Getting By With RFPs: CEOs Think They're Fine For Choosing Email Service Providers

The old Request for Proposal (RFP) process may no longer work for large firms seeking email service providers (ESPs), judging by Navigating the ESP Landscape: Rethinking the RFP Approach, a study by MessageGears. Not that they know it.

Many -- especially those in the C suite -- think the RFP gives them all the information they need. 

Of those polled, 90% think the RFP process is very valuable, and 67% require it when choosing a new ESP. 

The trouble is that the RFP is often all they rely on. Of the C suite executives polled, 70% say the RFP tells them all they need to know.

That sanguine view is not shared in the trenches. Only 48% of senior marketers believe that, along with 35% of mid-level people. Yet nearly 73% overall give a score of three out of five when asked whether they think all ESPs are the same.

MessageGears surveyed a panel of 100 marketers in B2C companies that send at least 10 million marketing emails per month. The company offers ESP services for enterprise firms, so it has also seen this system from the inside.



Who participates in the ESP selection process? At 63% of the firms, the IT department is involved, and the email marketing team is involved in 55%.

It’s difficult to understand how up to 45% may not include their email marketing specialists. Worse, only 37% would involve them in future RFP decisions.

In addition, 43% bring in their social media teams, and 43% bring in their database/CRM staffs. The C-suite participates at 33% of the companies.

In 55% of the cases, the firms had a preferred vendor in mind. And 81% of that group says they learn all they need to know from the RFP — you could say the fix is in.

Whatever they think, it’s not a rapid process — for 56% it has taken six to 12 months, and 39% say the migration would take that long.

Among the must-haves they want from ESPs and agency partners are web forms, social integration, customizable reports, flexible data integrations and direct mail capabilities.

When do companies decide to seek a new ESP? Here’s the list of complaints:

  • Functionality may have fallen behind that of leading platform — 63%
  • Perception that I can get a better deal elsewhere — 48%
  • Service is bad (high team turnover, too expensive for what I get, they don’t care) — 44%
  • ESP was acquired by another company — 34% 
  • Been with current ESP too long — 30%
  • Procurement mandates we go through RFP every X number of years — 29%

“We see a lot of ‘Super Senders’ running legacy platform RFPs instead of an RFP for the best modern tech that meets their needs,” concludes MessageGears CEO Roger Barnette.

He adds, “RFPs can be extremely useful, but can also be a challenging, time-consuming process for big brands. It’s essential that they take the time to fully consider their current chief needs and don’t settle for technology that doesn’t meet them.”



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