August 3, 2016 | Posted in eCRM, Email Marketing | By

This Weeks Question from LinkedIn – 8/3/16


Question: What should you be asking when evaluating a new eMail Service Provider?

Answer: Looking for a new ESP is an experience that I have gone through 4 times in my career. It is one that is very time consuming in which you are over communicated to from all the potential prospects – “We can meet your every need” is what I heard a lot. You go through pages and pages of features and documentation only to find that some prospects just come up a little short of your needs.

One thing to keep in mind, is that the major ESPs will give you 80% of what you need. You need to really look at the other 20% to see how they stand apart and what they can do for your business. For myself, I have very specific tools and eCRM needs that I must have. If those tools or needs are something that the ESP doesn’t currently have, then they are no longer a prospect. With a mature program, we have certain toolsets that are a must and not easily duplicated.

Major ESPs will give you 80% of what you need. You need to really look at the other 20% to see how they stand apart and what they can do for your business.

I have always completed an internal evaluation on what we currently have and where our eCRM roadmap is going – this will give you an idea of what you will need now and then a few years down the road. We have also looked to stability and a good business partner that was able to adapt and provide tools as I have needed them. The prospective ESP always needed to have a strong base on which all the tools can be built and then supported.

With a partnership and the importance of this ESP decision, your account team and the potential relationships are key. I aways want to know who will be supporting our account – it there a marketing consultant, program manager, technical consultant and 24/7 support for us to rely on. It is also good to know what support you are paying for and what comes with the partnership.

Another process that I enable is to create a “Big Board” vendor check list with all the potential partners listed. I start off listing everything that we need and want, as we meet with each ESP, we then check good or bad. The benefit is to help your decision making, plus you have a visual to see all potential ESPs in one place to review.

Contrary to the belief that email is free, it is NOT. Price comparison, term of contract (long term vs short term) and billing cycle should also be part of your “Big Board” and something that is discussed internally.

Questions to ask potential ESPs broken down by category.

Platform and Training
– Platform usability – request an on-site demo with real world programs
– Tool training and many support centers
– Management of migrations and implementations

Deliverability and Compliance
– What is your deliverability rate?
– Do you de-dupe subscriber lists?
– Handling of ‘Bounces’? Rules around bounces?
– Enforcement of CAN-SPAM compliance laws?
– Blacklisting process?
– How many emails sent per minute – can you restrict and limit

eMail interface
– Mobile support
– Ability to translate
– Email building tools
– Social media integration
– Consulting servies

Reporting and Data
— Reporting available
– Ability to create data fields and segmentation based off that data
– Litmus testing
– A/B testing ability
– Cross Channel Marketing ability – SMS, Push, Social

Business and Relationships
– Financial stability
– Access to referrals that are small, medium and large (ask these individuals about the on-boarding, the support team and the relationship after the contract was signed)
– 3rd party relationships & API integration
– Pricing and contracts
– Data Security
– Legal Compliance
– Relationship with major ISPs
– What is the billing cycle
– What are the service level agreements and uptime
– Options around terms of the contract

Good luck in your ESP search. Over the years I have evaluated most of the major ESPs and I can provide any insight into what I was looking for and how each ESP fit our business needs.

About Bernie

With more than 23 years of experience in marketing, Bernie is the Director of Digital Marketing at Papa John’s International, based in Louisville, KY. His current focus is building and scaling a progressive digital marketing foundation that balances the needs of both consumers and national/local stakeholders —  all while delivering measurable ROI to the business.

Additionally, Bernie oversees brand representation for Papa John’s digital properties and manages direct-to-consumer channels including email, SMS and push messaging. Recent initiatives have centered around bringing together larger promotional efforts with targeted campaigns to engage the consumer at the precise moment of interest.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @B2the7 or @B7_Design & the B2The7 blog @

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