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Your ESP – Marketing Automation Platform Guidebook

Are you planning to migrate from an ESP to a marketing automation platform? Here are some tips to help you...

Email marketing has long been an essential part of any seasoned marketing plan and continues to be even more so after the 2020 boom. For evolving email marketing strategies, there have also been a plethora of tools, such as a marketing automation platform.

A lot of companies use ESPs or Email Service Providers to run their email marketing campaigns. But these days, many of them are switching to marketing automation platforms for a variety of reasons including the scale of services provided by the latter. The what, why, and how of this is going to be our focus today.

Before diving deeper, let us first explore what ESPs are and why they are a great place to begin. 

What is an ESP?

An ESP is an online service that helps you send bulk emails to subscriber lists. You can use it to create emails, send them out, manage mailing lists, evaluate campaign success, and also link to your email database smoothly. It is tough to suggest which ESP would work best as each company has its own unique marketing goals. You need to carefully pick an ESP which includes features that align with your objectives. There are quite a few popular ESPs in the market such as MailChimp, MailerLite, Sendinblue, etc.

Why ESPs?

ESPs don’t just help you send out bulk emails. There are many reasons why they are preferred over email clients. Here are the key ones.

  1. Blacklist defense
  2. Compliance with email laws
  3. List management
  4. Email campaign creation tools
  5. Tools for tracking and analysis

Why the shift from ESP to Marketing Automation Platforms?

A lot of ESPs are now transitioning into full-service marketing platforms. Smaller ESPs are left with relatively limited features to offer. Every company operates in a different industry, possesses different resources, and has a different growth strategy.

For short-term marketing goals, ESPs are a great option. But when you think that your company is ready to take its marketing strategy a few notches higher, you might want to switch to a marketing automation platform. It would be at home within your CRM, providing your team increased agility and collaboration scope.

What is a marketing automation platform?

It is quite a common view that ESPs and marketing automation platforms are very similar. However, they are not. In fact, there is only one similarity between the two. It is that they both can help you send marketing emails in bulk.

Marketing automation platforms let you expand beyond email lists and take care of a wide range of marketing activities within a unified platform. Apart from sending personalized emails to segmented lists, these include:

  • Building landing pages
  • Launching landing pages with contact forms
  • Conducting SEO audits
  • Handling webinars
  • Tracking user behavior on websites
  • Providing insights into marketing strategy

Platforms like Hubspot offer one tool that handles dozens of processes including marketing, sales, CRM, and many others. Automation Workshop can automate almost any repetitive task including bulk emails. The list of options is exhaustive.

Why marketing automation platforms? 

Marketing automation platforms can open up a whole new world of possibilities for you. These are only some of the plethora of advantages they offer:

  • Creation of high-end HTML email templates and emails.
  • Tracking all customer activity in real-time.
  • Assistance in nurturing leads
  • Targeted messages with trigger actions over a period of time
  • Launching and tracking email campaigns
  • Testing and optimizing of campaigns
  • Direct collaboration between marketing and sales through CRM
  • Reallocating resources for tasks
  • Launching email campaigns faster and in a cost-effective way
  • Achieve synergy between segmentation, targeting, and personalization of your email marketing campaigns.

Tips for making the switch

Now that you know all the stakes and factors involved, you should be ready for the migration from your ESP to a marketing automation platform. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re at it.

1. Prepping is key

Just like any other software migration process, this one, too, takes a lot of preparation. Firstly, assess if you really need marketing automation and whether your company can afford it at this stage. Next, analyze your company’s performance, make interpretations, and draw conclusions. It will tell you the exact amount of effort you need to put in.

Keep a check on your email lists, reports, engagements. Secure your email deliverability during the process of the switch. Make sure that it works in favor of your ‘good sender’ reputation.

2. Important exports

Creating a quality list for email campaigns takes a lot of time, resources, and dedication. So while you export and migrate this list, you need to take care of details such as not including subscribers who have bounced or unsubscribed. Once you switch, you might unknowingly write to them again and get into their bad books for being another brand that has ‘subscribed without subscribing’.

3. Analyze and automate

This step is often sidelined. Once you export your lists and reports, you need to conduct a lot of checks including workflows, lifecycle message automation, trigger-based actions, event-based sequences, and so on. The new software is going to have a lot more automation features than your ESP. You should not be left making last-minute decisions about these. So analyze each decision before making it, and keep automation checks ready before the onboarding of the marketing automation platform.

4. Training

Training is one of the biggest challenges while migrating software. There are entire departments taking care of training and onboarding employees for new software. Ensure that your provider has a personalized, detailed, onboarding campaign.

Check if they are trying to build a healthy relationship with you, as it is a long-term commitment that you’re about to enter into. Make them win your trust, and demand what you need in advance.

5. Evaluate support

An understated part of buying any software is the customer support that comes with it. There are a lot of finer details to understanding and using the software and the beginning is the stage when customer support is most essential. Even once you have settled with your new marketing automation software, you might need service and help from time to time. Scrutinize the platform’s customer service and ensure that it’s timely, robust, and comprehensive.

Final thoughts

Always remember, for any migration process, you need not take it slow, but take it gradually and consistently. Even after your switch is over, keep your previous accounts active for a few weeks. Check final bounce and unsubscription reports. Have a step-by-step transition plan listing out the smallest of details. This makes for a strong foundation for the new tool to be aligned with your operations.

And ultimately, have faith in your own campaigns to drive them further with marketing automation!

Are you planning to shift from your current ESP to another ESP or marketing automation platform? Our ESP migration and data integration experts can help. 

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices.

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