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Choosing a Licensed Software Solution

By: Gabriela Linares- Vice President, Marketing for L-Soft International, Inc.
a provider of software and hosting solutions.

As e-mail marketing becomes a common tool for achieving marketing objectives, companies may benefit from transferring these operations in-house. To conduct e-mail operations in-house, companies require server hardware, Internet connectivity, technical support, marketing strategies, and software to manage e-mail communication. Since marketing messages essentially convey the identity and character of a company, it is important to choose a reliable software provider.    

More control and lower costs are two major benefits for transferring e-mail marketing operations to internal servers. By using a licensed solution, marketers have the freedom to create, test, adjust, and implement all aspects of their campaign strategy. Messages can be executed as often and whenever desired. Once a company reaches a certain number of deliveries, it is more cost-effective to pay an annual fixed cost than to pay a delivery charge for each message, commonly on a Cost Per Thousand (CPM) basis. The pricing structure for licensed products is a fixed annual rate, while outsourcing services charge both annual fixed and variable rates throughout the year.  Having an in-house solution allows businesses to  handle the growth of their e-mail operations without the cost increase involved with outsourcing. Compared to other more complex customer relationship packages, licensing software for e-mail campaign management is quick to install and easy to use. 

Licensing software to execute e-mail marketing campaigns is best suited for large companies and organizations with a supportive infrastructure and an Internet Technology department that has basic familiarity with e-mail servers. The installation and maintenance of the company network and the licensed software that resides on it will require an experienced server administrator.  Attempting to run and configure the software without technical knowledge may result in errors during the installation process and could lead to other embarrassing situations.  Most companies that provide licensing solutions offer free evaluation of their software. This allows potential customers to not only test the software, but to also conscientiously decide whether outsourcing or licensing best suits their needs and capabilities.   

There are three main types of software for conducting e-mail list operations: 

  1. The e-mail list manager software stores e-mail addresses, names, and list preferences. It automatically handles bounces, integrates with databases, and personalizes messages. Among a list of administrative features, list managers provide an automated way to subscribe and unsubscribe, and to verify whether addresses are still active.   
  2. The e-mail delivery software is the engine that sends e-mail messages to the Internet – also known as SMTP server software. In some cases, speed of delivery becomes an issue when sending large amounts of messages.  If delivery speed is not a concern, it may be sufficient to share the company’s e-mail server.
  3. Another class of software is the campaign management component, which works in conjunction with a list manager and e-mail delivery software.  Campaign management packages offer easy-to-use web interfaces and provide reporting and statistical measurements of recipients’ activities such as click-throughs on embedded URL links and messages received and opened up. Advanced tracking features may offer options to define the level of privacy for protecting customer data. The advent of campaign management software has made it much easier for marketers to conduct e-mail marketing and evaluate results.

Useful features:

  • Create messages in text, HTML and multi-part formats in several language characters

  • Track click-through and open-up rates

  • Monitor results online in real time

  • Create report charts online

  • Tracking charts can compare results among several campaigns

  • Download results and manipulate data in a database or Microsoft Excel

  • Ability to share responsibilities among a team

  • Integration with a database to analyze recipients 

When contemplating licensing software the number of contacts, frequency of messages, and a speculative approximation of how much these figures will grow over the next few years will determine the appropriate solution. Most software license packages are offered in different sizes based on these numbers. It is usually possible to upgrade or add capacity when needs grows.  For instance:

  • If list requirements are minimal, list management software could be used with the existing e-mail server. 

  • If large amounts of deliveries begin to weigh down the servers, network administrators should consider purchasing scalable SMTP software to support deliveries.

  • If a company requires detailed reporting of the results of its e‑mail marketing endeavors, then a campaign management package is the best choice. 

Other Considerations:

Inquire about the vendor’s technical services. Does the vendor provide training, support and consulting services? How do they provide support? Is this service included in the annual fee? Does the vendor offer technical visits? What other alternatives are offered for technical problems?

How long does it take to install the software and have it in working condition?

  • Does the vendor offer evaluation kits?

  • Some e-mail vendors offer hosting services as well as licensed software. It may make sense to test the software by initially outsourcing and then later purchasing the software, transferring the operation in-house. 

Marketers may consider the option to have a full service agency conduct their e-mail marketing campaigns for them. These companies will administer campaigns from start to finish, in some cases even composing the messages.  It is a good alternative for those who do not feel confident enough to license the software and implement the campaigns from scratch. However, the turn-around time for preparing and delivering an e-mail campaign with an agency may be slower and more expensive. Companies that do not disclose within their privacy policy that customer data will be shared with third parties may have to consider licensing a product instead of outsourcing. 

With a licensed product, companies have the freedom to conduct campaigns when needed. E-mail campaigns can be organized quickly and respond to contingencies.  Marketers can easily test approaches, measure results, and adapt their e-mail communications to suit the company’s marketing strategies.

Copyright 2001 by L-Soft International, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission. 

 

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