From — June 11th, 2021
Your boss tells you they're planning to switch ESPs. Do you have all your ducks in a row for the migration or do you split to fly back up north for the summer? Mike from our team chatted with Bailey Busch, senior client success manager at Cordial, about the good, the bad, and the beautiful parts of migrating ESPs. At the end of the day, don't sweat it. It's all about what matters most in your company, how to work with different messaging platforms, and viewing your ESP as your partner in crime.
Bailey Busch: Welcome to Really Good Migrations. I'm your host Bailey Busch, Senior Client Success Manager here at Cordial. I've had the pleasure of working with a ton of our clients over the past years here at Cordial, particularly when it comes to migrations and getting them all set up and migrated over from their old platform to Cordial and getting everything up and running. I'm happy to introduce my guest today, Mike Nelson, from Really Good Emails, a founding partner there. I love that site, by the way, because I always reference that when folks are moving over. It's like, “I need an example on my welcome series or something”, and I tell them to go to Really Good Emails, punch that in and you have everything that you need there. Super cool to see that.
Mike Nelson: Thanks, Bailey. I'm glad I could be here with my man crush today. Bailey is awesome. I got introduced to Bailey back in August or September of last year, on another migration that we did, and it was awesome. I've done quite a few of these, not as many as Bailey has, but quite a few of these to lots of different ESPs so I'm super excited to talk about things to avoid, as well as things to think of as you go through this.
Bailey Busch: Awesome, yep. Kind of unique here, we've had the chance to do a migration together a couple of times. Pulling from both of our experiences on this is pretty fun. Glad to do this with you. Our agenda, quick run-through, is we're going to do five questions, a rapid-fire interview. I wanted to get Mike’s take on what are the important things you think about when migrating over. We’re going to roll into some features, some important things to look for when you’re evaluating an ESP. Then, strategy and timeline come up in this process so we'll touch on that. Then, we have some online resources for you, some resources to follow up at the end of this. Let’s jump in.
We did want to throw it to the audience here just to get everyone's take. A quick question is, “How soon do you plan on migrating to a new ESP?”. Less than three months, I'm looking at three to five, six to eight, or not until next year, some time off in the future. We’re curious about everybody's take. Go take a second to punch in one of those answers and we'll get the results up on the screen here too. Okay, most of the folks say in less than three months, we've got 50% of the folks that say that, but we have six to eight months as the next category, and then not until next year. It’s awesome that folks are thinking about that in short order here. We'll jump into the content because it'll be pertinent to what you're thinking about here.
Mike Nelson: Yeah, we have some aggressive migrators here, three months. Ooh, this is going to be fun.
Bailey Busch: Let's go. We'll talk timeline. Alright, rapid-fire interview questions, Mike. Here we go. Some questions, “What are currently my biggest pain points?”. This comes up, right at the beginning, it’s part of the impetus of somebody moving, so how do you think about pain points? How do you think about calibrating that in a business? What's been your experience there?
Mike Nelson: Yeah. In terms of client work, who I’ve worked for, businesses, they all have different pain points. Usually, the biggest point is why does it cost so much or can we get this cheaper? That's the one thing that you as a boss looks at, how much am I spending on this? Is it giving me all the bells and whistles that I think I want to get with this? That's kind of one of the big things they want is how cool it is, I guess, can it do the things that you want it to do? Can it be the magician so that it makes you look better in the business, but also connects with your clients? There are some new features you might not have. Maybe there's clunkiness to your old ESP or the ESP you’re on now. Maybe there are some restrictions in terms of how you get your data. There may be issues with customer support and client relationships. Maybe there are things with templates and the ability to create your templates, your own things within your emails that you can't do because you might just have a simple WYSIWYG editor.
There are a lot of things I can think of off the top of my head that I've dealt with over the past few years. How about you, anything that you think of that everyone that comes to you comes to you because…?
Bailey Busch: Yeah, I mean with a lot of people we’re talking to, personalization is super key there. They're like, “Hey, I'm trying to do XYZ, where we came across these use cases, we can't personalize the way we want to across our program, and we can't scale that up. We have these aggressive growth goals and in some cases, personalization is a goal for an organization to increase. That's one of them. The second piece that's important but not necessarily verbalized all the time is automation. We touched on doing the magic part of it. In some cases, there are limitations, or let's say we dropped somebody into a flow, they've got to go all the way through the flow, and you can't kick them out. It's nuances of the old platform feature functionality-wise, but being able to automate your program and do personalization in a more automated programmatic way is a big driver and a pain point for a business to go looking for another place to send emails.
Mike Nelson: Definitely. I know we're going to talk about that a lot later. There's some good content there for us all to chat about in about 10 minutes so get ready.
