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The 9 Essential Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Service Provider


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Email continues to be a powerful force for marketing ROI. The 2012 DMA survey shows email returned $39 for every $1
spent, a rate far better than any other form of online marketing. The challenge is that email marketing has—and must—
become more sophisticated. So too must eMarketers and the email service providers who serve them.

To help make your ESP selection process easier, this guide covers the 9 essential questions you need to ask any
prospective vendors—and yourself. We have researched and adapted these “thinking points” to help you keep pace with
the new direction that eMarketing is taking. For example:

• Relational data has become the lynchpin of successful eMarketing because it is the best way to drive engagement by
automating triggered emails, dynamic content, and personalization that brings email as close to a 1:1 experience as
• Today between 30 percent and 50 percent of email is opened using a mobile device. Your ESP must be able to help you
easily optimize your users’ experience.
• Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are now so ubiquitous, failing to simultaneously share messaging across such
channels would create a conspicuous absence.
• Customer support and service ethics have become a better gauge of ESP quality, and in fact, have become the #1 reason
companies decide to switch vendors.
• Don’t just ask potential vendors, “How can you do what we want to do?” Ask them “What more can we be doing, and
how can you help us make that happen?”

Most ESPs today have similar features. Differentiators are fewer and therefore more important. Everyone can load lists
and has a WYSIWYG editor. But who supports relational data and complex, customer lifecycle automations? When making
a choice, it helps to first determine the organizations and companies that are similar to you. Who do they use? And what
capabilities make their eMarketing stand out?

We hope this Guide fulfills its purpose in making your ESP search easier and more effective. As always, we look forward to
your feedback. Cheers to you. Choose wisely. Choose well.

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The 9 Essential Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Service Provider

  1. 1. 2013 ESP Selection GuideThe 9 Essential Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Service Provider
  2. 2. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASKWHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDERContentsIntroducing Our 2013 ESP Selection Guide Page 1#1 How Easy is the Platform to Use - and How Long Page 2Will You Be Able to Keep Using It? Usability Page 2 Feature Sets Page 2 Agility Page 3 Reliability Page 3 Scalability Page 3#2 How Well Can the Platform Integrate with Page 4Mobile and Across Channels? Social Media Integration Page 4 Mobile Design and Rendering Page 5#3 How Does the Platform Integrate Relational Page 5Data for Complex Automations? Marketing Automation Page 5 Data Integration Page 5 Application Programming Interface (API) Page 6 Data Integration Page 6#4 Does the Vendor Monitor and Page 7Ensure Email Deliverability? Deliverability Page 7 Sending Reputation Management Page 7 Authentication Page 8 Scoring Tools Page 8 Engagement Measurement Page 9#5 How Does the Platform Enable Testing and Page 9Reporting so You Can Monitor Results? Testing Page 8 Reporting Page 10#6 What Level of Customer Service Page 10Can You Expect? Customer Support Page 10 Training Page 11 Knowledge Base Page 11#7 How Will the Vendor Manage Migration Page 11and Implementations? Trial Accounts Page 12 Pricing and Contracts Page 12 Migration Support Page 12 Implementation Timeline Page 13# 8 Does the Vendor Provide Consulting Services? Page 13 Consulting Services Page 13#9 How Does the Vendor Ensure Data Security Page 14and Legal Compliance? Data Security Page 14 Legal Compliance Page 14Call on ClickMail Page 15 iv
  3. 3. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDERIntroducing Our 2013 ESP Selection GuideEmail continues to be a powerful force for marketing ROI. The 2012 DMA survey shows email returned $39 for every $1spent, a rate far better than any other form of online marketing. The challenge is that email marketing has—and must—become more sophisticated. So too must eMarketers and the email service providers who serve them.To help make your ESP selection process easier, this guide covers the 9 essential questions you need to ask anyprospective vendors—and yourself. We have researched and adapted these “thinking points” to help you keep pace withthe new direction that eMarketing is taking. For example:• Relational data has become the lynchpin of successful eMarketing because it is the best way to drive engagement by automating triggered emails, dynamic content, and personalization that brings email as close to a 1:1 experience as possible.• Today between 30 percent and 50 percent of email is opened using a mobile device. Your ESP must be able to help you easily optimize your users’ experience.• Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are now so ubiquitous, failing to simultaneously share messaging across such channels would create a conspicuous absence.• Customer support and service ethics have become a better gauge of ESP quality, and in fact, have become the #1 reason companies decide to switch vendors.• Don’t just ask potential vendors, “How can you do what we want to do?” Ask them “What more can we be doing, and how can you help us make that happen?”Most ESPs today have similar features. Differentiators are fewer and therefore more important. Everyone can load listsand has a WYSIWYG editor. But who supports relational data and complex, customer lifecycle automations? When makinga choice, it helps to first determine the organizations and companies that are similar to you. Who do they use? And whatcapabilities make their eMarketing stand out?We hope this Guide fulfills its purpose in making your ESP search easier and more effective. As always, we look forward toyour feedback. Cheers to you. Choose wisely. Choose well.Yours in prosperous eMarketing,Marco MariniCEO  1
