Almost daily I’m engaged via any number of channels by people given the lead to choose a new Email Service Provider. Sometimes they are seeking an ESP for a company which has never been involved in email marketing and sometimes they are considering a move from one to another. The best place to start is with the right questions for both internal stake holders and the companies you are considering as your partner. Here are 10 good questions to ask.
Often the folks doing the scouting are looking for metrics which will make that choice simple. It’s understandable, but in reality there are no magic metrics; only good questions and honest answers.
1) What is the company’s objective with email marketing?
This seems like an obvious question/answer, but just taking time to ask it shows you’re thinking and makes others in your organization think too! If you’re being asked to take point on this kind of task, you have duty to ask questions
2) What channels does your brand want to focus on?
Do you need to have advanced social marketing integration and analytics such as GetResponse offers? Does the company you are considering make it easy to integrate multiple channels for subscriber acquisition and content marketing/sharing?
3) What is the depth of your creative talent on staff?
Will you be designing your own newsletters and handling the graphics and such moving forward? If you don’t have this talent then you’ll be pleased to know that GetResponse (for example) has hundreds of readymade templates, thousands of free iStock photos and an intuitive drag and drop editor and even a soon-to-be-launched automatic landing page generator, which makes it easy for just about anyone to create a great looking newsletter and an effective landing page to drive them to in a snap! We can even design a fantastic template for your company for a small fee!
4) Do you have any experience with email marketing?
What’s your learning curve going to be like? Have you got someone on staff that won’t need any training of heavy support to put your newsletters together? If you don’t have someone like this, then coming back to the “powers that be” with a brilliantly easy to use intuitive, web based email marketing tool is crucial if you want to manage those expectations and look amazing to your bosses.
5) How many people will manage your company’s email marketing?
Who’s going to own this? What department head’s desk will this buck stop on? Who signs off before the newsletter goes out? This may be the most critical expectation to manage. If you don’t lay this out right from the start, every armchair chef in the place will want to dip their spoons in the soup and that’s a recipe for disaster. Create a procedure with strict deadlines and barring special circumstances, stick to it!
6) What’s your content plan?
Generating and managing content is like bringing a new puppy home – at first everyone wants to feed it, but then the newness wears off and one unlucky person gets stuck with all the care and feeding! Decide right away what you are going to talk about and where you’ll get engaging content to talk about.
Frontline support, sales and especially your customers are the best source for content. Find out what your customers are asking about and answer those questions.
7) What level of support and what contact options do you need/prefer?
Call the support line and ask some questions. I suggest you create a few questions and use the same ones for each perspective email marketing company. Are you happy with the attitude and the answers? Does the prospective service offer support via multiple non-traditional channels such as Twitter and Facebook?
8) Do you have a list now or are you starting from scratch?
If you have a list you’ll need to import it and you’ll need to decide if you want the email marketing company to send out confirmation emails to confirm the list is valid or ask them to waive that process. This question comes up a lot and I always tell people that moving a list to GetResponse is not as painful as they may think so long as you have a solid permission-based email list.
I think we have one of the more streamlined and least painful processes in the market. We can help you move your list and you won’t have to pack or carry too much of a load.
9) Is the ESP evolving with the times?
Do they have features which impress you as cutting edge? Do they have a drag and drop email creator? Are they bringing out more social integration features and are they developing aggressively for smartphones? Most importantly, does that development appear to follow a strategy which fits with your vision?
10) What newsletters currently inspire you?
To optimize your criteria and manage expectations, ask each person involved in the decision process to submit a couple of examples of newsletters which really wow them and provide reasons why. This is going to help you get inside their heads and gain better insight. Challenge those involved to clearly communicate what they want now to avoid sudden surprises later.
What other questions would you ask?
Those are the basic ten starter questions which should help you better manage expectations. Remember, you aren’t just asking these questions solely of the companies you are considering for help with your email marketing! You want to make sure you have answers first from the stakeholders in your organization! All stakeholders need to know what is expected of them before committing.
So, share! What questions would you add?