Email Marketing: Self-Hosted vs Cloud-Hosted?

How many emails have you read today? More importantly, how many have you sent out to your customers and prospects?

These days, email is a fundamental part of our marketing strategy (across all our businesses and projects) and often represents the only communication channel for members, customers and clients. It’s something I highly recommend as part of a solid strategy to increase the “Transactions per Customer” when you’re working on the 7 Levers of your business, and will support your organisation in increasing profit, enhancing customer marketing and streamlining your administration.

This is just some of the customer engagement we receive daily off the back of an auto-responder series aligned with one of our eCommerence business units:


This is why it’s critical that you consider the different options available to you as a business, to get the lowdown on the different solutions available for hosting and delivery, and to make savvy choices about how you optimise your email capabilities to support enhanced communication and, more importantly, increased profit.

At Preneur Group, we’ve been looking into the different options for streamlining our email marketing, and weighing up the pros and cons of choosing a self-hosted solution over more traditional options such as cloud-hosted email marketing and autoresponder software.

We’ve used Aweber and MailChimp for a while now and, although they’ve been fantastic solutions for us, we wanted to see if we could adopt a different strategy and bring all of our different platforms under one mail solution. We’ve researched the options available internally and decided to record and share our journey with you.

The decision to analyse our email marketing was made for a number of reasons. Obviously, cost and efficiency rank pretty highly on our list of attributes. But there are other reasons for making the analysis of email platforms a key part of our business strategy.

Put simply, if an email you send to a prospect or customer doesn’t arrive in their inbox, you risk losing the ‘customer lifetime value’. Emails that bounce back, are blocked, or returned as undeliverable can have a significant negative impact on your business + it’s revenues..

Remember, your email system is the backbone of all of your client engagements. It’s essential that you maximise the “Click Thru Rate”, engagement and overall effectiveness of your communications. Having a sound and reliable platform for email communication isn’t just about knowing that your emails are being delivered as they should; it’s having the ability to really manage the effectiveness of that email once it’s been delivered.

Imagine that a customer orders a product from you and the confirmation and details never arrive. Or you spend three days crafting great promotional copy for your new product and your prospect never gets to see it. What if an ISP blocks a gateway or blacklists your organisation as a result of issues with delivery? Or your email reputation gets damaged as a result of poor delivery mechanisms? It’s estimated that 20% of all emails never reach their destination. Potentially, this means that one in five of your customers is going to end up dissatisfied with your communications and service.

These are some of the reasons why we want to share our findings with you and support you in choosing the best possible solution for your business. We captured our journey in a bunch of internal emails, memos and whiteboard scratchings, and had them cleaned up into a series of articles to help you get the most out of your email marketing.

We’ve done a lot of research, tried out different platforms and compared the various cloud-hosted and self-hosted options to find the best in the business. It’s been a fascinating experience!

So across the series of posts below, we’ve be published the full 13,297-word internal report:

  • Pete Williams

    I’d love to know what email solution people in the Preneur Community are using: Aweber, MialChimp, OntraPort etc etc

    Let us know here.

  • stevemaughan

    Great topic! Looking forward to the updates. I’m currently using AWeber

    • Pete Williams

      Thanks Steve.

      We got a couple of comparison tables to get sorted/designed and we’ll have the next post in the series up in a few days.

      p.s . Thanks for leaving a comment. We’ve just loaded up a new theme and comment tool to the site as well.

  • Pingback: What Is Cloud-Based Autoresponder Email Marketing? | Preneur Marketing Blog()

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  • Pingback: Self-Hosted vs Cloud-Hosted – Conclusion and Summary | Preneur Marketing Blog()

  • Pingback: Self-Hosted or Cloud-Hosted - Appendix | Preneur Marketing Blog()

  • vivek

    i am not familiar with all , could you possible to tell me how to start with

    • Pete Williams


      I’m not sure what you are trying to ask; as the entire series of blog posts are here to help you understand the different options and which would work best for you.

      I suggest you read all the posts and then let me know if there are still gaps for you.


  • Gareth Everson

    Hi Pete – there has clearly been months of research go into this piece of work by you and the Preneur team. It is a fantastic resource.

    So, as you know, I’m not only an Infusionsoft user and customer, but also one of Infusionsoft’s own Certified Consultants….this gives me a little bit of a bias, but I do see A LOT of email and CRM systems in my work with customers to enable me to form a good independent view as well 🙂 I’ll try and take the time to comment separately on some of the separate posts, but just wanted to commend you on this main page for the thoroughness of what you’re putting out here…

    On the outputs of your recommendations, I’ve spent some time playing with the Interspire live demo and training videos and have to say that it looks nailed on for the email marketing side of things (and I agree with a lot of the conclusions you’ve drawn).