  4. 4. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE #1 How Easy is the Platform to Use — and How Long Will You Be Able to Keep Using It? Chances are, you’ll expect to have your new ESP for at least two years. In reality, needs change quickly and you will probably be reconsidering your ESP choice even sooner. From the start, you must be sure it offers the ease of use, features, scalability, and reliability you need now—and will need in the future. Being shown and taught how to use a tool effectively is often at least as important as the capabilities of the tool itself. Usability An ESP platform’s power is only as good as your organization’s ability and An ESP platform’s willingness to use it. If your staff finds it difficult to use, they will not use it power is only effectively, they may avoid using its full set of features, and they could even make serious errors. On the other hand, if they find it easy to use, they will as good as your take advantage of all its powerful functionality to produce the best campaigns imaginable. When evaluating usability, consider ease of navigation, reporting, organization’s ability account configurations, approval process, task automation, and profile settings. and willingness to Considerations: use it. • How well does the interface work on an individual level? • Is there a drag-and-drop visual GUI? • Is the workflow laid out in a wizard-driven, step-by-step format? • Does the UI provide for “catching mistakes” (alerting/preventing mistakes in a broadcast)? • Is list segmentation easily configurable via drag-and-drop GUIs? • How about automated messaging? Is that easily set up? • Are there preloaded templates? Is there a WYSIWYG editor? • Does the platform enable automation of complex tasks, such as generating mobile versions from an HTML template? • Does it allow for a workflow that fits with your organization? • Does the platform allow for role-based or department-based access? Feature Sets ESPs can overwhelm with the sets of features they offer, sometimes giving these feature sets names that make it hard to understand their value or how they differ from a competitor’s offerings. As an organization, first investigate and agree upon the features you absolutely have to have, those of medium importance, the ones that would be nice to have, and the ones that would be irrelevant. If you have an ESP already, your organization should be aware of your current platform’s features, so you can compare those to other offerings. Considerations: • What are the features offered and how well do they match up to your organizational needs? • How usable are the features? Can you test drive them or see them in action? • Does the ESP offer the feature sets you need right now, but also those you plan to need in the future as your email marketing program evolves? • Are the features offered those you really need now or in the near future? There’s no point in paying for the richest set of features if your team will only use a portion of them.2
  5. 5. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER • Is it possible to add more features later as needed to avoid paying for them when not needed? • If there is some functionality that you want, but won’t be able to deploy within the next 18 months, take it off your “must have” list for your current search Agility Your organization needs to take advantage of the opportunities created by If there is some current events, social media feedback, interaction with your customer data, andfunctionality that you more. That’s why you need a platform that makes it easy to get a campaign out quickly. Business agility keeps organizations fluid and responsive, but that same want, but won’t be ability to adapt might be important to your email marketing program as well. If itable to deploy within is, consider how agile your ESP must be. the next 18 months, Considerations: • How does the platform meet today’s demand for real-time marketing?take it off your “must • Does it support cross-channel marketing? Your customers are already on have” list for your multiple channels—your marketing efforts and platform need to be as well. • How easily can you launch a campaign that includes mobile and social? (are current search you using multiple platforms?) • Will the platform scale without any negative effect on performance if you find yourself needing to suddenly increase email volume? • Is the usability of the interface such that campaigns can be rapidly launched and monitored? • What are other customers doing that proves the ESP’s solution to be agile enough for your organization’s needs? Reliability Reliability is critical. When your ESP’s platform is down, you lose the ability to send not only manual but automated emails too. You may also lose valuable email tracking data. Any time-sensitive or revenue-generating initiatives are essentially rendered inoperable. An uptime of 99.5% sounds great but in reality equates to a downtime of two days per year! If one of those two days falls on Cyber Monday or another day when your email campaigns are critical, you lose more than