Finding the right email service provider for your needs can be difficult. Especially in today’s world, as larger email platforms are becoming full-service marketing platforms.
On the other hand, smaller email service providers (ESPs) have more limitations and functionality issues.
No matter the reason, if you decide to migrate to a new email marketing tool, there are some things that you have to take care of to pave the way for a smooth transition.
Read on to discover what you need to keep an eye out for as you evaluate options, features to keep in mind, and what you’ll need to plan for before you make the switch. We’ve even put together a checklist that’ll help ensure you’ve got everything lined up pre-move.
Signs it’s time for a new email service provider
More than half of the global population now uses email. According to Radicati, the total number of active email users in 2019 has jumped to 3.9 billion. This number is expected to grow to over 4.3 billion by the end of 2023. But this growth also means expectations have gone up for email service providers.
Knowing that your business (or nonprofit) depends on the quality of your email marketing efforts, it’s crucial to partner with a provider that can help you perform at the level your organization needs to thrive.
But how do you know if the current email marketing tool you’re using is doing justice to your business? When is it really time to switch your ESP?
Pay close attention to the signs:
1. Recurring functionality issues and limitations
Email marketing shouldn’t be a struggle. If you’re spending too much time fixing issues and inventing in shortcuts to overcome limitations, that’s a clear sign that you’re ready for a new ESP. Repeated problems indicate your current provider doesn’t bother improving the user experience, which reflects on the experience you provide to your customers.
2. Need for a dedicated email platform vs. multi-channel marketing hub
Sometimes the reason for switching your email service provider might be their transition to a full-service marketing platform, which is something that doesn’t fit your needs. If you’re caught up working with a multi-channel marketing hub when all you really need is a dedicated email platform, then it’s time to make a switch.
The same can be said if you don’t have team members that can navigate a more complex platform. This will save you time, money, and headaches. However, if much of your revenue comes from email, you may need a platform that focuses on it and has more robust, advanced features that’ll allow you to fine-tune this important sales channel.
3. Low email deliverability
According to ReturnPath, one out of every five commercial emails never gets delivered, and emails are useless unless they make it to the customer’s inbox. If you’re struggling with low deliverability despite all your efforts, the problem may be caused by your email service provider. Proactive support from your ESP can be the key to your deliverability success.
4. Need for better automation
Engaging with your customers at the right time, with the right message, can mean increased profitability and higher ROI for your campaigns. Thanks to marketing automation, you can send better, more targeted content at scale. Customers seek personalized, tailor-made experiences, and if your email service provider can’t help you with marketing automation, then it’s time for a new one.
5. Poor analytics
Analytics allow you to quantify the impacts of email to your overall marketing strategy, thus helping you improve and optimize your efforts. Making decisions without good analytics is like shooting in the dark—so, unless you want to burn money without seeing any results, using an ESP with bad analytics should be a red alert that you’re ready for a new provider.
6. Lack of flexibility
Every email marketing professional agrees that the features included in freemium models are not enough to give you all the functionality you need for successful email marketing campaigns. However, expensive high-end tools with a bunch of features you don’t even use can drain your budget. If you’re changing your provider, make sure to look for an ESP that can scale and grow with your business and has flexible pricing with low, medium, and enterprise tiers.
Must-have ESP features to look for before switching
As soon as you decide that it’s time to migrate, it’s crucial to define what you’re looking for in a new email marketing tool. Even though companies are unique in their own way and have different needs, there are certain elements that are essential in helping you with your email marketing efforts. Once you prioritize the features that you need, you can better evaluate potential providers.
Here are five features to look for before migrating platforms:
1. Product capabilities
Not all ESPs are made equal—from templates, layouts, and workflows to dashboards and data, product capabilities can differ from one email tool to the next. Make sure your email service provides a wide range of designs, flexible layouts, smart automation workflows, responsive design, and in-depth data and statistics.
Here’s a shot of the drag-and-drop email builder in Campaign Monitor.
2. Flexible pricing
Defining your budget can save you headaches. Make sure you have the right budget to achieve your goals and look for an email service provider that offers various payment plans. Most platforms offer monthly subscription plans for those who send regularly and have sizable lists. However, some ESPs include more flexible pricing for smaller list sizes and less frequent senders.
3. Rich reporting
Email marketing is much more than sending beautifully designed templates. In order to improve and optimize your campaigns, you need access to both summarized and drill-down reports. Data on open rates, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and social sharing can indicate what needs to be changed, and, with A/B testing, you can get a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t.