    I think you’ve absolutely nailed this for an audience that is focused on *email-driven* marketing. I don’t quite agree with *all* your conclusions (as if you’d expect me to anyway!!!). I don’t fully agree that self-hosted has the edge security-wise. I also think this misses the boat a little where a business is looking for a step-up from just ’email marketing’ to ‘true’ CRM as they grow – things like integrated sales tracking, lifetime customer value measurement, marketing ROI reporting, multi-step segmentation (also called “conditional” or “rules-based” segmentation), contact interest tagging, and on the integration and automation of the sending of direct mail and text messaging etc. Where you’ve concluded with recommendations for the ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Expert’ marketer groupings, I wonder if those groups don’t *just* need email marketing alone? I say this because most of my leads into Infusionsoft come from email marketers taking a step up from Aweber, Mailchimp or ConstantContact to a more complete small business solution, or where they are taking a ‘step-down’ in terms of complexity and cost from Salesforce CRM or its ilk. But those comments aside, I love the thoroughness, the methodology and the strategy of this series.

    The above points aside, I’m not going to dispute you on the pure ROI argument of self-hosted vs. cloud hosted email marketing. Self-hosting – via Interspire and SendGrid – looks like a genuine player for businesses that don’t quite need or value all the services that I’ve referred to earlier. Where customers are looking for a great partial-solution, I’ll drop your research into my recommendations toolkit for those looking at the email marketing side of things as their primary focus… and I’ll be sure to refer them to this series.

    Great work.

    • Pete Williams

      Great points Gareth.

      Yeah, when it comes to a complete CRM solution, Infusionsoft is hard to beat … and wasn’t what this series was about.

      Having said that, if someone is interested in jumping up to something like Infusionsoft,what’s the best way someone can reach you to help with implementation ?


      • Gareth Everson

        Pete, you’re a community-spirited gent!

        Yeah, you’re right, Infusionsoft’s not really what the series is about, so I get that it’s not the right one to make the shout about in your conclusions and recommendations…

        But if anybody from the community wants to bounce Infusionsoft ideas or questions around, then they can either leave a voicemail on my site or their email details at this page:

  • Mike

    Hi Pete,

    When the student is ready, so the teacher appears ! 😉

    Thank you very much for the guide, it has come at just the right time as I was starting to get fed-up with the limitations of the tool I use, and thinking of assessing alternatives. Funnily enough I actually use Interspire self-hosted for the reasons you laid out in your great guide below, so this was a nice surprise when I got to that section in your guide, and has also prompted me to write this comment.

    There are some of the limitations of Interspire (I am using version 6.0.2.) that are making me question it:

    * If I edit an autoresponder message, and save it, it appears that those contacts previously queued up to receive it don’t get the new updated version ? I do a lot of testing and improving but this limitation is really holding me back from updating autoresponder messages that I know need it.

    * There is no functionality to automatically capitalise the First Name (as many people signup and use all lowercase for their first name and / or last name.)

    * I can’t add a contact to an autoresponder sequence manually, ie go into their contact record and add them to an autoresponder series.

    * I can’t send out autoresponder emails any sooner than under an hour after subscribing. I don’t wish to send it immediately, I wish to send the message 15 minutes later.

    * There are very few trigger-based rules for autoresponders.

    * To reorder autoresponder messages, requires going into every single message and changing the timing. What would be great would be a drag and drop functionality, or be able to update the message timing for all messages from one screen.

    * There is no tagging of a contact with their geographic location.

    I know you are not Interspire support, but I am just wondering if you encountered the same limitations and have any workarounds for them ?

    Any help would be much appreciated. If this requires paying for a consultation, absolutely. If you could recommend an Interspire developer who could work up these enhancements that would be fantastic too.

    Many thanks,

    • Pete Williams

      Hey Mike…

      Thanks for being a superstar! Great to hear you’re already a few steps ahead on the self hosted email marketing thing.

      Let me address your points from our perspective, but please note we are using 6.1.3 which does have some bug fixes as outlined :

      1. I personally haven’t experienced the issues with the editing of existing autoresponder messages, are you ensuring you are selecting ‘send to existing contacts’ when you are making the changes? {see image}

      2. Correct – you can get a developer to create a plugin type thing to fix that issue. (We’re actually going to release a small extension pack in about a week which will have a few of the customisation things we’ve done to IEM, which you can install. It doesn’t actually include this fix due to our test results mentioned )

      3. You should absolutely be able to add a contact manually to an autoresponder series… But you have to understand that each contact in a list in unique, so if they are already subscribed to List A.. and you want them in List B you need to select ‘Add Contact’ under the ‘Contacts’ menu item, select the List you want to add them to, and then simply add their details. YES, this will technically create a duplicate record in your database, but it’s how IEM works, even if they opt-in in them seleves.

      4. Sending emails 15mins has never been an issue for us, so never realised that limitation. Can you give me some context on when/how you would need this feature ?

      5. Part of the extension pack mentioned above fixes some of these autoresponder trigger issues; mainly “unsubscribe-on-subscribe.” {similar to }

      6. Fair point; but it is what it is.

      7. Not by default, but I do believe I saw an extension somewhere online that can do this.

      So Mike – keep an eye out for a post that’s coming up min next week with our Interspire Email Marketer Extension Pack 1.01. We invested a lot to get a few ‘preneur stye’ marketing tweaks made to IEM, and thought we could offset the cost be re-selling them here. but don’t worry it’s going to be super cheap.

      Also, if you are interested in getting some of these other changes done, we could look at splitting the costs together, as long as you don’t mind us reselling the changes in a 2.0 pack one day.

      Hope this helps!


Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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