ROI; you could lose customers to a competitor who was able to get into those inboxes when you couldn’t. Look for an uptime with as many 9s after the point as possible (99.9999%). In addition, ask for a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that has meaningful “teeth” (recourse). We’ve seen some that will credit 2% of the monthly subscription charge ($200 on a $10k/month revenue commitment). Considerations: • What is your recourse for recovering direct or indirect costs if the SLA is not met? • How often does the ESP release updates that require a temporary service suspension? • How much unplanned downtime has the ESP experienced in the last 24 months? • What is the vendor’s escalation procedure for problems? • Does the vendor have uninterruptable power and backup systems and redundant data centers at separate locations in case of a disaster? • What architecture enhancements have they made to ensure the platform is available 24/7? • Based on references, what do other customers say about uptime? 3
  6. 6. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE Scalability As your company grows and/or your email marketing evolves, you will need a platform that grows with you. Switching ESPs is not something you want to have to go through when you’re in a period of rapid growth. Find the ESP that fits your needs now as well as your projected needs in the future. To do so, it’s imperative that your organization first decide what the projected growth will be, and what types of features and services you’ll need and when. Considerations: • What level of vendor are you considering? Perhaps you don’t need a top-tier ESP right now, but you will in a couple of years when your business grows. • What size customer does the vendor typically serve? • What additional services or features do you project you’ll need in the future? Does the ESP offer those? • Is pricing flexible, letting you pay only for what you need now, then increasing as you scale? • Does the ESP offer vendor partnerships for services they don’t offer directly, such as marketing automation or social media integration?Your ESP must be able #2 How Well Can the Platform Integrate with to help you manage Mobile and Across Channels? your organization’s Email is no longer a standalone marketing channel. Nor is it viewed exclusively social presence and on a computer screen nor while sitting at a desk. Today social media is critical as is the ability to adapt email to mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets. gather actionable data for use in email Social Media Integration marketing. When it comes to social media and email, the word you need to know is integration. Whether it’s Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn Twitter, Pinterest, or the next yet-to-be-determined sexy social media site, what matters is thoughtful and considered integration of your email with that social media platform. Your ESP must be able to help you manage your organization’s social presence and gather actionable data for use in email marketing. Considerations: • Is social media integration a priority for the ESP? What are their other customers doing? • Which social media platforms are integrated with the ESP’s platform? • Is it a full integration or a partial solution? • Can emails be shared with social networks via the ESP’s platform? • Does the vendor offer tracking of social media engagements that begin with an email? • Does the ESP have partnerships with other social media vendors to assist with integration?4
  7. 7. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER Does the ESP Mobile Design and Rendering offer the ability With one-third of emails read first on a mobile device such as a smartphone, to automatically marketers simply can’t afford to ignore mobile email any longer. And mobile email means much more than sending the same html email to your entire list, generate mobile regardless of the device it will render on. Now chances are enough of your audience is mobile that you should design for mobile first, and with a method versions from HTML for ensuring (or even automating) that your email renders correctly on a variety emails? Ideally of devices. Consumers expect nothing less than an optimal experience on their small screens. Your ESP is your partner in delivering that experience. it should enable Considerations: “responsive design” • Does the ESP offer the ability to automatically generate mobile versions from html that will HTML emails? Ideally it should enable “responsive design” html that will automatically render the optimized version based on the device opening the automatically render message. • Will the emails resize and render equally well on a variety of mobile devices asthe optimized version well as on the desktop? based on the device • Does the platform support fluid or responsive design, or both? • Does the vendor offer a tool for testing/rendering on mobile devices?opening the message. #3 How Does the Platform Integrate Relational Data for Complex Automations? Sophisticated, near real-time eMarketing depends in part on your ability to harness relational data. This includes all the complex, high-volume, disparate, high-velocity data that’s generated by your social media activity, transactions, CRM system, and other customer interactions. And don’t forget your web analytics. Integrating this data into your marketing is essential for generating the dynamic content necessary for targeted, relevant, and personalized automated emails. However, the more complex your relational data, the more complex your automations become. Your ESP needs to be able to make it possible through integration and make it easy through automation. The platform must also provide tools that enable you to measure and analyze the results and engagement metrics for each subscriber–-and return those results to your CRM and other data systems. Marketing Automation Previously the mainstay of B2B marketing solutions, marketing automation has now become mainstream in B2C marketing, and some ESPs have either developed or acquired marketing automation solutions. Marketing automation enables automated emails to be generated based on customer transactions, schedule- based “drip marketing” campaigns, and other data-driven messaging. These emails typically deliver higher open rates and more conversions. 5
