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Posts Tagged ‘choosing an ESP’

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m notoriously ‘thrifty’. I see myself as abstemious with my finances, most everyone else thinks I’m tight. It must be my Scottish ancestry. My underlying logic is; if I’m buying a packet of cereal, for example, then why pay twice as much for Kelloggs as for the ‘own brand’…it’s probably the same stuff inside the packet anyway. It is a bit more difficult to justify this same logic with higher value items (electrical goods, clothing, furniture etc) but I will generally trawl the internet and find the best offer I can and feel better about myself afterwards, knowing that I’ve got the best ‘deal’. This is why it came as no little surprise to me, and some astonishment to my wife, that I recently bought one of the more expensive models of car in its category. Sadly, it isn’t a mid-life crisis sports car, it’s an MPV and I went through similar thought processes as I would do when buying say a pair of jeans, but I still ended up spending more money than I’d imagined I would at the beginning. How and why did this happen?

I started-off the process with my normal mentality; ‘how much do I want to spend and what’s the best I can get for my money?’ However, as my research progressed and the more cars I test-drove, the more it became apparent to me that adopting my normal ‘Scottish’ approach was not the right way to go about making a high involvement, lifestyle purchase such as this. I had my family’s safety to consider. There were practical aspects to take into account, such as inside space and economy, the age of the car and after sales service. The list was endless…

Then it dawned on me…the way I normally approached making purchase decisions was completely the opposite way that I should approach buying this car. I should work out what was most important, what I wanted to achieve from buying this car and try to work out the ‘deal’ backwards from that. Initially this made me feel nervous; I’m used to having a budget and either sticking to that or paying less than I’d budgeted for. However when I thought more pragmatically about things I realised that I wouldn’t sleep soundly at night knowing that I’d bought a clapped out, 3rd hand Vauxhall Zafira when I could have bought a newer, safer, better loved model that would last me longer and come with a proper service history and support plan. In the end my wife and I found our ideal car – a Mazda 5, should you be interested- and it has been absolutely brilliant. Suffice to say that I still got a ‘deal’ from the salesman at the dealership and haggled for days to get it, however I ended up spending a lot more than I’d originally budgeted for. I appreciate that it’s not like the Mazda 5 is the Porsche Cayenne (although they compare much more favourably in terms of economy, reliability and holding their long term value!)…

So why would I share the story of my recent car-buying exploits with you? Well, it occurred to me recently that this is quite a good analogy for how it seems that email marketers choose an ESP. There are the first kind who always want the best price, irrespective of anything else (functionality, reliability, service etc). There are the second kind (the majority) who want a good all round package of the right product/provider at the right price. However, there has been a trend recently of clients coming to me having completely flipped their search criteria on its head. This third, newer kind of buyer says, ‘I’m here and I want to get to there by the end of the year, how are you going to help me do this?’ For example; email marketing contributed £5 million in sales in 2009 and we want it to contribute £10 million in 2010, plus we want to increase the size of our active database by 25% in the process…provide a proposal for how you are going to do this. This buyer recognises not only the power and potential of a good email program, but also the hugely disproportionate increase in sales that a small increase in spend can generate. I guess it is the old ‘speculate to accumulate’ mentality in action.

I’ve heard it said by one of our competitors, that the worst question that you can ask of an ESP, without understanding anything about their offering/company/system is ‘How much does it cost?’ and I’d have to agree.

So often people make their selection of ESP based on the wrong criteria as Tamara Gielen suggests in this article. Over the past few years, I’ve heard people say ‘we don’t want to pay for support, because we won’t need any’ or ‘we really like your system, but can’t justify the prices’. Increasingly, my response is ‘have you thought about what you are looking to achieve and what you want to get out of your email marketing strategy and partner?’ For those people who tell me that they just want to send the same email to their whole database once a week, and want a cheap, reliable way of doing this, then I’m generally happy to refer these people to one of the basic, entry level systems that are so readily available out there (the no frills VW polo, if you like – get’s you from A to B). For those people who appreciate that they should be getting more out of their program/partner, but can’t always justify the cost or effort then sometimes eCircle is the right partner or sometimes they’ll go elsewhere to a cheaper provider- this is a bit like buying a VW Golf, but potentially buying it from the wrong dealer. However, those of you who really want to take things to the next level and really develop your strategy, understand your customer base and drive both retention and acquisition as a result, you will end up with the right vehicle for that (hopefully eCircle). That is not to say that you won’t be able to negotiate with your ‘dealer’ once you’ve found and test driven the right piece of kit. You might also spend more than you originally expected, however, if you end up being as happy with your email marketing partner as I am with my Mazda 5, then you’ll have approached your review in the right way!

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I watched Location, Location, Location last night, a programme that always makes you feel like you’re £50,000 short for the house you really want!  Enough to stir thoughts of how can I, where can I …damn it. Acton isn’t too far from Chiswick anyway! This has absolutely no bearing on this blog whatsoever, it’s just reminded me that I need to ensure eCircle are ALWAYS involved in all ITT/RFP/RFI processes.

Without doubt, your more experienced marketing staff are used to the ESP review process, you know, what to look for, questions to ask, companies to see… However, it’s fair to say there are a good few that don’t necessarily know and, sometimes, talking to a host of ESP’s can end up causing confusion on what’s important (again, that’s sometimes, not always).

At this point, I wanted to get some numbers in, so I typed ‘number of marketers employed in UK?’ into Google.  Unsurprisingly, a whole lot of rubbish came up, yet there was a number given on a jobs website which stated that over half a million people are employed in Marketing the UK.  How easy was that?  But how many of those half million know what to look for when selecting an email partner and is there enough advice out there to help them?

Number of UK marketers

There are probably a good 20 to 30 points that people offer as consideration when choosing an ESP, yet I would say that these estimated 500,000 UK marketers need consider 4 key points:

  • Local vs. Global
    • What is their market presence?
    • UK only or experience in multiple countries – global ESP’s will benefit from far greater infrastructure
  • Number of clients/experience
    • Is having 1,000 clients a good or bad thing (see support section below)
    • Is there a wide range of companies/market/sizes covered?
  • Size of support team
    • What is the client per support member ratio? Be sure to check this per individual country (for the record our client:staff ratio is 4:1)
    • Is support via a named Account Manager?
    • Is there a helpdesk option available for those minor issues?
    • Any doubt on this, go visit their offices – meet the team!
  • Services
    • What services are offered beyond email delivery?  Data insight/management, email engagement programs, customised reporting, consultancy
    • Do they work with other best of breed partners?

There will be times when ESP’s offer so-called quick wins/tactics/statements, usually based around a non-relevant feature or cost, yet stay firm and concentrate of the above mentioned 4 key areas. Such features can always be deployed via an aggressive roadmap and you most certainly get what you pay for, just ask Rafa Benitez.

Despite having offices across Europe, namely in the UK, France, Italy and – most recently – Spain and The Netherlands, eCircle are still often referred to as a German company. If that is to be the case then please be reminded, as my dad said during World Cup ’90, “Son…those Germans are damn good!”

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