As many readers of this blog will no doubt already know, the JupiterResearch report on ESPs that was released this month found that 70% of marketers rank “deliverability” as their number one priority when selecting an email service provider. While we applaud marketer’s attention to deliverability issues, it seems to us that their focus has been placed slightly in the wrong direction. As I’ve written before, ESPs cannot solve all deliverability problems for email marketers. Moreover, there is very little difference between the major players on the pieces that the ESP can control. Basically, you can stop worrying about whether or not your ESP can get the email through. They do a good job.
In fact, the JupiterResearch report finds that “the deliverability woes of marketers can be traced back to their own poor list-hygiene practices.” I would take that a step further back and say that problems begin with poor data collection practices. In fact, I believe that 90% of the fate of your email program has been determined at the point of data collection. Coupled with poor list hygiene and not setting and maintaining customer expectations, marketers do most of the damage themselves and expect ESPs to clean up their mess.
Now, it could be that marketers do understand what ESPs can and can’t do and they mean they care about the parts they can control. But the data in the report suggests otherwise. Only 28% were interested in strategic services. That may mean that marketers just don’t think ESPs are the best place to look for strategy advice, but we suspect that many emailers have deluded themselves into thinking they don’t need to focus on strategy at all. More troubling is the low number of marketers who are looking for features that could make their programs better for consumers – like dynamic content and campaign triggering.
I’ve come to the same unhappy conclusion that Ken Magill articulated in his article on the report: marketers want a cheap solution that will guarantee inbox placement despite their poor practices. Hey, I want to eat endless quantities of junk food and not gain weight, but that’s not very likely. Blasting irrelevant email to uninterested recipients is unlikely to be successful in the long term, no matter who you choose for an ESP.
So, what criteria should you use in choosing an email vendor? Actually, there is just one question you need to answer: Does the ESP offer the services you really need to execute your strategy?
If you can’t define what those services are, then you actually aren’t ready to choose an ESP. You need to know what you want before you can figure out who can deliver it for you. My advice to marketers is to do the work of outlining exactly what they need from an ESP before they even write one word of their RFP. In this post I tell you exactly how to do that.
Once you’ve isolated your root cause problems and defined your strategy, you can choose the best ESP for your program and you really don’t need to worry about deliverability.
But, if you are still concerned about getting email through – with all the caveats about how your practices influence the matter – here’s my quick list of what an ESP can do to help you with inbox placement: