How to select the right ESP for you with Jordie Van Rijn
There are over 450 email service providers (esps) in the market, so finding the one that is the perfect fit for you, could be a challenge. We spoke to independent email marketing consultant and analyst, Jordie van Rijn to get his views on where to start. And he gave some great advice on how to make the process of selecting an email provider as painless as possible.
According to Jordie, it can be smart to first pinpoint the category you are looking in. By simply narrowing your choices, you can already save a lot of time. Easiest is to think of it in the following broad categories;
Small market solutions - When you are dealing with either lower volume, smaller budget or simple requirements. They are also usually self-service (DIY) and reporting is also basic.
Medium or Mid-market ESPs – When you have larger volume or need more sophisticated functionality like automation and integrations with CRM or sales tools. These will option for account management / extended customer support staff.
Enterprise solutions – large volume or for very sophisticated sending requirements and where clients’ email is a key driver for significant part of their revenue. Think big etailers and clients that do email marketing globally for instance.
This makes it a lot easier to compare and not get too overwhelmed. Also it can prevent you from looking outside of your budget range. The detailed requirements will still be leading though. Before reaching out to any suppliers, get very specific on what you want to do and what the supplier will need to do.
Set your horizon at about 18 months
All esps have different strengths and weaknesses. You want your email provider to be future-proof, but it is a pitfall to look too far ahead. In some cases, requirements are more dreams that aren’t at all grounded in reality. To prevent that, create use cases based on what you actually do now and need to do up to about 18 months. 18 months is good, because you can often estimate what will be done this year and the next, but beyond that it is very hard to see.
Put real use-cases on the agenda
Try to lay out a real campaign that demands a bit from the vendor technology, multi-step campaigns with triggers, automation, events and conversion tracking. Then go through with the vendor exactly how it will work. Not just whether it could work but exactly how it will work. If it’s really easy to do, the vendor should be able to show how. Draw your own conclusions if they can’t.
Perhaps your most complex requirement is not about campaigns but rather managing campaigns across multi-international offices, being able to scale up to tens of users or specific 3rd party solution integrations. Make sure you are clear about your expectations to the vendor and put them on the agenda. That is the only way you can evaluate their ability to deliver.
Openly asking for Peer recommendations is not a good idea.
Jordie suggests that whilst it is usually great to get recommendations from peers, asking for marketing software recommendations through platforms like LinkedIn groups is a not a particularly good idea. Get ready to be haunted by “the sharks” also known as sales people to start badgering you. The input you do receive won’t be very good either. A solution that works in a particular case, won’t be a good fit for another. And the general level of MarTech knowledge is usually limited to what people use themselves. If you want a list of email marketing providers to look at, well there are other places for that. ;)
What’s more, experts that potentially could offer credible advice will likely steer away from these open requests, because it is such a mess. A sign of someone that is great in guiding selections, is that often the provider that he thought would be perfect, doesn’t turn out to be the one selected. This is because during the selection you go deeper and find that another is the better fit.
Make sure what you need to do is easy to do
Marketing resources are always stretched and the ability to execute can make the difference between moving forward with your program versus never getting anywhere. Include the skills and resources needed to create the more complex campaigns in your evaluation.
Whilst a solution may, in theory, be capable of something, if the time and difficulty in doing it are too high, it’s the same as it not being possible at all.
Be crystal clear on wants vs needs, as we marketers do tend to get distracted by the new shiny things. Resist this urge and focus on your team’s specific needs.
“Before you get caught up in any bells and whistles of extra features, be crystal clear on those advanced esp features you’ll actually use, those of medium importance, and those that you would like to have but can live without. Then stick to that list. Time and time again I see clients thinking about features they never end up using.”
Ask the right questions and be open about your requirements, this is the only way that you will be able to objectively see who the frontrunners are and who from your shortlist falls short.
Don’t forget customer service and success
Great customer service is usually only appreciated the moment you encounter a problem. Look at your vendor beyond the functionalities and price. By choosing the right tool and the right team, you make sure that people behind the contract will address your needs on a daily basis and help you become a savvy email marketer. What is called Customer success, on the other hand, should be a proactive team that is also able to think long-term. Their goal is to help customers get the most out of the product, become power users who are happy with the platform they chose.
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