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The 7 Worst Pitfalls to Avoid When Migrating to a New ESP

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 14:32

You thought going through the ESP selection process was hard? It might look like a walk in the park compared to the actual migration. Moving from one ESP to another involves many different people and parts, and how well you do the migration affects how quickly you’ll be up and running with your new ESP. It’s worth doing it well! Yet it’s also fraught with potential pitfalls.

At ClickMail, we see the after effects of migration pitfalls when organizations come to us with issues such poor deliverability, inefficient processes, or lack of insight into how to take advantage of all their data. We’ve summed up the seven most common pitfalls below, with advice on how to avoid each. If you’re facing an ESP migration sometime in the next year, take this advice to heart.

Pitfall #1: Rushing the migration
Rushing through the migration can mean mistakes made, data left behind, poor deliverability, and old baggage carried over to your new vendor.

How do you avoid this pitfall? Don’t rush. You probably have a lot of information to migrate over, plus you’ll spend time reviewing exactly what you will move, plus training time, and many more such details to tend to. Go slow. In fact, consider doing your migration in stages, following this advice here, to make sure all tasks are completely correctly and comprehensively. If you have to rush because your current ESP contract is about to expire, ask them if you can go month-to-month while you make the move, and hang on to your old ESP for 30 days post migration, just in case. They may squawk at first about going month-to-month, but usually give in.

Pitfall #2: Failing to do a proper IP warmup
Failing to do a proper warmup of your new dedicated IP can mean long-term damage to your sending reputation, and therefore deliverability and ROI.

How do you avoid this pitfall? In addition to slowing down the migration so you can do it well, think slow when it comes to the IP warmup process. Give yourself plenty of time. Remember, in the eyes of the ISPs, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Rather than send to your whole list at once, which will make ISPs suspect you’re a spammer, start by sending small yet frequent amounts of emails to your most engaged subscribers. Gradually increase the numbers until you are sending to all of your lists. Get advice for a safe and slow IP warmup here.

Pitfall #3: Not reviewing data needs
Without reviewing your data needs prior to a migration, you could miss out on data that would lead to better segmentation, better relevance and higher ROI.

How do you avoid it? You want to make sure you’re taking a good look at all the data you have access to. Take a step back and see if you need to change the ESP data as part of this migration.? Is there anything new? Are there databases that didn’t exist before, or ways to connect to data that didn’t exist before? Could you add more data sources, or new/deeper automations? As for the data you already have, is it optimized? Do you have a holistic view of your customer? Do you know that person A and B are actually the same person? Is all your data in a flat file and now you can move it to relational? What opportunities does that create for segmentation logic?

Pitfall #4: Failing to cleanup content prior to the move
If you were moving to a new house, would you take everything with you? Or would you clean house first, tossing what you don’t really need?

How do you avoid this pitfall? You figuratively clean house, by first documenting all of the content and processes you have, including templates, images, triggered content, etc. Then decide what goes with you, and which data or processes might need revamping prior to the move. You can find detailed information on preparing for the migration here.

Pitfall #5: Moving too much history
When you move more than you need to, you waste precious time, because it takes time to migrate all that content and history over. Why do it when you don’t need it?

How do you avoid this pitfall? Be realistic when deciding how much history to move. You might think you need the last five years’ worth of content, but you probably don’t and won’t use it. In my experience, six to twelve months tends to be enough history. Obviously it will vary by organization, so maybe that is not enough, but make a realistic decision about how much history you need to take with you to the new ESP…and save yourself some time and hassle.

Pitfall #6: Not knowing who is doing the migration
An ESP migration is not the time to say “ignorance is bliss.” Know who is managing this major endeavor on the ESP’s side, and make sure they’re qualified. Or else risk errors, delays or hang-ups that will ultimately cost you money either directly or indirectly when you can’t send email (nor generate revenue).

How do you avoid this pitfall? First, make sure you know who is in charge of what during the migration, because some of the duties do fall on your team’s shoulders. If the new vendor is doing much of the migration, find out how well they know old platform, how much they know about extracting data, and how long they estimate the process will take. Ask them how many such migrations they’ve done. Also ask if they using any planning or tracking tools, and whether or not you’ll have a dedicated contact person at the new ESP as you go through this process.

