marketing

So you think you want to change email service providers

by Lisa Shininger

Email’s been around forever for a reason. It’s one of the most powerful and effective tools in your marketing program, driving big gains for relatively small investments. But you need the right mix of strategy and technology to make sure you’re making the most of your efforts. 

Long gone are the days of email marketing as an afterthought or operating separately from the rest of your marketing strategy. With mountains of data and the complexities of data-driven marketing, you need to ensure that you’re working as effectively as possible throughout the entire life of your marketing program.

Whether you’re warming up your very first email marketing program or looking to grow beyond even your C-suite’s wildest dreams, here are some of the fundamental things to consider when you’re looking for the right Email Service Provider (ESP).

 

Reality check

Before you fire up the RFP, you’ll want to sit down to audit and map your current processes and programs as well as the ideal future state for your email marketing programs. Gather your team—that means everybody: marketing, merchandising, data, strategy, technology, and operations. If you don’t already have documentation, this is a great time to finally get everything down on paper. Who is responsible for which parts of your existing programs? Where and how is your data ingested, analyzed, and used? What are your key engagement drivers in your current programs, and how do you want to improve them? What do you want to be doing in a year that you aren’t doing now?

Don’t forget to map how data flows from your ESP and into your data warehouse CRM and OMS! You’ll want to ensure any new provider will give you the same functionality or better. 

A full-suite ESP like Salesforce Marketing Cloud can help you streamline audits and process mapping with robust reporting tools and program visualization. With modules such as Journey Builder and Automation Studio, you’ll see your full campaign lifecycle and dig deep into performance and engagement.

You’ll need to pull together your analytics as well. Capture your deliverability, conversion, and engagement data so you can accurately benchmark your current performance, gauge the success of your new platform down the road, and forecast your growth! You don’t want to get locked into an ESP that can’t grow with your success. Salesforce Marketing Cloud Data Studio and Datorama will help you to have a 360-degree view of your customer interactions.

 

Blue skies ahead

Now that you have an accurate picture of your current state, you’re more than halfway to defining what you need for your next phase. Use your audit to identify what you want to keep doing—and what you don’t. Turn a critical eye on long-running and unquestioned practices. Legacy programs that made sense five years ago might not be the right fit for your business today. 

If you’re like most email marketers, you’ve already got a wishlist of new technologies and process improvements you want to try. (Here at Simplus Digital Practice, we call those Unicorns—and we know they’re real.) What dependencies do you need to work out to make wishes into reality? How critical are these wishlist items to your ideal future state? 

Of course, you’ll need to get buy-in from your team and other internal stakeholders to make your dreams come true, so get them involved now to see how they predict your combined success playing out. Ask your team and your colleagues what frustrates them most about your current setup and what they like best. Would automating a welcome series to engage new subscribers help free up time for testing? Can you consolidate reporting into a dashboard so that analysis happens in real-time? This is wildly valuable info that will help you move the team and your technology in the right direction.

All of our Simplus Digital Practice engagements rely on an in-depth understanding of how your programs are working for your business throughout the project. We facilitate Goal Scoping Workshops to identify immediate, future, and long-tail goals—those Unicorns you dream about—and dive deep into your current successes and opportunities.

No idea is too big while you’re dreaming up your best possible email marketing program! But in the end, what can be accomplished often comes down to what resources and budget you have available. Be realistic about your limitations. They don’t have to be dealbreakers, though. Sometimes the most imaginative and innovative solutions come from working with limited resources, forcing you to get creative and think outside the box.

Some considerations to keep in mind, especially if you’re migrating from one ESP to another: 

  • Do you have the resources to keep programs running as usual while ramping up a new solution?
  • How much time can you devote to warming up a new technology? 
  • How long can you fund a new service while closing down the old one?

 

Start shopping

Now that you have a map of your current state, a plan for your future state, and a realistic view of your limitations, it’s time to find the right platform. Are you planning on a fully automated, data-driven marketing program, or do you want to get hands-on with manual sends and creative testing? Do you need technology that lets your HTML gurus build and deploy their own templates, or do you need something that lets non-technical people plug and play?

Match your needs and wishes against the available technology to see what’s ready for you right out of the gate and what needs custom setup. Ask about development roadmaps and past deployments. You’ll want to see what worked, what didn’t, and maybe most importantly, how issues were solved as they happened. Find out what kind of guidance is available to you. Is there a deliverability team that will help guide you through, or will you need to find your own monitoring solutions?

Salesforce Marketing Cloud includes a full suite of integrated solutions for customer journey management, email, mobile, social, web personalization, advertising, content creation and management, and data analysis. Every imaginable customer interaction and engagement is covered, allowing you to guide your customers on their one-to-one journeys with your brand.

 

Remember, you don’t just need a vendor who will flip the switches so you can get started. You need a partner who understands your business, your user stories, and your wildest dreams—and who is fully committed to helping you get there by doing it right the first time. Simplus’ Digital Practice is prepared to be that partner for you. Learn more about our services today!

 

LisaLisa is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Simplus, part of our Digital Practice specializing in Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud. Lisa has years of experience and expertise in a number of digital focus areas, including content marketing; marketing strategy; project management; campaign planning, testing, and analysis; and continuous improvement and process documentation.

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