It's no secret that in the last few years many major email service providers (ESPs) have set up an Australian presence, offering businesses access to a variety of advanced email marketing features, along with local client support.
Additonally, it's also widely acknowledged that email is an important marketing channel for any business - often being the most-utilised digital channel by marketers - but within this, partnering with the right email service provider is crucial to success.
Choosing the right email service provider is no small task and most companies will be confronted with the sometimes-painful process of deciding which email partner to work with.
Having been through this multiple times myself, there's eight identifiable key steps for Australian businesses looking to transition to a new ESP:
1. Determine business requirements
The first starting point is to fully determine your business requirements for email marketing.
Through proper research, establish what new features are needed for your business to excel in email marketing. You can do this alone, but vendors should also be helpful in trying to identify your business needs.
It’s also important to get case studies and statistics on companies that have implemented new email marketing functionality and produced great results from it.
Some examples of advanced features for email marketing include automation, workflows, and segmentation.
2. Evaluate your current email service provider
Assuming most companies already have some kind of existing email solution, the next step is to thoroughly evaluate your existing ESP and try to find out what functionality may be lacking, but which you need.
Contact your email service provider and address these issues to see if there is a solution or some kind of update in the near future.
If there is an update that satisfies all the business requirements, then there may be a reason to stay with your current provider. If there isn’t, then it might be time to kick off the procurement process...
3. Research all the main ESPs in the market
In order to know what options are available in the market, you have to start researching all the major players in the field who are offering the services that your business needs. (Econsultancy has a great buyer's guide for this, as most of the larger email providers operate globally) .
Once you've figured out which ESPs have the functionality that matches back against your business requirements, contact them to discuss in more detail.
4. Write a project plan
In order to properly present any possible changes to your internal stakeholders, you need to develop a project plan of how this project will be implemented.
This should include the business goals, time frames, milestones, how much resources it will occupy, and the proposed ROI of implementing the new features. (Again, Econsultancy has a useful email business case resource)
5. Arrange a demo
By now, you should have a shortlist of the ESPs that meet your business requirements, so the next stage is to arrange meetings with each one individually, to demonstrate their email solutions to your business.
At the demo, be prepared with questions and address every concern you may have.
Don't just ask them about features and functionality; it is also important to cover other areas, such as support, integration, account management, and service level agreements.
6. Request Pricing
Pricing is usually based on email volume - the status quo is the CPM (cost-per-thousand) model - but there may also be extra integration costs depending on your business requirements.
When requesting for pricing, be sure to have all the information an ESP would need to provide you with an accurate quote - ensure that there are absolutely no hidden costs which may surprise you later. It's surprising how many times people get caught out without this consideration...
7. Present the proposal
Arrange the final meeting with your stakeholders to propose the project of transitioning to a new ESP.
In the proposal, make comparisons of the different ESPs, ensure there's a projected revenue listed for your existing email provider - and then compare this directly with projections using a new platforms.
Detail which new features will increase likely increase revenue and what kinds of campaigns you will be launching, e.g shopping cart abandonment, welcome series etc.
8. Evaluate the shortlisted ESPs
As a final stage, your shortlisted ESPs should be compared and evaluated based on your orginal business requirements.
Key things need to be considered, such as features and functionality, the implementation and managing costs, as well as the company's reputation and client support services.
It's also important to not focus on one particular attribute, as it's generally the bigger picture that's important when considering a long-lasting relationship with an email vendor.
Overall, transitioning to a new ESP can be quite a difficult process with many things to consider, like data migration and resource allocation.
But the benefits of moving to a better platform that fits your business requirements will outweigh the costs in the future - and it's especially important to partner with a comnpany that your business is comfortable with and who will ultimately provide good value and great client support.
[Image credit: jayfreshuk]