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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