Bailey Busch: Question two, what matters most to my business right now, and could that change in the future? The pain point might be where you start, but then you also need to consider the business requirements and what's important to the business at the moment, within the next three months that you're going to be making the switch. Then, you also need to think about how you calibrate that going forward because obviously, businesses change as you go.
Mike Nelson: As you grow, you start to think about the lifetime value of a customer (LTVs), you might think about loyalty programs, all the data that goes into that, you might be thinking about events that happen on your website, you might want to think about setting up your website holistically so that you get a lot more data from those programs, your apps, and your retail brick and mortar, so that everything's going in the same place, and all firing correctly. I think you think about “okay, maybe at this time I do a newsletter today, but what do I want it to be?”. That's built on your business decisions and where you want to be in the next two to three years.
I think a lot of it's going to be around how much you know about this customer? How much can you connect with this customer based on that data?
Bailey Busch: That's a good point, one way I would say that too, is thinking into the future, the different systems that you're going to need to make sure email is connected with and make sure that the data can play nicely across all those is going to be important.
Mike Nelson: Then also, I think we talked about this earlier, Bailey, but it's the buy-in, getting buy-in from my manager so that he knows that things are going to change in the future. Not what's the status quo currently, and do I have buy in to make sure that the status quo changes or gets bigger or better as we grow as a company.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, that's a good point. There are the pain points, you can't do these things potentially, technically or tactically, with the email platform you have today, but there's also the buy-in from everybody else in the organization who are stakeholders that need to be on board. They see why it is important and see that if you change these things you can increase growth.
Mike Nelson: A lot of your stakeholders might say, “I only care about open rates”, and you're like, “No, we need to talk about click to open rates and revenue per email send”. These are some things that the business might not care about now, but you'll want to care about in the future so you want to get down to the details of your messaging and marketing platforms to do that. That was my last thing there. Let's go to the next one.
Bailey Busch: Great, question three, what is the ideal time to migrate? That comes up all the time. What's your magic answer to that?
Mike Nelson: Right around Black Friday,
Bailey Busch: Maybe not around Black Friday.
Mike Nelson: I’ve done that, I’ve been there, Bailey was part of that stress. I didn't need to send you a nice wine or something still from the private PTSD that I put upon you. I guess your ideal time is probably the time that you are the slowest in your business. So that doesn't mean that hopefully, you’re going to be slow for a few months, but hopefully, there's a few weeks in there where you know that you can transfer everything over and test things out. Then you'll have ramping up and warming up periods as well on top of that. Things to consider, if Q4 is your really strong sales season, you might want to go into Q2. If you're preparing to migrate in the next three months, but the next few months are crazy for you, you probably want to adjust that.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, and the reality is I’ve personally done migrations all year round, believe it or not. Sometimes it's industry-specific as well. For example, if it's publishing, and you're not necessarily busy during the main eCommerce holidays, then that puts you at a little bit different of a timescale, but it's a good point. Looking for when things are a bit slower for the business is helpful to make sure that that's a time slot that you can align contracts to and think about, when's a good time to do it?
Alright, rapid question four, how much bandwidth do you need to be able to do something like this? What are the requirements from that perspective? Who needs to be on board?
Mike Nelson: I think this also goes back to question number three, do you have the resources in-house to do these things? I mean you’re going to need some developer help, most likely, when you do a migration. Do you have someone on your team that can help with that? Do you want to create new templates? Now that you have this idea of, “oh, I’m going to go to a new system, why don't we also revamp our welcome series, and revamp our transactional emails?’. You'll need designers, copywriters, and developers on board to do that. Or you can go the easy route and just migrate all your data, get everything set up one to one, and then you can change it once you’re live. That might give you a better perspective on AB testing, how your old performance compares with your new performance.
There's a lot to think about with contract rates and your manager to make sure things are going on smoothly and everyone gets a nice little gift card for doing the migration because it's not a fun thing to do in the first place. I don't think I've ever been through a fun migration. I’ve been through a really fast migration, Bailey made the last one enjoyable, but there are still things that take a while.
Bailey Busch: We can make it fun, we can figure out how to make it fun. I think that's more of an attitude to take towards it.
I’m going to jump to the next question, because this kind of rolls into this, where do I see my email program going in the next two years? There are bandwidth teams that I need, I have to get buy-in from those folks, and then looking forward, what's the roadmap for email look like to an organization? You've been in that position at some of your other past companies, like how do you align the roadmap, and where do you want to take messaging? What's your perspective there?
