As email service providers (ESPs) continue to evolve, new, advanced ESP features are continuously being released. However it isn’t funny if these get in the way of making a sound ESP choice because folks get distracted by the shiny things, losing focus on the things that matter.
How do we get past the distractions of cool functionality and make sure we choose the right vendor for the right reasons? With some sound advice from the front lines…
New ESP features are often shiny, cool and easy to buy into, but the reality is 80% of companies will not use them, they distract from the real functions and can even get in the way. And you actualy paid for it. How do we avoid such a costly mistake?
We’ve been helping clients choose email service providers for over a decade, and we’ve seen clients tempted by shiny. Based on our experiences, I offer you five tips to help you stay on track and not get distracted by the shiny things when looking for a new email service provider.
Tip 1: Ask the hard questions
Before doing any kind of research into a new provider, first take a good, hard look at what you’re doing with your current one, as well as your reasons for switching email service providers. Are you able to track the successes of your email programs? If not, you probably don’t need any more functionality than you already have.
Will moving to a higher-level ESP enable you to increase your ROI? If not, don’t do it. You’re going to pay more to move up to a higher-level ESP, plus your learning curve will be longer and harder. Is it worth that investment? Be very, very sure that you’re ready for a shinier ESP before you start looking for one by making sure you’ve made good use of the one you already have.
Tip 2: Pay attention to the 80/20 rule
In our experience ESP features tend to follow a version of the 80/20 rule: They all do the same 80%, although they do it using varying technology. When comparing email service providers, assume you can get the 80% anywhere, and instead focus on the 20% differentiation that offers the additional functionality you might need, plus the shiny distractions.
Often unrealistic expectations are triggered by technology, leading to inflated expectations and a heavy dose of disillusionment.
Tip 3: Make a realistic needs list
Is your list of needs realistic? Are you actually going to use everything you think you need? Based on the 80/20 advice above, before you get caught up in any bells and whistles of extra features, be crystal clear on those you absolutely have to have, those of medium importance, and those that you would like to have but can live without. Then stick to that list. That way you’ll avoid getting sucked in by “cool” functionality that you don’t need now or won’t realistically use in the next 18 months.
Tip 4: Get internal feedback; give internal push back
Find out what functionality departments outside of yours think they absolutely must have. Yet also be willing to push back on the requests. Pushing back helps you to narrow down your list to the must haves, to avoid the shiny things. Have them go through the same process of determining the features they must have, would like to have, and can live without.
Tip 5: Insist on owners of the shiny things
One sure way to push back is by insisting on ownership of the “cool” functionality folks insist they need. For example, if a department is claiming predictive intelligence is a must have, make them demonstrate the need, and not only the need, but the ownership as well. Can they predict the ROI of the tool? Will they own it? Implement it? On what kind of a timeline? If everyone says such-and-such functionality is great and “we have to have it,” but you can’t use it for 18 months, then you really didn’t need it.
Going back to the predictive intelligence example, someone has to spend the time to integrate the data with the tool, then set it up properly and optimize it over time. Who will own those tasks and on what kind of timeline? It should be the departments insisting they need the capability in the first place. If they’re not willing to commit to the ownership and timely ESP implementation, it is just a “shiny thing” after all.
Ideally you do all of this before you start looking for an ESP, and you figure out who owns each part before you start doing a list of requirements.
Beware the bad choice
If you say function A is essential but you don’t use it, then you potentially made a bad choice if another ESP was a better fit for you, and you only overlooked it because it didn’t offer the “shiny thing” of function A that you’re not using anyway.
All of that said, be sure you are looking to the future too. If your plans over the next 12 to 24 months do require a functionality you don’t require right now, it could it’s not a shiny thing after all, but a functionality you really do need. Still, insist on ownership and accountability for it. Just because you buy it doesn’t mean they will use it…even if they said they would.