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

email marketing features you want vs why you want them can mean confusionWhen 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.