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5 tips for successfully switching email service providers



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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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

As the co-founder of, 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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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update



Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

Old Navy will update its yearly Fourth of July promotions by saluting the metaverse with an NFT drop, going live June 29.

In honor of the year they were founded, the retailer will release 1,994 common NFTs, each selling for $0.94. The NFTs will feature the iconic Magic the Dog and t include a promo code for customers to claim an Old Navy t-shirt at Old Navy locations or online.

“This launch is Old Navy’s first activation in web3 or with NFTs,” an Old Navy spokesperson told MarTech. “As a brand rooted in democratization and inclusivity, it was essential that we provide access and education for all with the launch of our first NFT collection. We want all our customers, whether they have experience with web3, to be able to learn and participate in this activation.”

Accessible and user-friendly. Any customer can participate by visiting a page off of Old Navy’s home site, where they’ll find step-by-step instructions.

There will also be an auction for a unique one-of-one NFT. All proceeds for the NFT and shirt sales go to Old Navy’s longtime charitable partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Additionally, 10% of NFT resales on the secondary market will also go to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Support. This activation is supported by Sweet, who’s played a major role in campaigns for other early NFT adopters like Burger King.


The Old Navy NFTs will be minted on the Tezos blockchain, known for its low carbon footprint.

“This is Old Navy’s first time playing in the web3 space, and we are using the launch of our first NFT collection to test and learn,” said Old Navy’s spokesperson. “We’re excited to enable our customers with a new way to engage with our iconic brand and hero offerings and look forward to exploring additional consumer activations in web3 in the future.”

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Read next: 4 key strategies for NFT brand launches

Why we care. Macy’s also announced an NFT promotion timed to their fireworks show. This one will award one of 10,000 NFTs to those who join their Discord server.

Old Navy, in contrast, is keeping customers closer to their owned channels, and not funneling customers to Discord. Old Navy consumers who don’t have an NFT wallet can sign up through Sweet to purchase and bid on NFTs.

While Macy’s has done previous web3 promotions, this is Old Navy’s first. They’ve aligned a charity partner, brand tradition and concern for the environment with a solid first crack at crypto.

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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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