  8. 8. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE Considerations: • Does the platform provide marketing automation capabilities? • Do these capabilities meet your organization’s needs now as well as your projected needs in the future? • Does the platform enable dynamic content for relevant, personalized messages? • Are there easy-to-use segmentation tools for data filtering? Data Integration Data integration means connecting disparate systems so your email platform can work with web analytics, CRM systems, eCommerce engines, your CMS, and custom reporting dashboards. To get the most from your customer/subscriber data, this kind of integration is imperative. In addition, CRM systems like and Microsoft Dynamics offer growing options for integrations, which means new and additional approaches for you to consider. For custom integration, look into the breadth of the API to determine how much can be accomplished via the API, how easy is it to integrate with, and what volume and size of payloads will the API will support. Considerations: • Does the platform have pre-configured integrations with the tools you want to integrate with? • Will the platform allow for point-and-click automated data integration? • Will you be able to build it utilizing the Application Programming Interface (API)? • What is the breadth of their API functionality? • How much data can be realistically be pushed/pulled from the system? • What types of data management tools do the vendor offer? • Does the platform update data continuously with automated features such as self-cleansing mailing lists, bouncing email addresses, audience preference changes, and unsubscribes? • Can the system support your relational data structure? Can you easily create a data mart or does it accommodate integration to a data mart solution? Application Programming Interface (API) When it comes to building an integration utilizing a vendor’s API, keep in mind Ensure the team has that different companies have different skill sets and it is best to ensure that the hands-on knowledge platform’s API can be easily and effectively leveraged by your firm. Many vendors provide code samples for different programming languages. Check to see if their of the platform as samples are written in a language comfortable to your developers. If you plan to have the ESP handle integration for you, be clear on timelines. Ensure thewell as your back-end team has hands-on knowledge of the platform as well as your back-end systems, systems, and ask for and ask for references. Also look behind the scenes to evaluate the platform’s infrastructure to support the API calls. The best API is not going to help if the references. redundant, scalable infrastructure is not there to serve it. Considerations: • Are there ongoing support costs for managing the integrations? • Does the ESP offer a technical services team to help you integrate? • Do you have the internal personnel to help with changes? Or would you need to contract the work to a Partner like ClickMail or the ESP Professional Services Team ?6
  9. 9. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER • Is there an online developer community? What is the availability of skilled programmers to develop and maintain the integration? • Can the API support the scale of your record-set and synchronize at a reasonable frequency? • Understand and evaluate the type of API the platform offers: XML-based, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), REST, Synchronous, and Asynchronous. • Definitely review their API documentation, and if possible – test it against a live instance of their API; be aware that virtually every ESP will have errors/ omissions in their documentation #4 Does the Vendor Monitor and Ensure Email Deliverability? The ESP you choose must be able to optimize deliverability to ensure the highest possible deliverability rate. Remember, any email not delivered is a lost opportunity for a sale and many factors are working against you. Consider the ESP’s efforts to keep their customers’ deliverability rate high, how they’ll help you with your sending reputation, authentication options, scoring tools, and tools for measuring engagement. DeliverabilityRemember, any email Deliverability measures the percentage of your email that gets to your recipients’ inboxes. It’s a critical metric for improving the success of your email program.not delivered is a lost When email is blocked—by ISPs or spam filters—you’re not only losing out on opportunities to sell to or connect with recipients; you’re also hurting youropportunity for a sale sender reputation, and possibly that of everyone else who shares your IP address.and many factors are That’s why you need to start with a vendor that already enjoys a good sender reputation…and strives to maintain it.working against you. Considerations: • Will the vendor allow a third-party deliverability audit before requiring a contract? • Is deliverability consistently monitored by the vendor? • Does the vendor have a team