If you have a techie in your business or an IT team, the idea of building your own email marketing tool may have crossed your mind.   If someone has the skills why not?  This was the question an observer at our recent DMA Email Council meeting asked.  She came to ask our members for advice on this tricky decision she’s faced with – should she let her IT team develop their own email solution or should they use an email service provider (ESP)?

Cue sharp intakes of breath from around the room. It’s fair to say the majority of the council members would automatically vote for the ESP route (disclaimer – yes, a lot of our members are ESP’s) however it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each option before you make your decision.


So, it’s a done deal right?
Don’t get me wrong there are some benefits to building internally. Nothing beats a completely bespoke tool which has been built to your exact requirements and needs. Plus, no one is going to shun the idea of cost savings on your budget are they. But are these true savings? Consider how long it may take an internal developer to research email tools, understand, code, test, refine and then release.  I guarantee it will take at least 30-40% longer than they first estimate. Maybe even 50% longer. That person’s time has a cost against it, they’re not free. It’s just an internal cost rather than an external cost.

One last benefit of using an ESP is that their tool and technology is the crux of their success so you’ll benefit from every improvement or tweak they make to the system while you’re a customer. Some of these updates may incur a cost but the majority will be free. Most ESP’s also have additional resources behind the scenes which you can make use of; such as deliverability support, training and campaign resources should you hit a peak in your workload and need extra hands on deck.


Imagine the scenario
Your IT team tell you they can build an email delivery solution and if you use them you’ll save a fortune on your marketing budget.  Win-win right?  Not quite.  While using an internal team to build your email tool will save on external costs, the actual build side of the project which enables emails to be sent out is only a small fraction of what needs to happen to make the tool and your email marketing campaigns a success.

Email marketing isn’t just about getting emails to leave your servers, it’s much more complex than it may first appear. It’s about having campaigns that render well, reliable feeds to and from various databases and tools within the business, automation/programs, sound reporting and finally good deliverability.  Can your team build these features as well?

If the answer is yes, that’s great.  But bear in mind the rules behind what’s been built will change in three months or six months’ time, and you’ll get little or no notice of what’s about to change.  Ask yourself if your team can drop what they are working on right now and switch their attention to fix a new rendering issue in Gmail which is breaking your cart abandonment template? If you need to re-submit a business case or plead/bribe the senior project trafficker to get resource, an internal build may not be for you.


Persuasion and influence
So, you’ve decided you want to work with an ESP but your IT team are still insistent they are the better option.  How can you tackle this? The councils’ suggestions were to ask the project lead for a SOW (Statement of Work) which details their proposal, timelines and any projected costs (i.e. new email server). Then compare this against the features and functions of any mainstream ESP to highlight what might be missing. You could even invite your IT contact to watch a demo with you and allow them to see for themselves what’s included in a good ESP. Either way, getting them involved rather than shutting them out of the decision making process seemed to be the best advice.