If you dread having to go through the process of selecting an email marketing software system then you are not alone. It doesn’t matter if you are only now jumping into email marketing or selecting a replacement for your current email marketing software.
Nobody has the stomach to go through endless vendor demos, negotiate the price and hope that you made the right choice. Besides, at the end of the day, your job is on the line.
So how do you take control of the process and ensure you spend only the necessary amount of time to make an informed decision? And how do you make an “apples to apples” comparison when deciding among half a dozen email marketing software solutions? Here is a methodology that can help you and your team to make the best choice for your company and that will put YOU, not the vendor, in the driver’s seat.
Some background before we start
The process described is based on typical software selection methods used by consultants (my first encounter with something like this was when I worked for KPMG as an IT consultant) and modified based on my own experience evaluating email marketing software when I was Director of Marketing for a software company a few years ago.
A Methodology for Evaluation of Email Marketing Software
As the famous project management saying goes, “fail to plan and you plan to fail”, so it is with your selection process. If you spend a bit of time upfront planning and deciding on your key criteria for email marketing, you will save yourself and your team from a lengthy decision process. This methodology involves using a quantitative evaluation of vendors to help you balance the qualitative characteristics of each one and thus arrive at a clear choice.
Five steps to follow in selecting your email vendor:
- Identify your goals
- Map out your current process and problems
- Map out your desired scenario with benefits
- Create list of key features and priorities
- Evaluate and calculate results
We’ll start with the first couple steps and continue in a subsequent article. Stay with us and you won’t regret.
Your Email Marketing Selection Done Right, Step 1: Goals
The first thing you will want to do is identify your goals. What I mean by that is a list of what you want to achieve with email marketing. It could be as simple as “lead generation” but more likely you will want to hash it out in terms of:
- Why do you use email marketing?
- What do you expect from the system in terms of results?
- How will email marketing complement, enhance, or substitute current channels?
- Who will be responsible for handling the email marketing function?
This could be easy if you have already been doing email marketing and are looking to “upgrade” your system, but still is a worthwhile quick exercise that can ensure your team is all on the same page. You may also be surprised by answers given by your team mates!
Once the list of goals is ready, make sure you can easily refer back to it. It is the ultimate test to see if a vendor can truly deliver on their promises.
Step 2: Current Process
The second step is often overlooked. People jump into demos and start reading reports without a clear understand of where they are and where they want to be. So do yourself a favor and sit down with your team and start mapping your current email marketing process. If you don’t have a process yet, this still applies because it feeds the next step.
Ask yourself and your team about your current process:
- Who creates the emails today?
- How easy is it to create them on your current system?
- How long does it take?
- How do we select the recipients?
- What do we have to do to ensure the email will display properly?
- What metrics are we tracking?
- What is wrong with our current process?
What is wrong with our emailmarketing today?
This last question is the key. What is wrong and why do you want to change? Obviously if your goals are not being met with the current system (or no system) than you know there’s something wrong. But more important is to figure out what about the current email marketing process (or workflow) is broken and what needs improvement. As an example, at my previous company it would routinely take us a couple hours just to get an email ready to be sent. Then it would take us an hour or so to evaluate results. That’s because the system in place had a terrible HTML editor and the reports were difficult to access.
So as you think through what you do today and how long it takes, start making notes of key improvements you would like to see with the new system (e.g. easy one-click reporting, WYSIWYG HTML editing, etc.). As you gather information about the current process, keep in mind that you can also use this data as you present your case to senior management (if you are in a position that requires their approval).