5 Signs Your ESP Is no Longer Your Valentine…and 1 Thing You Can Do About It

As an email marketer, one of the most important relationships you’ll have is the one you have with your email service provider, or ESP. This is becoming even more true as ESPs evolve into sophisticated marketing platforms, or become integrated with other platforms for omnichannel marketing.

Life is good when the ESP relationship is good!

When the ESP relationship is good, it’s all rainbows and unicorns.

The program is humming along. Your team and company employees all happily use the email platform, maximizing its potential and taking advantage of much of the functionality. You have a good handle on how your email marketing is going, because your email reporting rocks and you can easily scope out your roadmap for the next 18 months or so.

On the other hand, a bad ESP relationship can be quite negative. If your relationship with your vendor is a rocky one, it might be time to either take action to improve the relationship or take steps to get out of it. Like all relationships, a stagnating one can easily continue to decline, although one hopes not to the point of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the fictional married couple hired to kill each other in the 2005 hit movie of the same name.


Below are five signs your ESP relationship is in trouble. If any of these sound familiar, you need to act:

Poor communication

John Smith: “I never went to MIT. Notre Dame. Art history major.”
Jane Smith: “Art?”
John Smith: “History! It’s reputable.”

For a few years now, we in the email industry have been saying organizations switch ESPs every two years on average. I’ve yet to track down the actual source for this number, but anecdotally based on my own observations, I think it’s about right.

When you consider the high cost, as well as the enormous hassle of switching Email providers, it’s surprising that someone does it at all — and that brings us to another unsubstantiated but probable statistic: Poor customer service is the number one reason people switch ESPs.

If you’ve ever been in a serious relationship, you know the importance of good communication. You can’t have a healthy relationship without it! This isn’t only true of a marital or romantic relationships. Relationships between parents and kids, siblings, friends, even between bosses and employees all require at least decent communication to survive and great communication to thrive.

No communication


Jane Smith: “There’s this huge space between us, and it just keeps filling up with everything that we *don’t* say to each other. What’s that called?”
Marriage Counselor: “Marriage.”

Eventually, as a relationship breaks down, the parties move from poor communication—meaning there is talking going on but no one feels heard, listened to or understood—to no communication whatsoever.

Have you known couples who stopped talking to each other when things got so bad there didn’t seem any point in trying? This can happen with your ESP too, as you give up going to them with issues and simply soldier on. Or it could be your ESP has given up communicating with you. An account manager who is routinely ignored will simply focus on other clients.

Knowing something is wrong but not knowing how to fix it

Jane Smith: [about the new curtains] “If you don’t like them we can take them back.”
John Smith: “All right, I don’t like them.”
Jane Smith: [pause] “You’ll get used to them.”

Perhaps one of the most challenging roadblocks to a relationship is not being able to identify the problem. Usually it’s poor communication that leads to this unhappy state, and poor communication that keeps us there—although we don’t know it when we’re in it.

ESP love me
When you or your team express regular frustration with the ESP, or start looking for workarounds rather than use the platform, or—worse yet—give up on a goal altogether, something is seriously wrong.

Living like roommates

John Smith: “Your aim’s as bad as your cooking sweetheart… and that’s saying something!”

Number 4 is a natural progression from number 3. It’s a sign of giving up and putting up. If you or your team barely uses the ESP, relying on only a small fraction of the advanced functionality you need to use, let’s face it, you’re more like roommates than spouses. This is particularly true if you’re turning to other third-party vendors to accomplish tasks that you should be able to do with your email service provider. When your ESP is more like a problem than a partner, you’re in trouble.

Staying together because it’s easier than breaking up

Jane Smith: “Who’s your daddy now?”
Couples will stay together for all kinds of reasons, because really, breaking up is more than hard to do—it’s heartbreaking. And marketers will stay with an ESP for the same reason: to avoid the time, hassle and cost of switching ESPs. Think about all that’s involved with leaving: First, you have to find a new email provider which is a job in and of itself. Then you have to get your house in order so you can move. Then you have to go through the migration and implementation. Then you have to learn the new platform, ramp up the new IP addresses, and slowly master the new interface. And who knows if you’ll be happier?

If not wanting to go through all of this again is your real reason for sticking with your current ESP, there’s a problem.

There might be a fix

All of that said, it’s not necessarily a hopeless situation. In the movie, even the Smiths put down their weapons, reconcile and stand united. Sometimes you just need a little help—and help is out there, for difficult marriages and unhappy marketers alike.

Seeing out a new email provider is not your only solution. You can try to make things better with your current one. You can go to a consultant for guidance, to see if the relationship can be improved. You can download the ESP therapy ebook for help. Or you can turn to your email marketing peers for advice.

Yes, your relationship with your ESP might be a troubled one, and one you’d rather just walk away from. But don’t quit yet. Save yourself some time, hassle and money by first exploring the idea that—despite signs to the contrary—your situation can improve.

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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