If you missed the Part 1 of this series, please check taking control of the email vendor selection – part 1 first.
In our previous article we talked about the 5 steps for selecting email marketing software:
- Identify your goals
- Map out your current process and problems
- Map out your desired scenario with benefits
- Create list of key features and priorities
- Evaluate and calculate results
Let’s pick up from where we left, Step 3.
Step 3: Desired Scenario
Now that you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve with email marketing (your goals from step 1) and you and your team agree on the problems you face today with your current solution (or lack of), is time to think about what you want from a new email solution.
Detailed description of your needs
It could be as simple as “do the same as we do today but faster” or “improve the reporting of results” or even “allow for creation of landing pages and lead scoring”. The more detailed you are, the better. So for our “… but faster” desire the ideal phrasing would look something like “create and upload the HTML email and text versions in 10 minutes max”.
The scenario from start to finish
Think about from the moment you create the email marketing campaign until the moment you have to evaluate results. What do you think the best scenario would look like? The list selection and segmentation, the uploading of the email, the testing, the sending out, the reporting back. How long do you want it to take and what additional things you see happening?
As an example, maybe today your solution doesn’t handle landing pages. You have a graphics person that has to be involved in creating those landing pages, saving them on the web server, and giving you the correct link to add to the email. What if your new email solution had the ability to create landing pages and you could let the graphic designer work on other projects? Make a note of that, because that’s an important feature for you then.
Think through your scenarios
The goal here is not to have a lengthy design process creating diagrams and such, but rather to make sure they you think through a few scenarios and have a clear picture on your mind of what you want to achieve. This will help down the road when you are seeing what the capabilities of the many solutions are and will help you ask the right questions to the vendors.
You might need to go back and re-think
Note: although they are listed in linear fashion, the steps of the methodology are not necessarily sequential. If you are new to email marketing, you may not know that certain features can reduce the time it takes to send out your emails, or that some packages offer landing page creation. As you get familiar with multiple offerings, you may have to come back and re-think your initial scenario, and that’s ok.
Step 4: List the Features
Here’s where a lot of people just turn to standard RFPs on the internet or send an email to the vendor asking if they meet those criteria. That’s a waste of time. Instead, you should list the key features you need and prioritize them. From the problems you listed on step 2 while you were mapping your current process and from the new scenario you mapped out (or listed) on step 3, you can then expand and think through what do you consider nice to have and must have features. But that’s not all…
After you list all features, you will then decide for each feature whether it is:
a) not required; b) nice to have feature; c) must have feature.
For each type above, you will assign a number (weight). Not required = 0; Nice to have = 1; Must have = 2. Then you will go down the list of features you listed and next to each one you will add the number based on the type of feature (see example below).
Listing non required features
some people may be asking why list “not required” features. This is a personal decision, so you if you would rather not worry about features you are not going to use, skip them. You may want to keep them there just in case something changes in your requirements or to think about future possible uses of the system. Also in some cases you may want to list a feature you saw during a demo and wasn’t originally on your list only to later decide you don’t really care about it.
Grading the potential vendors
Next, you will create a table for evaluating vendors. As you talk to vendors and watch demos, you will grade them on how they handle each feature. That’s a key aspect of the selection process, because you have to be able to differentiate those that have the feature versus those who say they have but actually only offer a work around.
Finally, you will want to create a table that has features listed horizontally and vendors vertically where the intersection of vendor x feature is the place for the score. See below and note that we have prepared a scoring matrix in Excel for you to use and save you some typing time.
Part 3: How to evaluate and score email marketing suppliers