Pitfall #7: Failing to document key performance metrics before migration
If you don’t know what your performance was like before the move, how will you know if things improve after the move?

How do you avoid this pitfall? Document! Document positive metrics such as your deliverability and open rates, as well as negative metrics like your soft and hard bounce rates, unsubscribe rate, and spam reports. Make sure you do this for key mailings, and also document by domain. You want to know you’re at least doing as well as you were before the move—although really, you want to learn you’re doing better.

Also pass along those key performance metrics to the new ESP. They should want to know how your email marketing performed before the move so they can track against that.

Finally, you will want this data in case you have to prove a difference post migration. An anecdotal account of your bounce rate pre-migration won’t fly if you suspect it’s lower with your new vendor. Have empirical evidence instead.

When it’s time to make the big migration, take some time to make sure you’re going to avoid these pitfalls. Engage the right help, think through everything you want to move over, and think through how you want to make it all happen.

The post The 7 Worst Pitfalls to Avoid When Migrating to a New ESP appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.

ESP Email Marketing Features: What You Want vs. Why You Want Them

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 09:57

When organizations go shopping for a new email service provider or similar vendor, there’s often a disconnect between the email marketing features they want and the reasons behind wanting them. As a company that helps businesses to choose the vendor that is the best fit, we see this time and time again during the discovery process.

When this happens—and no one recognizes it—the result is usually a poor fit, as the customer realizes the vendor they’ve chosen isn’t going to deliver after all. It’s not the ESP’s fault! It’s the result of this disconnect between what a customer says they want and what they really need.

And then what happens? That vendor relationship is short-lived and the organization is back to the RFP, to spend even more precious time and resources on the search for yet another new ESP.

4 reasons for the disconnect between what we want and why we want it
From where I sit on the outside looking in, there are four reasons why this costly disconnect is so pervasive that we come across it almost daily:

  1. A lack of clarity around goals
  2. A lack of communication between teams
  3. A lack of insight into potential ROI
  4. A lack of resistance to “shiny things”

Yet each of these four reasons is easily combated, as I will explain below.

Reason 1: A lack of clarity around future needs and goals
I’m constantly preaching about the need to be crystal clear on goals before writing an RFP or starting a vendor search. Without doing that kind of homework upfront, you won’t know which features you actually need. Ask yourself, what is it your team is hoping to accomplish short term (in the next 6 months), and also long term (in the next 3+ years)?

Then be willing to take a deep dive and identify which features are a must-have, which fall into the would-be-nice-to-have category, and which ones are shiny baubles you’ll never use. Ask yourself and your team:

  • Does this feature fit into our roadmap?
  • Will it help us to reach our goals?
  • Can we do the same thing in another way?

Finally, determine which features and capabilities you absolutely have to have to achieve the highest priority goals. Stay laser focused on these features.

Reason 2: A lack of communication between teams
At some organizations, different teams will be using the platform, and they come to the table with varying requests. You must be willing to take a deep dive to find the reasons behind these requests, to make sure the features they’re after are the right ones. ClickMail’s CTO Cameron Kane suggests asking two questions to dig into why teams request certain features: “What specifically are you attempting to do and why?” and, “How are you solving this now?” (OK, maybe that’s three questions.)

Reason 3: A lack of insight into potential ROI
You must understand the actual impact of a wished-for feature on your email marketing program, processes and/or ROI. If you can’t connect that feature to a specific ROI, that’s a definite indication that it shouldn’t be on your list! You might have to pay extra for that feature, or for customization. Will you make back that money? And then some?

Reason 4: Being sucked in by “shiny things!”
The topic of “shiny things” is one I’ve covered in-depth in two blog posts for, one on the dangers of “shiny things” that dupe us into wasting our money on sexy features we’ll never use, and one on spotting those so-called features. I’ve also created a scoresheet that helps you rank each feature you’re considering, to determine if it’s a shiny thing or a feature you might actually use and benefit from.

Are you asking for the “right” features?
In general, most of the features clients ask for are necessary tools for effective email marketing, features such as automation, advanced segmentation, mobile, SMS, remarketing, social integration, advanced analytics, automated testing, and the like.

However, for those features that are outside the norm or beyond what you’re currently doing, make sure there’s a connection between the feature you want and the “why” behind that want.

The post ESP Email Marketing Features: What You Want vs. Why You Want Them appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.