If you are having issues with your email service provider (ESP), you might start to consider looking for a new one. But choosing a new ESP is a major undertaking, one that consumes time and financial resources, and can put your email marketing program on hold, thereby affecting revenue. Sometimes your best option is to first see if you can salvage the relationship with the ESP you already have. Below I offer some “ESP therapy” that might fix what ails you…or help you know for certain that it’s time to say goodbye.

Note: If you want to switch because of stability or security issues, then skip the rest of this post, because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to resolve such a serious issue with your ESP if they don’t recognize the problem.

1. Are you sure a switch is worth it?

If you’re thinking a new ESP is the answer, let’s first take a look at the consequences of switching you might not have considered.

At some point, that ESP you’re currently using seemed the best fit for your organization. Why was that ESP a good fit before? What made you sign on the dotted line with that particular vendor? Has something changed making that ESP a poor fit, rather than a good one?

It might be that ESP offers features you need and won’t find elsewhere, so be prepared to give those up when switching. Also consider any customization or integration work that has been done. You’ll be starting from scratch if you dump that ESP for a new one. And starting from scratch will only add to the cost, time and hassle of switching.

2. Make sure you’re not the problem

At ClickMail, we often talk to marketers who are convinced they need a new ESP. However, once we delve into the issues they’re experiencing, we many times discover these problems are internal—and fixable. Some of these internal issues include:

  • Deliverability issues: Many times people think the ESP is at fault for bad email deliverability when it’s their sending practices that are too blame. It could be poor list hygiene, boring content, bad coding, or a poorly managed sender reputation, for example. Switching ESPs won’t fix any of those issues.
  • Unhappy with the platform: We often hear marketers say the platform is not working for them, but when we investigate, we find out it’s just not properly set up for their needs. Or it could be they want the ESP to do something it’s not set up to do, and all they need is some ESP customization to fix the problem.
  • Wanting to use what you’re used to: We also see companies switch to a new ESP when a new employee comes on board who wants to use what they’re used to from their former job. In this case, there isn’t a problem with the current ESP, but a timely and costly switch is likely to happen just the same.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Sometimes the relationship (like a personal one) falls apart due to unmet expectations, meaning the client thought they’d be getting more from the ESP than they believe they are actually getting. Fixing this problem means being willing to go to the ESP and have a dialog.
  • Tuning out the ESP: Finally and sadly, sometimes a marketer has a perceived problem with the ESP when the truth is, the ESP has been trying to communicate with the marketer, but the marketer has tuned them out. The ESP was pushing for improvement but in the end just gave up and moved on to working with a more receptive client.

3. Are you doing everything internally like you should?

Marketers can always benefit from a good look in the mirror while asking themselves “Am I doing everything I could be?” There are a number of best practices that can help improve both the ESP relationship as well as your email marketing results. Before people start pointing fingers, make sure you’re adhering to best practices on your end and consider how internal factors may be contributing like:

  • Lack of training
  • List hygiene
  • Sending and delivering
  • CAN SPAM compliances
  • Keeping up with updates
  • Lack of training

We often discover that people who want to switch don’t realize their ESP can do exactly what they need and that they are in fact creating more work for themselves by not using things the way they are intended to be used. Training can help.

4. Reasons for wanting to switch

Obviously, if a poor choice was made the first time around, then it’s harder to make the existing ESP work. Ditto if your organization has outgrown your current ESP. But are there times when a switch is not the answer? Yes. If you’re doing everything internally like you should be, then sometimes it’s a matter of improving the relationship, not starting over with someone else. In our experience, most issues can be resolved through better communications on both sides.

Sometimes clients want to switch ESPs because they think promises weren’t kept and expectations weren’t met. Pricing surprises also come up as complaints when we talk to people who want to switch. Usually the client realizes they need a specific feature after the fact, like special reporting, and then they’re shocked at the price to create something that’s customized for them.

In addition, we hear a lot of complaints about poor customer support: that ESPs are non-responsive and take too long to respond to requests, for example, and that open issues remain open for far too long.

Ideally you will have communicated thoroughly upfront before signing on with that ESP, and spelled out everything in your contract, including pricing, training, support SLAs, services such as deliverability help, and other expectations, to name a few. All of that communication before you ever signed a contract should decrease the chances of dissatisfaction later.

Still, even after this kind of due diligence, organizations will approach us wanting to find a new email service provider. So our next piece of advice is, try to make do with what you have by improving the relationship.

Tips for improving the relationship with your existing ESP

Let’s not give up on them yet! If you’re still having problems, despite doing everything you can internally to make things better, communicate clearly with the ESP about those problems and see if they can help you figure out the solution. For example:

  • Tell them you are unhappy and why. Give them a chance to fix it!
  • Address the support issues—or maybe I should say lack-of-support issues? Is the ESP even aware that you think they are unresponsive?
  • Read the emails they send you. Answer their phone calls. They are trying to help you. Don’t be too busy to improve things.
  • When you have a new project or need that comes up, be upfront with the ESP about your expectations regarding the timing and the pricing. Have a clear understanding of the SLA and use that to your advantage.
  • If you’re having issues with the platform, maybe it needs to be configured differently for you, or maybe your staff needs additional training. Talk to the ESP about this.
  • Ask for regular status meetings to discuss your programs and ways to fix problems.
  • Spend a little money on professional services to hone your program instead of spending a lot to migrate.
  • Document use cases and workflows. Ask the ESP to review and make suggestions.
  • Ask about the future roadmap. The ESP may be developing exactly the functionality you now need and you can wait.
  • Find, join, and be active in ESP user groups. Peers can help with issues. Chances are they have seen them too.

Your ESP is in business to provide the products and services you need, and it’s in their best interests to keep you happy. Switching ESPs is sometimes necessary, but not always, and it’s worth the time, money and hassle saved to improve the relationship you have vs. start over with a new vendor. Work with your current ESP to see what kinds of solutions you can come up with to improve the relationship—and ultimately the email that results.

The dawn of the digital marketer is here. Learn more about how your business can stay ahead by downloading the free Salesforce e-book.