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5 tips for successfully switching email service providers

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5 tips for successfully switching email service providers

Back in July, I packed up my house and moved everything to my new place. Moving is always a slog, but I’ve done it so often that I can do it on autopilot: Throw this out, pack that, sell what’s too good to pitch but not needed in the new place. After 17 moves, I have it down to a science.

Fast-forward to today. I’m here in my new office, and I see more moving going on out there. But this time, I’m seeing companies moving to new email service providers (ESPs). 

It’s as if the marketing pressures inspired by COVID-19 exposed serious tech limitations. The same way workers discovered how rotten their jobs were, leading to the Great Resignation in 2021.  

Some companies will pack up all their virtual boxes and move their data and operations over to the new vendor on their own. But just as people call in a moving service to do the heavy lifting, many companies will turn to a third party to help them make the switch while maintaining their business operations.

This move makes sense for many reasons: 

  • Everyone involved in the technology is already working 80% to 90% of their time on what they were hired to do. They have little to no time to take on a move of such major proportions. 
  • People don’t know what they don’t know. I learned how to move households because I’ve done it 17 times before. But imagine how confusing and overwhelming it would be if it were your first time! Companies aren’t trained to move the bulk of their email operations to a new provider.
  • Moving to a new vendor is a complex process. Think about what you have to move over: All your subscriber data. Every open, click and unsubscribe for the last year or more. It involves all of your data integrations, every campaign report, every automation and more.
  • On top of moving everything over, you must maintain documentation and redundancy to ensure you haven’t left anything behind. Once the old vendor turns off the platform, whatever data is left on the old platform is gone.
  • There’s so much at stake. Managing the moving process can be an anxious time for the in-house team. It doesn’t matter how great your new ESP will be. If it gets set up wrong in the move, you don’t have time to re-architect it.

Five tactics for a smoother tech migration

Right now, I’m in the thick of helping a client move its complex email programs to a new vendor, and it inspired me to list the factors that can spell the difference between migration success and failure. 

1. Develop a custom migration plan.

Your customers’ buying motivations, your brand equity, your email program’s cadence, content, treatment, segmentation and messaging complexity – they all make your business unique. Managing that migration should also reflect your unique business needs when migrating from one platform to another.  

This custom migration solution will fit your company structure and business practices, such as whether you rely on list-based campaigns or pull data from CDPs or CRMs to create custom messaging. 

There might be a common way of transferring data and operations from one platform to another, but when you have a custom plan, it will ensure that you migrate systematically, as if you were building on an assembly line.

This plan also considers factors beyond the tech transfer itself, such as your unique company culture, corporate politics and responsibility layers and processes within the company. 

2. Have your C-level executives endorse your migration.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on platform migrations without official C-level support. The migrations still happened, but they took twice as long.

That’s why you need a mandate from your C-suite that says, in essence, “We’re moving platforms, and you need to buckle up and get with the program.”

This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card or permission to do whatever you want in the transition. You still have to follow a plan. But it gives you an organizational structure and reporting to follow. 

You don’t have to put up with foot-dragging or justification conversations that sap your energy and drag out the migration when you have C-level support.

3. Establish priority for the migration work.

Migrations aren’t easy. They take extra time, require cross-functional coordination and can’t be done well by people already at 80% of utilized time.

For the company, the priority usually comes down to business as usual – and rightly so, because that’s where you make money. You’ll need to figure out how your tech project fits in. 

Distraction is the biggest liability in a migration. Companies that use outside services recognize that businesses have to operate during the migration, and these external service providers reduce the time taken away from business as usual. 

That makes it more feasible to ask someone who has maybe 20% of the time to work on specific aspects of the migration in spurts. We learned in the Great Resignation that employees are tired of working 80 or 90 hours a week with no additional support. 

If you expect your employees to bear the migration workload on top of their regular work, you might push them beyond their boundaries.

4. Establish your own migration priorities and get help.

Most vendor changes I’ve been involved with have happened because the service or platform degraded or the company’s goals didn’t match the SAAS provider’s technical capabilities.

You went through an RFP, you evaluated what the ESP brings to the table and you selected a winner. Now your priority has to be moving to this new platform because time is of the essence. 

You don’t have years to move your data and operations to the new platform. If your company has complex data, integrations, messaging programs and the like, the migration could take a year or more, especially at enterprise-level companies. If you take too long, you’ll lose your technological advantage.

Besides having C-level support for your migration, you also need to say at your divisional or local level, “I’m holding back time from other work and giving it to this project. And I’m going to think about my marketing innovation in terms of what that platform can enable.” 

So, have an external partner to lean on during your migration and help you understand what’s possible with the new platform. And that means doing an audit.

5. Audit your existing programs.

A platform migration is the perfect opportunity to look under the hood of your email programs and look for ways to improve them. When you move your operations over, you have to physically set up your program again, whether it’s a welcome or promotional email, automation, a segmentation plan or data integration. 

You’re replicating your operations, but you also can improve them. In many migrations, that’s when audits happen. It’s the perfect opportunity to look for ways to do things differently, update your emails to meet brand standards, look for efficiencies or update static templates to make them modular.

Migration is more than just moving your program from one platform to another. It’s a systematic approach to improving your program. You might as well fix things while the hood is open through program audits, CRM audits and anything else that can help you improve. 

You don’t buy a new car because it has all the same features as your old car. You buy it because it’s better than the car you have now and you intend to take advantage of those new features. In the same way, you don’t move your email program to a new vendor platform and then do email the same old way. Your audit will help you understand where you are now and how you can use your new capabilities to do email better. 

From my days with ESPs over the last 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand that clients use only about 20% to 30% of their ESPs’ functionality.  A migration is all about maximizing the technology that mesmerized you during your demos and ensuring you update your programs!

Wrapping up

Migrations are a pain whether you run a basic email program or a complex one. I’ve been through the same pain many times. But I was smart enough to recognize I needed help each time because they were just too much to handle on my own. 

That’s why I wrote this piece: for companies to understand a tech migration just does not need to be that hard. Working with an experienced tech partner can help you get the greatest gain from the immediate pain.

The longer you’re in the transition period from one platform to another, the longer you have to wait to use the important features you were looking for in a new platform. You’ll wait longer to reap the financial benefits, too.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

What should you focus on in 2022

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.


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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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