the best option.

Test the Frequency Tipping Point - Email is not a marketing channel for the timid. Try sending more campaigns, a lot more. Perhaps the list will tolerate, or even appreciate, a considerable increase in campaign frequency. Test it internally or work with a partner, but test it.

#5) Partying Like It’s 1999
The way in which customers interact with emails has forever changed; mobile readership is growing exponentially, inboxes are busy places, and attention spans are plummeting. You’ve got to future-proof your message framework now…

Update those Crusty Email Templates – A template refresh would ensure that all messages are actionable on desktop and mobile devices, today and tomorrow. Recommendations include the addition of pre-header (preview) text in order to further incentivize an open, organic and seamless personalization using known data, as well as a highly skimable approach to content, fingered-sized bulletproof buttons, and compartmentalized, truncated content to aide mobile email readership and ultimately clicks.

Now what? As luck would have it we can fix every mistake outlined above and quite a few more, so let’s talk email marketing!

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Making a Case for Managed Email Marketing

For marketers who want to mine more gold from their email programs; outsourced email marketing is quickly gaining popularity.

Managed email marketing can take many forms, such as the crafting and management of recurring email communications.

It could also involve content development, cross-channel distribution, list growth, as well as untold technical integrations and reporting mechanisms. The list is long.

In any case, when our clients come to us requesting managed email services it’s largely because they’re frustrated and frugal.

Frustrated Marketers

They’re fed up. They can’t find qualified in-house talent or siphon additional production (or ability) from their existing staff, yet they know they could and should be doing so much more.

That’s common. In many ways email marketing is a unique discipline. Email is hard. But in other ways it simply requires talent and tenacity. It’s difficult to find both of those requirements in a single source or an overworked and under-trained team.

Outsourcing works because it allows marketers to tap into the diverse, yet specialized, skillsets of their partner…be they an email marketing agency or an ESP.

Besides creativity, technical skills, and powers of persuasion (all of which are required if you’re going to win the email game), an email marketing partner also brings with them the experiences of working with a varied client base. This is a limitless source for fresh ideas which ensures that the effort does not become a victim of “group think” and that every dollar spent is maximized.

Frugal Marketers

When deciding to outsource their email marketing or keep it in-house, many of our clients first looked at the dollars to see if it makes sense. They’re frugal not stupid.

Let’s face it, email marketing services takes time. So, in one form or another, time is the source of the marketer’s expense.

That’s one of the reasons why outsourcing makes sense; it takes less time.

Because of the experience that your email services partner brings to the table, there is little to no learning curve, as it pertains to their capabilities. They also feel the need to prove their value, every month.

I can’t speak for all agencies but we’ve spent months with our faces buried in almost every ESP’s interface and API. We know their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.  We have crafted thousands of campaigns and provided consulting services to many many B2C and B2B marketers. This creates an efficiency that is only gained through experience. Efficiency means less time, which means less cost.

Besides efficiency, continuing education becomes the expense of the service provider. Payroll expenses, medical, vacation time? Fugetaboutit.

The cost is usually less than that of a full-time staffer, or depending on the requirements, even greater cost savings can be found. Again, it all backs out to time.

If they outsource, what kind of ROI can the marketer expect? There is  only one way to find out: initiate a conversion and choose wisely. It may pay huge dividends to find a partner that can work in concert with them or their in-house teams, or maybe they’d like to outsource the entire email marketing effort, soup to nuts.