How to Choose a SaaS Vendor for Email Marketing
Software-as-a-Service is the most widely used form of cloud computing, and when it comes to SaaS applications, email marketing is one of the most commonly deployed. Handling your email business in the cloud comes with some unique advantages, including the ability to pay based on your needs and scale resources as your needs change. But with the cloud also comes a unique set of concerns. There are plenty to think about, but most of them are tied to the company you choose to provide those application services. Needless to say, selecting a good vendor is crucial.
Base Feature Selection On Your Requirements
Email marketing solutions are loaded with interesting features, but the best way to capitalize on SaaS is to think about your specific needs. For example, do you simply require basic features like templates, HTML editors, and autoresponders, or do you have more complex requirements such as the need to connect existing systems? In the case of the latter, you will need to find a vendor with API access that allows you to integrate external databases, CRM programs, and other applications.
Look for Cross-Platform Accessibility
Whether you’ve embraced it or not, your workforce is more mobile than ever. Your hardworking employee may start a project on the Windows-based PC in the office, but prefer to pick up where they left off on their Mac OS X system at home. There may also be a need for employees to transfer documents and other files between different systems. You can accommodate this diversity by choosing an SaaS vendor that allows your application to deliver seamless functionality across all operating systems and web browser platforms.
If you’re not going to do it for your workers, then do it for the subscribers you communicate with through email. Your customers and prospects are not sitting by their desktops waiting for your message to arrive. They’re out and about, exploring the digital world on their smartphones and tablets. You need a way to accommodate those with the power to consume your message on a mobile device. That same level access should also be extended to your workforce, so if you want a truly cross-platform solution, demand mobile-friendly functionality from your SaaS provider.
Grasp Clarity of Data Privacy and Ownership
One of the biggest cloud concerns is tied to data and who actually owns; the client, the service provider, or another party. This matter has sparked a lot of controversy, and isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. For example, while you may in fact own some of the data put into the cloud, a good portion of it may actually belong to your customers. When sensitive customer information is involved, you need to take extra special care in who you select to maintain it.
To protect their own hide, many service providers safeguard information in state of the art data centers designed to meet specific compliance standards. That’s good to know, but you should still take the initiative to find out how your data is handled now and in the future. This is critical and could have some major implications should you decide to switch vendors down the road.
Security is a potential concern with any cloud platform, and SaaS environments are no exception. When taking this route, you are essentially putting your operations in the hands of a third-party. How do you know if they will keep those operations and data secure? There is no guaranteeing anything, but you can earn a peace of mind by looking out for security elements such as:
- Cryptographic protocols such as SSH to provide secure remote access
- Encryption of at least128-bit strength to protect data in storage
- Manned facilities, surveillance and other onsite security features
- Regular backups of data to ensure swift recovery
Fine-Tooth Comb Over SLAs
Service level agreements or SLAs are crucial in the SaaS segment. In a nutshell, these agreements define what the service provider is responsible for and at the same time, let you know what to expect. The SLA a vendor lays on the table is something you want to look over closely and carefully before signing your company up. You need to know that you’ll be covered should something go awry and the explanation of how you’re covered should be detailed here. Above all, do the background work that gives you the confidence a vendor will honor their SLAs.
The cloud presents some wonderful opportunities, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Fail to square up the essentials, and you can end up with a disastrous situation on your hands. Be sure to keep these points in mind when browsing the SaaS marketplace for your email marketing needs.
Aidan Hijleh is a freelance copywriter and serves as the Non-Profit Partnership Liaison for Benchmark Email. Aidan advocates free email marketing services to assist with the flourishing of grassroots organisations.