4. Integrations and personalization features
Email marketing should be part of a larger system, so partnering with a provider that can easily integrate with different applications and business tools is essential. Integrations also help make your email campaigns more relevant based on hyper-targeting and user-centric personalization. When looking for a new email service provider, make sure they offer an extensive range of apps and integrations.
5. Customer support
Getting the best possible support is critical for your business’s success. Having proactive support during the process of onboarding, migration, and setting up your first campaign is vital. Even though, most of the time, everything runs smoothly, knowing that you can easily reach an email support team to help you solve issues takes a huge weight off your shoulders.
Getting ready for the ESP switch
After you decide which ESP is the best fit for your organization, it’s time to make the switch. If you plan carefully, you can avoid a huge workload and launch your first campaign using the new email marketing tool in no time.
Today’s preparation—tomorrow’s success
Preparing for the migration process is the best way to safeguard your email deliverability and maintain a good sending reputation during the changeover. Make sure to review your lists, engagement, and reports to see what’s working and what’s not. Making a switch is a great time to reflect on your performance and to draw some conclusions in order to prepare for your future email marketing efforts.
Export email lists and reports
Your email list is one of your most valuable assets. Building a high-quality email list takes a lot of time and energy, which is why exporting them is a vital step in the migration process. This also applies to unsubscribed and bounced email addresses to help you mitigate the risk of deliverability issues with the new email service provider.
Looking to switch from Mailchimp? Check out this comprehensive guide to migrating your list.
Look at current email marketing automation campaigns.
This is one of the steps that’s often overlooked. After you export your email lists and reports, take some time to check your workflows, lifecycle messages, trigger-based and event-based sequences. Set up these automated emails and campaigns and test them in the new platform before you finalize the switch.
Build a transition plan.
Don’t rush; plan a gradual transition and keep your old account active for a week or two after the migration to gather any final unsubscribes and bounce reports. Having a step-by-step plan will give you a clear picture of what it is you need to do next. The ultimate goal of this step is to lay the groundwork for a seamless transition.
Switching ESPs: frequently asked questions
When changing your email service provider, the best thing you can do is ask questions. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about switching ESPs.
How long does it take to switch providers?
A lot of factors come into play—starting from the amount of data you’re moving, the size of your team, whether you’re making a switch from one to another ESP or you’ve been doing email marketing in-house, and the support that the new email service provider is ready to offer to help you smoothly migrate and start sending emails as soon as possible.
It can vary from 30-90 days. Have in mind that full transition isn’t the same as setting up your first email campaign. You can set a campaign much faster, but make sure to follow previous tips for warming up your email list before you click send.
Will my deliverability suffer?
This isn’t something you should be afraid of, if you follow the steps to avoid deliverability issues. Start with your most engaged lists, then bring over less engaged contacts. This is the right time to consider leaving the baggage behind by cleaning your lists from unengaged contacts.
If your company has a large list, you may want to think about IP warming as well. Experienced ESPs have the expertise and dedicated deliverability experts who can help you with deliverability best practices, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Is training around the new email service provider going to be a huge hassle?
Not if you’re working with the right ESP. The support team has a key role in making things as simple as possible, which is why it’s a vital component in every customer-provider partnership. Another thing that can make a significant difference is looking for an ESP with a lot of knowledge and a comprehensive resource hub.
Should I inform my subscribers about the switch?
This is up to you, but take into account that customers want transparency. By letting them know about the switch, they’ll understand if anything looks and feels different.
Pre-switch checklist for moving ESPs
Before you move:
- Review your subscription methods to see where your subscribers come from, so you can redirect subscription sources.
- Review what’s not working (templates, mobile optimization, metrics) and optimize.
- Export your email lists and reports.
- Review your engagement lists.
- Plan a gradual transition.
Before you send the first campaign:
- Create a suppression list with unsubscribed/bounced email addresses.
- Create a new subscriber list and import email subscribers.
- Set up segments.
- Check and update your signup forms.
- Set up authentication to improve deliverability.
- Set up a custom domain.
- Consider keeping consistent your “from” name.
- Set up a campaign and prepare for the approval process by the ESP to ensure you’re following best practices and safeguard your sender reputation.
After the first campaign:
- Analyze the campaign report.
- Contact the support team if you have any questions.
Switching to a new email marketing tool doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
Make sure to use the tips outlined here and the comprehensive checklist to ensure a smooth transition, and keep in mind that choosing a provider with five-star customer support can help you with the migration process (and down the road too.)
If you have any questions related to switching providers, our team of email experts is here to help you get started.