Working hard to pull together a well-defined strategy for your e-mail program is the starting point - but when every detail matters, what about other critical success factors like production, delivery, and analysis?
While many people recognize the importance of these inter-related program elements, they don't always know how to go about getting them right. For example, at Ad:Tech San Francisco last week, the No. 1 question people seem to ask regarding their e-mail programs was one I hear consistently: "How do I select an e-mail vendor?"
Many of you will have almost certainly been through this process before. So in all likelihood, here you are again back at square one thinking about another e-mail vendor review. How do you know if you should make a change in providers? What is the cost of changing systems/vendors? How do you quantify the risks? How will you make sure this time you get it right?
Here then are a few insights on how to protect your company and agency (and maybe even the e-mail service providers themselves):
" Negotiate termination clauses. If service levels and escalation procedures are not managed
at an acceptable level, you should be allowed to break the contract or refuse payment.
" Negotiate a loaded CPM. Have your e-mail service provider combine all license fees, monthly service fees, training fees, set-up fees, and delivery fees into one loaded CPM based on your acceptable minimum volume.
" Always select two providers. Never commit to one. You may not have the budget to do this, but it is a good idea to keep a back-up provider in case you need to make a change.
" Get a detailed description of what your providers' services include. For example, see if they include account management, professional services, or deliverability services.
" Confirm there are NO additional, hidden fees. You'll want to watch for fees like deliverability monitoring services per campaign or additional fees for surveying capabilities.
" Use a local service provider if your program mandates a higher level of service. Nothing compares to the value of face-to-face interaction.
" Look for value-added elements. Your provider could offer educational opportunities or knowledge sharing; or they might be active in publishing industry best practices.
" Find a provider that is flexible. If you are a $1 million account, you will get all the dedicated service you need. But if your annual budget ranges between $20,000 and $30,000, you want to find a company that will still provide quality service that meets your expectations.
" Be careful who you have running your RFP/RFI process. Make sure you have someone with real, inside knowledge of the e-mail service provider industry evaluate your short-list to guarantee you'll get the service you need. You may need to hire someone to do this, but it's worth it.
" Always create a back-up of your data, campaign reporting, and any segmentation or data setups. " Do not commit to more than 12 months with your provider. (Unless you have stock in that company.) " Hold quarterly reviews of your e-mail service providers. This will ensure that you are getting the most from them.
" Build 20 percent of your e-mail budget into an emergency fund. If you find that you need to make a change in providers, there will be costs, and having 20 of your budget set aside will help. If you haven't changed providers at the end of the year, you'll have this budget to do cool, creative things with your e-mail campaigns.
Focusing on getting these details right will help you choose the right e-mail service provider for your campaigns. And this in turn will be key to delivering consistently superior, higher quality interactions with your end customers - which these days is what makes all the difference to your business and brand.
P.S.: I'd be interested in hearing stories about your experiences with e-mail service providers, so if you'd like to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.