Mike Nelson: Yeah, I think if you have a good business, who has a good head on their shoulders, and they don't think, “Hey we’re going to grow 600% next year”, those are always kind of hard to project. However, if you’re like “hey, we have a typical growth of about 10% or 20%”, that's pretty easy to say, okay, this is where my subscriber base should be at that point, maybe we'll do some things to make it better. Maybe we'll clean up our list and have fewer subscribers. We’ve done that Bailey, where we cleaned out a ton of subscribers that weren't interacting with us when we did the transition.
One of the other things is, where will your tech stacks and data stacks be by that point and will you have a lot more data to pull through or pull from into your ESP, that they can make use of? Maybe you don't have that set now, but maybe you're thinking, “hey in a year, I may have access to all this loyalty data”, or “we might be setting up a new data warehouse for all these click events or category events, that I’ll have access to”, and how will that change my email strategy? Once you go past 2 years, you're probably going to be in the route of renegotiating contracts anyways, so you just need to think about one to two years, three years maximum. Anyone who tries to put you in more than a three-year contract is probably a legacy ESP that is trying to hold onto you. I'd advise not going that far in advance, even if they give you a 30% discount. Getting sunk into somebody for three years is kind of tough. Two years is probably the sweet spot, about one to two years. Think about where you want to be in terms of that.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, a couple of things from my experience that's helpful in this is thinking about the campaigns that you want to do. If you're going to break this down to be a bit more tactical by doing an ROI analysis and finding out, “okay, I have a desire to send all these types of campaigns, I'm not sending them today”, but you can come up with some benchmarks, which can be helpful to work with the ESP you’re evaluating on. They should have some good data on this.
Come up with some sort of benchmarks to say, “great if I started sending that back in stock campaign, or this abandoned cart campaign”, these things that I might not be doing today, but I could add personalization or automation to do so, what's that going to impact? Then, stair step those out from a revenue perspective. That can also then help inform your timeline like you show that to your key stakeholders that want a buy-in. They may go “great, shorten that timeline, let’s do it all right now as fast as you can”.
To me, I've seen that work well, it’s thinking about how do I take these things in just over the next year or two, plan for an email roadmap, tie revenue numbers to it, and then go from there?
Mike Nelson: Yeah, one of the other things I want to mention here is, at the end of the two years, you're probably going to be lightspeed ahead of where you are today, and if you get to a point where you're like, “Shoot, I chose the wrong ESP”, that can kind of suck. You've built all this stuff into it, and then you have to migrate again, that's not fun. You want to think about what will get me here, but also who has the tech chops to continually improve the experience, who’s forward-thinking. We're going to talk about NexGen in this a lot, too. You want to think about who's improving the platform, and being a partner with me in this program, and making it better? When you're two years down the road and thinking that you have another contract coming up, and deciding if you should stay or go, you just went through all that, and then you don't want to redo templates and don’t want to transition. There's a lot of things like putting the effort now to make sure this is the company you want to be with, even if you do renegotiate. It still may be beneficial to think about that more than two to four years down the road.
Bailey Busch: Yep, I mean in most cases, it's a longer-term decision, especially if you're going to set up a lot of this stuff, particularly from an automation standpoint. That's great advice there. It rolls right into a good segway to features. Let's jump to that next. We have an audience poll question. Again, to turn it to the audience here, what features in an ESP are most important to you? Mike, how should we think about this?
Mike Nelson: This is going to be like, if you're on a stranded island, which one would you say is the one thing that can get me off this island, from a business perspective? All these things are important, but what's going to be the one thing that you're like, “oh, that will move the needle for me and get me off this island”. Is that a good analogy? I don't know.
Bailey Busch: I love it. Not a literal island, but a figurative business island, that's going to get me off to get my growth. I like that. I like the literal Island analogy, maybe we roll with that.
Mike Nelson: It goes back to the beginning of the whole thing where we had the palm trees and everything else. We were setting everybody up.
Bailey Busch: Alright, a few more seconds there.
Okay, we've got results in, 78% of you are saying real-time audience building and creating for advanced segmentation. That's awesome. 11% is scaling with your business, and then 11% project management deliverability solutions support. That's awesome. Good, take towards long-term thinking. Yeah, I love the real-time audience building, that's super important. We're going to talk a bit about that as well.
I would’ve thought personalization would have had a higher percentage with that group, with everyone talking here. Maybe they're already doing it well and they just need to make that super fast. We'll talk about some of those things top, but interesting.
Alright, so the bad, the good, and the ugly. Let's talk about what's hard with a legacy platform. First off, what is a legacy platform to you? You've used several different ESPs in the past before, and so just to get your take Mike, how do you frame this in what's hard with ESP platforms?
Mike Nelson: Yeah, you say what's hard, I say what sucks. We were talking about this and coming up with some ideas for this webinar, and I said that I just wanted to get to what sucks, that’s the whole reason someone's moving.
