LISTSERV (R) at Work - Winter 2002 IssueL-Soft
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How to Choose the Right E-Mail Marketing Solution

By 2006, more than $6.8 billion will be spent on e-mail marketing solutions. As the industry continues to grow, more and more vendors will offer products and services to satisfy the demand. But, as we have seen during the last few years, technology companies can disappear just as quickly as they enter the arena. How then can you be certain that your investment in e-mail marketing software and services will be sound? Here are a few key questions to answer before you decide to purchase an e-mail marketing solution:

1. Will the Software Scale as My Needs Increase?
Most likely, one goal of your e-mail marketing agenda will be to grow your list and perhaps create additional lists. If you purchase an e-mail list management solution and maintain a single mailing list with 1,000 subscribers, the product may not have the capability to function when your success dictates that you run five lists with 10,000 subscribers each. Set realistic expectations for where your e-mail marketing operation will be in one to two years from when you make the initial purchase, and determine whether the product will have the ability to handle the additional workload. Keep in mind that some software products can be bought in parts and increased in capacity over time.

2. Can the Software Be Integrated with Other Key Applications?
Imagine spending thousands of dollars on an e-mail marketing solution only to find that it will not work in conjunction with your database or other key applications. If you have previously invested heavily in customer database capabilities, finding an e-mail marketing software that seamlessly integrates with your database will save time and money.

3. Does the Vendor Offer Evaluation Kits?
Savvy IT professionals will evaluate a product before recommending an investment by testing a product on a trial basis. Take advantage of the opportunity to evaluate e-mail marketing software before purchasing to ensure that it performs as advertised.

4. How Quickly Will I Be Up and Running?
Installing any new technology product should be as painless a process as possible. Often, businesses cannot afford to tie up resources for extended periods of time during installation procedures. Have your organization's technical staff review the product's installation manuals to determine how much time and resources will be required to install the software or find out if the company offers installation/configuration services.

5. Will the Vendor Be There for Me after Purchase?
E-mail marketing software is sophisticated, and often marketers find that they are not taking full advantage of every feature. Extended training courses may be necessary to ensure that your organization is getting the most out of its investment. Also inquire about the vendor's support policies, which should cover any technical difficulties you may encounter.

6. Does the Vendor Offer Both Licensing and Hosting Services?
Marketers often want to outsource their e-mail marketing needs to companies that offer such services before bringing operations in house. Outsourcing is a sound temporary solution, especially for small companies that may not have the hardware, personnel or capital to license software initially. This arrangement also provides a trial period for marketers to determine if the software is worthy of licensing, which is typically a more cost-effective solution in the long run.

7. Am I Getting My Money's Worth?
E-mail marketing software and services are some of the most cost-effective solutions your company will invest in. However, vendors vary greatly in price and the features they offer. Have a clear idea of what features and functions you demand, and evaluate many different products. Also determine whether licensing or outsourcing makes business sense for your company.

This advice was taken from the L-Soft white paper titled "Successful E-Mail Marketing Practices." A complete copy of the white paper is available in PDF format.

Copyright 2002 L-Soft