outsourcing email graphic

Outsourcing Email Marketing: When is it the Right Move?


We all know that email marketing is the most direct and efficient touchpoint any organization can have with its audience. Careful list segmentation and, more recently, advanced marketing automation technology, have resulted in email marketing campaigns becoming more personalized, more targeted, and potentially more lucrative than ever. It raises the question: When a communication channel is as important as email marketing, is it ever okay to outsource it?

It’s a question marketing thought leaders address in our eBook, Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget.

As someone who has worked in senior marketing roles for more than 25-years, I’ve walked in your shoes and felt your pain. I know that successful email marketing is difficult. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Despite this, I’ve always believed that the very best email marketing comes from an organic source and is delivered by people who are well-versed in your brand and marketing objectives.

When you create distance between yourself, your products and services, and your subscribers, you risk losing authenticity in your campaigns. However, this doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself.

The problem with email marketing

busy email marketer

The biggest problem with managing all your email marketing activities in-house is the sheer scale of the work involved. Today’s email marketing strategies demand careful coordination across many different moving parts. Even the simplest of email campaigns require carefully planned and constructed workflows and numerous creative components, including design and content creation to identifying the recipients, building the email, and then reporting on the results.

It’s not unusual for the email marketing team to be sparingly staffed and share assets across the wider marketing department. In a discipline that prides itself on being agile and sending the right message to the right person at the right time, this is far from ideal.

The business year’s peaks and troughs can add to the problems of balancing marketing output and the availability of in-house resources. While you might not be able to justify adding to your employee headcount to meet seasonal demand, you may be able to find the cash to pay for outsourced help.

Outsourcing email marketing provides a flexible, scalable, and affordable solution to optimize your output. When carefully managed, outsourced elements can turn an already highly efficient channel into a super-charged marketing machine — more than justifying your additional investment in those outsourced resources.

Our work with big brand email marketing teams has shown us that even the largest marketing organizations might have limited in-house resources. These teams often start using Email on Acid because the platform speeds up and enhances the pre-deployment process while taking tasks off their plates. That kind of efficiency is helpful when you’re striving to reach more aggressive goals, but you’re working with the same budget and don’t have the ability to add to the headcount.

Should you consider outsourcing email marketing?

Email marketing campaigns work best when they are engaging, relevant, and timely. The moment you start missing out on opportunities because you cannot get campaigns out on time is the moment you should start considering outsourcing email marketing campaign elements.

Those lost opportunities don’t only occur because your design team or copywriter has to work their way through a long list of jobs before they get to you. Opportunities are often lost by not having the time or expertise to make optimum use of your email marketing/marketing automation technology. When you’re paying a premium for all those “bells and whistles,” you’re going to want to make sure they make a lot more noise. That only happens when you use them to their full potential. Failing to do so is pouring money down the drain and undoubtedly damaging your email marketing return on investment.

There are also email marketers who miss out on opportunities simply because they are too busy being busy (aren’t we all?). If you’re too busy churning out campaigns, constantly hitting your list, and not taking the time to strategize, analyze, and optimize, you may never reach your true potential. Outsourcing could allow you to step back from the “busy work” of getting your campaigns out on time. That gives you and your team more time to build your strategy. While we’re on the topic of strategy, this shouldn’t be ignored when considering what jobs to outsource. Sometimes a little outsourced, expert help with strategy can help you see the wood along with the trees.

Thankfully, when it comes to outsourcing opportunities there are many people who can help you become a better email marketing manager.

Who can help?  

outsourcing email work

There’s a very good chance your marketing department is already outsourcing work. If you are using outside agencies to help with your web design, content marketing, paid search, social media advertising, and SEO, it makes sense to ask these same people for help with email. There are also agencies specializing in email marketing that can become strategic partners and consultants.

After taking the time to identify the roadblocks that are preventing you from maximizing your organization’s potential, your first port of call should be your existing software vendors — including your ESP, agency partners, and trusted freelancers. These people will not only have an excellent working knowledge of your marketing needs, but they’ll also have enough “skin in the game” to understand that your continued success will ultimately contribute to their success.

If sourcing new, untested help, potential contractors must prove their value before you give them the keys to your wider marketing operations. Give freelancers one or two non-critical jobs to get their teeth into before you need to rely on them. Similarly, when adopting new technology, make sure you have set aside enough time to benefit from any free trial periods, and don’t be afraid to play hardball and demand more from your vendors if you need time to make a decision.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, you will need to find the best possible blend of technology solutions and people to suit your marketing needs and available budget.