Anyway, to me, what sucks is an old platform, that has just been Bandiaded over and over again, and maybe they purchased some other companies to leapfrog them into, “well we were an email provider, but now we have SMS”, but then we had to log into this other text messaging system to do it and the data is not connected. Also, maybe customer service is archaic and you can only reach them at two o'clock in the morning.
I just got off the phone with Southwest, and I was on the phone for 78 minutes before I talked to someone and that is definitely not a fun experience when you have sent something or you're about to send something and you're like, “can I just talk to somebody?”.
So, having Slack integrations or something with that team has become very beneficial for me in the past, which I didn't think was one of the features I want with this team. It just sucks not being able to talk to somebody when I want to talk to them.
There's also a lot of things where you might get lots of other features you just don't like and that’s the last bullet point, but you might get like, “oh, we have this social media retargeting analysis thing that we add” and I don't care about that, but it’s just part of the package. Why would I pay for that if I'm not going to use it? There are sorts of things where you're like, “okay, hopefully, there's a company that has what I need, and I can a la carte it, piecemeal it, or they're just very strategic in what they offer and they don't go into other features that I don't necessarily need. Those are some things that suck, I think, and then there’s pricing, which sucks sometimes too.
Sometimes you’re charged for contacts that don't ever get an email sent and just because they're on your list, you get charged for those people. That's something that sucks. I think that's the standard cost of business, but there's a revolution that is going to happen there. Those are some ideas.
Bailey Busch: One thing that sticks out to me, or at least that I feel like I encounter, even sitting on my side helping clients migrate, is the time that it takes working in another platform, and it fits well with what the audience had said too, real-time audience views, segmentation, and things. I am aware of the pain, I know the pain of sitting there waiting for a query to come back for 15 minutes and you're thinking, “well, this is going to be tough” or that job to export just so you can export it and import it again to get some counts can be a hard thing. That's why it's seemingly a kind of small thing, but I know that when you're working in a platform, it's just like, boom, there are the counts, is this real life? I get jaded. They're all supposed to work, right?
Mike Nelson: I remember when we did the last transition migration, where I wanted something specific to make sure that we're reducing specifically with our active subscribers, and I don’t know if you remember this, Bailey. I went back to our ESP and I was like, “Hey, can I get this?” and they told me yes you can, but you have to write an SQL query that does this thing, and then you've got to write another SQL query to do this other thing, and then you have to do a lookup, and that's how you're going to get that information. First of all, why is this so difficult? That sucked, having the data in the system, but not being able to access the data, totally made me irate, which was a big reason why we migrated in the first place.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, alright, let's transition to the good then. Why are brands switching, you mentioned this term earlier, nextgen, that's just in terms of email service providers out there in the market today. They've been built post-Facebook, Google, YouTube, all of those, and are built on a little bit different architecture and offer things such as real-time data. What are the main selling points there that you saw?
Mike Nelson: All these bullet points ring true to me, being able to activate with your data and bring those data sources in from other places. If you look at the legacy stuff, they'll just be like, “here's your list and this is what they do, this is what they open”. Maybe they can get you more granular, what the individual clicked on, but they don't give you what they purchased, usually. They don’t give you what they’re browsing. A lot of these nextgen are going to be going towards customer data profiling, or CDPs, and allowing you to see the data holistically for an individual, and being the messaging or marketing engine for that customer.
We talked about ESPs, and we talked about this the other day, but ESP has become an old term, I think because only being focused on email is not the thing of the future. You want text messaging, you probably want some social connections there, and we'll talk about those. A marketing platform or marketing service provider (MSP) might be better.
With the good things here, you're going to want flexibility. I think that's kind of the big thing, being able to get into the data, do the things you want to do with the data, trigger automations and personalization off of that, but then make sure the data is in real-time or somebody made a purchase. I'm sorry, I can talk about this forever, but one of the things I keep thinking about is, I constantly make purchases, let's say like protein drinks, and I’m a chocolate protein drinker, but then tomorrow I'm going to try out the new strawberry drink. However, when I go look at it, an hour later I get this promotion for chocolate. I'd think, I was just looking at the strawberry drink, why don't you guys know that I was looking at strawberry? As you can tell I work out all the time with this sweet dad bod.
Personalization and real-time data are really important in this next phase of what consumers expect.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, like you said, being able to act on it more in real-time and making sure that that's all there within the platform and not having to download it, import it, all that stuff.
Mike Nelson: You're going to have to speed me up Bailey, I think I've talked too much during this thing. Let's move on to the next one.
