Is your email marketing vendor reliable?

In today’s networked economy, a suppliers’ hiccup can very well leave you with the broken pieces of missed conversions or – even worse – disappointed clients.

But it is hard to get a feel for the reliability of an email marketing service provider when you haven’t worked with them before. Why is the reliability of an email marketing vendor so important?

Importance of reliability for end-users

Reliability of an email platform is very important in day-to-day operations. The end-users who work with the email platform must be able to trust it to always be available. Email marketers are often on tight schedules and killer deadlines. A small problem with just the interface can easily cost an hour, up to the better part of a day. Those lost hours are all opportunity costs, better spent actually doing email marketing or anything else for that matter. Not to mention the stress and additional problems caused by email platform failure.

Added costs of reliability problems

Reliability problems go beyond internal costs or lost hours. If you receive an email and the links aren’t working or the pictures won’t display. This isn’t always because of lack of testing. Problems with the email messages can be (technical) problems with the platform as well. Costs can escalate quickly if there is a problem with email rendering, tracking or inability to properly send. Missed marketing opportunities, generated customer service calls, damage to your brand; it adds up. And you might not have thought about that when calculating the total cost of your email platform.

The 6 9s of email marketing vendor uptime

Reliability is one of those things that you didn’t know was important until it wasn’t there. Anywhere up until a first glitch you might find that a 99.5% uptime is great. But this means an email marketing vendor can be offline almost 2 days a year, without breaking his promises. All suppliers make mistakes and have problems sometimes, even your Email marketing vendor. But you shouldn’t be the one who pays the price for it. And while these costs are usually not calculated in any email marketing budget, it’s good to know where they originate from.

Although uptime is just one of the factors that make an ESP reliable, uptime statistics are a good indicator for conscious work on reliability. Through the use of back-ups, failbacks and monitoring systems a platform can be designed to reliably perform. Even if parts or services aren’t available. Attempting to have as many 9s behind the comma (99,999%?) on their uptime as they can.

Important factors in evaluating reliability

A reliable email marketing vendor has an always on e-mail marketing platform ready for you to successfully create and deploy your e-mail marketing campaigns. But also the service and response times are very important in assessing the reliability of an ESP. So what are we looking at when assessing the reliability of an Email marketing vendor? Basically it’s prevention, performance, response and repair. Look at the list below, do you know if these services are available to you? Some ESPs will include these costs in your overall vendor fee, other charge extra for them. Good to know when picking or evaluating an email marketing vendor.

Look for:

Support crew

  • The size and composition of dedicated tech support (for your account) or support pool
  • The tenure of technical team. Do they know their own product inside and out?
  • Service Center and support hours


  • System back-up and redundancy
  • Error Handling and reporting
  • Monitoring and resolving deliverability issues
  • Quality of in-app Help function
  • Update procedures


  • Average Response time
  • Documented escalation procedure (whom to call if problem isn’t resolved to your satisfaction)
  • Timely messaging that addresses any known issues, and resolution timelines
  • Comprehensive incident reporting

SLA and Accountability of your email marketing vendor

When things break or go wrong, it is good to know how accountable an ESP will be for the direct and or indirect costs. The agreed service levels should be captured in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). When clearly described what an Email marketing vendor will deliver and how these services are measured and monitored, you can hold your ESP to this agreement. If compensation or accountability isn’t written in a contract, a new problem will arise as soon as you would like to hold your ESP to the agreed service level.

Takeaway: When shopping for a professional email marketing vendor, make sure you make an analysis of their reliability and the risks and costs involved. It isn’t a question if, but when and how often there will be reliability problems. Make sure you know what to expect, agree on a Service Level and get it clearly on paper.

Do you have any tips or experience in dealing with reliability of your Email marketing vendor? Please add 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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