Email Marketing Insights
September 24, 2012 | David Atlas
Here's an article I wrote for eM+C:
Marketers have an interesting relationship with technology. Without a doubt, new tools provide marketers with sophisticated analytical and communications capabilities unparalleled by any previous generation of marketers. Indeed, consumers today are findable, understandable and convertible through media that exist purely as developments atop technology. Yesteryear's network of connected computers becomes today's web of email inboxes, mobile connections and social channels.
Yet marketers aren't IT customers. They want to use tools, but the tools need to be designed in a way that's powerful and accessible. Just like automotive technology, which is usable by vastly more people than are able to understand it, marketers today need to leverage deeply complex technologies without drowning in the details of their operations. They want to drive systems that maximize customer lifetime value without having to become computer programmers.
One of the key enablers of all this automation is the cloud. Cloud technologies — known by the roughly synonymous terms of Software as a Services (SaaS), on-demand software and hosted systems — mean that the software used to accomplish critical digital marketing campaigns isn't purchased by a customer and installed on premise. Cloud-based technologies run "out there." You simply open a broswer, log in with your account credentials and get to work.
Having an email marketing and cross-channel solution that lives in the cloud means never having to install your own software — i.e., getting IT out of the picture. It also means, typically, a much quicker time to be up and running, a much greater level of automation, and vastly lower overhead in terms of the technical resources — and dollars — needed to support them. Cloud-based solutions can be a huge advantage, and there's little doubt why the market has moved so much in that direction.
Not all clouds, however, are the same. While clouds have their definite benefits, one of their limitations, at least in terms of automated marketing solutions, is that the actual resource is commonly shared among many different users. Think of it like the difference between a restaurant and your home kitchen: it's easier to get a meal in a restaurant — so much more is "automated" for you and all you have to do is walk in and order. However, just like the cloud, you lose something important: individual ownership.
One of the advantages of good old-fashioned software that you install in-house is that you have full and unfettered use of that resource. You want a sandwich at three in the morning? The restaurant may be closed, but your kitchen is always there waiting for you. Can't get a table at the popular restaurant down the block? Your own dining room table is there waiting for you.
Technically referred to as "multitenant" solutions, most cloud-based implementations today lump hundreds of brand and direct marketers onto what's effectively a single system. The resource out there in the cloud is shared. Yes, you've gotten IT out of the picture and found a level of automation you didn't have before, but you may discover during peak times that accessing all of that resource is difficult. While you may be willing to wait 45 minutes for a table at a restaurant, having your email marketing campaign delayed by other clients using the system has a real bottom-line cost. Flash commerce, daily-deal sites and others trying to get messages delivered during specific times of day that have proven optimal for conversion can be severely compromised due to the shared nature of most cloud services.
Enter the private cloud. Private clouds effectively give you the best of both worlds: the convenience of a hosted solution and the dedicated resources of an always-on system that's configured just for you. Imagine owning your own restaurant, staffed by professional chefs and the best waiters, but the only one they serve is you — whenever you want, however much you want.
The private cloud means no latency for large email sends. Many customers discover the need to achieve huge sends during small time windows to maximize revenue; with a private cloud, you have full use of the resource, enabling you to send as many messages as you want, as quickly as you want. The kitchen, so to speak, isn't busy serving other customers; everything is there for you alone.
The pricing model for private cloud email services also can be different, enabling both a lower total cost of ownership and the elimination of self-serving incentives that arise through per-message (CPM) charges. With a multitenant or first-generation cloud solution, you typically pay for the capacity you use, as opposed to purchasing a license for the software that you install in-house. This sounds good, until you realize that each and every message you send increases your charges. Want to send more emails during peak seasons? You better budget more. And be prepared to be sold on the virtues of sending more and more by sales reps trying to upsell you on your usage of the public cloud. It's not uncommon for clients of pubic cloud email service providers to systematically send 20 percent more email every year — whether their growth demands it or not.
With a private cloud, you're not paying per item ordered off the menu. Since you're effectively purchasing the system with a software license (albeit one without the IT overhead of installed software), once you own it, you can send as much email, or as little, as you need to maximize the value of your customer relationships.
Private clouds may be the next generation in cloud-based solutions. When it's time for you to evaluate your marketing services vendors, ask around. You may find that when it comes to clouds, its best to own your own and not share.
Posted by: David Atlas at 8:58 AM
April 29, 2009 | Kristin Hersant
Technology types have been talking about "the cloud" for quite some time, but the term has gone mainstream in recent months. The problem is that not everyone has the same definition or understanding of what it means. A recent Wall Street Journal article emphasizes the confusion with a quote from Oracle's Larry Ellison, "I have no idea what anyone is talking about. It's really just complete gibberish."
While Larry was aiming for high drama, the ambiguity surrounding the term is caused in large part by a rush of companies co-opting the term "cloud" to apply to a very general definition that encompasses any system that processes and serves up information from a separate location. Defined broadly in this way, the Internet is in the Cloud, as is any type of Software as a Service (SaaS) arrangement. However, the current buzz isn't around either of these topics (companies like Salesforce.com have been doing SaaS for years), it's around "Cloud Computing."
Companies with enormous computing infrastructures (e.g. Amazon.com) have begun allowing other businesses to utilize these systems for their own computing needs, which introduces a new and flexible model for deploying technology. Using virtualization technology, these cloud computing providers enable any company to provision a piece of their IT infrastructure and immediately deploy technology in an extremely reliable, flexible and infinitely scalable environment.
In the world of email marketing, that means that companies can now migrate from an expensive and inflexible email service provider to a dedicated email marketing application that they own, and that runs in the cloud. As a result, companies get a powerful, future-proof solution that combines the cost benefits of a software solution with the ease of ownership of a SaaS solution.
In addition to enabling technology ownership without any onsite IT resources, cloud computing by design offers a scalable environment that you can expand or contract as your business needs dictate. This flexibility gives you the power to only pay for what you need at any given point of time.
StrongMail is proud to be the first and only email marketing solutions provider to offer its software via a licensed model in the cloud. Unlike traditional ESPs, StrongMail offers dedicated email marketing solutions that are perfectly suited to take advantage of cloud computing. For maximum flexibility, StrongMail can be deployed fully in the cloud or een "split" so that sensitive data is kept behind the firewall while email delivery and management takes advantage of the full resources of cloud computing. In fact, in 2008, Gartner Research predicted that "The use of on-premise technology in conjunction with cloud-based technologies and platforms will extend what is possible using the cloud," and that's exactly what StrongMail has done.
Whether you take advantage of cloud computing for email marketing or any other application, this new model gives companies a compelling way to leverage technology in a way that's best for their business. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of applying cloud computing to email marketing, please contact us at (650) 421-4255.