that works with ISPs to ensure deliverability? • What about data hygiene services? Does the vendor scrub against duplicates, known spam traps, active complainers, and undeliverable addresses? • Will the vendor or platform proactively notify you if your deliverability drops? • If your deliverability drops, what evaluations and remedies are available? • Will the vendor let you take the platform for a test drive to discover the deliverability rate they offer in reality? Sending Reputation Management Even if your email messages are CAN-SPAM compliant and permission-based (sent only to people who subscribed to your emails), being flagged as spam or landing in a spam trap means a negative effect on your online sending reputation, a key metric ISPs use to decide if your emails are to be allowed through to the inbox or not. Most spam complaints are the result of list fatigue and spam traps are often typo traps in disguise. You’re also subject to the reputation of other businesses using the same IP address. To avoid the negative impact of these three factors, 7
  10. 10. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE you must have tools for managing your current sending reputation as well as mitigating any inadvertent past behaviors affecting deliverability. Considerations: • Does the vendor support dedicated IP’s? • Does the vendor offer reputation support, including: whitelisting, feedback loop (FBL) enrollments, and authentication protocols assistance? • Does the platform provide you the data from FBL enrollments? • Is there real-time monitoring and alerting for blacklisting, domain blocking, and abuse reporting? • Does the vendor allow you to sign up for whitelisting status with ISPs? Will they do this automatically on your behalf? Authentication Proving youridentity One way to protect your sending reputation is through authentication— can also reduce publishing the mail servers that are authorized to send email on your behalf. This establishes who you are and gives the recipient a method with which to identify the likelihood of a your email. Proving your identity can also reduce the likelihood of a legitimate email being mistaken for spam, and help reduce and even prevent evil-doers fromlegitimate email being spamming or scamming your brand. mistaken for spam, There are now five main types of authentication: SPF (Sender Policy Framework), and help reduce and SenderID (SPF2 - depreciating), DomainKeys (DK), DomainKeys Identified Mail even prevent evil- (DKIM), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance). Since there are no authentication standards across ISPs, wedoers from spamming recommend you implement as many authentication protocols as feasible and consider DMARC if it makes sense for your organization. or scamming your brand. Considerations: • Which types of authentication does the platform offer? • Will you be able to test installation of these technologies? • Are there extra setup or monthly costs for using these technologies? • Does the platform offer third-party Domain Key signing for shared IPs? • Will you be able to implement all five authentication systems with that vendor? Scoring Tools Scoring tools allow you to monitor, manage, and improve the delivery, credibility, reputation, and rendering of your email communications. Some scoring tools help you to monitor your sending reputation, thereby improving your deliverability. You also need scoring tools to know how your emails appear in different email clients and on mobile devices. Still other scoring tools provide blacklist monitoring. Know what must be monitored, and find out if your new ESP offers the scoring tools you need. Considerations: • Does the vendor offer the scoring tools deemed important to your organization? • For each, does the vendor use their own content scoring features or do they integrate with a third-party reporting tool? • Are the reports actionable? Do they indicate how to correct the problems detected? • Does the vendor provide training or guidance on how to effectively use and understand the scoring tools?8
  11. 11. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER Engagement Measurement Major ISPs now track how their customers interact with emails and decide which emails should be classified as spam based on that interaction-based data. A subscriber’s engagement—or lack thereof—with your email directly influences your deliverability because the ISP sees the engagement as an indication that the person wants to hear from you, and a lack of engagement as an indication that he or she does not. In addition to the scoring tools mentioned above, you need tools to measure that engagement. Latest reports show that a majority of recipients that mark email as spam did actually opt-in. Considerations: • What kind of engagement measuring tools does the vendor offer? • Does the platform provide actionable, real-time reporting of data from ecommerce sites and social sites? • Does the vendor offer the ability to track and store open time by user? • Can you optimize your send times on an individual basis per subscriber within the platform? (think about why you might choose or reject the concept) • Does the platform offer integration with third-party tools that helps you measure engagement? What about engagement across social media channels? #5 How Does the Platform Enable Testing and With more than 30 Reporting so You Can Monitor Results? percent of recipients Together, testing and reporting are imperative for improving everything from yourinitially opening their deliverability to your engagement to your ROI. Testing enables you to compare email using mobile variationsReporting delivers the results of the