Bailey Busch: I want to break this down then too because not all nextgen platforms are the same. There are a variety of platforms that exist out there today, but I wanted to provide what are some key things that we should talk about? What are some things we should ask a nextgen ESP about? I can offer a perspective on this, that largely I love starting here, this is always ground zero whenever we're starting a migration, which is what does your data look like? Data should have a platform that should be able to ingest everything about your customer, customer attributes, lists that they’re on, geolocations, and storing various types of data about a contact or a customer. Within the platform, you should be able to see all of that as well.
Then, there are events. Events are also a really important part, to be able to have events streaming in from a website, and understanding what people are doing in real-time on the site. Then, there’s business data. This is everything from a product catalog, if you’re eCommerce, to say in an article catalog, or various categorizations of the different products that you sell, kind of the metadata that goes into powering a lot of the personalization as well.
These three to me represent a foundation that's super important to make sure that the platform that you're looking at can support all of these things.
Mike Nelson: They’re all going to be working together in some way so you need to make sure that it’s almost standardized, that your email address or the customer profile is the unique identifier across all these other things. I think that business data is really important for you to think about catalogs and what you can recommend. It’s not only what the person has done, but what this person can do. How do we get them based, it looks like modeling, into segments that are similar to others so we can recommend some cool things based on the business’s needs. That's all going to pull from customer historical data, what they’ve been doing on the site, and then how we introduce new categories, new products, new articles, etc.
Bailey Busch: Yeah and that rolls into this slide that we had here that we were talking about, which is, how do you activate on that? You've got this data in the platform now and you should be able to activate on it in a variety of ways. What are all the different places that you're allowed to, I would say, see that data? Everybody mentioned here real-time querying, how much of that data do they allow you to query? If it's a complex data structure can you just query one level down or are you able to target various custom properties that you’re able to put into and append to this data to be able to get way more granular? Is that real-time or does that take time to process that so you can get that? How many of those processes are you allowed to run? There are sometimes nuances where you'll be looking at a nextgen marketing platform, let's use that, and they're like, “yeah, we do all that, you can activate on this, you can personalize, you can build audiences on it”, but then you get into the nitty-gritty, and you just pumped in all this data and spent some time building a data foundation, but I can't actually access that deeper level or I can only access one event inside of a message, or I'm only allowed to trigger off of certain things and not everything.
How about audience building? When you think of that, using this data, how did that shift for you, when you jumped over to a new platform?
Mike Nelson: Yeah, there are a lot of things that go into this, especially when you're pulling in event data. We use Segment.io for a lot of our properties. There are a lot of things that are tied to that individual based on the event conversions that you set up on your site, but essentially you use that with where they are in their certain journeys. Then, you say, “cool, they've looked at category x so many times”, so we can set some rules around that, we can push them into different segments, and we can do things based on geolocation. If they move, we can move them automatically, we don't have to physically move that person based on their IP address. There's a lot of cool things that you can do with audience building in that sense. A
Then, on the growth side of it, where it's referral-based, people that have done x, y, z, you can find similar customers like them, and get them toward your more business goals and build your audience that way. You can figure out, “okay, cool, let's export this list of whatever this is, and then import that into Facebook and do some demographics and do some look like modeling off of just those individuals, based on all the data that we've already captured”. Then, they can be pulled into this one data source.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, that's solid. I'm going to keep moving on here in building on this. We've got the data, we can build audiences and personalize it, and then activate on it. Then, the next phase of that is, where can you reach out to your customers about that? You touched on it before, but the different channels that you want to be able to send this data to would be to reach them on SMS, MMS, or reach them on a mobile app, if you have that, to be able to send down a push notification or in-app.
Then, I'll send these things over to social media to target folks over there and connect with other aspects. Maybe it's an email team, but maybe there's this other marketing arm that's focused more on paid stuff that can be helpful to leverage sending that data out too.
Mike Nelson: Yeah, and being a guy who's the co-founder of a site called Really Good Emails, SMS plays a big part in your overall strategy, especially if you're retail, maybe not so much, if you're a publisher, maybe it can be. That's one of the things that I've opened my eyes to within the last three years, is how much more lift you can get by having a targeted strategy there, with using both SMS and email.
Then mobile, it's a no-brainer. If somebody is using the app, and they don't get straight to that last frame that you want them to, or that last page that you want them to, and they went back somewhere, you can hit them with a little message within that saying, “Oh, yeah if you buy now, we’ll give you 15% off”. That’s the promotional side of it, but the other one can just be a little nudge, like “oh, did you know that you were just a step away from getting XYZ?”.
