Generally speaking, most companies don’t decide to migrate to a new email service provider on a whim. The conversation regarding ESP migration is typically kicked off due to one of the following reasons:
- Their current ESP is expensive, and they want to shop around to see if the same functions and features are available at a lower cost
- There is some level of dissatisfaction with the current ESP (beyond price)
- The current ESP has delivered as promised up to this point, but they want to grow their program, and need features, tools, automations, integrations, an enhanced UI, vendor service support, and/or other capabilities their current provider doesn’t offer (most common)
In addition to these evergreen groups of ESP migration-seekers, the industry also saw a shake-up when Bronto announced end-of-life status for their ESP, with May 31, 2022 as the final day of service. This meant that for the first time, a large number of companies in the market for a new ESP weren’t/aren’t even dissatisfied with their current provider—they simply needed a replacement, and fast.
Tinuiti’s team of technical email marketing experts is equipped to help businesses and brands through the ESP migration process from start to finish. In this article, we’ll explore what that process looks like, considerations to make, and why it’s so important to get every stage right.
ESP Discovery Phase: Getting to Know You
As with most things in marketing and life, there is no one-size-fits-all “best email service provider.” In the discovery phase, our team works with clients to fully understand the primary reasons they’re looking to migrate, and what features and functions they’ll need to achieve parity with their current provider, or—more typically—increase and/or improve their capabilities.
ESP Evaluation Phase: Tinuiti Plays Matchmaker
While we can’t help you find an ESP who loves long walks on the beach and folk rock, we have designed a comprehensive ESP evaluation matrix that helps us find the providers that best click with your current and future email needs.
- Once we’ve discussed the details of what you want and need from your new ESP in the discovery call, we get to work determining which providers offer what you’re looking for
- Our team regularly evaluates top ESPs on 70+ metrics that matter, considering: fields, segmentations, and automations; full lifecycle marketing capabilities (social, SMS/MMS, in-app, push, web); available ecommerce integrations and add-ons; usability, and more
- In addition to accounting for more tactical elements and features, we also consider factors like which ESPs ‘play best’ with which ecommerce platforms, the level of complexity of both the ESP and your site’s backend, how much dynamic content you already have in your program (and what’s planned for the future), pricing, and your total list size
Our team also evaluates what those different qualities an ESP offers actually look like.
Let’s take testing as an example.
While testing capabilities are likely to be available in some capacity for all ESPs, whose are the most extensive, impressive, and actionable? Does what a given ESP offers match what your current ESP has now, or answer for a gap that you want to fill this time around? These are areas that we’re diving further into when deciding not only who ticks the most boxes overall, but how heavy those tick-marks are.
ESP Review Phase: Discuss Who Made the Cut (and why)
Once we have refined a short list of your strongest ESP options, we will review them with you, highlighting the most important pros and cons of each. In the discovery phase, we’ve already discussed which elements are the most important overall, but here you’ll get to really decide which will weigh heaviest in your final decision.
As for which ESPs we recommend? It’s important to remember that Tinuiti works across nearly every major ESP; we have experience working with clients using a wide variety of providers, and our recommendations are always crafted with your specific wants, needs, and budget in mind.
Want to see the ESP in action before you make any decisions? Our team can help in setting up demos of all ESPs we recommend so you have a visual to tie to those takeaways, and can get all your questions answered directly from the source.
Be Growth-Focused in Your ESP Selection
The decision for which ESP to move forward with is always the client’s to make, and Tinuiti’s teams are fully-equipped to aid in the actual migration process, whatever choice is made. That said, we encourage you to not only consider where you are and what you need today, but what you’ll need in the next two years, or even further out.
“Migration is not just an investment of your own personal time; it’s your team’s time, it’s your budget. Do you really want to pay for that more than once in the next few years? Although you may not have the answers today, think about where you want your program to be in the next few years.”
— Leah Lloyd, Group Director of CRM & Email at Tinuiti
If you have only been running an email program for a short time, or have a small list size that isn’t likely to see exponential growth in the next two years, it’s understandable that you might not need all the bells and whistles a larger business or brand might consider table stakes. That said, you do want to ensure you (at the very least) account for the projected growth that aligns with the objectives you already have slated for the near future.
For example, let’s say your team is working on a multi-channel strategy aimed at growing your total list size by 25% from Q2 to Q4. Now let’s assume that if you met that goal with your current send limits, you would be hit with overage fees for 10% of those emails. Those overage fees may end up costing more than a more robust package would have—one with much higher send limits that will cover you well beyond the projected 25% increase.
In short—give yourself some room to grow. Even if you don’t need a fully-loaded Ferrari of ESPs, or the lofty price tag that goes along with it, you also don’t want to box yourself into a package that just barely fits, and end up drowning in fees instead of enjoying your success.
You’ll also need to consider what you already are doing, or want to do, beyond email alone, including SMS, push notifications, and/or in-app messaging.
“Having additional paths of communication with your contacts will really create a healthy mix throughout the customer journey, and ensure that contacts are receiving your communications on the right device, in the right format.”
