In three parts we explain a methodology that can help you and your team to make the best choice of email marketing software for your company.
If you missed the Part 1 of this series, please check that article first. Part 2 walked us through the process of setting your priorities straight. Let’s now look at how to actually conduct the evaluation process.
Evaluating the Email Marketing Software Vendors
With your trusty Excel spreadsheet on the screen, having given each feature a weight, you are now ready to start grading vendors. The way this spreadsheet will help you is by allowing you to objectively assess whether a vendor fulfills your needs by giving them scores for each feature.
The spreadsheet will then calculate based on the weights given for each feature, which vendor ranks higher. The higher ranking vendor has the best chance of being the right solution for you company.
Stop! Right there! Wont’ the spreadsheet tell me which one is the best?! Yes. And no. And before you send hate mail my way, let me explain. What you just did is the quantitative analysis. The higher ranked vendor is the one that matches you feature wish list. There are other things you will want to consider, like:
- Tech support
Price is the obvious one. The highest ranked vendor could very well be the one $5,000 above your budget. In that case, you’ll have to go to the second-highest score.
Tech support relates to how easy it will be to get someone to solve your problem when you have one. Is it offered by email only? Are they open during YOUR office hours (note: if you’re on the West Coast and the tech support is offered 9am to 5pm EST it will drive you crazy when you have to get a hold of someone at 3pm your time)?
Contract can be a whole other article on itself, but one thing is certain: read it.
Training sometimes is included in the pricing but other times is additional fee. Also, some vendors have really good online training resources while others just give you the PDF manual and wish you good luck.
Reference checking is the best way to really measure all the other components of your evaluation. You should ask for three references, preferably users in a similar industry or at least with a similar technology infrastructure (same CRM system for example). Talk to the references but don’t just ask “Do you like working with this vendor?” because the answer will be “yes” (they are a reference account, after all). Instead ask them things like:
- How long did it take you to get up and running and why did it take that long?
- What about the email marketing system they offer was a big surprise to you?
- Did you have to change the way you work because of how their system works?
- Have you had to use their training or support and how was it?
- Why do you think I should use them?
The final ranking of your potential Email Service Providers
As you get answers to your questions, make a note of the really good and the really bad things you have learned about the vendor. Go back to the rank of vendors in your spreadsheet and see if now the situation has changed. Is the expensive vendor really the best? Or the middle-of-the-road vendor with great support and raving fans seems like a better bet? Which one will you be able to use long-term or based on what you know is coming down the pipeline?
Sure, the numbers themselves don’t tell the whole story, but I hope that at least they will serve as a good analytical framework to balance the qualitative information you will be getting during the evaluation process.