Selecting the Perfect ESP? – Don’t Forget to prepare the implementation

When going for a new email service provider, the time to ask questions about migration and implementation is well before you sign any contracts. Do you really want to commit to an ESP only to find out the migration and implementation are going to take three times longer than you anticipated (or budgeted for)? Or that you’ll be tasked with more responsibilities than you have staff to handle?

Nope. And that’s why including migration and implementation are a crucial piece of your RFP. By including these, you’ll know upfront which vendors will handle the set-up in a way that works for you when you narrow down your choices to a short list.

Ask about migration and implementation upfront

Sure, your RFP is asking the hard questions about relational databases and data security, but you’re smart to include the migration and implementation too… and not just questions about implementation timelines. You need to ask these questions so you will know what to expect from the vendor, but you also need to know upfront what they will expect from you, because your organization also a vital role to play in a successful switch.

If you’d like to add these kinds of questions to your RFP, below are some suggestions. Use those that best fit your context and concerns:

  • Do you help with the migration to your platform?
  • What is your implementation methodology?
  • How do you support the implementation?
  • Will there be an implementation team dedicated to our company?
  • What can we expect of this team?
  • How are new dedicated IP addresses ramped up?
  • How is deliverability managed during a migration?
  • What is the timeline and process for a migration involving data integration?
  • How do you minimize risk during an implementation?
  • What is the typical timeline and process for completing a migration?
  • How do you protect our customer data throughout the transfer of data between our company and yours, or our prior ESP and yours?
  • Do you have an escalation procedure for addressing problems during implementation?

And if you need ESP customization…

If you’re going to need customization, this is another critical topic to discuss long before you sign any contracts with anybody. Will you want the ESP to do it? Can they? Will it add significantly to the timeline and budget? Would you rather a specific email marketing agency did it? How will that factor in to the migration and implementation? This is all information you need to know upfront to avoid any nasty (and expensive) surprises later.

How to evaluate the answers you get

OK, you’ve included the questions in your RFP and the proposals are rolling in. Now…how do you know you’re getting the answers you want?

Look for well-defined processes and ask for samples of migration and implementation documents. Based on their answers, determine what they do to define and track the processes. The more sophisticated they are in definitions, systems and tracking, the more likely they are to handle it well.

A specific methodology and a list of items they’re going to cover will give you an idea how capable they are. But it also will let you know what you didn’t consider as part of the migration, because—as mentioned above— you will have duties too.

Beyond the RFP

However, to dig deep enough to know for sure they will handle the migration and implementation to your satisfaction, you will have to go beyond the RFP. The RFP will only get you to a short list. At that point, you will want to talk to other clients and hear their comments on the ESP’s migration and implementation processes.

About Marco Marini

With 25 years in business, Marco is a walking encyclopedia of all things email: best practices, technologies, trends, and more. Marco is currently the COO of iPost, an email platform built for marketers by marketers. iPost an easy, flexible, dynamic marketing automation solution for email and mobile marketing. He has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, ClickMail, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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