Questions to ask your eMail marketing service provider

ESP-questions

To get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions.

Our Chief eMail Officer and myself have spent some time scouring the planet for the questions you should be asking your eMail Service Provider (ESP) and what you have here is the result. I’ve credited each set of questions to the original source in the foot notes but, in some cases I created the actual question or revised them to make it easier to read.

What questions have we missed? This is a living document and we’ll keep updating it as more questions come up. Please add your questions or comments!

Takeaway: when it comes to shopping for an email service provider theere are alot of things we don’t know. Asking important questions is the key to learning what you need to know.

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Deliverability questions:


  • What is your uptime performance? (4)
  • Do you offer a unique mailer IP for your business? (1)
  • Do you offer independent inbox and spam folder tracking? (1)
  • What spam filters do you employ? (1)
  • What checks do you offer for testing your HTML code for correctness? (1)
  • Do you develop your own technology in-house? (2)
  • What image rendering tests/tools do you offer? (2)
  • Do you embed any branding (logos etc) in your email messages?  (2)
  • Do you provide any subscription or action response tools that we can use to help us build and automate our online opt in form or preference centre for opting down? (2)
  • Do you provide APIs?(2)
  • What social media integration do you support?
  • What mobile messaging options do you offer/support?
  • Can I segment and target my campaigns based on triggers such as activity and filtering without having to understand complex data querries? (4)
  • Can we use sub-accounts on the same service agreement so that different departments can be billed individually for campaigns in a large corporation? (4)
  • Can you support transactional emails? (4)

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Reporting:


  • How robust is your deliverability reporting? (1)
  • What web analytics solutions do you integrate with and how easy is it to do so? (2)
  • What are your bounce management policies and tracking report capabilities? (1)

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Security and compliance questions:


  • Who handles your penetration testing and how do they test?(3)
  • What encryption technology do you use to protect our data?(3)
  • What are the internal policies in place to protect our data from inside threats?(3)
  • How do you handle compliance with standards and laws such as Sarbane Oxley(5), CAN-Spam, PIPEDA? (6)
  • What tools to do you offer your clients to help them stay up-to-date on industry changes and best practices?

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Support questions:


  • What level and means of customer support do you provide?
  • How user friendly is your interface and do you provide any tutorials or training?
  • How long will it take to train our staff on your system?
  • Do you offer any creative services and support?
  • Can you offer support and consultation in a strategic sense? (4)
  • Can you grow with our needs? Is your platform easily scalable? (4)

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Pricing questions:


  • Tiered pricing structure or flat rate?
  • What hidden costs should I look out for each month? What are your overage charges?
  • Any support or licensing fees?
  • What if any, restrictions are there if I want to terminate my contract/services with you?
  • Do you have a reseller channel? Is there a benefit in talking to a value added reseller of your solution?

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Source credits:
(1) http://directmag.com/directtips/ESP_questions/
(2) http://www.listrak.com/university/Email-Service-Provider/email-marketing-questions.asp
(3) http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/magazineFeature/0,296894,sid14_gci1313252,00.html
(4) http://www.clickmailmarketing.com/whitepaper.html
(5) Sarbane Oxley
(6)A list of other spam laws from around the world & spam laws information from eMail Marketing Reports

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  • blank
    Andrew Kordek
    January 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    A couple of questions that I would ask:

    Can you tell me if my transactional email cost to send is the same as promotional?
    What differentiates your out of the box reports from the other ESP’s?
    Do you provide engagement data reporting out of the box?
    How does your platform perform simple A/B testing?
    Ask the sales person to demo the product…..if a sales person can demo the product, its intuitive…if it takes and engineer….well…ya know.
    Do you provide a central wiki for customers to interact and share ideas? Do your employees interact with it to speak with customers?
    Who on your staff has been on the client side?
    Do you use your own application?
    How often is spent with a customer in a given calendar year?
    What clients similar to my business are using the platform?
    What is your customer retention rate?

    These are just a few. 🙂

  • blank
    Andrew Kordek
    January 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    A couple of questions that I would ask:

    Can you tell me if my transactional email cost to send is the same as promotional?
    What differentiates your out of the box reports from the other ESP’s?
    Do you provide engagement data reporting out of the box?
    How does your platform perform simple A/B testing?
    Ask the sales person to demo the product…..if a sales person can demo the product, its intuitive…if it takes and engineer….well…ya know.
    Do you provide a central wiki for customers to interact and share ideas? Do your employees interact with it to speak with customers?
    Who on your staff has been on the client side?
    Do you use your own application?
    How often is spent with a customer in a given calendar year?
    What clients similar to my business are using the platform?
    What is your customer retention rate?

    These are just a few. 🙂

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