If you are looking for a new email marketing or Automation solution, there are many choices available. A few systems are “open source”, just like in CMS or eCommerce open source MarTech is getting quite popular. Why should you choose (or not) to go for the open-source email marketing and automation? We lay out the questions you might have and what to consider.
What is open source marketing automation software?
Before we go into the specific, it is good to know what open source means exactly.
An Open source software project, is the development of software where anyone can access the source code for free. You can look at the code, host it by itself, or integrate it into another application. You can even develop extra functionality, depending on what you need.
Open source Marketing Automation software is very much like other marketing automation tools out there. But you can look at the source code, use it like you see fit and tap into a larger community.
Open source projects are now part of your day-to-day life. Think of WordPress, Magento, Drupal, Prestashop CMS, and eCommerce websites. Google, Facebook and, Microsoft offer the majority of their framework code is open source. Even the proprietary applications are based on open source frameworks like PHP, Java, Symfony, or Ruby.
What can marketing automation do for you?
Marketing automation software (open source or other) automates your marketing actions. Marketing automation tools are used in customer acquisition and to streamline the relationship with existing customers. Retain clients and sell them extra products and services.
With a marketing automation system, you can track each visitor’s behavior and profile. You can automate marketing scenarios and send messages via different channels. Add segmentation, tagging, and personalization to those messages.
Lead scoring works in conjunction with your CRM database. Marketing automation manages the maturity of your leads. So why choose open source marketing automation software?
6 main reasons to choose open source email marketing and automation software
Let’s start with the 3 main reasons to choose an email marketing and automation software in open source from a user perspective:
- Faster go-to-market,
- Easier to find marketing and technically skilled people,
- More choice of suppliers with the right service vs. price ratio.
1. Faster go-to-market with open source marketing automation software
The number of marketing technologies grew from 150 to more than 7.500 software solutions in the last 7 years. When you choose your marketing automation stack, you often don’t even know the other solutions (CRM, Social Network, ERP, Social Selling) you’re going to synchronize the data with later on.
If you are fully depending on your proprietary software vendor, most of the time you have to pray or pay to get the much-needed synchronization. With an open source marketing automation solution, it might already be there, you may ask the community or a hosted solution provider to make it work with your technical environment.
For instance, when the French national postal service wanted a synchronization with their webinar system, it took us only 6 weeks to get it up and running in production for their sales and marketing teams. For some enterprise clients and proprietary software providers, six weeks would be the time it takes to schedule the first meeting of an internal project.
Can you imagine a big software vendor moving its roadmap so fast without a seven-digit bill?
2. Find the right expertise and staff
Inbound marketing and automation are fast-moving technologies and quite recent practices. You may find tricky to find the right people to handle your project when you decide to go for it. And if resources are scarce, the sky is also the limit regarding the cost.
A different structure in which open source is organized, can means more skilled people are available.
With open source projects, like Mautic, many agencies or hosting companies provide services and skilled people to push your project forward. there is a bigger number of people that have experience and expertise, not only the software vendor. That makes a big difference in terms of availability and in the final bill!
3. Value for money
Automation platforms such as Hubspot, Adobe Marketo or Oracle Eloqua are well known for their premium pricing. Under €2.000 per month for a 10.000 contacts database, you don’t really have the full automation stack. Then add the operational costs and you have quite a big number under Total Cost of Ownership. With an open source marketing email and automation software you may have the features for (almost) free if you want to make the run by yourself or pay the right price with a Hosted solution of your choice.
Long term appeal of Open source Marketing automation software.
Besides the short term factors, there is also the long term to consider. Here are 3 reasons why open source has a long term appeal as well.
4. An open roadmap
An open source project allows everyone to contribute. There may be hundreds of developers working on an open source project, while you only have a few of them in your company team. That puts the user at the center of the roadmap and scales the potential of the project.
Actually, anyone can contribute to the project so that all other users can benefit from it. This is what we call an open source Community. Administrators animate the community and make sure that the feature proposals go in the logical and useful direction and it stays maintainable. For instance, some of our team at Webmecanik are part of the core team of open source marketing automation platform Mautic along dozens of other people to ensure the consistency of developments.
For instance, the Marketing Automation software is available in 22 different languages through the Mautic community. We use 5 of them to serve our clients at the moment, but can serve 22, if needed.
5. Handling mayor version updates
A major new release will happen to make a big step forward in the application in terms of functionalities or performance. This is happening with Mautic 3 as the Symfony framework is updated, together with a structural overhaul of certain elements of the application to make it more modern, efficient and flexible.
Non open source vendors have to manage all the code updates themselves, along with the features and updating all the users. With an open source project, you can contribute to make it better.
6. Flexibility and compatibility with integrations
As an Open Source project is open, the installed base will accelerate the synchronizations and integrations with all tiers of apps or software you need in your company. Data is in the center of your organization, which means you need total compatibility with your current apps as well as with future software you don’t even know of yet. In other words, it will be less often that these integrations need to be fully custom.
