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Question: Should I outsource my e-mail marketing?

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Answer: In the "insource" versus outsource deliberation, marketers will always seek the least-expensive solution, but only if they do not have to sacrifice creativity, flexibility and responsiveness to new opportunities. Ultimately, the decision hinges not only on cost but on expertise, security, integration and deliverability.

From a cost perspective, the benefits of doing e-mail internally are not universal. Some companies have existing infrastructure and cost-accounting methods that make it more cost-effective to host and run their own e-mail programs. Other companies have less internal support, and they find that outsourcing enables them to tap into the tremendous economies of scale achieved by large e-mail service providers (such as bandwidth, shared servers and shared expertise).

On the services front, the need for external expertise depends on the type of e-mail program. Simple newsletters don’t require much e-mail expertise beyond deliverability. But e-mail campaigns that require constant innovation can always benefit from an expert partner.

Security is an important consideration when companies use e-mail for highly sensitive communications. Integration becomes an issue when the e-mail program needs to be closely tied to an ever-changing set of customer events and triggers. Whether to insource or outsource these functions depends upon the needs of the individual company.

The final determinant of insourcing versus outsourcing is deliverability. More than any other consideration, deliverability has pushed marketers to seek help from outside parties. The issues are changing every day, and very few companies have the resources or the depth to keep up. Most industry experts agree that the challenge of deliverability will never go away. But as the industry matures, the expertise for it should become more widespread. As this happens, companies that have the infrastructure to run their e-mail internally, or that prefer to insource their data handling for security reasons, will have the know-how to handle e-mail on their own.

An increasing number of companies are turning to outside providers for their e-mail services. The bottom line is that each company’s needs are different. Before making a decision, take a close look at your company’s needs, budget and future plans for e-mail marketing.

Bill Nussey is CEO of Silverpop (www.silverpop.com). a permission-based e-mail marketing solutions provider, and author of "The Quiet Revolution in E-mail Marketing."

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