During any sales process, the people selling to you can largely impact your final decision. However, during the process of choosing a new ESP, the person selling to you is rarely the person who’ll be delivering what you’ve bought.
Having a good relationship with sales is all well and good, but once the contract is signed, you’re likely to be handed over to other teams. That’s why meeting the people who you’ll actually be working with is really important.
The 5 people you should meet at your ESP
Here are the five key people you should meet at any potential ESP before you sign the contract, along with questions you should be asking them. As with a job interview, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right people, and right fit for your business. If it feels like you’re grilling them, or like it’s a job interview, you’re on the right track!
1. The Implementation Consultant
Sometimes known as the Project Manager, the Implementation Consultant, will be responsible for getting you set up successfully; from configuring your integration to helping you send your first campaign and everything in between.
You’ll probably be in touch with them several times a week whilst the implementation project is ongoing, if not every day. They should be the project owner and liaise between your business and any third party companies you work with, such as web providers, CRM systems etc.
The question you probably want to ask before the implementation begins is “how long is the implementation going to take?” but it would be better asking them what the first 90 days will look like. A solid answer should be based around similar projects they’ve delivered with supporting project plans.
If you can ask them in advance of meeting them, even better, as they can then tailor the project plan to you. Their favourite tool is MS Project, or some similar project tracking software.
To get a good feel for how much support they will be able to give you, ask:
- How many projects do they typically work on at one time? This will give you a good idea of how much dedication they can give your project. Obviously you won’t be their only client, but if they’re overstretched, this may affect your progress.
- How often are they out of the office?
- How do they ensure projects stay on track? Ideally, they should set up regular project tracking calls, with all key stakeholders, around once a week (more or less frequently depending on what integrations etc you need configuring)
- What will they do if they feel progress is slipping?
- Will they provide you with a project plan? (The answer should be yes!)
You should also ask what documentation you will receive on their setup once the implementation is complete. It should effectively be a summary of what’s been delivered and setup, along with best practice tips for your immediate campaigns and objectives to work on with your new Account Manager.
2. The Campaign Manager
Meeting the Campaign Manager is so important if you’re going to be outsourcing your email marketing campaigns to the ESP. The Campaign Manager should want to get a good understanding of your objectives so if they aren’t asking you about your current data and campaigns, your success factors as well as your challenges, be worried!
In terms of what you should be asking them, the standout questions are:
- What is the turnaround time is like?
- What is the minimum timeframe in which they need to be able to send a campaign?
- What’s the briefing process like?
- What’s the approval process like?
- What customers do they currently work with and what are their challenges?
They should have a solid briefing process (ideally, they will provide a tailored brief once you start working with them) but also have room to be reactive and facilitate last minute campaigns. Run a mile if they say “we don’t have any briefing documentation”! Make sure you also ask them what reporting they’ll provide you with, and how frequently. All of this should be flexible based on your individual requirements.
3. The Digital Marketing Strategist
The Digital Marketing Strategist will work with you and your Account Manager to optimise your ROI. After meeting them you should be in a better position understand your customer journeys and the power of the data you do (or don’t yet) hold, and what you can get out of email marketing (specifically when you work with them), and your wider digital marketing activity.
Questions to ask them include:
- What are the current trends in your sector?
- What are other brands doing that work well?
- What are your competitors doing that you should be doing?
- What’s your biggest success story?
If you have the opportunity, get them to do some reviews of your current digital activity. This will give you some insight as to what they can offer in the longer term. If they give you any best practice examples, or if they’re presenting any case studies, they should always be their own customers (unless they’re presenting you with specific competitor examples who they might not work with). If they aren’t, I’d ask them why they can’t present any of their own success stories.
They can often be seen at digital events presenting about industry trends and developments. Following them on Twitter and connecting on LinkedIn is a good move, as they are keen bloggers and share lots of great articles and insight.
4. The Support Team Leader/Representative
The support team will be your go-to resource for any technical questions or when you need help. Meeting them is key because you can get a feel for what the customer service in the team is like, and how responsive they are. They should be available via email as well as at the other end of the phone.
Key questions to ask include:
- What’s your SLA?
- What times are you available?
- What’s the out of hours support like?
- What’s the process for feedback on the product? (this might also be one for your Account Manager depending on the company structure)
Having a designated support contact can be beneficial, as they’ll get to know your account and ways of working, so make sure you also ask if this is possible.
5. Your Account Manager
This is the person who will be your main contact once the implementation is complete, so a good relationship is key. Often can be heard saying “I’ll call you back, I’m on a train at the moment!” or “I’ll have a black coffee, please!”, your Account Manager will have a number of other accounts to look after.
Essentials you need to know before you start working with them:
- How often will you have account review meetings? Good Account Managers will want to meet with you at least once a quarter, although you might want this to be more or less frequently depending on your requirements. It’s good to roughly agree on how often you’ll meet before you sign the contract. You may even want to tie this into the contract.
- How many other accounts do they manage? Depending on the sizes and requirements of each company they work with, 10-20 is about average. Anything more may indicate they’ll not be able to provide the best support.
- Will meetings be on-site, or via the telephone?
- What monthly reports will you receive? They should be able to provide a variety, from your email volume to your key metrics of your campaigns.
- If they aren’t around, who can you contact? The best ESP’s will put together an Account Team for you, which means that you can contact various people when you need help and your Account Manager is out of office or on holiday.
- Who can you escalate issues to? The correct answer here should be: “hopefully you won’t need to escalate any issues, but should you need to, our Account Director is available and their details are…”
- What happens if we need to change any details in the contract?
- How do overages work? This is key because you don’t want to be stung with overages charges should your email volume increase. You should be able to buy bundles as/when needed, and your Account Manager should always be monitoring your usage and let you know when you’re reaching your limit.
Once the implementation is complete, your Account Manager should aim to have at least the next 6 months’ worth of meetings scheduled in. Depending on the level of support you need, these may be a mix of telephone and face-to-face, and could involve bringing other people from within the business to support.
You should probably ask the Account Manager the most questions out of all of the people you will meet, and they should ask you a good mix too, most of them coming once the implementation is complete. A good Account Manager will ask about your interests outside of work too, and build up a friendly rapport.
Make sure you talk to the team that you will be working with
People from the marketing solution sales team you meet during the RFP and selection process are rarely the ones who’ll be delivering what you’ve bought. Meet the people who you’ll actually be working with, inclusing the Implementation Consultant, Campaign Manager, Digital Marketing Strategist, Support Team Leader/Representative and your account manager.