January 15, 2019

How To Improve Email Marketing Vendor Satisfaction

Partnering with an email service provider will be one of the biggest decisions you and your company can make. There is so much is riding on your choice. But, once marketers make their choices how satisfied are they with those platforms?

We did the research, here is how you can use the outcomes to help you make your own selection.

How Satisfied Are Marketers With Their ESP?

The answer is complicated, according to the Email Marketing Vendor Satisfaction Report. The report is based on a survey of email marketers my company conducted in partnership with the email technology provider Tripolis.

We wanted to learn what marketers thought of the email services they use and the factors that drive their satisfaction or dissatisfaction. What we learned will not only help you compare your experiences with your peers but also guide you in your own vendor choices.

This article will explain marketer attitudes toward their email service providers and provide tips on how you can use that information to improve your own email vendor selection process.

Seven Stats That Measure Marketer Satisfaction With Their Email Marketing Platforms

Here’s a snapshot of findings from the report.

  • 14 per cent of respondents said they were “not at all dissatisfied” with their services.
  • Eight per cent selected “Not at all satisfied” when asked to choose the email features that they liked the most about their platforms.
  • Users most appreciate their ESP’s functionality and features (29 per cent) and ease of use (22 per cent).
  • Marketers were most dissatisfied with the user-unfriendliness of their platform (18 per cent), having to pay extra to use new features (17 per cent) and interactions with their account representatives (16 per cent).
  • Most marketers are not getting full value from their email platforms. Although 74 per cent said they get their money’s worth, only 49 per cent of all marketers use more than half of the features included in their email platforms.
  • Marketers choose their platforms primarily for functionality and features (19 per cent). But the ability to integrate the platform with existing software came in at number 2 (15 per cent), followed by cost (13 per cent).
  • 14 per cent of marketers said they inherited the platform when they joined their marketing teams.

Marketers Choose ESP Features Over Pricing

We were encouraged to see that marketers searching for new email marketing platforms did not go right to the pricing page first. It means that marketers are weighing important usability factors such as functionality and features and ability to integrate with existing systems and tools instead of seeking out the cheapest option.

Looking beyond pricing is important because you might end up spending more money than you save if you have to pay staff to troubleshoot integration problems. Going with a less-costly but less-functional platform means you also might have to pay extra to use advanced features within your platform or to add third-party plug-ins. So much for the savings!

Six Steps To Find The Right ESP

Now, here’s how you can use the findings in this report when you start your search for a new email marketing vendor.

1. Perform An Audit To Identify Missed Opportunities

It’s easy to gravitate toward an email platform that sports the latest technology like real-time messaging, inbox interactivity, AI and machine learning. One session with a clever vendor at an email conference can have you signing up for a demo before you know it.

Before you do that, however, audit your own email platform and your data and delivery capabilities to see if you are actually missing opportunities now within your own tool set.

Tech vendors have long lamented that many of their customers don’t use everything the platform allows, and our research bears that out: 51 per cent of marketers are using only half or fewer of the features that come standard on their platforms.

Automation and email segmentation features are among those that often go unused on email platforms. See what your platform offers now that you’re not using.

2. Know Where You Want To Go And When You Want To Get There

Your ESP audit should reveal not just the missed opportunities but also the things you would like to do but can’t, given the limitations of your present email platform.

Set up a planning session so you can identify the directions you want to take your email programme, what you will need internally to get there (such as data you don’t collect or have access to now and content you would need to create) and when you want to achieve these goals.

From the report we found that (only) 19 per cent of marketers choose an email marketing platform based on functionality and features. Although features are the most cited, don’t be “that” marketer that disregards this keystone part of the selection.

3. Create Your Strategy

One dismaying statistic that came out of our research was the low priority given to strategic planning.

Only 45 per cent of marketers follow a written strategy. We strongly advocate developing a cohesive strategy to make business decisions because you’re less likely to be distracted by irrelevant or unproven developments, like “shiny toy” functionality that doesn’t work out for you in the long run.

However, we were pleased to see that those who do map out a strategic plan will call upon that strategy when reviewing new technology and platform features.

Marketers end up with the wrong email platform when they allow tactics like new technology features to guide their strategic decision-making.

Even a self-driving car needs guidance to reach its destination. Your marketing strategy is that guidance. So think strategy, not tactics when choosing your email marketing technology. Otherwise, you’re just wandering from pillar to post and wondering why your goals continue to elude you.

Follow these four steps in order to create a workable marketing strategy that will support your business goals:

Set your business goals. Most likely it will be a company-wide revenue target, such as a 20 per cent increase in profits for the year.

Set your marketing objectives to support the goal. These are tied to different stages in the customer life-cycle, such as higher sales, more new customers or lower churn.

Create your strategies to achieve your objectives. These can be finding new ways to attract new customers, sell more products at full price or reduce the time lag from awareness to action.

Choose tactics that will carry out your strategies. Here’s where you get down to the nitty-gritty, such as improved opt-in features, cart- and browse-abandonment programmes, reactivation plans and real-time content.

4. Create A Unique Request For Proposal

If you’ve never written a Request for Proposal, which you will send out to prospective vendors, you could start with a default RFP template, but take extra time to create questions that reflect your unique needs, goals, priorities and strategies. This is very important.

Be as specific as you can about what you are seeking in a new technology platform, what your expectations and limitations will be and what you hope to achieve with your tech platform.

5. Score Your RFP Responses

Some questions will be more important than others. Weight the questions according to the priorities you outlined when building your RFPs.

For example, if you use Dynamic Content on a daily basis, then ease of use for this feature will be very important, even mandatory for you – state it as being so. Those who only score one or two out of five for this feature will very likely not make the cut. Then determine your top three prospective vendors.

6. Invite Vendors To Present Demos Last

Did you notice something? The demo is the last item on our list.

Most email marketing service providers companies would love to do the demo first, which allows them to control more of the conversation. But, by leaving the demo to the last, you will have a clearer idea of what kinds of platforms will best meet your needs.

The research showed that one per cent of marketers said that “the demo really sold them”” as main purchase reason. But starting out with demo’s minus the previous steps, will certainly lead to a general look at the platform, as the provider is unable to deliver a bespoke demo to your needs. This can be problematic, both for you and then, when we know that canned demo’s are less effective than tailored demo’s.

We also recommend that you have an expert on-hand during the demo who can delve in deeper when needs be or question/clarify something that may not be clear. It’s also advisable to have your potential Account Manager from the vendor present during the demo as this will ensure the vendor’s salesperson doesn’t promise you the world and is unable to deliver it.

Concluding Thoughts

An email platform is more than just a device to send email – or a dashboard with a bunch of buttons, some of which you push and others whose uses remain a mystery you don’t have time to investigate.

An email service provider can be a significant partner in your email programme’s success or a major hindrance to its growth, whether you use a homegrown solution your company developed itself, a platform provided by an email service or one of several marketing tools bundled into a multi-function technology suite.

By taking time to map out what you need from your technology providers – not just email but all of your marketing tools – you will be more likely to find the email platform that will become a strong business partner.

The Email Marketing Vendor Satisfaction Report has more statistics and insights that reflect the state of play with technology vendors and the issues marketers face. You can download the report here.