Switching ESPs? What to Expect…and What to Deliver

switching_esp_email_marketing_switch

You’ve gone and done it now. You’ve decided a new email service provider is in order and made the decision. All of that was a lot of work, but the real work lies ahead because now you need to make the switch.

In order to make that switch as smooth as can be, you need to be clear on expectations both what you can expect from the ESP and what they can expect from you.

Of course, the ease with which you make the transition from the old to the new ESP will depend in large part on the new email service provider you’ve chosen. If you’ve done your homework and made the right choice for you, your transition to the new ESP will be less painful. (I can’t promise painless, sorry.) Yet you can make it easier still…

What you can expect from the new email service provider

Obviously you’ll know you’re changing email service providers ahead of time, and there’s much you can do to prepare for your ESP switch.

Clear timelines and expectations
The new email service provider should spell it all out for you–literally. What are they promising you and when? When will you be up and running on the new ESP? How long will it take to ramp up your new IP address? When is training? How long will any integrations take?

Up and running in…ASAP!
No one can say for certain when you’ll be up and running because there are variables, like data and content. If you want to be up and running as quickly as possible, there are many things that can be done in parallel or even before you move over to your new ESP. While you’ll want to wait until the last minute to transfer any lists, so you transfer your most current ones other things you can do before the cutover include:

• Import content library
• Import triggered and automated rules
• Integrate to CRM, Web analytic and any other data you need to
• Set up custom reports or integrate to your reporting tool
• Set up users and user permission
• If you have simple and small data sends, you can use them to ramp up your sender reputation (if you have a dedicated IP)

Even if you can’t import the information or want to cut over all at once, you should take this opportunity to review all your practices to ensure everything still makes sense.

Easy importing of data and content
It will be your job to ensure all data and content is ready to migrate (see below), but you should be able to expect your ESP to make that migration as easy and seamless as possible. Make sure the email service provider can handle your data structure and that you’re clear on how the data needs to be formatted for optimal import.

Transfer of drip and triggered sends
One of the robust capabilities offered by more sophisticated ESPs is the ability to set triggered and drip rules. Whether you want to transfer existing rules or create new ones, make sure you know exactly which rules you want to implement, what the conditions are for each, and what content is being sent out.

Assistance with maintaining deliverability
You’ve worked so hard to build and maintain it, but now your deliverability needs to be carefully rebuilt. Your email service provider should have a plan for ramping up your new IP address if you’re moving to a solution with a dedicated IP.

Training and customer support
Some ESPs won’t support you until you complete their training. Make sure you know what support you can expect (hours, escalation, channels) and what conditions, if any, exist to receive it. You should also find out what “special” support or handholding you may have during the onboarding process vs. regular support.

What the new ESP can expect from you

Switching email service providers and ramping up with the new one is like dancing with them. You have expectations of the ESP as your partner, but the ESP can’t simply drag you around the dance floor. You’ll need to do your part too. So make sure you inform your ESP of your emailmarketing strategy and other needed details. Below are the expectations you’ll be expected to meet as the new customer.

Data that’s ready to move
By data, I mean not only your email lists but any templates, content and images. Also any suppressed email addresses or unsubscribes that are part of your records. Make sure you have a way to capture unsubscibes in your old platform for 30 days after you transfer over as people may unsubscribe from old emails.

Participation in training
Your new ESP should provide plenty of training to get you up and running, but your staff will need to show up for it. Also, make sure you are on the list to be invited to future updates, webinars and/or training sessions.

Patient persistence in building a new sender reputation
You’ll have two options with your new email service provider so this expectation might not apply. Your ESP will either provide a dedicated IP option or a shared pool one. If you’re going the dedicated IP route, you’ll have work to do (with the ESP’s help) to rebuild your sender reputation. Just be patient and follow the guidelines you’re given. Your new ESP should have a “recipe” for slowly ramping up your sends. Stick to it.

Know what needs updating
You’ll need a thorough knowledge of what signups you have where, including your unsubscribe, so they can all be updated promptly. Ditto for any triggered or automated emails. And ditto for your old emails: Make sure any links they include will still work so if someone takes action six months down the road, they still can.

Know what needs integrating
The email service provider will expect you to know what kind of integration you’ll need and your manpower for making it happen…or lack thereof. Consider your website, ecommerce platform, CRM and social media, and be sure to include any specialized applications such as accounting that might also need integration.

One last tip: Pay particular attention when beginning with your new esp

As they say, even the best laid plans can go awry. With a new ESP there are many opportunities for something to not be set up properly, no matter how hard you and the new ESP strive to make the switch as seamless as can be. Pay attention to every detail of your email stats in the beginning so you find out about little glitches before they escalate into major issues.

Choosing a new email service provider and making the switch is a big deal and a lot of work. But being clear on what you can reasonably expect from your new ESP and what they’ll expect from you can help to make the change less painful and more productive, so you realize the benefits of your ESP switch sooner.

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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  • Craig Loynes

    Pretty comprehensive post on ESP migration. Here are a few more things to think about: http://www.emailcenteruk.com/blog/2013/01/5-tips-for-migrating-esp/

  • TJ Rosenberg

    Great post, Marco. However, what about setting objectives and goals with your new ESP? If it’s a self-serve option, of course that’s mostly up to the company, but in a full-serve or hybrid capacity, clients should hold ESP’s to certain benchmarks – at least industry averages for deliverability and CAN-SPAM and CASL compliance. Vendors should be experts in both these areas, not to mention design and content optimization.

  • Marco – ClickMail

    TJ – great point! In a situation where ESPs have input on strategy and execution, one should definitely have minimums, if not goals that both client and vendor agree to

    Craig – you post brings some valid considerations. When looking to integrate marketing and transactional emails, we have found that it is better to use an ESP that allows for API calls. This way message(s)
    will be tracked and marketing can easily update the HTML that is being
    sent. A common complaint we hear is Marketing having to wait for IT to make changes to their programs.

  • Marco Marini

    Thanks, Craig, for the additional resource.
    The more a marketer knows before that migration, the better.