API’s are a no-brainer, you want your data to go wherever you want. You want to know which subscribers are opening them and pushing that data back into other places. For example, you can tell this is an active subscriber, let's make sure that from a mobile perspective, or similar perspective, that we aren't over-sending them messages. We're not texting them on a huge frequency because we know that email is their channel. There are a lot of things that could connect dots with their audience there too.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, API is an interesting one too. From Cordial’s perspective, we think about sending an API call outbound, for example, if you're going to integrate with a direct mail partner, or at the same time, make sure the nextgen platform has a robust set of API's to be able to pull this data about sending on all of these channels out of the platform or be able to interact and programmatically send some of these via API as well. There are two parts of how you interact via API that can be really, really impactful to a business.
Mike Nelson: That good direct mailer gives me all the feels when I open up my mailbox, my physical mail. I think, “oh, wow, they got this right”. I mean it's not good for the environment, there are new ways of offsetting that, but I’m always so impressed because they say that I didn’t check out and I didn't care about that follow-up email, but now they have my attention.
Bailey Busch: Now they've got something in my hands. To comment on the channels as well, another interesting thing here looking at the average marketer is that they work with five different messaging platforms. Then, you’re represented by your promotional email. Maybe you send a promotional email on one platform, you send a transactional email on another platform, and you send triggered emails on another one. That’s three platforms, three contracts, three different points of contact, and support for sending an email. This is the same thing for push notifications, for SMS, and other channels that you can send on.
Nextgen platforms, particularly Cordial, in this scenario, in this diagram here, shows that you're sending all of these things within one channel, which is nice because it's cohesively using all the same data. That wraps things all together in real-time. Did I just send to somebody on a mobile app, and then I'm going to send them an email? Being able to have that insight and awareness in real-time is super impactful.
Mike Nelson: Yeah, and as a manager, consolidating as much as I can is better. From my perspective you can save on contracts, you've got contracts that are expiring at different times. Maybe as they expire you say, “cool, I'm just going to use that part of the ESP now”, and then apply it because you're probably paying for it already. There are things that you can save money on by consolidating the format, and there are also fewer sales guys that you have to work with.
Bailey Busch: Another key point in choosing and evaluating a vendor is that your ESP and your marketing platforms should be a partner. We think of this, this is particularly my view of the world here, but as a client success manager I have access to a variety of different teams on my side, that all represent what Cordial is, but we're here to partner with your team directly. That's representative in Mike and I’s relationship here, how we instantly come into their team, help them throughout the whole process, from a migration standpoint, down to us integrating with Slack and being able to talk directly. Sharing pictures of the weekend and all the fun stuff that goes along with it and just “hey, how can I do this thing in the platform?”.
It’s cool when you can have a good relationship with somebody and answer things in real-time. It's extremely helpful from my perspective, I'm curious about your take, Mike?
Mike Nelson: I don't know if you've caught this throughout the last 40 minutes on this call, but being sold by one person, being passed off by an onboarding person who has no idea what your business is like, and then being pushed off to various random people when you have questions who don't have any information on who you are, becomes very tedious because then they have to go look at other tickets and your customer history. That’s not to say that reps aren't going to change, but having somebody that is a little bit more dedicated to who you are, your own goals, and they’re aligning with how you try to grow. That incentive is there for them because they know you’re going to stick with that ESP.
They want you to be successful because if you are, you’re going to stay with us. Having that set up from the get-go is important. If I were in your shoes, and you're migrating somewhere else, then I would want to talk with the rep that's going to be my rep the whole time. I want to know how they think, I want to know how good they are at developing, how good they are at coding, what their design chops are, what resources they can give me, and how fast they are to respond. I test all those things out because you're going to be with this person or this company for at least another two years. You want to have somebody in your pocket that you can rely on.
Bailey Busch: That’s a great point. Yeah, we pride ourselves on being part of your team so we're pumped about that.
Timeline! Moving right along, this is an important part of all evaluations and something that's not lost in the evaluation process. Here's an example timeline of evaluation, onboarding, implementation, and thinking through marking out on a calendar your holiday code freeze, that will have an impact, of course. We go “oh, oops, we started a migration and now we've got a holiday code freeze that we have to contend with”, which can happen.
This is just to lay it out as an example. This changes and depends a bit on the size of your mailing list that you need to warm up and the complexity of your program that needs to be brought over. I definitely would encourage folks to think about this. If your list is anywhere near the size of a million contacts that you're sending to regularly, think about the migration and implementation warm-up period lasting for somewhere between four to six weeks on average. It's helpful to have a site, that means you're up and mailing.
Now, the trick here is, Mike, even with what we've done, is that we were up and sending messages very quickly, messages are going out the door, there is still the ramp-up period, and then thinking through the other side of your contract as that winds down as that comes into play as well. You've been through that so how do you balance between two contracts, setting all this stuff up, the work that comes between, and getting the emails out regularly?
