5 Things to think about when choosing your next ESP

5 Things to think about when choosing your next ESP

Having been on both the brand and vendor side – and having been part of multiple decisions to evaluate and/or change ESPs (hint – it’s not as hard as your current vendor makes it seem…nor as easy as your new vendor claims), I’m surprised by how many mismatches between client and vendor still happen. It’s the biggest reason for account churn – bad fit between the client and vendor.

In looking at the hundreds of sales situations I’ve personally been involved in, a few things stand out that – if both the prospect and the vendor knew at the beginning of the process – would have resulted in a much more successful sales and purchasing process.

Here are some of the things you need to think about –

  1. Vendor guides are helpful…to a point – Being on an industry report is, frankly, not as valuable as those companies make it seem. In filling out the forms for some of these guides, the vendors will sometimes check “yes” to almost every feature/function listed on the guide’s questionnaire (hint – sometimes vendors will say anything to get the deal.) Frankly, the people who write the guides don’t have the time or the resources to make sure that the vendors answered factually, rather than hopefully.

    What some of these vendor guides ARE good for is giving you a census of the marketplace – they let you go to a single place to see who is out there. This is especially true of the smaller guides that are hyper focused on email, rather than the “branded” guides that put qualifiers on their selections that automatically favor older, more established vendors. Plus, make the effort to speak to the people who write the guides – they can often give you background information that can provide a shade of nuance their written words can’t. They are a great place to start…but your journey is just beginning.

  2. What kind of companies do you prefer to work with? One of the biggest causes of “bad fit” is misalignment between the vendor and the types of companies who prospects need to work with. Some companies are young, aggressive, constantly innovating and upgrading their platform. Sound great, right? However, a surprising number – maybe even the majority - of eCommerce 1000 businesses prefer partners that move more slowly. Or have a pre-announced release schedule. Or have an army of third-party partners who will integrate their systems to the vendors. Or will constantly send people to their office. Each of those situations are a disaster for a company that selects the “go go” company. They may be enthralled by cutting-edge technology and constant innovation but – by not understanding what types of companies are right for their companies – they end up making bad choices.
  3. How big do you want your footprint to be? Some companies REALLY want to be a big fish in a small pond – they want their voice to be a key driver of where the company goes and that – as a result - their service is awesome and their product enhancements get worked on first. Others want to make sure they’re walking down a path that’s been well worn by other companies. They are inherently risk-averse and want to see lots of proof about “how other people have done it.” Most people live somewhere in-between – they like to be a “big-ish” fish but they also want great support. Which leads to the next question –
  4. What matters more -name recognition or results – The truism “you never get fired for buying IBM” is also true in martech – there are certain companies that you’ll rarely get fired for choosing. They are sometimes difficult to use, expensive to integrate and are not going to give you the best return on your marketing dollar…but they will be a “safe” choice. Prospects leave money and client satisfaction on the table because they don’t have enough “proof” that 10 other companies have done the same thing. Although their RFP may sing a lot of songs about how “innovative” and “leading edge” they want to be, they often end up with the Toyota Camry of ESPs…usually because they’re actually too risk-averse to do anything else.
  5. Do you have a list of your 5 biggest problems with your current ESP and the 5 things you love? This game is not about bells and whistles – after all, if those bells and whistles were actually true, you wouldn’t be shopping for a new ESP now, would you. Your job as the marketer is to expose your “top 5” and “bottom 5” to the challenger, then see how they do. Don’t take their word for it (vendors sometime stretch the truth) – actually ask to see them do it. The best time to do use this list is during the sales demo. Providing the list ahead of time will make for a faster and smoother demo but won’t show you how fast the vendor team can think. We can all smell “the stall” but it’s critical that you sniff those out BEFORE making a decision.

Here’s a few things to try – the goal of these questions is to address the major areas of dissatisfaction with ESPs. If you’re really kind, send the vendor a sample of your data in time for the demo.

  • Customer  Service - Call customer service – during the demo – to see how fast they respond.
  • Automation Simplicity and Speed - Build an automation, right now. Then change it to a multi-stage automation. Then launch it.
  • Segmentation Sophistication - Segment my universe with both an and/or question set. Then change the “ands” to “ors” and vice versa.
  • Reporting - See reporting – in action – by asking for some weird report
  • Testing - Set up an email test with 4 different subject lines. Ask how they would run them all at the same time and determine the winner.
  • Data - Move my data from your email system to my CRM system. Then bring it back. Now automate it.

Your job here is to find the ESPs weak points, then decide if you can live with these weak points.

This sort of self-assessment is a critical piece to the New ESP puzzle. By being brutally honest with yourself, you’ll end up choosing a partner that works for your organization and brings you unbelievable success with your email program.