Switching email service provider (ESP) has never been easier. If you’re reading this article then it’s obviously something you’re considering.
Some marketers are reluctant to do so, anxious that they may experience a temporary loss of service or dip in performance during the transition phase. We’re here to tell you that there’s no reason to be fearful, so long as you know what to watch out for!
This guide covers the main reasons brands choose to change ESP. It also tackles some of the common challenges that need to be overcome so you can hit the ground running after the switch.
Why do people switch email service providers?
Sometimes the relationship just isn’t working and there’s nothing that can fix it. Here are some of the most common reasons that brands look to find a new provider. Is yours on the list?
Poor email deliverability
Statistically, one in every five emails sent for commercial purposes is undelivered. Either it ends up in the spam folder or it’s blocked entirely by the recipient’s email account. That’s 20% of the money you’ve spent wasted.
If your email deliverability report (which should be easy to request from your service provider, if not indeed available on your dashboard) is showing evidence of too many emails missing their mark then it’s time to look at other options.
Improving your email deliverability by just a couple of percentage points can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
The best ESPs have consistent deliverability rates close to 100%. Don’t accept anything less.
Slow response time to support questions
No matter how well designed a product’s UX is, or how proficient you and your team are at using it, there will always be some reason to write a support ticket.
You can forgive the occasional delay (or maybe you can’t!), but if it’s a serious issue that just can’t wait then there’s nothing more frustrating than waiting a day or more for a reply. If your ESP drags their heels getting back to you, or simply fails to resolve issues at all, then you owe it to yourself to look at alternatives. Life’s too short for that!
We’ve won business from so many clients over the years because we prioritise support. Yes, it helps that we’ve got a world-class product too, of course. But quality service and actually caring about your clients still matters.
No account manager
Do you have a dedicated account manager? Is there someone on the service provider’s side that is personally invested in the success of your campaigns and is helping you to get more value out of the money you’re spending with them?
This should be a non-negotiable. Having an account manager that understands your business and your specific objectives is invaluable. Part advocate, part advisor, they are crucial to helping you achieve more success.
Again, this is one of the most commonly cited reasons why brands make the switch.
Your current ESP is a point solution
Does your email service provider offer any other channels? Has it kept up to date with the latest developments in martech and introduced channels like push notifications?
The marketing landscape has changed a lot in the past decade. I probably don’t need to tell you that. Email is still vitally important and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but it’s no longer a standalone channel. The leaders in digital marketers are now executing campaigns that play out across channels, in line with the modern consumer’s behaviour. It’s a multichannel world, and email is simply one of the players.
Now, you might well ask, “so what”? If you don’t have a mobile app, aren’t interested in driving more visitors to your website with web pushes, and really just want to continue sending emails only then sure, a point solution might be right for you.
But are you certain that you won’t want the option to at least try something new in a year’s time? You can future-proof your marketing strategy by choosing an email vendor in the multichannel space. Just make sure the platform is modular.
The biggest fears about switching email service providers
And yet, despite valid reasons for wanting to switch email provider, brands will stick with their incumbent service for way too long. They may be tied into long term contracts that can’t be gotten out of, or they might feel reluctant to move away from a really great support team that’s been helpful.
Typically, however, there are three recurring fears that brands have about switching email providers. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover what you can do about these concerns later!)
Campaign delays and disruption
If email is one of your primary revenue drivers or an essential part of your customer service, and let’s face it it’s probably both, then you can’t afford to lose it for any length of time.
There’s a perception that if you switch providers then a difficult handover period between them is inevitable. The merest suggestion that there’s going to be a week, or more, when you won’t be able to send emails is terrifying. We completely understand that.
A well-thought-out onboarding plan, proactively driven by your new provider, should be all about making the transition run as smoothly as possible.
Loss of customer data and lists
“What about all my lists”?
Again, we get it. You’ve spent a lot of time gathering email subscriptions, carefully toeing your way around GDPR and staying compliant. You’ve even segmented the lists perfectly and finally started to reap the benefits of better targeting. It would be a disaster to lose them now.
Don’t worry, they can all be imported! If they are housed in an external CRM system then all the better, but lists can also be migrated from one ESP to another. There’s no reason to fear data loss, provided you take the right precautions and follow guidance from your new provider. But, and this is important to note, under GDPR you are ultimately responsible for the handling of customer data.
The reality is that some ESPs have deliberately made themselves tough to get rid of. There may even be some fear-mongering and catastrophizing to persuade you to stay.
Don’t let any of this be a deterrent; where there’s a will…
Loss of templates and creative assets
If you’re particularly attached to the current look of your emails then it’s natural to want to maintain that.
The first issue is whether you’ve previously been using templates or building everything through HTML. If you have the HTML code then it’s a simple enough matter of copying that into the new provider’s builder module. With some minor work, everything will be as it was.
