The pain of integrating a new ESP is legendary. The best start, however, is a solid RFP that clarifies for brand
and vendor the needs and goals of the project. Marketers who have successfully navigated this experience recently share their lessons learned, their checklists, their regrets. How did they poll and
reconcile internal stakeholders? Understand their database need? Work with IT, product development and engineering? Define goals and feature sets?
Nina Lentini, Editor, Events and Research, MediaPost, with Kayla Beck, Senior Manager, Email Delivery and Quality Control, SouthWest Airlines; Allie Donovan, Director of CRM & Retention, Boxed, and Lexi Sigesmund, Senior Manager, Digital and Content Strategy, Chobani, at MediaPost’s Email
Insiders Summit in December 2018.
Nina: Why did you decide on an RFP for a new ESP vendor?
Allie: We had an email program, an SMS program, couldn’t get systems to talk, wanted in
the RFP to have the ability to talk to one customer through all channels.
Kayla: We had a similar experience, interested in looking at a suite of products. RFP was significant and
involved stakeholders. Integrations and efficiencies in a lot of different groups.
Lexi: We put a lot of emaphsis on email marketing this year. We needed to get more savvy in terms of how we
were engaging our consumers and tap into that buzzword and get a little more personalized with them.
Kayla: We started internally, as partners across the organization. We were looking for
strategic business partners that had existing relationships. Just to make it a bit easier on us. When you have an existing relationship with a vendor, and you can capitalize on it, it’s a
win-win. If you have that opportunity to use existing vendors, consider those. Make those a priority.
Allie: We didn’t have companies like that. It would have involved a lot of
integrations. We had to go look for new companies. We looked at 15, new players in the market, some of the old giants and in between. We didn’t want someone who couldn’t grow with us.
Lexi: We worked closely with our IT and tech teams to make sure we were evaluating the gold star partner in the space. We did research on our own to find newbies or other partners.
The wining and dining was fun. Gotta be an upside.
Kayla: There were so many opinions. Everyone comes out of the woodwork. I love my co-hearts dearly but, man, sometimes you just want to
tell them to stuff it. But you have to get past that and be willing to hear their perspectives. But also be confident and strong in what you’re trying to achieve.
Allie: We went to
everyone from finance to people we didn’t care about ... everyone has an opinion. But if you ask people, they’ll be more likely to buy into your end product.
Lexi: We did a lot of
this up front, but the most surprising thing for us was timing from research phase to RFPing and getting the proposals back, it took about 5 months but the piece after that, making sure Legal, IT,
Tech, Marketing teams were aligned to make sure we could get this right. Took longer than we expected.
Kayla: We started process at the end of 2016 and we are 4 weeks out of completion
to a new campaign with our new ESP vendor. Be prepared for that.
Allie: It took about nine months. Could have had a child. We celebrated a couple of weeks ago the success of our
implementation. Working full time on it for the next year to really target what we want. We opened a lot of champagne.
Nina: Advice for others going through an RFP for an ESP?
Know exactly what you want, what are you swilling to sacrifice, because there will never be a perfect one. What’s important to you? And then, documentation. What your data fields look
Lexi: Make sure you know what you’re looking for. It’s was helpful for us to know what are those must-haves and those nice-to-haves? If you’re finding that you
can’t decide, must-haves might push one through to the top. We took notes, scored vendors as we went along.
Kayla: We, too, had a scorecard, it was anonymous. You should definitely
consider it. Think about non-traditional questions. One thing we wish we had understood better is how the ESP would like to see our team structured. We have a large, technical team, fortunately. Think
outside of the box and beyond the bright and shiny.
Nina: Advice for the pitching vendors?
Lexi: Know your audience. We don’t need bells and whistles right now. Know the company
you’re talking to.
Kayla: My team is technical developers, it wants to know the magic behind curtain. If you know their current platform, be astute in making comparisons. Know the
language of the tool you’re going up against. You have to prepare! You’re coming in to impress.
Allie: Have technical people in the room. We wanted to get into the weeds of
how is this going to work?
Lexi: Ask who is going to be in the room, ask for their titles.