Key Decisions When Setting up a New Email Service Provider Account

If you setup your Email Service Provider account too quickly, you might miss out on some functionality and features you will regret later. Take time to understand what is unique about your Email Service Provider Application and how to best leverage its capabilities.

I have a client that just changed to a new Email Service Provider (ESP). Four years ago… It seems like they just changed because they have never setup the tool they way it was supposed to be setup and they are still only using 10 percent of the tools capabilties. They had a full calendar of sends and couldn’t waste time setting up the account to fully leverage its capabilities. The cost, while not apparent at first, was tens of thousands of dollars in real revenue and more in labor to manage the tool.

Moral of the story. Time time to understand your email tool or hire someone who can advise you of the best way to set it up so you can make business decisions that make you money versus cost you money.

What did they do wrong? Everything. The major Email Service Providers (ESPs), while not perfect by any means, have plugins and modules that require certain things to be setup properly to work. And reporting… Fugetaboutit… If you want to integrate with one day or dig deep into your reports, you are going to run into trouble. The system is going to expect certain things to be setup and it won’t find them. If you are already using the system when you realize you need to change it, the complications multiply.

Decision #1: Make In-House or ESP the Primary Database?
Everyone has the same first decision to make before setting up their ESP account. Where will the primary database live? In-house or at the ESP?

If you choose the in-house database as the primary database for whatever reason, inevitably you will have subscribers unsubscribe or update their profile at the ESP. How will you synchronize this information and when will you synchronize it? What forms and database will capture new subscribers and how will you get that information to the ESP before your next send? Are you prepared to develop forms for all your needs over time that replace the forms that already exist at the ESP?

Big questions. And they can be answered with manual solutions or automated ones. Both options will cost you time and money. You can export from your primary database each time or you can setup a call to the ESP’s API – an automatic import or export.

If you choose the ESP as the primary database (my preference), how will you synchronize the data with your in-house database? How often will it be necessary and what data will be synchronized?

Decision #2: ESP Database and List Structure

Most ESPs do this slightly differently from each other. Some ESPs have multiple lists within their system. They might be called Lists or Campaigns or Segments but they are truly differently lists. Some ESPs simply have a single List and you choose the subscriber segments that will receive your email at the time of send. There are other structures… But these scenarios are sufficient to demonstrate my point.

You must understand how the ESP is setup in order to get fully leverage their capabilities.

Case in point. My client has multiple newsletters and other lists (press list, partner list, etc). They import a fresh list each time they send out an email. They do not upload their subscribers into the same list name at the ESP every time. They create a new list at the ESP. This is fine for getting the email out the door. The problem arises is when they want to run a trend report to see the lists activity over time. They can’t run reports over time because the reporting tool isn’t setup to analyze data across lists. It assumes that if you want to analyze data over time that you want to compare response data on the same list. Oooops.

So now that we have List 1, List 2 and List 2 sending the same newsletter on January 1, February 1 and March 1 to the same subscriber base, I can’t see a report that shows response rates over time. I have to pull data out from each list and compare in Excel. And I don’t get to use their whiz-bang features or nice charts and graphs. I’m stuck with… Excel.

They should have taken the extra time to separate their unsubscribes from the new subscribers and then imported the subscribes and suppressed the unusbuscribes in the same list. Not only would they have been able to see trend reports over time for the newsletters, but they could have seen trend reports that compare sections of the newsletter over time. E.g. Feature 1 trends look like this over three months and Feature 2 trends look like this. That is important information if you want to measure subscribers interest in different aspects of your newsletter.

Hopefully this gets our wheels turning about your ESP setup. Have a call with your ESP and find out what best practices are to full leverage their capabilties. It will save you time and money.

Slideshare: Proper Setup of ESP Account

Posted: January 30th, 2010
at 9:48am by Rob Van Slyke

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Categories: Email Marketing,Email Service Providers

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