Whether they’ve realized it or not, enterprise marketers have had limited options for years when it comes to email marketing solutions:
- Option A: Commercial email service providers (ESPs). These essentially come in two flavors — Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or on-premises. Obviously, SaaS dominates in this industry, with many vendors rebranding in recent years as “marketing clouds.” Traditional on-premises solutions are hard to find nowadays but still exist.
- Option B: Custom in-house solutions. Many companies, particularly larger senders, have developed their own custom email marketing solution in house for a variety of reasons. These businesses then typically utilize a cloud-based email delivery solution to get messages out the door.
Many larger brands are beginning to hear about a third option (Option C): hybrid. Adopters of true hybrid email marketing model are realizing the benefits, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular contender in the stale SaaS vs. on-premises vs. custom-build debate.
But some are still unfamiliar with what hybrid is, and are skeptical of the benefits it can pose. So here is how we view it:
1. What is hybrid email marketing?
The word “hybrid” means different things to different people, but in this case, a true hybrid email marketing solution has two components that seamlessly work together: a user interface that sits behind a company’s firewall and lives where their customer data already lives, and a cloud delivery system that quickly and efficiently gets marketing messages assembled and delivered.
2. What does that mean for me as a marketer?
The end result is a complete marketing tool that sits directly on top of your internal database, allowing brands to maintain full control over their data at all times while still utilizing the power of the cloud for sending emails and other marketing messages. This type of solution eliminates painful and complex integrations. There’s no data duplication, mapping, and synchronization needed. No data lag or trouble adding new fields to a campaign. The outcome is true real-time access (not “near” real time) to any and all customer data.
3. How is this different from other ESPs and Marketing Clouds?
It isn’t hard to understand why most marketers choose cloud-based solutions like marketing clouds or other major ESPs. SaaS platforms provide a complete suite of campaign management tools, allow for rapid innovation, and keep costs in check vs. old on-premises systems by allowing marketers to utilize their back-end delivery architecture. New partner integrations, acquisitions, and front-end UI improvements open a world of possibilities for marketers.
A hybrid model provides all those benefits and is indistinguishable from a SaaS solution with regard to user experience and handling of message delivery. Where hybrid truly sets itself apart is with data management. Hybrid solutions eliminate the database replication (data mapping and syncing) component of the SaaS model and its associated inefficiencies.
So instead of requiring marketers to push customer data to the cloud, the hybrid solution plugs directly into a company’s existing database — behind the firewall. Most organizations have already invested time and money on a centralized data warehouse. So why would they want to spend additional time and money to copy a small amount of that, map to another database in the cloud, and keep it in sync just so they can communicate with their customers? This simply doesn’t work for the biggest email senders.
4. Is this just a new name for “on-premises?”
No. First, there’s no new hardware to install in a rack. Second, and most importantly, the message rendering and delivery all happens in the cloud, not on premises. And while many people may initially think that I.T. would have to be way more involved with a hybrid ESP, the technology investment required to install and maintain a hybrid email marketing solution is minimal. Companies also greatly reduce ongoing involvement from I.T. One of MessageGears’ largest customers saw 50% less I.T. involvement in email marketing-related activities after implementing the hybrid solution.
The hybrid email marketing model frees I.T. resources from the hassle of data replication protocols and synchronization processes. Instead of writing APIs and performing ETL processes, I.T. is tasked up front with simply exposing fields for marketers to utilize. Going forward, they only have to maintain their internal databases (like they’d be doing already). Without complicated integrations to constantly monitor and maintain, they’re free to work on projects that actually move the business forward.
If all of that went way over your head, let me put it a different way: this solution allows the marketing team to manage their data autonomously from their ESP, meaning they can add additional data fields without needing to work with the provider. Many email marketers know the traditional pain of having to add new data fields to a program. It involves working with I.T., working with the ESP, tickets and change orders going back and forth, etc. Days, maybe weeks. Because the hybrid solution sits on top of the internal database, there’s no waiting. The data is there already. All of it.
5. How does this help my marketing program?
Hybrid ESPs like MessageGears are best suited for B2C organizations that send high volumes of email. These businesses are currently best positioned to fully realize the benefits of hybrid, which include:
- Data Completeness — On-boarding with any cloud ESP requires the marketer to pick the data fields they want to import or sync. And that limits the available data throughout the entire relationship. By sitting directly on an existing database, the hybrid solution allow marketers to utilize any data field they have available. Then, they make necessary changes as their business needs evolve.
- Data Freshness — As soon as data is replicated and sent to a cloud solution, it is out of date. It takes time for changes in one database to be reflected in a duplicate one. The hybrid approach eliminates this lag time because marketers are accessing their freshest, most up-to-date data source. This also prevents data silos that keeps companies from integrating information across multiple locations and providing everyone in their organization with a unified, global view of each customer.
- Security — Internal data is a precious asset, and customers have entrusted companies (sometimes unknowingly) with their personal information. Companies can’t afford to be the next victim of a data breach that causes their customers to look to a competitor they can trust. When companies have to copy and send their data back and forth to a marketing cloud, it’s vulnerable to attack. Hybrid allows you to keep all your customer data under your control until it’s ready for rendering and sending. That allows you to maintain the security your customers demand.
- Agility — When you’re an enterprise marketer, the one thing you know isn’t an option is staying static. You have to be able to adjust to new technology, or add new features to stay ahead of your competition. Hybrid gives you full control to make the changes you need in real time, at the speed your business moves, saving you the time of going back and forth with your ESP and I.T. teams. This lets you better utilize your resources so your marketing and I.T. teams can concentrate on making your business successful, while your hybrid ESP keeps your email campaigns moving.
A new debate
So, what is hybrid email marketing? Hopefully, the answer is more clear now. The advantages of hybrid are real, and many enterprise-level companies are seeing the results from switching to a true hybrid solution like MessageGears. Marketers and industry insiders across a wide spectrum of industries are beginning to recognize the power that a hybrid program offers. Marketers who are managing large amounts of data now have something new to debate: SaaS, on-premises, or hybrid?