4 professional tactics to evaluate an Email Service Provider

Test you ESP

So you are in the final stages of selecting an email service provider (ESP). You might prefer one email vendor over the other, based on their proposal. But it is very hard to see from the outside if those promises are even close to the actual performance.

If you are really serious about firsthand evaluation, here are some evaluation tactics you might use.

1. Get in a room with the deliverability manager

Deliverability is a key point these days. You want to make sure that your email is delivered to the inbox, otherwise what is the point of sending it in the first place? Any email service provider should have a deliverability manager, or someone in charge of deliverability.

So get in a room with that deliverability manager. Best thing is that these are usually not salesmen. Ask him for client referrals and on how they solved former deliverability issues. What they have done for clients like you in the past?

2. Test the e-mail tool until it breaks

Go for a test run or ask a testing period before you really start using it. You might not be able to break the tool, but be sure to test it in a live environment with your own data. Because that might handle a bit different than a standard demo environment.
Go deep into the email tool and it’s possibilities. You have to go through the works to get everything in order anyway, so make the most out of it. Make sure your team understands what the capabilities of the tooling are, but also how it works. It is a hands-on approach to evaluate an e-mail tool on technical and usability aspects.

3. Phone them

Yes, call their call center or service desk and see how responsive the service is. Mix the questions up, from simple user questions to very technical API related questions. This can be combined with a trial period or be during an RFP. Be sure to call the service desk instead of your account manager if that is how you would normally work.

4. Check with your Peers

Asking for referrals is one, but an ESP probably won’t refer you to a client that is unhappy with them. Many of the deliverability providers and independent consultants have a good and honest understanding on what Email service providers are doing and can give you priceless advice. Also agencies working with multiple platforms can enlighten you about the pros and cons.

Knowledge is power

All of these techniques also require a profound knowledge of email marketing, mainly technical. Make sure you get the e-mail experts involved if you don’t have that knowledge yourself.  Do the ESP evaluation together with your ESP selection team, in-house IT staff or your agency. In the end it might pay out to know the difference between promises and performance up front.

What are your experiences in pre-contract Email Service Provider evaluation? Please leave a comment!

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and Analyst. He is the Founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch " by Entrepreneur magazine.

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