testing—and ongoing most effective. of even tiny elements of your email marketing to find the marketing devices, it is critical efforts—so you’ll know what is working, where to improve, and what to test. to test how your Testing email renders across Testing is critical to any email marketing campaign because only testing will a variety of channels help you determine what is effective and what isn’t. Consistent and continual and platforms. testing should be a key component than 30 percent of recipients initially opening capabilities. In addition, with more of your marketing strategy and your ESP’s their email using mobile devices, it is critical to test how your email renders across a variety of channels and platforms. Considerations: • What testing capabilities does the platform offer? • How easy is it to execute an A/B split test? Will the “winning message” automatically send to the rest of your audience? • Does the platform support multivariate testing? • Which variables can you easily test with this vendor? Consider From address, subject line, content, delivery time, and delivery day. • Does the platform offer integration with analytics programs? 9
  12. 12. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE Reporting Reporting and analytics tools are critical for measuring the effectiveness of your email campaigns and making adjustments to optimize ROI over time. Standard metrics include sends, deliveries, opens, click-throughs, bounces, and forwards, but are more advanced metrics available if you need them? Make sure you are clear on the metrics that matter for your business and review how well the reporting capabilities of the platform match those needs. Considerations: • Is the reporting offered insightful and easily acted upon? • Can you set up custom reports to view the data most valuable to you? • What level of reporting is available for bounce messages? • Does the platform offer programmable post click-through reporting such as clickstream (resulting website) behavior? • Is it easy to export data so it can be used with other tools, such as web analytics or your CRM system? • Does the platform offer cross-platform, mobile, and/or social media metrics? • Does the reporting include conversion tracking? • Is there proactive reporting that alerts you to a problem, such as a significant drop in open rates? Poor customer #6 What Level of Customer Service service is the Can You Expect? number one reason According to the 2012 Forrester Email Wave Report, poor customer service organizations decide is the number one reason organizations decide to seek out a new ESP. In the report, analyst Shar VanBoskirk explains the importance of service when he says,to seek out a new ESP. “How a vendor handles its people relationships—with clients, with analyst, with employees—matters as much as its software.” Take a look at the ESP’s customer support, training options, and track record, as well as the knowledge base if you plan to be self service. Customer Support Although a good customer support experience begins long before any problems arise, knowing what you can expect in the event of a problem should be a key factor in choosing your vendor. Platforms become more complex over time, so you need to have good people on the vendor’s side to support your team as your needs and your platform’s features change. Before evaluating the level of customer support offered by ESPs, decide if your organization will rely on self- service, collaborative services, or full services. Considerations: • Is reaching a live person important to you? During which hours are calls answered? • Do you need 24-hour access to support? • What is the timeliness of responses to support queries? • What type of ticketing system exists? • What is the vendor’s complaint escalation procedure?10
  13. 13. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER • Ask for references from both current customers and those who have switched to a different vendor. • Try calling support after-hours (holiday/weekend), and see what your experience is. Ask for references Training from both current The sooner you and your staff are proficient on your new platform, the faster you can start reaping the benefits of your investment, and the less likely you are customers and those to make mistakes. Training will be critical at the beginning as you ramp up withwho have switched to the new ESP You want a platform that offers easy access to resources to ensure . your ramp up time is minimal. However, you will also want ongoing education to a different vendor. ensure you continue to get more and more out of the platform, especially when the ESP releases upgrades and new features. Considerations: • How can you access resources to ensure your ramp up time is minimal? • Are there costs for initial or follow-up training? • Is training available both online and live? • Do new releases include training? • Is there training available beyond the platform interface, for example, training on best practices? • Does the platform vendor offer regional or national user conferences? Knowledge Base While not essential to the email process, a knowledge base is a system by which companies organize and present information to their customers regarding product usage. This can be in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQ), how- to’s, tutorial, reference, users forum, or other formal or informal database. If your organization is more self serve, you’ll want a Knowledge Base your email and technical teams can turn to when needed. Considerations: • Does the vendor provide access to a knowledge base as a means of self-service customer support? • Is the knowledge base easily searchable? • What