Mike Nelson: There are a lot of things it depends on. One of those is your contract end date. If you have the leeway to walk away from your current ESP to migrate and have time, and that contract is still going to be going on, that’s awesome. However, most people reach out saying their contract is due and it’s ending in the next, three months, or four months, or five months and they need to give them notice, probably within 90 days, so you have that three-month period. That's when the fire starts, and you're like, “shoot, can I get all this done in three months?”.
If you know that a contract is coming up, at least in the next six months, please start looking at this now. It just sucks and you start untangling the spaghetti bowl that you probably try to create with your legacy ESP and then you have data over in your app, your site is 10 years old, and you have these form fields that are being pushed through an API through this other thing. You have to start using some investigation work to be like, “alright, we have to fix this”, or you just go the method of we're still migrating and what breaks, breaks, we'll fix it later. I’ve done that before and that isn't the best experience. However, if you are in a crunch time, and you know that you're going to be kicked off your ESP or you don’t want to be with that ESP, you make consolations and decide that you need to migrate everyone over and get ramped up before we go.
Holiday time is possible, Bailey proved that we could do it. We didn't lack in open rates or inbox placement or anything like that, but again, we were very strategic on who we ramped up and how we ramped up, and how long it took making sure that the most active subscribers were hit first. There's a different kind of strategy when you are in a time crunch, then if you have some extra time, so please give yourself extra time. Every time I don’t give myself the extra time I always regret it.
Bailey Busch: Good wisdom there. Time is always helpful. This is another important one and you have experience doing this jumping platform to platform. With training and support, what's your comment on learning curves and picking up a new platform?
Mike Nelson: Yeah, I mean, if you go from something that's based on SQL queries to just an export, and you're like, “oh, finally, I don't have to do all this other stuff now”, so you can save some time doing things. There are also aspects of the new platform where you’re going to think, “where is this at?”, “where is this saved at?”, “how do I access this data?”. Me pinging Bailey or somebody else even though I know I saw that somewhere during training or onboarding, but I don't remember where it was. Those are the things that are a little bit more obscure that you don’t access all the time.
Then, there are also learning curves on language or coding if the new ESP does something wildly different. If you're used to a WYSIWYG editor and you go to something a little bit more complex, then I would think, “okay, I've got to bake in some time to learn how to code dynamically here”. Do I use open brackets, do I use squiggly lines, do I use all these other things? How do I use if-then statements to get in this personalization? There's a learning curve when it comes to personalization if you're not familiar with that, and you're trying to get that, but those are all things you can learn and make iterations on over and over and over again, over the months. At Really Good Emails we're still working on some of those things and we've been up and running on a new ESP for a long time. There are still a lot of adjustments to make as we learn more.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, and to emphasize it again, us going over Slack helps reduce that learning curve in my experience, not only with you but also with all the other clients that I work with. That support is also a big one. That comes up often when we're talking with new clients that are coming on board. Their view of the world is that they’re going to have to submit a support ticket, they’re going to have to wait, and it takes three days to hear back. They ask, “how am I going to do this and factor this into migration as well?”. That’s a different perspective.
It depends on the support model and how that's set up when you're evaluating, looking, and talking to other ESPs. How quickly are you expecting turnaround and questions to be answered? What does that team look like? Maybe they tell you, “yeah, we're on Slack, we're doing all that stuff”, but that only exists for a month. Then, as you said, sometimes you're moved to another team and then they have to relearn you, and you have to relearn this other team and how everybody works and factor that in. Take a look at that, because that will help align on timelines and what you can expect going forward.
Mike Nelson: Yeah, and the support team from the ESP that you're moving from, definitely doesn't bend over backward to get you what you need if they know that you're not going to renew that contract. I’ve dealt with that multiple times, they tell you to get in the queue even when it’s just a very simple thing. You have to bake that into your timing as your past support team is willing to get you the information you need to make the migration.
Bailey Busch: Good point. Alright, audience poll question three, turn it back to you. On a scale of 1 to 5, how excited are you to migrate?
Mike Nelson: I think we probably scared them off a little bit.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, I think it’s 5, extremely excited to migrate.
Mike Nelson: I love that we use the term excited on this. It can be fun, you’ll get in there and see all the cool bells and whistles you have now and see what you can make with the new designs you come up with. It will make you think, “oh, I can use this journey mapping or automation series, and I can grow this, this way”. That’s the kind of excitement that we’re looking for. It’s not the, “I have to download all this information and put it into a CSV and upload”, that's not exciting. Oh sorry, I’ve just been giving bias.
Bailey Busch: Yeah
Mike Nelson: What do we have here?
Bailey Busch: Here we go, we’ve got a little bit excited. We moved the needle, awesome. Alright, looking ahead here, just as a quick recap, we've got some resources coming your way. We’ll be sending out an email, which will have a Forrester Wave in it, which is an independent analysts report that they've gone through and looked at a bunch of ESPs all across the market. You'll see legacy and nextgen outlined on that. That's a helpful resource to see where various vendors place, and how an outside, independent firm has analyzed that.
