Questions marketers should be asking e-mail service providers

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Over the years I have seen hundreds of RFPs, and I'm amazed at what little is actually uncovered in the process. The decision regarding an e-mail partner is growing in significance as the channel gains share on the mainstream marketing stage. The wrong decision can be costly and lead to frustration, lost customers and missed revenue.

In my decade or so of responding to e-mail RFPs, I have seen countless missed opportunities to vet out the reality of an ESP's offering, financial viability, support structure, platform and organizational ideology. Thus, I have assembled a “best of” RFP format that will provide marketers an accurate profile of the E-mail Service Provider

Client Experience

  • List 20 of your e-mail clients that are referenceable.
  • Provide the contact information for three client losses over the last six months and why you lost each client.
  • Are your strategy and account management teams separate or are they the same?
  • Who will be on our account team and what percentage of time will each person allocate to our business per month?
  • What are the titles of your deliverability assurance team?  Where are their offices located?
  • What is your ideal customer profile? Which of your clients fits these criteria?
  • How is your account management team compensated?

Organization

  • Please provide organizational charts for your technology, account management and deliverability teams.
  • Please provide your most recent audited financials.
  • How is your firm capitalized? Do you raise money publicly or privately, and what is the status of that capitalization?
  • What do you see as the most significant threat to your company, and what are you doing as an organization to protect yourself?
  • Some analysts believe an integrated online/offline solutions company is a better answer for clients; others say purely focus on one channel and become a specific expert. What is your view?
  • What is your employee retention rate, and how do you retain your employees?

Platform

  • Please provide the results of your last four 3rd party security audits and how you have addressed security vulnerabilities found in those audits.
  • When were your systems down in 2008, for how long and why?
  • Please provide a User's Guide for the platform we would be using.
  • What file import speeds will you commit to? Please provide your standard Service Level Agreement.
  • What are your data automation and delivery monitoring capabilities and processes?
  • Define how your real-time messaging system and processes are different from your marketing messaging platform.

Industry

  • What do you see as the next major trend in e-mail marketing? 
  • What makes your offering unique vs. your competitors?
  • What is the biggest challenge and biggest opportunity facing the e-mail channel today?
  • What is the lifetime value of an e-mail address and how do you go about calculating that value?
  • Who do you view as your primary competitors?
  • How does social media play into e-mail?  Are text and RSS booming or busting for your clients?

Other Suggestions

  • Define our business challenges and how you would use your products and services to address them.
  • Provide a cover letter from the president/CEO of your organization articulating why your company is the best fit for us.
  • How do you measure success of an e-mail program?

Eric Presbrey is SVP of business development for digital marketing solutions at Epsilon.

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