form does the knowledge base take? If it is forum based, is it current and moderated, with all user questions answered? • Does the knowledge base support hypertext systems linking related topics, to help users to relate and remember things? #7 How Will the Vendor Manage Migration and Implementations? When ramping up with a new ESP sometimes the hardest part about making , the switch is making the switch. Smooth implementation is always important. It becomes even more mission critical when you’re not just starting up with a new ESP but also managing the transition from a current system. How are you going , to migrate your often disparate data from one platform to another, rebuild your reputation with the new IP address, and maintain program uptime? Take a look at trial accounts, pricing and contracts, migration, and implementation timelines. 11
  14. 14. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE Trial Accounts Ask about trial Commitment is scary, especially when there is a year-plus contract involved accounts (read: fully with a new ESP plus all the implementation and cost. You should have a fail- , safe plan, which includes keeping your old vendor on for 30 days in case your implementation gets hung up. In addition, ask about trial accounts (read: fully functional evaluation functional evaluation accounts) with the new ESP to make sure the real-world , experience lives up to expectations and promises. accounts) with the Considerations: new ESP, to make • Can you take the actual user interface for a test drive? Do not settle for an internal demo version. sure the real-world • During the trial period, test to be sure the interface has the features and functionality you are looking for. Are they easy enough for you and your team experience lives up to figure out and use? • Avoid getting sucked in by “cool” functionality that you don’t need now or to expectations and won’t realistically use in the next 18 months. promises. Pricing and Contracts You do not want to choose an ESP solely on price, but you do want to know exactly what you are getting because most ESPs require a 12-month usage and revenue commitment. Flexible pricing and payment terms that match your requirements based on your sending patterns and budget constraints mean you have a vendor that is responsive to your needs. More flexible contract terms also allow you to try new tactics without long-term expense commitments. Investigate pricing and contractual details early in the selection process, particularly if you are in a highly regulated industry such as finance, insurance or healthcare, or if your organization is known for strict contractual negotiations. Considerations: • Which features have additional costs? Ask about dynamic content, dedicated IP addresses, API deployment, surveys, transactional messaging, data storage, hosted content, and landing pages. • Does the vendor offer flexible billing terms, such as allowing you to ramp up over time as your usage increases? • If relevant, check the data retention policies: Will you be charged for storing your data? • Ask for contracts from potential service providers and have them reviewed by your legal department for any red flags before final vendor selection. Migration Support Changing platforms requires a level of handholding that goes beyond customer support. Your IT team, your web developers, and your entire marketing team need to be involved. Your new ESP should set your expectations and spell out their complete plans for shifting your email program from your former vendor over to their platform. Considerations: • How will the new vendor transfer your data? • How will the new vendor switch your sender ID to a new IP address? Will the vendor manage changes to authentication protocols? • What kind of guidance will the new vendor offer during the transition?12
  15. 15. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER • How will they help you protect/re-establish your sender reputation as you ramp up the new IP address? • Will the vendor help transfer your automated emails, such as triggered emails and drip marketing campaigns? You need to know Implementation Timeline The longer you wait for an implementation, the more at risk you are to losehow long the process marketing momentum, revenue, and even customers. An API integration is typically the most time-consuming, but there is typically an implementation will take, who is period for other tasks such as setting up your account, creating email templates, importing lists, and setting up authentication protocols. You need to know how responsible for long the process will take, who is responsible for doing what, and in what order the configuration tasks must be completed. doing what, and Considerations: in what order the • Will the solution provider commit to be up and running by a certain date? • Will they agree to built-in financial consequences if the timeline is not met? configuration tasks must be completed. # 8 Does the Vendor Provide Consulting Services? Many ESPs offer more than an email platform; they can also play a supportive role in marketing strategy, best practices consulting, and more. When you look for a new ESP ask about additional services such as strategic support. Also ask them , how they can help you leverage strategic services more effectively by mapping out short-, mid-, and long-term program goals. Consulting Services Agency-type services such as strategy, design, deployment, coding, and integration services can help you optimize your email marketing program, especially if your department is understaffed or less experienced. Consider capabilities you want now and those you might want in the future, such as campaign planning, list growth, deployment, or customized web development. Considerations: • Which professional services does the vendor offer? • What is the experience of their consulting team? • How have they demonstrated and continue to maintain thought leadership in the industry? • Is there an active partner network? With which vendors and for how long? • Get the ProServices pricing sheet BEFORE you commit to a platform, this can often be a negotiated rate/hr! 13
