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How to assess ESPs and get buy-in for a new one


Approaching your leadership team with a well-researched business case to make the switch from one email marketing platform to another can help illustrate gains from changing technologies, but getting that all-important green light might not be an easy process. In a recent Litmus Live Day session with email marketing consultant and MarTech expert Jordie van Rijn, we discussed 3 things to help set your team up for success:

  • Plan based on your team and business goals.
  • Create (and narrow) lists of considerations.
  • Audit more than just your emails in your current system.

Look into the future… but not too far

Email strategists are planners. Gazing into our strategic crystal ball helps us ensure we’re not over-mailing our subscribers or missing key communications… generally, being good stewards of the inbox. When it comes to sifting through the hundreds of email service providers (ESPs) or marketing automation platforms (MAPs) available, though, you’ll want to narrow that window of forecasting to just a year or year and a half in the future.

Jordie put it best: “If I can give one piece of advice, first know what you’re looking for before you start looking for it.”

Makes sense, right?

Before you start visiting ESP websites and scheduling demos, work to outline and document the priorities and goals for your organization and marketing team. This list will help identify functionality and integrations that are crucial, recommended, a “nice to have,” or unnecessary in a potential new platform.

Get our starter template in our ebook, The Marketer’s Guide to ESP Migration

Create a shortlist of platforms to seriously consider

Did you know that there are over 450 ESPs in the market today? (Yikes, right?) But armed with your list of company and team priorities, researching options starts in earnest and allows teams involved to focus on the ESPs that will help you find efficiencies. Jordie outlined that throughout this process, you’ll want to narrow your list down through three phases:

  • A long list, 15+ platforms: This is a good place to ask your team for their input. Ask your colleagues first what platforms they have experience with, either good or bad. Add these to your list, but remember that if they don’t help you find efficiencies or make your program stronger, they shouldn’t move to the next step of consideration.
  • Your mid-long list, 10-15 platforms: You’ll notice this is a good place to connect with other stakeholders for their needs like integrations, legal compliance, or security protections. Even if your team doesn’t directly deal with these areas of operation, knowing what other teams consider table stakes will help identify platforms to remove if they do not meet these requirements. And, it’s nice to get the input and buy-in early, even if it’s before you get the green light; you’ll likely be working closely with these teams after and won’t have to worry about a steep learning curve.
  • The final shortlist, 3-5 platforms: This is the time to start outlining your team’s priorities, functionality requirements, and usage questions into your RFP (more on that in a moment).

See what’s popular with your peers in our report, The State of Email Service Providers

Review what’s customized in your current system

We’ve talked about the importance of auditing your emails as you prepare for a migration, but your review shouldn’t necessarily stop there–you’ll also want to check out the billing history of your current platform. It’s likely your new ESP contract will include more than just a license fee, and this step will help reduce questions from your finance team. Chances are, if you’ve paid your current technology/ESP to build unique templates, journeys, or data configurations, that’ll carry over into the new platform, too. Account for these items for the first year, knowing that as your team gains expertise it might be something that drops off in the future.

So… how exactly do you get that final yes?

As with most things email, the way that companies will approach taking on a migration is unique; there’s no one set checklist of things to prepare, ask, or gather to help gain that final OK to proceed.

Your chances for success may rise considerably if you keep these few things in mind:

  1. Recognize the process is a marathon, not a sprint.
    Things like the complexity of your email program, team skillset and structure, and your company’s financial, business, and strategic considerations will all come into play as you make the case for new technology. Use these items to your advantage–ask for the information you
    know has helped guide decisions in the past, network within your company to find the right stakeholders on each team, and keep in mind that you may be working on this for a longer stretch of time than you want. Jordie phrased it best: “If you’re looking to migrate this year, you’re behind already.” Be realistic with your time frames.
  2. Make your concerns their concerns.
    It’s natural to experience a bit of a disconnect when talking about the issues you’re trying to overcome with stakeholders who don’t experience them daily. By reframing the problem just a bit, you’ll be surprised at how quickly these potential pitfalls can be avoided.
    Looking to make the case for an ESP that helps make manual processes more automated? Discuss how automation = less human error = less inefficient work for your team = less expense = more ROI. Trying to find a platform that provides more metrics than your current technology? Show how access to data lets you build a deeper knowledge of what your customers respond to, so you can craft impactful content that could reduce calls to customer service AND build customer loyalty. Just a slight change to the approach of the issue not only provides details at the levels your leadership is accustomed to, but can also spark additional conversations.
  3. Prep some use cases about what tangible things you want to achieve.
    In your business case, focus on more than just the functionality of the platforms you’re considering. Include specific outlines about the outcomes that your team will achieve through this switch, how much time you think it will take to achieve the goal, and any milestones along the way to illustrate the benefits. Plus, once you do get that buy-in to migrate (because you’ve all committed to the project, done your homework, and convinced your stakeholders that just because you already have a technology doesn’t mean it’s the right fit), these goals will naturally become use cases to discuss during the RFP process.

After you get buy-in, pat yourself on the back. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself!

For more on how to make the move to a new ESP easier, or even just to evaluate whether or not you need to migrate, check out our how-to guide on ESP migrations.

Lauren Kremer

Lauren Kremer

Lauren Kremer was the Events Manager at Litmus