An Inside Look at the Pros and Cons of Using Agencies for Email Marketing

Your marketing agency is great at a lot of things, but coding emails isn’t one of them.

Many enterprise email teams lean on outside agencies to create email campaigns. On the surface, this makes a lot of sense. Trading money for scale and expertise helps you get more done. However, many brands are starting to re-assess whether leveraging agencies for email marketing is the best route to take.

Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons to help you navigate your agency relationships.

The advantages of working with an agency

Image by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Your email marketing team has a lot on its plate. Distributed teams require constant emails, which must abide by brand standards for different departments, product lines, and affiliated brands. Outsourcing specific campaigns or select parts of the email creation process helps move things along—it lightens your workload and helps bring emails to fruition without getting your hands (too) dirty.

And at a high level, of course, agencies are strategic experts. They’ve been doing it for a long time, and this is where they really shine.

They understand (and can plan) how email fits into your holistic marketing blueprint and can advise on new trends and creative approaches. They can break down each campaign’s tactic, whether it’s product-focused outreach or more sophisticated newsletters.

If you appreciate smart opinions or want some backup, it makes sense to bring in a strategic partner. A full-service model gives you access to creative, strategy, competitive intelligence, management, production, and analytics. This can be key if you’re trying to re-brand or plan something complex.

Also, consider work quality. Top agencies are often the masterminds behind the most well-known brand campaigns, and their designers, developers, and copywriters produce top-tier work. Depending on what level of detail you need, agencies will tap in-house talent or a network of freelancers.

The disadvantages of working with an agency

Image by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

Despite these advantages, there are definitely some negatives to tying your email generation to an agency. Take into account these common challenges:

1. Turnaround time is sluggish

Today’s email marketing landscape demands an agile marketing plan with consistent emails and the ability to produce new ones quickly, in response to changing demands and current events. However, working with an agency often doesn’t optimize your production—speed is not a hallmark of these relationships. They usually hand code emails, and will have previously negotiated turnaround times that are slower than the speed of business.

In part, this is because they need to protect themselves. Complex processes safeguard against last-minute client requests and allow agencies to better manage their bandwidth. While it’s understandable, it translates to slower-than-ideal email generation and unnecessary delays.

2. Intermediaries handle creative communication

With an in-house marketer or team, you can speak directly to the people who are creating and coding your emails. That makes it easy to have a conversation and resolve problems promptly.

With an agency, your main point of contact is an account manager who’s focused on customer service. They’re translating your tasks to designers, developers, and other talent. You’re always at least one layer away from the people putting your vision into the market, opening yourself up to misinterpretation.

3. Agency focus is divided

An agency partner can be one of your most important marketing resources. If they’re focusing primarily on execution, they won’t have the bandwidth to analyze where they can add the most value for your business.

An agency that’s asked to lead both high-level strategy and email generation is going to be prioritizing them equally, when laser focus on the big picture would ultimately yield the best results for your business.

4. Hand coding isn’t their area of expertise

How many agencies do you know that tout flawless email coding as a main value prop? Probably not many—most agencies don’t specialize in the creation itself, so their teams may be a step behind in terms of best practices and the latest techniques.

5. Costs add up—fast

With limited marketing budgets in mind, many brands are asking whether email generation (namely hand coding and testing) is the best use of agency time and effort. Shouldn’t those dollars be focused on optimizing campaign plans and other high-value work?

6. Mistakes still happen

Even with truly reputable agencies, everyone’s human.

Agency email generation processes rely on people to code, test, and design. Quality assurance testing is only as reliable as the people executing it. Despite the price tag, your emails may have issues displaying on mobile devices, rendering for certain email platforms, or contain incorrect link information.

As more and more brands are looking at external partners for email generation, it’s critical to evaluate the best way to execute your marketing plans and navigate your agency relationship.

Ask yourself, “What’s the best use of my agency’s time, and worth the most value for my marketing budget?” Then, consider where you can find tech and process solutions for more traditionally manual work, such as coding.

stensul allows nontechnical marketers to create perfect, on-brand, responsive HTML emails in minutes, without the need for QA or a developer. stensul is ESP agnostic, and pushes over the finished HTML via API with one click. Chat to us today to discover how companies like Grubhub, YouTube, and Lyft leverage stensul to cut email generation timelines and costs by up to 90%.