Switching to a New ESP: 3 Things to Consider
Transferring your email program to a new email service provider (ESP) can be a daunting task. Without proper planning, this project can end up taking more time and resources than anticipated due to the intricacies of the process.
Fortunately, switching to a new ESP doesn't have to be a stressful experience. The timeline is entirely dependent upon your level of preparation going into the project. With proper planning and an understanding of what to consider before switching to a new ESP, you'll set yourself up for success.
Switching to a new ESP is also great time to reevaluate your email program since you'll be building it from scratch in another platform. What is working well? What can be improved? What are the next steps toward a fully matured email marketing program?
With these questions in mind, there are three areas to focus on in order to prepare for an ESP transition and begin laying the groundwork for future growth and progress:
1. Subscriber Data and Engagement
Integrating existing data is a crucial step in preparing for the transition to a new ESP. Subscriber databases, segmented lists, and relational tables need to be imported into your new ESP. If you link your email marketing to an external CRM, API calls (or another form of data integration) need to be set up. Creating a solution design document to map all data points is also essential for smooth execution.
However, it doesn't make sense to take everything you've collected in one ESP and transfer it to the next. Use this as a chance to clean your subscriber database by removing email addresses that have bounced too many times and fields that are no longer used. You can also clean out contacts that haven’t engaged recently or segment them to be targeted in a re-engagement campaign. This not only helps your sender reputation by emailing the most up-to-date version of your database, but keeping your data clean lays the foundation for accurate, in-depth reporting.
It's also advisable to examine whether you're collecting the most relevant information. Are you effectively targeting subscribers by interests or behavior? Are you leveraging persona data to increase click-through and conversion rates? If you have specific plans in mind for the future, it makes sense to structure your new program, database, and automations accordingly. For instance, if you plan to start using persona profiles from your CRM to segment your email database, you can include the required persona fields in API calls from the start.
2. Email Templates and Personalization
The time and effort spent transferring email templates to a new ESP will depend on the set-up of your current one. The switch will likely be simpler if you have HTML templates and don’t use the in-platform editor; ESPs customize their templates and often use assets the platform owns. Either way, it's important to find out how each platform handles templates and HTML code ahead of time.
If your templates could benefit from a revamp, switching to a new ESP affords an opportunity to catch up to the latest best practices and industry standards. Are your emails responsive? More brands are using mobile-first templates, a smart move considering that the percentage of emails opened on mobile devices almost doubled between 2012 and 2017, jumping from 29% to 55%. If you're already using a variety of templates, a performance analysis of each can determine which design features or copy styles deliver the best ROI.
If you're using variable content or data from relational tables to personalize your emails, this coding will need to be updated to match the style of the new ESP. Depending on the complexity of the variable and dynamic content you're using, this can take a significant amount of time. If you aren't using personalization in your emails (and you really should be!), now is the time to explore how to capture relevant data and capitalize on it in your messaging.
3. Deliverability and Domain Reputation
Beyond subscriber data and templates, there are a couple technical elements that need to be handled correctly when switching to a new ESP to ensure your program gets off to a good start.
First, the domain from which you'd like to send emails must be authenticated, which involves changing the domain's DNS settings. Many ESPs do not allow sending from unauthenticated domains, since doing so will negatively impact deliverability. However, regardless of whether your ESP allows unauthenticated domains, authentication is an integral part of getting your messages into subscribers' inboxes, so don't skip it.
Secondly, and most importantly where the timeline is concerned, you'll need to warm up your IP address gradually—starting with a small number of email sends and gradually ramping up from there. This is also an essential step in establishing a good sender reputation with internet service providers (ISPs). A detailed subscriber and campaign transition plan is key. If you have campaigns that normally perform stronger than others or subscriber segments that engage at higher rates, it would be wise to start with those to demonstrate that you're providing value to subscribers and are a trustworthy sender.
With the right planning, switching to a new ESP can be a smooth, stress-free process. Depending on your department's bandwidth, resources, and skill-set, you may prefer to handle the switch internally.
If you feel you'll need support with any or all of the major steps–whether it be ESP selection, data integration, technical enablement, email coding, or marketing automation – consider working with an agency to make the switch as efficient as possible. If you choose to partner with Rise to achieve your email goals, you'll have access to the combined expertise of our Email, UX, and Enablement Teams, dedicated to delivering a remarkable experience and superior results for your brand.