— Leah Lloyd, Group Director of CRM & Email at Tinuiti
Email Service Provider Migration Kick Off
Once a client has decided which email service provider they’ll be migrating to, and has worked through contracting with that ESP, the actual migration process itself is ready to begin.
Each managed migration is led by a Tinuiti Technical Project Manager, who works through comprehensive ESP migration checklists with their team. Having led hundreds of ESP migrations over the years, we have refined and streamlined these pre-migration, during migration, and post-migration lists over time, breaking the process out into 5 clearly defined phases.
Your project manager will closely monitor the progress of all migration tasks within each phase to ensure the process is continuing along the predetermined timeline, with no visible hiccups to answer for that will impact the tasks ahead.
ESP Migration Timeline
From the evaluation phase through the final stage of migration, we are typically looking at a 60-90 day timeline, though there are a number of considerations that can affect that window, including:
Internal Alignment on Needed Resources
Will your team need to ramp up project planning support, or do you need to discuss integration activity with your developers before moving forward? How long does your legal team need to review and sign? Whatever the potential scenario at hand, it is often internal roadblocks that delay migrations, so we encourage you to start looping in all necessary parties as soon as possible—even if their planned role doesn’t come in until a later phase in the project.
Your IP Warming May Not Go as Planned
With any new ESP, the sending address will need to go through a “warming period” to ensure that deliverability and inboxing are high. No matter how well-prepared you were heading into the migration, and how carefully rolled-out your warming period, it isn’t uncommon to run into some delays here.
Our team tackles this phase with a strategically designed warmup calendar, aimed at eliminating any major setbacks, but it is best to bake in extra time for warm up if you’re working with a large number of lists, or sizable lists.
Earning a good reputation with the ISPs can’t be accomplished overnight, and we don’t want to risk high bounces, opt-outs, unsubscribes—or hitting the dreaded spam folder—because we sent too much, too fast.
Overall Complexity Matters
Do you have a number of specific API-triggered messages in place, or millions of contacts that need to be ramped up? By the nature of the tasks at hand, your migration will likely take longer than if you were on a program with a cart connector and a few thousand contacts.
Why It’s So Important to Get It Right
ESP migration is not a simple task. If we were to compare it to a home renovation project, this isn’t touching up the paint on the baseboards in the kitchen—this is rewiring the electric throughout the whole house.
But beyond the complexity of the task at hand, getting it right is made even more important by the inherent value in the opted-in, privacy-compliant, first-party data you’re migrating—a value that is only increasing as third-party cookies crumble.
There is always a certain level of risk when migrating data—often, that historical contact information is lost in the process—making it important to proceed cautiously and informedly.
“Any time that you’re doing a migration, there are so many different moving parts that you want to be sure you have a subject matter expert that knows all the different items you’ll need to move in your email program.”
— Diana Mitchell, Associate Director of Technical Services at Tinuiti
Let’s look at just a few key reasons it’s crucial to work with migration experts:
It’s Email Marketing’s Time to Shine
As we touched on above, the first-party data you’re capable of capturing through email programs has never been more valuable, hard to come by, and influential in how you execute across channels. The data you gather through your email program can become the pot of gold that feeds your segmentation and targeting capabilities across all channels, and throughout the full funnel, so you want to be sure that data is migrated properly.
“Being able to leverage your data in a meaningful way all starts with accuracy and ensuring that you have the correct data type in place for each data point. This ensures that not only are you creating a really great customer experience, but from a tactical standpoint you can efficiently and effectively use the information that’s being shared with you.”
— Kellie Collins, Associate Director of CRM & Email at Tinuiti
Our team is composed of QA experts who know exactly where to look, when, and how often to ensure that all the data from your previous ESP is migrating to your new ESP as intended.
More Data Points, More Cross-Channel Potential
Tinuiti is uniquely positioned to guide you on all the different data points you’ll want to capture for cross-channel benefit because we’re already doing that. As a full-service performance marketing agency, our team is already helping other teams build better-informed campaigns with the help of privacy-compliant, first-party data born from their email and SMS programs.
The data points you’re able to capture are extensive, but more important than capturing the information is deciding how you’ll use it to your customers’ benefit. If you’re capturing birthdays for example, you can use that information in your email program for promotional purposes, but also through other channels, like Paid Search.
For example, let’s assume you offer a Zodiac-themed collection of candles. By leveraging customer birthdate information from your email program, you can accurately target shoppers with the appropriate Zodiac sign candle.
As we’ve explored, there’s a lot that goes into email migration. Whether you’ve already outgrown your current ESP, or want a closer look at the functionality and features available from other providers that can help you grow, our team can help. Reach out today to chat with an expert!
Email is just one part of your lifecycle journey. Your brand needs to build an integrated messaging approach that prioritizes the customer for a more comprehensive (and human) communication journey. Learn more about Tinuiti’s Lifecycle Marketing approach across email, mobile, and on-site.