Build Versus Buy

Today's column is themed with the Webinar that Datran Media and Avenue A|Razorfish are hosting tomorrow, March 18, entitled "Email Delivery Systems: Build, Buy or Rent?"**

I've written several articles on this subject since 2005. One article was entitled "How to Select an Email Service Provider"; another, "Email Isn't Free." Each spoke to pieces of the decisions marketers are facing today in choosing the optimal technology for their consumer-facing email. I am in the process of writing an article for OMMA magazine that goes into more detail than this column allows, but it speaks to the types of messaging systems available:


  • Enterprise Messaging Systems - tied to Content Management and Campaign Management Systems.
  • Point Solutions - tied to specialized business messaging needs (call center, market segments -- i.e., not for profit).
  • Specialized Email Marketing Systems - tied to the core ESPs that Jupiter, Forrester and Marketing Sherpa classify for the marketing space.




    A drive to improve capabilities has emerged as more and more businesses try to embrace the emerging social networking space, as well as needing to consolidate the view of the customer and the specialized purposes for which their business uses email -- ecommerce, support, information, marketing, compliance, lead management, channel management.

    Will an impending recession curb the RFP craze that hit the industry in the last three years? I don't think so. The exercise of an RFP is valid for a business, if done for the right reasons. Taking an organizational view of your business needs, prioritizing your requirements, evaluating your present vendors or technologies and looking at new capabilities and how they are used by competitors -- or like marketers -- is a fantastic exercise. Where this falls short is when companies tax the vendors with unrealistic expectations for response or don't communicate their intentions well. Many companies will NOT switch partners unless there is a compelling reason to, and most don't communicate this clearly in the RFPs, thus leading vendors on. This misleading approach only makes it harder and more expensive for everyone else.

    Additionally, marketers typically don't run these RFPs at a high enough level, taking into all considerations. I've seen several otherwise well-done RFPs run into the executive chopping block because the execs couldn't see a compelling reason to invest in a switch. That, or the person administering it couldn't create a compelling enough story to take on the risk.

    There are considerable risks to switching platforms today, related to disruption in operations, issuance and whitelisting of new IP addresses (no, you don't get to keep your old IP address, it must be registered by your new hosted provider), and the general unknowns.

    I will confess, the No. 1 reason most of my clients and colleagues in the space have considered new providers comes down to one simple term: support! Most do not feel their ESP is supporting them well enough to meet their needs, or don't feel their IT team is responsive enough.

    In the Webinar, we'll take a close look at how The Weather Channel leverages internal delivery systems to enable its most critical consumer email, notifications, and product-related email, but utilize a hosted service for their marketing promotions. We'll also look at Live Nation and talk about how it leverages internal systems for ticket and commerce-related email, as well as a hosted ESP for its marketing efforts. I will also talk about several RFPs that we ran this year -- and some of the factors you should consider during this process in order to get the most out of the vendors you ask to respond.

    It should be a good panel. If you're at OMMA Hollywood, as we do this panel from the floor, stop on by and say hello. Our session is at 5:00 p.m. and Dave Hendrix of Datran Media, Bob Frady and I will happily answer any questions you have about this process.

    Good hunting!

    **To attend, the Webinar, sign up here: jsp&eventid=105763&sessionid=1&key=1020621563F14E761B725456E8AB01E5&sourcepage=register

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