Slow and Steady: How to launch your new Email Service Provider in stages

If you’re close to finding a new email service provider (ESP), signing the contract and starting to think migration, here’s my advice for you: Go slow. Moving from one ESP to another can be an arduous task.

Take the time to do it right so you don’t have any costly surprises when you launch with your new ESP.

You can do the migration in stages, looking at it as a series of mini launches. By the time your change over is complete, your work is done and your surprises too.

I started out writing this post with the intention of doing a pros and cons of the gradual approach vs. the all-in-one approach. But in writing, I realized I would advocate for the gradual approach just about every time. Why would you want to risk a major hiccup in the migration if you can do the migration in smaller launches and find any issues well in advance of your official implementation date?

Document all

Obviously ahead of the switch, you’ll need to document what needs to be migrated over as far as lists, content, forms, templates, email reporting and statistics. You’ll also need to document any integrations as well as automated and triggered emails.
Do all of that documentation before any partial launches.

Conducting an Email Service Provider launch in stages

Although some tasks can’t be done until the last minute, there are a surprising number of things you can do ahead of time as part of a launch in stages when switching email service providers. Consider tackling these tasks a couple at a time as part of your implementation timeline. That way, you won’t have to move over, test and launch all at once.

  • After you’ve made sure all forms, content, templates and lists are adjusted and loaded into the new ESP, start using it in small batches (per the advice below about ramping up a new IP address).
  • Make sure automated and triggered emails are set up correctly and start using the new ESP to send them. This helps with the ramp-up process.
  • Update your subscription form and test it to make sure new subscriptions are going to the new ESP.
  • Make sure any forms are working correctly.
  • Update your unsubscribe, and test it, to make sure it’s removing names from the new ESP. You’ll need to revisit your unsubscribe as the last thing you do, however, so don’t consider it done…yet. (See below.)

Take advantage of the opportunity to renew and improve

Another benefit is that you can take advantage of the opportunity afforded by collecting all of the before documented data. Don’t think you have to replicate everything exactly with your new ESP. In fact, maybe you should outright try to avoid that.

Consider the switch to a new ESP an opportunity to review performance and processes and figure out where there’s room to improve. The need for improvement is one of the reasons to switch to a different email marketing supplier. Improve the processes you had, so with your new ESP you can be more efficient and effective.

Take this opportunity to revisit and rewrite content in automated and triggered emails, to rethink the automated and triggered emails and how they might be altered based on past experience, and even to revisit the subscription form on your website or your email template design. Remember to review any other forms as well, to see if they need altering.

I’m not advocating for taking on all of these tasks at once and definitely not when you’re on the brink of an ESP switch, but knowing you’re switching email service providers and preparing for the migration in advance should allow you the time to make some much-needed improvements rather than move everything over “as is” and wish you hadn’t.

Warming up IP’s and deliverability

Switching ESPs will require warming up your new dedicated IP address to protect your email deliverability (although this might not be an issue if you’re not on a dedicated IP). ISPs are wary of new IP addresses and take an “innocent until proven guilty” approach. Prove your new IP address to be trustworthy by slowly building your new sending reputation.

This is easy to make part of a launch in stages schedule, as you email only small part of your list at a time, gradually mailing bigger numbers as you go. Meanwhile, you can continue to email the rest of your list using your old email service provider.

Hang on to the old ESP for 30 days

You don’t have to follow the staged launch approach when switching email service providers, and perhaps it’s not even an option given the structure of your organization. Do the all-in-one launch if you need to, but regardless, keep your old ESP for 30 days. It will take a while for the unsubscribe functionality to be fully migrated. At the end of the 30 days, make sure all unsubscribes were migrated to the new ESP’s database.

Before you do anything, be clear on what you can expect from your new ESP and what they expect from you. Then once all of the expectations are laid out, clear and agreed upon, start your slow but steady approach.

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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