By speaking with multiple partners, you’ll get the best idea of how you can optimize the outsourcing process and manage the level of investment required to reach your potential. By highlighting that you are “shopping around” for help will also ensure their pencils are sharpened, and quotes are keen.

Now you have some ideas of cost; the number crunching can really begin.

Understanding your email marketing success

email marketing metrics

Before outsourcing email marketing strategy, you’ll need to demonstrate your understanding of your current email marketing achievements to your leadership team. Now is not the time to forget your numbers, so channel that “Shark Tank pitch” and make sure everything adds up. This information will help you set realistic goals for optimizing your future campaigns and securing the additional funds required to outsource those efforts.

Reminding us of the importance of knowing your plan John Thies, Email on Acid’s co-founder and CEO, states in our recent eBook, Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget:

“Your executives will want to see your ideas paired with solutions. They also want to see how their extra investment will pay off. They won’t give you the money just because you have a cool idea. Imagine you’re a salesperson planning for the biggest sales presentation of your career and put together a coherent proposal for them to consider.”

What elements should you outsource?

There are no hard and fast rules here. Some organizations will outsource specific elements of their email marketing activities on an ad-hoc basis, based on their immediate campaign needs and available in-house resources. Others will outsource absolutely everything from strategy to managing design, tests, sends, and optimization campaigns.

The more tangible elements of your email campaigns, like content creation and design, can be fairly easy to outsource, as long as you have systems in-house to review and approve everything that comes back to you in a timely fashion. There is a good chance your ESP will be able to manage many of these elements for you, or at the very least, recommend approved partners. Your ESP should also be best-placed to manage practical tasks like list maintenance and split testing.

Strategy will always be more difficult to outsource since you will need to have a clear picture of what success looks like, but again there are agencies that you can work with to design a program that will meet your goals.

A good place to start with outsourcing is to hire someone to conduct an email marketing audit. Have someone with a fresh perspective examine all aspects of your current campaign strategies, creatives, and lists. If they can provide you with a decent SWOT or Gap analysis, it’ll help you understand where and how your email marketing activities can be improved. This will focus your mind on your priorities and help you understand what you can continue to do in-house and what needs outsourcing.   

Keeping control

email marketing control

The one thing you shouldn’t outsource is control. You’ll need to carefully brief your partners, setting clear campaign objectives and deadlines. It also means that you’ll have to put a robust quality assurance system in place to ensure everything is running and being executed as it should. When every email carries your reputation with it, you’re going to want to be sure they do their job properly.  

The fact is, the more people you have working on your campaigns and the more emails you send, the more opportunity there is for unseen issues creeping in and impacting the success of each send. It’s also important to remember, a single point of failure can harm subsequent sends as users disengage with your campaigns. This is, of course, where Email on Acid can help.

Email on Acid’s pre-deployment checklist will help you retain control, ensuring all your email marketing campaigns, whether they are produced in-house or outsourced to partner organizations, are firing on all cylinders. We allow email marketers to check campaign content for issues relating to inbox display, accessibility, deliverability, and image use.  We also check for those unprofessional spelling mistakes and catastrophic link errors that reduce trust, impact your ROI, and make you look bad. Essentially, at Email on Acid, it’s our job to make your look great in front of your subscribers, your colleagues, and your bosses — who wouldn’t want that?

Maximizing your email marketing budget

Outsourcing email marketing is just one lever you can pull to maximize the potential of their marketing budget. The very best email marketing professionals will want to look at their entire process and figure out a way of working smarter and harder.

If you choose to build a bigger in-house team instead of outsourcing, Email on Acid’s team management features provide a variety of benefits including collaboration, customizable user profiles, folder management, and more.

In Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget, we’ve compiled expert advice from thought leaders across the email marketing industry.  The eBook provides guidance on outsourcing, how to work with budgets of various sizes, and balancing people-power with smart technology to ensure your email marketing campaigns deliver more bang for their buck.

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Author: Monica Hoyer

With over 20+ years experience in Email Marketing, Monica has worked at various email service providers and on the brand side. She leads the marketing team at Email on Acid and is well versed in all areas of digital marketing. In her free time, Monica enjoys spending time with her elementary school son and her dog, a beagle rescue.

Author: Monica Hoyer

With over 20+ years experience in Email Marketing, Monica has worked at various email service providers and on the brand side. She leads the marketing team at Email on Acid and is well versed in all areas of digital marketing. In her free time, Monica enjoys spending time with her elementary school son and her dog, a beagle rescue.

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