If you’ve been using templates, however then yes it does complicate matters slightly. If you are working with an agency then they more than likely will charge you to recreate the templates in the new system. But if you handle the design in-house it’s only a matter of making sure you have the resources needed when the time comes.
A really great service provider might also be able to help you out here too… And some even have a really intuitive drag and drop email builder to help you create stunning designs quickly.
What to do when switching email service providers
I spoke to three of our most experienced in-house email experts, across the technical operations, onboarding and account management teams to get their advice on what needs to be done when making the switch.
If any of this seems daunting, don’t worry, you should expect your new provider to help you through each step!
Warm-up your IP
The leading ESPs offer their clients a dedicated IP address through which their emails are sent. Why is this valuable? It means that the client is completely in control of their “sender reputation”, which really helps with deliverability. If you are a high-volume sender then this is essential.
“IP warming” is the process of incrementally increasing the volume of emails sent through the new IP address. This method allows you to earn the trust of the Internet Service Providers (ISP), who treat new IPs sending a high volume of emails with suspicion. Basically, they assume you are sending spam! And we really wouldn’t want that.
You still need to follow all of the usual best practice advice, but the main thing is to agree on a warm-up schedule with your new email provider so that you’re ready to go full-speed when the time comes.
Making a mistake here is definitely to be avoided; repairing your sender reputation isn’t easy!
Email security and authentication
Phishing (email fraud) hasn’t gone anywhere, although thankfully these days most of us experience far fewer instances of it. There are still plenty of nefarious players out there, however, who would only love to send scam emails using your brand name.
The main ISPs are therefore demanding that senders authenticate their emails. If you can do this, then you are essentially rewarded with better deliverability rates. If you can’t authenticate your emails satisfactorily then you will be penalised, either ending up in the spam folder or having your email’s creative assets (Iogo and images) blocked.
Google explains this here.
Let’s face it, no one is going to engage with an email that looks so suspicious!
When working with an ESP they are essentially sending emails on your behalf. We want the ISP to be certain that everything is above board, that the ESP has permission from the sending domain, and that steps have been taken to ensure that email has not been altered or tampered with while in transit.
DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) forms a sub-system of authentication measures that should be followed alongside SPF (Sender Framework Policy) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance). They complement each other perfectly and provide end-to-end authentication.
You will need to work closely with your new service provider to ensure these are in place before you start sending emails. Don’t worry if this all sounds too complicated, it’s all relatively straightforward and you’ll be guided along the way.
Update your bounce and unsubscribe data!
Bringing over your lists of contactable addresses is one thing, but you can’t forget about the people who’ve opted out or the addresses that have bounced.
Besides the legal obligations of permission marketing, you also just wouldn’t want people to have a negative opinion of you. A high-rate of bounced emails is also a signal to the ISP that you are not trustworthy.
Use the change of ESP as a chance to really clean up your data and remove email addresses that haven’t engaged with your brand in the past 6 months.
What switching email service providers actually looks like!
We’ve helped so many customers through this process over the past 15 years that it’s second-nature to us. We’ve gotten it down to fine art if we do say so ourselves! Typically, we can go from zero to a hundred with a new client in less than two weeks from the service agreement being signed.
Here’s a brief outline of our standard process and the steps we take to make it a painless experience for you.
Day 1: Signed service agreement received and an introductory email sent from us
Day 2: A New Account Setup form is completed and submitted by the client
Day 3: The account is created and confirmed, DKIM keys are generated and the first training email is sent
Day 4: The client creates a password and logins into our platform
Day 4: Client creates a custom domain and a DKIM public key implemented
Day 5: The custom domain is assigned to us
Day 5: The public key implementation is verified and tasked for completion by us
Day 7: The DKIM implementation is completed and the client is notified
Day 8: Introductory training takes place* and a summary email is sent to the client. The initial setup is now complete!
*We continue to provide support and training throughout the contract period.
As we’ve mentioned, under GDPR the client is responsible for importing data to our system, but we assist them in doing so if necessary. We’ll work with you to replicate your existing naming conventions in our system.
We know you’ve likely got a number of integrations with your old ESP, including your CRM, an eCommerce platform, social media or your website itself. If you have the resources to take care of the integrations yourself, great. If not, we’ll make sure that we emulate all of these through our open APIs and webhooks. Our system integrates very well with others!
Transfer of standard and triggered campaigns
Our support team are on hand to ensure that previous campaigns of this nature are replicated where possible, with the relevant data processes completed to ensure everything works from the get-go. It’s important to us that your campaigns continue to run as expected, if not better!
Just FYI, we have a brilliant customer journey builder on our platform too. It makes creating triggered campaigns easy.
Taking the next step
If you are considering switching email service providers then talk to us. We’d be happy to give you some advice and talk to you about the benefits of our industry-leading platform and service.