How to put together a crack team for ESP selection

A good ESP can make the difference between email marketing success or failure. So the right ESP selection team is one of the most effective investments a company can make. Engaging the wrong one (and ending up with the wrong supplier) is likely to be one of the most costly.

The process of selecting the right email marketing software and vendor is multifaceted (and becoming more so). So if you are going to seriously choose an email marketing supplier, you need to form a capable team in charge of that selection. But what does the ideal team look like? Who should you put together to get the job done?

Number of team members

Let’s first start with the number of team members. Usually a team of three to five people is what you will be aiming for. Smaller might mean that the selection will not be supported throughout the organization. For larger and more complex RFP five to ten people may be required. More than ten people might become very hard to manage. Know that not everybody that is contributing has to be on the team.

What kind of people do I need?

In your team you need both decision makers and knowledgeable employees for selecting the ideal e-mail service provider. Each organization is different in their structure, needs and goals. Make sure that stakeholders are included from multiple areas and departments of your company. It can include users, managers, and executives.

Project leader

First you need a project leader. The project leader is responsible for the end result and will pilot the team into choosing the right email supplier. This requires both people (organizational) skills and knowledge of the matter at hand. It helps if the project leader has experience in RFPs and vendor selection and is senior. The project leader doesn’t have to do all the RFP work, nor has to be the one that knows the most about E-mail marketing or ESPs. His or her task is to successfully complete the selection process and select the best possible ESP for your organization.

Team up with different departments

You might want to represent employees from different departments in your team. This helps to build a foundation for the end result throughout the organization and make it a shared responsibility. It also helps to identify needs and concerns from the departments in an early stage. Even if people are in the team, it doesn’t mean they have to be in every meeting or take every step in the process.

Think about including people from:
* The marketing department(s)
* Communications
* IT & Data
* Higher management
* Operations & support

Employees from departments directly using, implementing or decision-making can be considered. A good team has an equally good group dynamic. Just be sure that there is a balance between experience, skepticism and positive thinkers in your team, or they might steer in a direction you do not want to go.

After the choice is made

Also think about what is going to happen after you choose your e-mail service provider. Who is going to roll-out, implement and manage the email marketing campaigns. It can be a great win to include those people in your team or tightly involve them. This will increase the understanding of what type of solution would fit best in the daily operation. At the least it will make those employees a bit more knowledgeable about e-mail marketing (vendors). Later in the process this will also help gain internal support and provide a much easier implementation.

Do you need an (external) consultant?

You might. It’s always good to have a feel for the market, clearly define your requirements and have experience in vendor selection when doing an RFP. Your in-house team might fall short on one or more of those, or you might lack the time and resources to effectively complete the RFP in the way you want. In those cases you might want to consider hiring an independent ESP selection consultant.
These are usually people with experience ‘in the field’. Advisors can take on different roles and don’t necessarily need to be in the team. You can also consider letting them help you out with a specific part of the selection process.

In the end

Your ESP selection team is an important part of the success of an RFP or email vendor selection. Take it serious and make certain that everyone in the team also takes their responsibility seriously. Who you invite as team members depends both on your organizations’ structure and (maybe more important) on personal skills in the team.

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, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

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