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Challenges in Offshoring or Outsourcing Email Marketing

Top 4 Challenges in Offshoring or Outsourcing Email Marketing (and Solutions to Overcome Them)

Key challenges in operating with an offshore email marketing team plus practical solutions to overcome them...

Email marketing is one of the most valuable customer engagement and brand-building tools in your marketing arsenal.

If done well, email campaigns can generate ROI of 4,200% and increase revenues by 760%. With email marketing, you can enhance lead generation, customer acquisition, and customer retention, build trust with a captive audience, and boost your brand’s credibility and value.

However, if your marketing team doesn’t have the capabilities to manage all the crucial aspects of email marketing, outsourcing to an offshore email marketing team may be your best bet. With an experienced offshore team, you get access to knowledgeable experts, can set up campaigns quickly, and even scale up your email marketing program as required.

Nonetheless, hiring an offshore team can also create a few challenges that can affect your email marketing goals.

Fortunately, you can overcome these challenges and get the most from your investment. Here’s how.

Challenge #1: Maintaining control over the project

Who will control your email marketing project or program?

Who is authorized to take decisions that may affect the program’s direction, strategy, or execution?

Who will be the escalation point – at both the offshore partner and your company – when something goes wrong?

These crucial issues can affect the outcomes of your email marketing program. If you don’t consider them early, it could lead to conflicts, delays, and even legal repercussions.

So how can you prevent these issues from cropping up?

Solution

To start with, make sure that your outsourcing contract clearly states who controls what part of your email marketing program. Define clear Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to clarify the boundaries of the project:

  • What functions and services will the offshore email team deliver?
  • In which situations can they make independent decisions, and when should they involve someone from your firm?
  • Which service standards should they absolutely meet?

Make sure the contract specifies to what extent the offshore team can exert control over your email marketing program. This includes specifying what type of decisions they can make, when they can make them, and how they should document their decision-making process.

Also, make the terms of the service contract crystal clear to both your employees and the employees of the offshore team to set clear expectations from the start (more on this later).

Challenge #2: Poor communication leading to confusion and errors

When you work with an offshore email marketing team in a different country, language barriers may affect how the two teams communicate. Even when English is the communication language; differences in dialects, accents, colloquialisms, and other region-specific differences can lead to confusion, miscommunications, and misunderstandings.

Cultural barriers can also affect communication, interactions, interpretations, all of which can hamper the progress of your email marketing program. These issues may also:

  • Affect the productivity of both teams
  • Lead to rework and errors
  • Create friction that impacts collaboration and commitment
  • Create a non-accountable culture of “pass the buck”
  • Impact the quality of decisions

Solution

When you work with foreign offshore teams, linguistic, cultural and semantic barriers will always exist. However, a cultural awareness program can help overcome these barriers. It’s important to train your staff – especially those who will be coordinating directly with the offshore team – to increase their cultural sensitivity. The training program could help your marketing team understand the offshore team’s cultural and organizational norms, and how they differ from your country’s and organization’s norms. 

Also, before the outsourced email project kicks off, set some rules and expectations around communications. Both teams should avoid country-specific colloquialisms, and flowery language. Everyone should be clear, specific, and to-the-point when talking about project details. All these suggestions apply for both verbal and written communications.

It’s also useful to document all oral agreements (“we will select the template for welcome emails by January 2nd) and queries (“when should we start A/B testing this drip campaign?”), so that everyone is on the same page.

To speed up communications (and avoid an email avalanche), use communication/collaboration tools like Skype, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. Also ensure that all stakeholders are involved in important discussions and decisions, and that such decisions are documented in a central, easily-accessible location.

Challenge #3: The team cannot meet your expectations

A skilled and experienced offshore email marketing team can bring a lot of benefits. For example, you can set up and execute campaigns very quickly. Need to set up a Christmas sales campaign but it’s already November? Or create a lead-generation campaign around a special webinar or newsletter? An offshore team with the right knowledge and tools can help you with both.

This is only one reason why many companies have very high expectations of offshore teams. Do you have expectations around:

  • Quality (high)
  • Timeliness (fast)
  • Communications (clear and unambiguous)
  • Escalations (minimal)
  • Errors (zero)
  • Accountability (maximum)

Some teams could meet and even exceed such expectations, but other teams may not be able to do so.

This doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations in all the above areas. After all, you’re investing in the offshore team’s skills, and you should expect a high ROI from your investment. At the same time, you should keep some things in mind.

Solution

We mentioned earlier how a clear contract is essential to overcome challenges related to project control and decision-making. The contract and SLAs can also go a long way towards setting the right expectations from the start.

It’s also useful to identify certain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to manage the offshore team’s performance, and ensure that they meet your expectations. Here are some KPIs you can add to your agreement with the offshore team:

  • Email deliverability rates
  • Email open and click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rate
  • Inbox placement rate
  • Subscriber engagement over time
  • List growth rate

Keep in mind that the offshore team may not be able to completely control or directly impact all these parameters. However, by identifying relevant KPIs, you can set the right expectations that will guide the offshore team’s performance and execution efforts.

Challenge #4: Securing your intellectual property and data

Data and asset security is a hot topic nowadays. New rules, regulations, and technological developments are changing how companies can collect and use user data in their email marketing programs. Moreover, you may find that all subscribers may not want to share their data with you. This could affect your audience segmentation and content personalization strategies.

To cope with these changes, you must respect users’ private information, implement double opt-ins, establish safe email connections with SPF and DMARC protocols, and remove spammy words from your content.

While all of this is essential to ensure that your email marketing program keeps running without interruptions, it also means that your offshore team will be more involved in the program than you originally thought. You may have to share business or marketing plans, market research or competitor survey results, trade secrets, sensitive data, etc. with them. This may impact the security of your data and intellectual property.

Moreover, if the offshore company doesn’t have strong cybersecurity measures in place, the risk of a data breach is also very high. This may lead to a loss or compromise of your business-critical data, including data that your subscribers – who expect you to protect their privacy – willingly shared with you.

Solution

Once again, a detailed outsourcing contract plays an important role. Include explicit clauses in the contract stating that the offshore email company will protect your IP and data, and the action you will take if it fails to do so.

You should also:

  • Have them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Follow stringent protocols for data use, processing, storage, and sharing
  • Check if they have proper security controls in place to protect your (and your subscribers’) data
  • Ensure that they comply with relevant data protection laws like GDPR, as well as email-specific laws like CAN-SPAM
  • If you are a healthcare company, make sure your offshore team also complies with HIPAA rules

But even before preparing a contract, it’s crucial to perform due diligence on every email marketing vendor you consider. Take your time selecting an offshore team, and ask pointed questions to confirm that they can protect your data and the privacy of your subscribers.

Conclusion

By working with an offshore or outsourced team, you can save valuable time, lower costs, and even achieve a high ROI on your email marketing program. However, offshoring or outsourcing can create some challenges. Luckily, you can overcome these challenges, and make the most of your investment with the strategies highlighted in this article.

If you want to set up or scale up your email marketing program but lack the required resources, consider outsourcing to a dedicated offshore email marketing vendor like Email Uplers

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at kevin.g@uplers.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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