What Email Marketers Dislike About Their ESPs

Evidence is mounting that email marketers are unhappy with their email service providers (ESPs). Customer Portfolios, the provider of a database integration system, reports that six of its clients are switching their ESPs within a four-month period.

They have issues with everything from usability to pricing, and some are moving from the big guns to more nimble service providers.

“The big issues are integration with a CRM solution, and the ease and usage of the tool,” says Denise DeSisto, VP, marketing automation and product innovation at Customer Portfolios. She says they are migrating to ESPs with drag-and-drop interfaces.

In addition, “customer service a big play,” DeSisto says. “Clients are complaining that they pay so much on a monthly or yearly basis. But when they call, they have to get in the queue, or are told, “let me get back to you that on that.”

One client was told by a large ESP that it didn’t have a high enough membership to get its question answered.



Companies are also disturbed by hidden fees that sneak up on them — for example, some monthly service platforms charge a little more for onboarding.

This news follows a finding by MessageGears that people in the trenches at enterprise companies are not satisfied with their ESPs, whereas C-level executives are happy with them.

“We’re not super-surprised it’s happening all at once,” DeSisto says of the migration witnessed by Customer Portfolios. “We’re in the middle of it as we’re talking.”

Customer Portfolios does not offer ESP services itself. But it recommends one of its partner ESPs, Cheetah Digital, as an option when brands consider migrating to a new ESP, and can provide best-practices recommendations. In general, the Boston-based firm offers a database integration system and marketing services.

In summation, here are the top considerations for clients seeking a vendor:

  1. Ease of integration with your CRM solution/campaign management tool 
  2. Ease of usage of the tool — fancy bells and whistles often turn out to be nothing but noise 
  3. Simplicity— especially during the holiday season, clients need to be churning emails and direct mails out the door 
  4. A simple pricing strategy                                          
  5. Cross-channel capabilities — being able to provide a consistent message in email, direct mail, SMS and push all within one platform
  6. Good customer service
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