Email Marketing Service Or In-House?

Every so often I encounter a trainer, consultant, or professional coach that is not comfortable using an email marketing service platform like Constant Contact, Exact Target, Swiftpage, iContact. Vertical Response etc.  The most common reasons for this aversion is that the client doesn’t feel the price is warranted as they can do the same thing in-house with their database or they are uncomfortable with the security of their data on the email service servers.  While doing an email marketing campaign in-house is possible, there are requirements that can be burdensome to the unprepared.

The first requirement is meeting CAN-SPAM regulation.  Specifically the email needs to be clear who it’s coming from, include a physical address, and have an obvious way to unsubscribe.  These are not optional.  If you are building an in-house email marketing platform these things must be included or your emails will violate the CAN-SPAM law.

The second requirement is the email platform setup.  This is typically done through a database program.  Make sure that the email address that will send the email marketing communications is a valid account.  Few things are as alarming as replying to an email marketing message and getting a bounced reply.  The account should also be checked.  Even if your email states “do not respond to this email” someone on your list will and it’s a good idea to be responsive.

The final requirement is the one that is most overlooked.  A few years ago I met with a company that had been doing an in-house email marketing campaign.  I had a lot of trouble sending and receiving emails from them from a popular email service I was using.  Upon investigation it was a problem throughout their company because some ISPs had them blocked under a SPAM listing.  Their marketing emails weren’t SPAM, it was just an organic accumulation of complaints over the years that started getting their domain blocked.

Your in-house email campaign will be coming from your internal servers rather than an email service provider.  That means spam complaints count against your web domain.  If your in-house campaign gets bad feedback your domain can get blacklisted by ISPs.  In my eyes the single biggest benefit to a reputable email marketing service is that they have teams of people that do nothing except keep a good relationship with ISPs. An in-house email marketing campaign needs a strategy to contact large ISPs to ensure messages are not being blocked.  This can be a time consuming activity and one that many trainers, consultants, and professional coaches simply don’t have the resources to take on.

Carefully weigh whether you want to use an email marketing service provider.  If you decide there is something about the service that is unacceptable and go the in-house route, be prepared to do the extra leg work that email marketing services do for you.