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9 headaches to avoid when changing ESP

The key issues to consider when you switch email service provider

Email marketing is at the core of many transactional businesses and drives substantial amounts of revenue. The email marketing solution is quite simply a mission critical system and a break in operation can’t be afforded. Yet it's fairly common to move between Email service providers (ESPs) to gain a better deal, features or service. If you do this, there are a lot of potential issues to consider, so Dave Chaffey and I thought it would be helpful to cover these in case you're considering a change. We've called them headaches, since they may well be, particularly if they aren't considered.

Any contemplated move to a new ESP needs to be planned and executed with the mission critical nature of the system taken into account, as any false moves will directly impact revenue.

When moving to a new ESP there are many moving parts to be taken care of, both the setup and necessary configuration of the new ESP platform and changes to external interdependent elements. In this article I’m focussing on the external, interdependent elements as these are easily overlooked.

Issue 1. From email addresses
Typically your from email address will change as a new domain or subdomain will be used. This could impact your inbox placement so you need to advise your subscribers in advance of the change to the new from email address, so they are aware of the change and preferably that they whitelist your new address.

The new domain or subdomain will also need your IT to be involved in settign up the DNS for pointing of the domain.

Issue 2. Deliverability
You will be moving to new IP addresses and domain(s). This means you will need to re-build your sender reputation. If you are using dedicated IP addresses and have substantial volumes a warming process and gradual change-over is called for. If you had a good reputation before there won’t be a problem in re-building it, it is just a process to manage.

Issue 3. Data migration
The email address and associated user profile data needs to be transferred. Don’t forget to ensure that not only the active data is transferred but also the suppression data. Unsubscribed users, hard bounced addresses and spam complaint addresses need to be migrated.

Issue 4. Post click tracking
If you’ve got post click tracking set up so that the email solution reports on conversions on your website, you will need to update the tracking HTML your web pages. If this is on the purchase pages you will almost certainly being using an SSL certificate and need a new one for the new link tracking domain with the new ESP.

Issue 5. Subscribe processes
Where is your subscribe form? Do you have several subscribe forms? Such as on your website, campaign specific pages, embedded in your social media pages and recommend a friend forms? Audit all your subscribe forms so they can all be updated to submit data to the new ESP solution. The last thing you want is subscribers being added to a black hole.

Issue 6. Unsubscribe process
Likewise for the unsubscribe process, where is this managed? What needs to be done to ensure future unsubscribes are reflected in the new platform?

Issue 7. Transactional and external triggered emails
If you’ve got abandoned cart, welcome emails and transactional emails in place then these will be triggered from systems external to the ESP and re-integration will be needed. This could be a major challenge.

Issue 8. CRM integration
If your CRM has automated synchronisation to the ESP platform you need to plan for updating this integration.

Issue 9. Live email continuity
Once you’ve started broadcasting with the new ESP what happens to your old emails? You need to make sure the links in the campaign you sent yesterday with the old ESP continue to work otherwise you could frustrate customers and lose sales. In particular there is a legal need to ensure the unsubscribe links work.

In my next posts I will drill down deeper into some of these areas and give tips on how to go about managing the process in each case. Let us know if there are other problems you have experienced.

By Tim Watson

Tim Watson, from consultancy Zettasphere, is the Smart Insights expert commentator on email marketing. He is an independent email marketing consultant providing strategic guidance, to deliver improved campaign results. A member of the DMA Email Council and chair of the DMA Email Best Practice hub. He actively promotes email and frequently speaks on the subject and how to improve use of the channel. Connect with Tim via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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