  16. 16. 2013 ESP SELECTION GUIDE #9 How Does the Vendor Ensure Data Security Security should and Legal Compliance? extend beyond the With the ever-increasing threat of online theft of personally identifiable platform to cover information—like that contained inside customer databases—as well as the risk to your sender reputation if your list is hacked or stolen, your ESP’s ability to provide data security and legal compliance should be a high priority during your ESPaccess to the network selection well as local access Data Security from the platform People are increasingly concerned about the security of their data, and are hesitant to use a third-party tool because of security issues. Security should facility. extend beyond the platform to cover access to the network as well as local access from the platform facility. Also, public companies must comply with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). If your organization maintains healthcare related information or electronic transactions, the HIPAA Privacy Rule also applies. Before evaluating the security capabilities of any platform, be clear on the requirements of your organization and industry, in particular, the level of security wanted or mandated. Considerations: • Is the vendor SOX and HIPAA compliant, if applicable? • Do they have network intrusion detection, such as firewalls, employee screening, monitored access, and/or security cameras? • Do they require vendor employee background checks? • Are they insured, licensed, and bonded? • What types of audit trails are available? • What types of security tools are in place? • Do they provide monitoring and alerts? • Has the company been through a Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16 (formerly SAS 70) audit? Legal Compliance Your customer and prospect data is one of your company’s most valuable assets. If your organization requires you to manage data a certain way, legal considerations matter. You will definitely need to make sure your emails are CAN- SPAM compliant, but there are other regulations you might need to comply with as well, such as the Canadian anti-spam law (FISA or CASL), the California Online Privacy Protection Act (OPPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA), and others. Considerations: • All email service providers should have requirements for emails sent out through their platforms. Will your emails meet those requirements? • Will the vendor help you determine what marketing content is legally acceptable in transactional emails? • Is the vendor able to help you comply with new, more stringent regulations as they appear? • Is the vendor proactive in determining which new regulations apply and taking action to be compliant? • What is the recourse if you violate one of these laws or policies?14
  17. 17. THE 9 ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER Call on ClickMail While all the many considerations listed in this document may not apply to your specific organization’s needs, they provide a useful and detailed starting point for ensuring you make the best decision possible when selecting a new ESP.Your ESP Selection Tool ClickMail can help streamline this selection process even more efficiently and effectively. We know the ESPs. We know how well they rank for each of these factors. Best of all, working with us is risk-free because we are independent email technology experts. As a vendor-agnostic company, it is our job to help you find your new ESP with confidence, then help you get up and running with speed: Looking for specific Email Marketing • We’ll set you up with a trial account so that you can try the platforms before recommendations? you purchase your account. • Because of our volume purchasing and partnerships with so many email service providers, we can offer you competitive pricing on the platform you choose.Although our 2013 Guide is • With ClickMail on your side, you will learn how to use the platform faster and vendor agnostic, we have utilize the features of your email service provider to the fullest extent possible.built an email selection tool • When you’re ready to grow your email marketing strategy, our technical andfeaturing specific platforms. strategic services will help you earn the maximum return from your email You can access this tool at marketing investment. Let ClickMail to become an extension of your email marketing team by helping Powered by you on the path to becoming a successful and profitable email marketer. ClickMail Marketing For more information, phone us at 650-653-8055 or toll-free at 866-418-4877, or email us at 15
  18. 18. About ClickMail Marketing ClickMail Marketing is an email consultancy and value-added reseller of over a dozen email service providers. As one of the fastest growing email solutions providers in the industry, westrive to stay vendor neutral so that we can recommend the best solution for your specific marketing needs. We also publish The Whitelist, an email marketing blog, at and The ClickMail Marketer newsletter at Connect with us: Facebook: LinkedIn: Twitter: RSS: Marketing, Inc. Phone: 650.653.8055155 Bovet Road, Suite 310 Toll Free: 866.418.4877San Mateo, CA 94402-3108 Fax: 650.350.1056