Email Vendor Selection very kindly asked me to write a few words on Email Service Providers. And as last year I went through the process of selecting a new Email Service Provider, for the digital agency where I was Head of eCRM, I felt up to the challenge.
How to start with the selection process
Well there are many sources that helped me in the selection process by providing key areas to look at and points to consider, including of course this website.
And yet the best description of the number one area to focus on sprang to me as I listened to the sermon at the local church one weekend. The sermon was about how we look at the journey without the destination in mind, simply enjoying the services and facilities of the Cruise Liner we are on called Life. We have no real sense of where we are going with this and don’t really know how we are progressing on that journey.
So how does this relate to selecting an ESP?
Gianfranco’s golden tip
Well, my one tip would be to think about where you want to be medium and long term with your Email/Social/Mobile marketing and select your ESP accordingly. There are 100s of ESPs out there and the task of matching to your needs is difficult, especially when most of them will actually do what you want and more.
Don’t be swayed by the vast amount of technology, services and consulting that is available. Be clear about where you are now and where you want to be in 6, 12, 18 months. You don’t want to be in a position where you have outgrown your ESP in year 1. A shelf life of 2 to 3 years is great but in some cases you may be looking to 5 years to cover the costs of the original switch.
Too many ESP functions are not used
Make sure that the fundamentals are covered before getting excited by the extra widgets available. In many cases ESPs are dumped not because they can’t provide the functionality, but because the client didn’t use the functionality they were paying for.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before letting the ESPs into your house for a sales pitch get yourself in order
1 – What the email platform needs to to for you
What will the email platform need to do for you? Crazy Suggestion? Not really. Too many organisations don’t think about what their email strategy is. What are you using and planning to use your emails for. Are they transactional or service messages? Are they for marketing?
Are you looking at just emails or are you actually looking for a platform that will deliver through other channels such as mobile, social, web etc.
2 – What are your volumes?
This can help you eliminate perhaps some of the platforms that can’t cope with the ‘enterprise’ volumes or indeed the speed with which you need to get the messages out. It good to know the difference between small midsized and enterprise email marketing solutions.
You’ll also need to know, because the ESP will want to know to give you a price. And that price will be a reflection also of the commitment you give them in terms of volume and length of contract.
3 – Who needs to be in the decision making process and at what stage
This isn’t just about IT and Marketing. It’s also about Customer Service and Operations. Think also about the teams who will be pulling the emails together internally. At the agency they were called Campaign Managers. And when does Finance want to look at the numbers with you. What does your Email service provider selection team look like? There is often a Busines Case to be created.
If you are working at an agency, do you need to get the input from your clients as well?
This is also an opportunity to think about what is missing from your team and so what gaps the ESP could fill in terms of technical or strategic expertise
4 – What does it need to integrate with?
Think Website, Databases, Social Platforms, CRM systems, Content Management Systems, Finance Systems.
5 – Flexibility
Particularly true if you are an agency with a mix of clients. A platform that is geared up for truly sophisticated multi-channel messaging with 50 million emails per year may not be the right platform for a client who sends out just 50 thousand emails per year
But also think about how flexible you might want the ESP to be in terms of support. Do they need to at least be in the same country? Do you want them on site?
I am not advocating that you stick with one ESP for life, but you might as well be prepared for it..just in case.