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Will an RFP lead to the ideal ESP?

Published on 28 Oct 2011
Finding Your Perfect ESP

Are you considering changing to a new ESP (Email Service Provider)? Is going out to RFP the right process for you?

Mia Papanicolaou recently wrote a 2 part series on this topic for Email Vendor Selection, in this edition of eMarketing Insight we highlight the most salient points

Before embarking on the RFP process, understand your motivation:

To get better pricing?

Rather than heading straight to RFP, have you considered negotiating with your incumbent ESP? If corporate governance requires you to get pricing from a number of vendors, rather prepare a one-pager detailing your current requirements, then ask for quotes.

To use it as an ‘idea and strategy’ exercise?

You need to be 90-100% sure of your strategy before you invite vendors in. Don’t use the exercise to get a strategy. If you are unsure of the direction you want to take, rather find an ESP that can strategize with you. Keep in mind that an RFP won’t necessarily highlight the best strategists.

To compare apples with apples?

No two ESPs are the same. Email marketing includes a lot more than just features. What is the team structure in the company? Do they have a high staff churn rate? What do other vendors have to say about them? These answers won’t necessarily be answered in an RFP process. Do research outside of this process to understand whether the ESP is the right fit.

To tick the technology box?

Most ESPs provide the same technical service and can give you a list of features that sound great on paper. Again, an RFP is unnecessary here, as there are reputable established tools, such as those found on the Email Vendor Selection site where you can compare functionality.

10 Steps to finding the right ESP through an RFP:

  1. Have a strategy
  2. Include all business units involved
  3. When putting questions together, include as much detail as possible (it’s difficult to provide pricing if the information provided is vague)
  4. Decide on the key features you want in an ESP
  5. Draw up a candidate list based on those features
  6. Meet with your ESP candidates
  7. Send out the RFP to those that fit the bill
  8. Shortlist the vendors based on their ability to fulfil your specific requirements
  9. Set up presentations by the shortlisted vendors with all the stakeholders that have been involved from the start
  10. Find your perfect match (and hopefully after all the effort, the decision won’t be based purely on price)

Once you have the right team in place, a clear understanding of your goals and have determined the right candidates, you are ready to embark on your RFP journey.