When not to choose open source marketing automation software?
While open source software can offer more choice in functionally compared to similar proprietary offerings, we don’t need to be too dogmatic about it. Sometimes choosing proprietary software makes better business sense.
Here are a few reasons why you may choose a proprietary marketing automation solution:
- Most of the open source software can’t offer a business-class 24/7 support. Only multinational large vendors can afford to offer such a service.
- If you use proprietary hardware – for instance if you want to synchronize your marketing automation with a POS (Point Of Sales) machine – that require a specialized driver; most of the time they are closed source and available only from the equipment manufacturer.
- If warranties and liability indemnity matter to your company, then most of the large proprietary vendors can offer it in their agreement.
- If you are looking for very specific features that are in the proprietary software but not found in the open source software (yet).
- If you are an agency, other considerations might be in place – like profit margins and the opportunities for co-promotion and sponsorships offered by the proprietary vendor.
Just remember that email and marketing automation software selections should be based on which software is best fit for your organization, so knowing your business requirements always come first.
FAQ on Open Source Emailing And Automation Software
Q: What is open source software?
A: First of all, remember that an open source solution is composed of software bricks whose access to the source code is authorized by their authors. Indeed, there are communities of developers who share their work around the same source code openly. This is essentially where the difference lies with a so-called “proprietary” solution. With proprietary software, the source code is rendered inaccessible (the system is closed, or locked), you cannot access it without the authorization of the developer of the software (developer or company).
Major open source projects are part of everyone’s day-to-day life: most cloud servers of SaaS software and apps are run on a Linux Operating System. Your data is stored in a MongoDB database. Both open source. You go shopping on WordPress, Magento, Drupal, Prestashop CMS and ecommerce websites. Google, Facebook and, Microsoft offer the majority of their framework code as open source. Even the proprietary applications are actually based on an open source framework such as PHP, Java, Symfony, or Ruby.
Q: Are there differences in software performance between open and closed source marketing automation?
A: Beyond the accessibility aspects of the source code, one can legitimately speculate about the performance dimension, wondering if a Marketing Automation software is more or less efficient depending on whether it is “open source” or “owned”.
To be concrete, the debate isn’t like that. The performance of software and its ability to meet the needs of the company are not related to the availability of the source code. Performance comes from the functionalities offered by the solution, the related services offered by the service provider (integration of the solution, support, training …) as well as the acquisition costs (quality / price / performance ratio) of the solution for the company.
Q: Open source or closed source: which are the most innovative?
A: The scalability of a Marketing Automation software solution, its ability to offer innovations depend on the provider that offers it. This is true of open source and proprietary solutions. The only difference that can be highlighted here is the development time: the open source community reacts to needs, where the company offering a proprietary solution will determine the planning of development based on their own agenda.
Q: What happens if you experience a bug?
A: Whether it’s an open source solution or a closed solution, things are the same here. Management of bugs depends on the responsiveness of the provider offering the solution. In any case, before being put on the market, the solutions are tested, screened to identify possible problems that may arise, and need to start again in development.
Once released, the proposed solutions are sufficiently mature and reliable to avoid unpleasant surprises … Of course, minor bugs can still occur. But, it will not be a problem requiring a return to the developers. Only the responsiveness of the service provider’s support comes into play here.
Q: As open source software is free to download, we can do it alone then!
A: This is partially correct. It is very simple to download the entire code (hosted on GitHub, here is our fork) which technically allows you to have the application for free. However, Mautic, for instance, is a marketing automation software very rich in features and technically rather complex to manage. To this is added some hosting constraints. For any small, medium or even enterprise business, there have to be some priorities. When your job is to develop high-precision dental prostheses (for example!), you do not necessarily have the time and resources to take care of the maintenance of third-party software. It would be losing your energy on a side-activity.
Q: Should we consider an open source marketing automation software to develop our sustainable and profitable business?
A: +50.000 users are served all over the world using Mautic including Small businesses SMB with a few thousand contacts in their CRM database to large accounts with millions of contacts.
Q: If I choose an open source solution, how do I offer onboarding training and professional services to my marketing teams?
A: Whatever the solution you’ll choose, you need a training program. And this true, freemium doesn’t work unless the product is inherently easy to use for the mass market. We have learned that almost all of our new customers buying a license without the training program (strategic and practical coaching) churned, while we only note 2% of churn on our trained customers. A marketing automation software is not easy to use because of its features’ amplitude.
When to choose open source for email marketing & marketing automation
At the end of the day, the essential criteria to be taken into account when choosing your marketing automation solution are the capacity of the chosen solution to offer the functionalities which the company needs, the related services which propose the provider (implementation, support …), and the monthly cost of the solution (subscription) depending on the volume of contacts to manage.