Monday, March 12, 2007

Email Marketing: Microsoft becoming an EMSP?

Microsoft Outlook 2007 has a new feature called business contact manager, that among other things, allows you to send and track email marketing campaigns.

The obvious question for me, as the founder of an email marketing service, is will this enable users to do their own email marketing without using an outside EMSP (Email Marketing Service Provider)?

At closer inspection it appears to be a good solutions for salespeople sending small group messages to their clients, but is not something that a marketing department would want to be using, or even a small business managing their entire customer list.

In the demo section about email tracking it shows only unsubscribed, bounce or delivered. There is no display of open, click, or forward. On the specifications page, it says that tracking requires a separate subscription to the listbuilder service. I am currently not aware of whether the list builder service is required to handle the unsubscribes and delivery tracking, whether it adds the open and click tracking, or whether tracking opens and clicks are even possible.

To get the basic email marketing features, you require Office Small Business 2007 or Office Professional 2007, not Office Standard 2007. Small business will run you $395 and 425 USD respectively at

There is no mention of cost of the list builder subscription, and list builder stopped taking signups as of November 15th, 2006.

You may also need exchange server 2007. Here's what they do together.

Bandwidth and Processing Power
As soon as you start sending tens of thousands emails you are still going to run into the bandwidth and server processing issues that email marketing service providers take away for you. Many of our customers started with an in-house solution for marketing and moved away from it to use an outsourced EMSP because their in-house servers could not take the load. Once an email campaign went out, their server slowed to the point where office staff could no longer send and receive emails at an acceptable speed.

Graphical emails will be created using the new Microsoft Word 2007 rendering engine, which I have previously posted about. Presumably this will render fine in other Outlook 2007 clients, but how the emails will look in webmail clients like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo, and in other popular mail clients like Mozilla Thunderbird is your guess against mine.

Images have to be added as attachments, since there is apparently no way to edit the source code to add an image that is hosted on an outside server. This is going to be a certain flag for spam filters reducing the deliverability of messages. Another problem with sending images as attachments is that the file size of each message will increase enormously. Multiply this by thousands of messages and the bandwidth and processing problems I mentioned previously are that much worse. Both the sending of the messages, and the receiving on the other end will take far longer.

Not a solution for Marketing
Forbes magazine recently published a article on the Outlook bulk email solution, and said:

From an e-mail marketing perspective, Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager effectively solves yesterday's challenge: How to create and send bulk e-mails.

But today's e-mail marketing challenge encompasses much more: Cutting through the clutter, crafting a legal and effective message, managing subscribe and unsubscribe requests and tracking statistics.

Sending mass emails also requires ensuring that messages look like they should across a wide variety of platforms, which should still be left to professionals that know HTML and the idiosyncrasies of each platform.

You can find another opinion on the Outlook Solution from the folks at email-marketing-reports.

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