HomeBlog Critical Questions to Ask Your Third-Party Email Marketing Vendor

Critical Questions to Ask Your Third-Party Email Marketing Vendor

August 26, 2013 | By Jen Horton

For b-to-b organizations, third-party email marketing is a viable tactic to extend your reach and generate demand, especially if you have not built up a sizable list of your own. Too many times, however, marketers approach third-party email initiatives as a quick fix to meet lead generation goals. As a result, marketers overlook many key aspects of selecting a third-party email vendor and setting up the terms of the initiative.

Third-party email marketing is simply the rental of a third-party opt-in email list. Most commonly, a content publisher that has built up its own subscription lists offers subscribers the option of receiving emails from partners or signing up for special offers from advertisers. This opt-in typically is captured during subscription set-up or through a preferences center.

For b-to-b organizations, third-party email marketing is a viable tactic to extend your reach and generate demand, especially if you have not built up a sizable list of your own. Too many times, however, I see marketers approaching third-party email initiatives as a quick fix to meet lead generation goals.

As a result, marketers overlook many key aspects of selecting a third-party email vendor and setting up the terms of the initiative. Your brand and reputation are at stake, so select third-party email providers as carefully as any partner you would evaluate to do business with.

Ultimately, success is determined by how well you know your vendor and its data quality. All best practices around frequency, relevance, segmentation and permissions for your internal email lists still apply to your partners’ email distribution list assets.

Understand data quality of the list. Be sure you have clarity on the following questions for any email senders that you choose to do business with. The answers to these questions should align with your email reputation standards for internal email list assets:

  • What are the data sources? What is the average age of the records in the database?
  • What is the process for email opt-in? Are opt-ins indeed confirmed opt-ins? How does the vendor verify and maintain opt-in status over time?
  • What does usage look like? How frequently are these opt-ins communicated to? With what types of messages?
  • How does the vendor monitor and remove complaints? What is its preferences management process?
  • What are the vendor’s segmentation capabilities?

Set up terms for success. Build in flexibility with new vendors and hold the vendor accountable for delivery rates, quality of audience and other terms. Get answers to the following questions:

  • Who will the communication be from? What IP address will it be sent from? What is its sender reputation and deliverability rate?
  • What are the process and expectations for unsubscribes?
  • Can you test and review the communication prior to distribution to the list?
  • Can you test a small portion of the list before committing to a larger send?
  • Can you build vendor accountability terms (e.g. delivery rate) into the contract/money-back guarantees?

Typically, email engagement with third-party lists is about half as strong (if not less) as engagement with your internal email house lists, as the audience regularly receives a wide range of offers. Of course, the more targeted and relevant the offer, the better your response will be. Be sure to set up tracking so that you can compare demand creation performance of your third-party email lists against the performance of other demand creation tactics and investments.

Remember, email subscribers on third-party lists are interacting with your brand, even if the message comes from a third-party publisher. Also, consider that email subscribers on the list rental may also subscribe to your own email communications. All fundamentals of email marketing and sender reputation still apply, so be sure to select vendors that align to your email marketing and privacy standards, and establish terms that set up your initiative for success.

Jen Horton

Jen is a marketing executive with more than 15 years of experience in high-growth b-to-b organizations. An early adopter of marketing automation technology and closed-loop lead management processes, she is passionate about sales and marketing process improvement, sales and marketing effectiveness measurement, demand generation strategy and execution, product and solution marketing, sales enablement and customer experience marketing. Follow Jen on Twitter @jenhorton

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