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When to switch e-mail service providers

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Marketers thinking about switching e-mail service providers need to carefully consider several criteria, according to industry experts.

First, when is the right time to switch e-mail service providers?

“Most marketers turn to another ESP when they are no longer satisfied, which is typically driven by overall service responsiveness, and secondarily, when the ESP cannot meet their needs,” said David Daniels, VP-research director at JupiterResearch. “This usually comes down to [the ESP’s] not having the features or the efficiency of the features or processes to meet marketer’s needs, which is driven by the maturation of the marketer.”

Some of the other reasons that marketers switch ESPs include price, customer service, deliverability and a need for more integrated services, according to a white paper from Gold Lasso, an e-mail service provider.

Particularly for small businesses, cost is often one of the first considerations in choosing an ESP.

“The industry is very fragmented,” said Elie Ashery, CEO of Gold Lasso. “You have cut-rate e-mail service providers that service small businesses, very expensive enterprise-level e-mail service providers and the middle market.” Gold Lasso primarily serves the middle market.

“The problem is, a lot of times people view e-mail as an inexpensive medium, and they automatically select an ESP based on price and they go with a cut-rate e-mail service provider. If people don’t educate themselves, it can lead to mistakes,” Ashery said.

Some of the problem areas include shared IP addresses, ESPs not being able to handle the marketer’s volume of e-mail, deliverability problems and not having the services to handle integrated campaigns.

“Having a unique IP address is important to discern your identity and protect your e-mail reputation,” Ashery said. “Deliverability comes down to sender-based reputation. If you don’t have your own IP address and notice a decline in your deliverability rate, it might have to do with another client spamming, if you are using a shared IP address.”

Other reasons for switching e-mail service providers include not getting a high level of customer service and the ESP’s inability to integrate with CRM systems and other databases.

However, sometimes marketers need to give their ESPs a second chance.

“Before switching to another ESP, marketers should determine if they are using all of the data and tools that are available to them,” Daniels said. “Additionally, they need to question if it is their own plan or strategy that has failed before jumping to another vendor.”

Ashery noted that in the past five or six months there have been rapid declines in deliverability rates as ISPs have adopted sender-based authentication systems.

“If marketers have lower deliverability rates, they are quick to blame the ESP, but often they need to adjust their own list-gathering practices, and move toward the double opt-in end of the spectrum and keep their list as clean as possible,” Ashery said.

If marketers do decide to make the switch, they should take the following steps, according to Gold Lasso:

  • Gather data on current e-marketing efforts and discuss what was lacking with the previous vendor.
  • Ask colleagues and friends for references.
  • Export invalid (bounced) e-mail addresses and opt-outs from the old ESP and import clean addresses to the new ESP.
  • Create templates to keep consistency and implement a seamless transition for customers.
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