Best practices for working with your ESP

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Some marketers treat their e-mail service providers like their morning alarm clocks—they set them and forget them, confident that they will do what they are supposed to do. But an ESP-client relationship needs a lot more nurturing and care. In fact, said Dave Debbah, director of sales and marketing for e-mail technology and services provider Lyris Technologies, and Jordan Ayan, CEO of e-mail marketing service provider SubscriberMail, the more contact and input you have with your ESP, the better. Debbah and Ayan provide these tips for getting the most out of your ESP—and your e-mail marketing efforts.

1) Consider requesting professional services. When ESPs were first launched, only the largest clients with the deepest pockets could afford consulting services. Today, however, many ESPs provide phone-based services that are reasonably priced. You’ll probably end up spending about 10% of what you spend on a monthly basis for an e-mail marketing program tune-up, Debbah said. “ESPs tend to have people on staff to work with you as a marketer to help you with things [from] content to open rates to click-through rates to creative design,” he said. “A lot of customers aren’t aware that we want you to succeed. It’s not just about volume. It’s in our best interest to provide the best quality service.”

2) Ask for a single point-of-contact. Whether it’s a client services person or an account manager, there should be someone at your ESP who is intimately familiar with what you do and what your business model is. “You want someone who will come to you with ideas,” Ayan said. “So when a new feature comes out on their product, they will call you and suggest what you can do to best utilize it.”

3) Bring them in-house. Did you know you could spend about $500 plus travel costs and get an e-mail expert in your offices for the day? Few people do, Debbah said. It’s an extremely valuable yet under-used service, he said. “These sessions allow you to involve other groups within your company ... and talk to an expert face to face. They usually turn into a big Q&A session—a best practices session geared just for your company.”

4) Train—and train again. Your team probably took some sort of training when you signed up with your ESP; however, ESPs add new features and functionality all the time. Taking the training course periodically will help you pick up new nuances and tips for using the product. Also, make sure any new team members train directly with the ESP—don’t do the training yourself, Ayan said. “You’re going to want them to learn all the new little changes that you don’t know yet,” he said. “Besides, if you’ve been using a feature for six months already you may have learned bad habits, which you would then pass on to the new person.”

5) Revisit your subscriber agreement. Service changes, and so do service offers—including pricing structures. “You want to be asking if there are ways to structure your agreement that might be more advantageous for you,” Ayan said. “There might be better pricing on longer-term contracts and, if you have a good relationship, your provider might add additional services to what you get without adding cost. It’s worth it to ask about bundling, for instance. As an ESP, the last thing we want someone to do is leave us because of pricing.”

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