Things you still need to worry about when you enlist a full-service ESP


When searching for an email vendor, one of the bigger decisions is whether to go with a full-service or self-serve solution.

A good full-service ESP can be like an extension of your in-house marketing team, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing left to worry about!

Imagine a great full-service ESP or agency that offers expertise on email marketing. – specializing in the email messaging channel, shouldering the execution workload, and offering insight and ideas to the in-house marketing team. That is value for money, because in many cases, the choice between full-service or self-service is mainly based on budget. But to make it work, you do still need to worry about the following.

Identifying priority business problems

A good campaign strategy should always solve a problem or leverage an opportunity. In order to get the most relevant recommendations for new campaign strategies from your email vendor, you need to share information and data.

For example, if you’re falling short in reaching your customer acquisition goals, a competitor has introduced a new offer targeting your best customers or there is low product awareness among existing customers, you need to advise your ESP.

Knowing the challenges your brand is facing will empower your vendor to give the right advice for your marketing campaigns. Your full-service ESP may suggest a lead nurture campaign to improve prospect conversion to be treated as priority. A retention campaign to protect your best customers, or a cross-sell campaign for existing customers and so on.

Your ESP deals with multiple clients and can provide advice from real cases they’ve seen work across different sectors.

Aligning with your overarching marketing strategy

Your email marketing strategy can’t exist on an island. Ensure your agency vendors are well informed of your overarching marketing strategy so that they can help you find opportunities for how your email program can help you achieve your marketing objectives.

Synergy with other vendors and internal teams

Service offerings will always have some overlap, even when you’re working with highly specialized agencies and employees. Know what your in-house strengths are and what your limitations are, so that you can work efficiently with your agencies. Ensure your agencies are clear on their role and expectations and that of other agencies you work with.

There will always be some level of healthy competition between agency vendors, but all are capable of working alongside each other. It should go without saying that this works most effectively when the roles are clearly defined and the client sets the tone for a collaborative relationship from the beginning.

Managing timelines

This remains a challenge whether using in-house resources or a full-service vendor. Keep in mind that there are standard turnaround times on the vendor side for completing work, and also allow for the time needed for necessary review, feedback and approvals on the client (your) side.

Integration with other channels

Campaign planning needs to be coordinated across channels. Ensure your ESP knows of upcoming plans. This is especially important around seasonal campaigns (like Holidays, Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Back to School to name a few). Awareness of your offer strategy is key for your vendor partner to offer recommendations for email messaging tactics like timing of delivery, optimizing your call-to-actions, testing offer/positioning of offer, etc.

External factors impacting your email campaigns

Your ESP should be reviewing email metrics and offering insights about results and trends specific to your sector. Have regular discussions about the metrics and trends, you need to add context about the external factors that might be impacting these trends.

Continuous optimization

Email is a channel that is quick, easy and cheap to test on plus it can be measured in real-time. Immediately let your ESP know that you’re interested in efforts to keep improving response rates and a good agency partner will reciprocate by bringing new testing ideas to the table.

The key for a truly great relationship between a brand and their Email vendor is communication flowing in both directions – from client to vendor and from vendor to client, keeping each other in the know. When your vendor truly becomes an extension of your in-house marketing team is when exciting things start to happen with great results to match.

Check back for my next blog post which discusses what you don’t have to worry about when you have a full-service ESP.

Emily Maloney

About Emily Maloney

As a Digital Strategist with Inbox Marketer, Emily helps identify opportunities and plan strategies to improve unified messaging activities for US and Canadian clients. As Senior Account Manager, she leads national accounts across a variety of verticals and provides strategic and tactical direction. Emily is also a regular speaker at the Canadian Marketing Association’s Advanced Email Seminar and graduated from the Marketing program at Conestoga College.

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  • Stefan Eyram

    I believe it’s more effective – and cost-effective – to set up an automated solution to send email communications rather than outsourcing regular set-up and sending of these messages This is especially true if you have a lot of content, make the bulk of your revenue from advertising or get all (or most) of your revenues from e-commerce.

    And if you add mobile push notifications and behavioural recommendations on landing pages you will further enhance your engagement and revenue, thus improving your ROI.

    Entrusting someone else with your brand and data over the long haul, plus paying a marked up rate for repetitive services, just doesn’t make sense unless you are very profitable and are happy with the status quo.

    I feel this is especially true for Canadian companies where lists/databases tend to be smaller. Full-service email costs are fixed whether you send to 5,000, 50,000, 500,000 or 5,000,000 million people.

    That’s not to say you can’t bring in an experienced company to review what you are doing and recommend improvements.

    My 2 cents.

    • Emily Maloney

      Stefan, you raise good points to consider when deciding whether to engage a full service vendor or doing the work in-house. It’s important, though, to weight the cost of both scenarios. The decision to execute in-house has a cost attached as well in that you need to hire people internally with the right experience and expertise. For organizations that have already invested in their internal team, I agree that they should execute in-house and engage an experienced agency to review and recommend improvements – as you have suggested.

      However, it’s important to note that if you don’t already have the resources in-house it may not pay-off to hire full time for execution. Full service vendors bring a lot of experience and expertise and the right vendor can work as an extension of a smaller marketing team.

      Additionally, on the point of automating email communications for regular campaigns, it’s important to distinguish that a full service vendor doesn’t always mean manual deployments. A good vendor will work with your team to determine which campaigns could work best as automated programs and work with you to implement. For organizations that don’t have a lot of experience in launching automated programs it is probably best to work with a vendor that has done it before. Automated programs are typically cost effective to run through ESP’s.

      Lots to consider :)