You already know that email marketing should be a part of your marketing and brand-building toolkit.
However, it takes a lot of work!
To create a successful email marketing program, you must create a strategy, segment your audience, build an email list, design the copy and layout, test each campaign, and consistently measure results. These activities require tech and business skills that inexperienced in-house email marketing teams often lack.
In such cases, a specialist email marketing agency is the best choice. An offshore team will take care of the nitty-gritties, including list-building, template creation, design, campaign automation, testing and analytics, so you can focus on the big picture. They will help you build engaging, personalized campaigns, maintain email list hygiene, and improve deliverability. When you outsource your email marketing program, you can scale up or down as per business needs, lower your costs, and get high ROI…more so if you follow some time-tested best practices. Keep reading to know more!
#1. Identify which activities you will outsource
Email marketing involves a lot of inter-dependent, iterative moving parts. Effectively managing these tasks requires technical expertise, industry and audience knowledge, a sound strategy, and excellent research, planning and execution skills.
Which aspect of email marketing does your in-house team struggle with? The answer will help you identify the activities you should outsource.
For instance, can your team build an email list for different kinds of campaigns? In some CRMs, you can get a consolidated view of your broad audience, and create more narrow segments with data extensions. You can also customize these segments using filters based on specific customer data. These segments should guide your messaging and personalization strategies. If your internal team does not know how to manage these tasks, outsource!
You may also want to outsource email deliverability like 14% of email marketers. Deliverability is when your emails land in subscribers’ inboxes (desirable) versus their spam folders (undesirable). However, deliverability is not always easy to manage, since it involves multiple aspects, including:
- Proper segmentation
- Send time optimization
- Spreading out email sends
- Removing “spammy” words from content
- Establishing a good reputation with ISPs
- Warming up your IP address by gradually increasing email volumes
Some 10% of teams also outsource “day-to-day” email marketing tasks like copywriting, design, coding, QA, and deployment. You may want to do this as well. Clarifying these things early on will help you avoid confusion once you on-board the offshore team.
#2. Do your research before finalizing an agency
Before you choose a vendor, ensure that they meet your standards with respect to quality, timeliness, communications, and expected results.
So your first port of call should be to identify these standards.
Next, what are you looking for in an “ideal” email marketing agency? Just like you create “personas” of your ideal customer, create personas of your ideal agency as well. Draw up a list of qualifications by asking these questions:
How many years of experience should they have?
Which ESP should they be familiar with? If you have an ESP preference, the agency should be familiar with it. If not, can they convince you why another ESP is the better choice for your email marketing program?
Do they have a good track record? Can they show some of the work they have done for past clients? If possible, talk to these other orgs to understand their experience with the agency. If they complain about miscommunications or poor customer support, keep digging to confirm if this agency can actually add value to your org – or if you should keep looking.
Can they provide the right solutions and people who are tech-savvy, have business smarts, and understand your industry? Can they meet your org’s specific needs? Do they fit into your budget?
Will they provide an email campaign manager to manage the end-to-end process? Can this person clarify a campaign’s goals? Plan strategy? Build a targeted subscriber list? Analyze email performance?
Finally, ask the agency about their error rate. An agency like Email Uplers that offers end-to-end email campaign management services at over 99% error-free rate will save you a lot of grief later on!
#3. Clarify and align expectations – internal and external
In most cases, bringing in an offshore email marketing team lowers costs and increases revenues. However, it still involves an investment. If the outsourcing budget requires sign-off by the senior leadership team, before making your “pitch” to them, be very clear on why outsourcing your email marketing program is a good idea. Do a cost-benefit analysis of hiring an internal team versus outsourcing, and talk numbers in your presentation.
Before you onboard an external team, identify the success criteria that the offshore team must meet, so they’re aware of expectations, and the repercussions of falling short. Set and share realistic goals, and clarify all objectives qualitatively and quantitatively. Include these details in the contract with clear Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Be very specific on aspects like:
- How many campaigns will they send in a week, month, or quarter?
- Which aspects of your email marketing program will they manage?
- What is their process for campaign planning and execution?
- What approvals will they need from you? How much autonomy will they have in order to make decisions or resolve issues?
- Do you have specific targets for open rates, click-through rates, number of leads, acceptable number of spam complaints, etc.?
- Which metrics should they capture per campaign?
Discuss these things with the offshore team before they start working on your campaigns. This will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals for success.
#4. Outsource, but maintain control
The best and most experienced email marketing agency will seamlessly blend into your org’s marketing ecosystem, and reduce your day-to-day execution/management burden. However, it’s still an external agency, so the one thing you should not outsource is control.
We’re not advocating for micro-management. However, handing off the entire program to an external agency is also not advisable.
Once you brief the agency on your goals and expectations, let them know which aspects you will control versus where they have full autonomy. For example, you may want to retain control over the program budget. This should guide their activities with respect to segmentation (e.g. a smaller audience), design (e.g. plain text emails only), personalization (e.g. only in the greetings), and even post-campaign analytics (e.g. track only opens and click-throughs).
You may also want to retain control on other aspects. For instance, you may want your internal team to check content for inappropriate words, on-brand images, correct links, or relevant CTA text. You may also want to test for issues related to accessibility, deliverability, or send frequencies. Any of these issues can impact your audience’s engagement, lower trust in your brand, and impact your email marketing program’s ROI. Put a quality assurance system in place to manage these aspects, and to ensure that you don’t lose control over them.
#5. Set up a communications system
Setting up communications standards can minimize potential problems related to miscommunication errors, and costly misunderstandings.
If the agency is in a different time zone, identify the hours you expect them to be available.
Establish early on how and when your teams will communicate, and via which channels.
Should everything be documented via email? Who should be copied on “business as usual” emails?
Should you set up a Skype group? A Slack channel? When is it okay to use these channels? And when is it not?
How often should your internal team and the offshore team have a catch-up conference call?
What is the best way to share files and campaign assets? Should you set up a cloud location? An FTP? How will the offshore team access these assets?
What is your org’s password policy and how should they adhere to its requirements?
If there is an issue, who is the escalation point of contact at the agency?
Do you require a weekly or fortnightly report on campaign progress? Is there a specific format for the report?
It’s critical to be clear on all these aspects before the team starts working on your email campaigns. This will ensure that you have everything organized and planned well in advance, so your outsourced program can run on autopilot – while freeing you up to focus on more crucial items like customer engagement, brand-building, and competitiveness.
Outsourcing your email marketing program to an expert team can help you get the best possible results from each campaign. And following some best practices is the most effective way to get the best value from your investment. We hope you found this article useful.
Email Uplers offers affordable, end-to-end email marketing services that deliver the most bang for your buck. You can also hire dedicated resources to work on your projects. To know more, get in touch.