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


migrating to new ESP toy busYou 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.


About Marco Marini

Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing, a vendor-neutral reseller of email marketing solutions. Marco is an acknowledged expert in email marketing with over 15 years of experience in the field. Before being named CEO at ClickMail, he was the VP of Marketing & Operations. Marco has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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