How Long Will It Take To Implement A New ESP?

esp implementation speed

How long will it take to implement your new email service provider? There are plenty of variables. Are you starting with an ESP after doing email marketing in-house? Or are you moving from one ESP to another? That will affect the time to implement.

The ESP you choose, the staff resources you have available, the amount of data you’re moving, your team’s ability to master a new platform… all of these factors will come into play as well. Perhaps the biggest determinant, however, is how prepared you are for the move.

What is a realistic ESP implementation timeline?

In general, the time between signing on the dotted line with the new email service provider and being fully migrated can be as much as 90 days, although we often help clients get migrated over to a new ESP in as few as 30 days.

Being fully migrated is not the same as sending your first campaign, however, which can happen faster. It’s fair to say a reasonable timeline to send a first campaign–if you have your house in order–is 2 to 3 weeks. This allows for setup, training, testing, Q&A if needed, and possible IP warmup planning.

The time that will elapse, however, is less significant than the time your ESP promises. Make sure you have a realistic ESP implementation timeline in place before you do anything else. Be sure to understand that your time to implementation will depend a lot on the size of your audience (a smaller list takes less time for IP warmup), your team, and the work you do ahead of time. Also, try to budget a week or so for unforeseen delays, just to be realistic.

Factors outside of your control when migrating to a new ESP

There are several factors you should be aware of and can even control in order to influence the speed with which you’re up and running with your new email service provider, or at least to help you set realistic expectations.

One factor you can’t control—after you’ve signed your contract—is the email service provider. The time it will take to migrate to a new ESP differs from ESP to ESP based in part on the size of that ESP and the way they are set up. In addition, some ESPs will do a better job at adhering to promises made about how long it will take.

Regardless of the size or complexity of an email service provider, you might have a longer time to implementation if the ESP is busy enough to have a backlog. If it’s the best email service provider for you, then the wait is worth it. If, however, you can’t wait, you need to have a conversation about speed to implementation before you sign any contracts. (More on those conversations below.)

Increasing your email software implementation speed

Although you can’t look into a crystal ball to predict the time it will take, you can do a lot on your end to make the migration go faster. For one thing, you can be prepared. Your own preparation is wholly in your control, and not influenced by the ESP platform choice.

Are you prepared? Have you determined how your data will fit with the new ESP? Is your data packed up, labeled and ready to go? Do you have a clear file naming system? Have you prepared to migrate your lists? Have you documented all of your automations and rules? Have you cleaned house ahead of time so you’re not taking any unnecessary baggage (i.e. data, email addresses, etc.) with you?

Consider using a list cleaning service to be sure your list hygiene is as good as can be. This is also a good time to think through and optimize not only your data structure but also everything else.

Setting up a migration plan

It’s also a good time to tap into the expertise of a marketing agency or consultant for help with optimization and refining your migration plan. Many times, specific, pointed questions are needed to pinpoint the actual needs in order and determine how best to approach the migration.

You can also be clear in your communications and reasonable in your expectations. Have you had in-depth conversations internally? Do you know who is doing what when? Is there a clearly defined timeline and list of tasks? Have this conversation with your team, but also have it with the new ESP so expectations are clear on each side. Both of you need to know who is doing what and when.

If your email marketing program is extremely complicated, you might want to take a phased approach to ESP migration with milestones instead of one big goal. You could also break up the work into chunks and move only portions at a time, say your trigged emails first, then content as a chunk, your data as another chunk, etc.

You can also know what you need to move and how to move it, and work on that ahead of time. Heck, some of the things you’ll find on this ESP migration list are tasks you can tackle even before you’ve chosen your new email service provider.

Speeding up ESP implementation with a third party

For some organizations, an implementation is too much (or too new) to handle alone, and it makes sense to partner with an experienced third-party such as an agency or consultant to make it happen.

The key word here is experienced: The more times they have done migrations like yours, the faster the implementation will take place. They’ll know what data structure should be for the new platform, so your data is optimized for data queries from the very start, for example.

Have the conversations before signing the contract

No matter how much advice I give you on speeding up the migration process, the real answer to the question of, “How long will it take?” needs to be answered long before you start packing up data. Discussing the speed to implementation is critical during your initial conversations with any email service provider.

After you sign the contract is not the time to find out how the email services migration works and how long it will take. While you’re in the shopping around phase, make this topic one you discuss, and make it a question you ask when calling references, whether you’re talking to current or ex-clients. You want to know whether the ESP or partner stuck with their timeline or not. Also, make sure the process of migration is clear, and clarify who does what, how long it will take, and if the ESP sets up milestones and sticks to them.

No one can say for certain how long the implementation of your new email services provider will take, nor can you control every factor. But being aware and prepared can go a long ways to help you get up and running with that new ESP faster.

Image by Jason Mrachina (cc)

About Marco Marini


Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing, a vendor-agnostic reseller of email marketing solutions. Marco is an acknowledged expert in e-marketing with over 15 years of experience in the field. Before taking over as CEO at ClickMail, he was the VP of Marketing & Operations. Marco has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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