Choosing your email success partner
If you're in charge of an email marketing program, you will eventually be faced with the prospect of changing email service providers. In fact, according to the Relevancy Group, almost 50 percent of email contracts expire in the next year. Well-known providers include ExactTarget (Salesforce), Responsys (Oracle), Cheetahmail (Experian Marketing Services), SilverPop (IBM), and Yesmail. Whether you take it on by yourself, use a consultant, or have a procurement department manage the process, it is a lot of work and often a difficult task. Then, once the decision has been made, there is even more work to do as you switch sending platforms. You might as well make the effort worth it.
Technology is not the answer
Technology is very important, fun to talk about, and is great to have, but it is just a capability. Major email senders all share approximately the same key functionality. Some have more APIs, some have faster load times, and some have better reporting. If a breakout feature comes out, rest assured that another will copy it and likely be better at it. As long as it has the core functionality and can handle your volume quickly when you need it, the platform is not the answer to your needs.
Let's face it. You have revenue goals. Switching platforms doesn't make you any more money. In fact, it adds short-term risk to your revenue predictability and focuses your team on project management and not on program improvement. At the end of transitioning your triggers and ad hoc campaigns, what do you have? You are usually at or around the same place you were when you started the process. It's possible to get a positive bump in IP reputation, which can drive more revenue, but that is achievable without having to switch platforms. At the end of the day, if all you have done is switch platforms, you haven't solved the key problem to revenue growth. That can only come from the basics -- segmentation, offer, and creative.
You need an email success partner, not an email-sending partner
When you switch, you need to work with a company and people who are there to improve your program -- an email success partner. They should use good technology, but that shouldn't be your sole focus. Your main focus should be on what resources they will bring to your program, what those resources will do, what they believe they can bring to your program to complement your team, and what they need you to do and invest in. To succeed, your email success partner needs to have full access to your results reporting, whether through Omniture, CoreMetrics, the marketing DB, or Google Analytics. The point is they need to share your number. They shouldn't have to be told you're behind. They should know it and bring you specific options to close the gap. Those options shouldn't just be more triggers, whatever the company is selling du jour, or what is hot in the industry "these days."
Shift your role from coordinator to director and recipient
An email success partner will have the basics -- campaign execution, deliverability, and account management -- and do them well. They are differentiated by advanced platform customization skills, analytics, email-focused creative, strategy/planning, and the ability to actually connect your email program with other media channels for acquisition or greater conversion. That is a lot to coordinate. Shift your role from coordinator to director and recipient. When choosing an email success partner, the team functions should look like this:
To change, you need to invest
If you want to make big changes in your email program, you will need to spend money and time. Going into an RFP may free up some money on CPM and on some labor rates, which can be positive. But unless you are a high volume sender with an outdated CPM who will benefit from hundreds of thousands of dollars from a switch, you should be prepared to spend more money on a larger team both internally and externally. How you assign resources internally vs. externally is up to you, but the point is that to affect change, you will need people to manage projects, dive into the data, build out triggers, create the execution paths to other media, and so on. Tenths of people don't seem to accomplish much. Invest wisely and be clear on what you expect to get out of it.
We are at an inflection point in email. Several major technology companies are building out their marketing stacks, and many more smaller companies have built or are building platforms, some of which have made improvements on tried and true features. Many companies have operational foundational email programs that have a mix of high-impact one-off campaigns and basic triggers. The next phase should be one in which companies invest in building out triggers, improving their business-as-usual email campaigns, and extending email into other channels. To do this effectively and efficiently, companies will need an email success partner that can both lead and execute.