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10 Questions You Need to Ask When Evaluating ESPs

Evaluating and changing any piece of your MarTech stack is a risk-laden and time-consuming endeavor, especially when that piece is a high-grossing revenue channel like email.

Because email service providers (ESPs) are a core component of any go-to-market (GTM) strategy, we have to ensure email-driven revenues aren’t coming at the expense of our organization’s time and resources.

That’s why we’ve compiled ten investigative questions every marketing leader must ask of their email strategy. Leave no stone unturned as you consider your answers—below each question, we’ve provided some opening prompts to help you contextually examine each one. 

As you explore these questions through the various lenses of your GTM processes, you will determine how your ESP influences the overall achievement of your marketing goals.

We’ve grouped these ten key ESP evaluation questions into three thematic categories affecting your bottom line: collaboration, cost management and customer centricity. Let’s get started!


Removing the points of friction that impede cross-functional operations helps rev up your GTM engine. As the Association of National Advertisers cited this year, one of marketing leadership’s top priorities is facilitating tighter collaboration and driving greater alignment toward goals.

As you think about upleveling your customers’ email experiences, imagine how things might change after unifying your teams’ campaign creation processes. 

  • How connected are your GTM teams’ strategies?

GTM objectives to consider: Do teams offer channel-specific experiences? Are teams’ conversion initiatives interfering with each other? How consistent is the messaging? How do personalization efforts differ? How are teams coordinating the lifecycles of your customers?

  • How many teams does it take to produce your baseline personalization?

GTM roles to consider: How are content teams personalizing their work? How is this reflected in email design assets? Is content personalized differently across channels? Do the tools your teams use change your materials’ look and feel? How involved are your engineering, data science, and/or product teams?

  • How easy is it to facilitate the different team processes for campaign production?

GTM planning capacities to consider: How many different teams are required? What is the overall level of effort required? How are production timelines decided? How are projects evaluated and prioritized by different teams? How does urgency affect team priorities?

  • How long does it take to produce a campaign?

Processes to consider: Who is involved with initial ideation? How are campaigns constructed? What is the content development process? How are audiences determined and identified? What is the launch process? How are results measured and reported?

See how they did it: After centralizing their email production processes, CreativeLive drove a 50% reduction in email set up and testing times.

Cost Management

After considering the production components of your email strategy, it’s time to think about costs. This year, Gartner reports CMOs are pursuing strategic growth through procedural optimization in the face of shrinking marketing budgets. 

When looking at your email program’s assets, verify your teams are efficiently producing cost-effective results at the speed and scale your business demands.  

  • How optimized are your campaigns?

Experimental elements to consider: What is your campaign testing strategy? What testing capabilities does your ESP offer? How easy is it to incorporate new learnings? Which testing efforts are manual vs. automated?

  • Which manual pieces of campaign production could be eliminated by automation?

Real-time components to consider: How is all of the campaign-specific data gathered? How is the end-to-end segmentation managed? How do you manage targeted promotions? How much manual effort is required to personalize content to audience segments?

  • How satisfied are you with your current campaign ROI?

Perspectives to consider: How do your campaign expectations compare to reality?  How do teams rate your campaigns’ overall performance? How do you rate your campaigns’ time to value? How do you evaluate resource costs vs. expected end-product value?

See how they did it: 99designs experienced 2X email campaign conversion rates by refining their segmentation and personalization efforts.

Customer Centricity

Deloitte notes that the brands with an edge over their competitors are those whose marketing delivers personalized, human experiences in an agile manner.

Reading your customers’ cues and responding in real-time through content and messaging paves the way toward affinity and long-term customer loyalty.

  • How personalized are your emails (content, images, promotions, etc.)?

Personalization elements to consider: How much does data influence campaign personalization? Which engagement signals are influencing lifecycle targeting? How does your segmentation strategy influence personalization efforts? How are you targeting particular audiences with specific promotional content? 

  • How closely do your campaigns reflect real-time events?

Real-time elements to consider: How closely to campaigns reflect recent customer behaviors? How are changes in customer preferences or interests incorporated into campaigns? How do you produce triggered responses to particular engagement milestones?

  • How responsive are your campaigns to customer behaviors and interactions?

Behavioral elements to consider: Are customer behaviors dynamically segmenting audience groups? What are your ESP’s dynamic content capabilities? How is lifecycle management determined? How do your teams manage cross-channel experience continuity? How extensible is customer data between teams and tools? 

See how they did it: Zillow increased email open rates by 161% after incorporating previously inaccessible customer data into their campaigns.

Introducing the Modern ESP

If you’ve worked through these questions and recognize areas in need of improvement, you’re likely outgrowing your current ESP. As you prepare for a pending ESP evaluation, make sure you’re equipped with all the right resources.

Inside our recent guide, we highlight how modern ESPs close the GTM process gaps that most entry-level and legacy providers leave behind.

To get a complete look at how a modern ESP can help you reach your business goals, download our guide, An Introduction to Modern ESPs: How to Prepare for Growth.

Get the Guide: An Introduction to Modern ESPs

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