We've got a couple of guides, for example, how to choose an ESP you love, as well as we recently did a three-part series on LinkedIn from another resource, Brian Rants at Cordial. That's on LinkedIn and you can go find that. Then, if you do want to speak to us, we're always here to help. Reach out afterward and we’ll be able to connect with you.
We did have one question that we got some time here for a quick Q&A. The question was, “what's meant by the ramp-up period and warming up the IP and ramping and moving over automations and triggers and journeys and stuff?”. That’s a good question and I will jump back to the slides here. This is speaking towards this here. When we're talking about deliverability, we'll designate a warm-up period, which is going to be the first 2 weeks of you sending new messages, so that's a pretty critical time especially when you're sending on a new IP and a new sending domain. That particular period is where we’re sending the first messages to Gmail, AOL, and the rest, so we need to send controlled low volumes, which is the best. Warm that up, say, “Hey, we are about to send you some messages”.
The ramp-up period is going to be more tailored to the engagement that you have within your audience. We typically build a custom ramp plan, we did that with Mike, where we evaluate the engagement of the audience. We then decide that there are certain amounts we could go faster in Gmail, we need to go a little slower at Microsoft, and we’re going to go average at Rise Media Group. We will space that out and then ramp up all of those domains independently. That speaks to how we were able to ramp up in a fairly condensed time period, but very strategically, to make sure that we're hitting a good reputation and stride. That was a great question there.
Once you’re up and sending then you’re ongoing. Triggers, and any others, and automation journeys can be done either way. You could start with those, or you can, more commonly, we do everything we need to get sending, and then after we've been sending for about two weeks through the warmup period, we start layering on the automations and journeys on top of that. That's the typical cadence of how that works.
Mike Nelson: You'll probably get assigned a promotional and a transactional IP address. For your promotional, it will be your newsletter, ads, and whatever will go out of one, and that will usually have a little bit longer of a warm-up period because you don’t know how good your open rate will be, or how often people are going to click on things. For your transactional, everyone's going to open that because they just bought something and want their receipt. That can go way faster. I don’t remember a warm-up period for our transactional Bailey, and we had pretty high volumes. You probably did it, but it was nothing that we needed to worry about.
Bailey Busch: It's pretty much right out of the gate on transactional because there's such high engagement like you were saying.
Mike Nelson: Yep. The other ramp-up stuff is all the engagement, it’s like, “cool let's not change anything that we've been doing, let's just see how things work”. Then, you can go in and A/B test things later after you've already established your ramp up because you've set a baseline and now you've got a way to get more and get better click to open rates or figure out who's clicked on things. I wouldn't worry about changing an A/B testing period during a ramp-up, I probably would advise against it, but those are things to consider.
Bailey Busch: Yep, we've got two more questions, and this is a good one. Mike, I want to ask you this, would you recommend migrating your existing HTML or building new templates?
Mike Nelson: You're most likely going to have to build new templates, especially if you're going through these modular components. If you're going block style, which allows you to do a lot of personalization based on what's inside that block, and you can have if-then statements, so you can omit that block if that person doesn’t fit the criteria to get what's inside that block. You'll probably need to rewrite it anyway, especially if your new ESP does not have the same coding language.
Bailey, Smarty, is what Cordial uses, which is a little different than what I was used to. There are some learning curves to figure out double brackets, if-then statements, and all that kind of stuff. However, once you get it down, and you get into how to build a component, you go from building a whole email to only building out these individual blocks. Then, you can drag and drop those blocks as you see fit, and you can update blocks and change the colors or whatever in the future. You can build them so that you can have a WYSIWYG to go with it so that you develop the block, and then you hand it off to somebody else and they're like, “okay I'm just going to type in the text here”, and it will automatically push it into the block. There's a term for that, Bailey, what's that called?
Bailey Busch: Just updating the block, I think.
Mike Nelson: When you're ramping up, you can have it be one-to-one; this is HTML, throw it over, here we go, this is what we had. Then, we started thinking about what we wanted to do with this. The whole reason you move is to make it more personal, to bring in that real-time data, and most likely your old ESP doesn't have that or it's written differently, so you're going to have to rewrite it. That's where you get into the knowledge base, that's where support is really helpful because you ping them and say, “Hey, I've got gift card numbers I want to decrement, how do I do that?”. That was a question I had with Bailey from one of the ones that we did. We have coupon codes that we want to decrement, how do we set up a table so that we’re eliminating the coupon code as it gets pulled into a new email? There are other things you need for personalization. You'll have some HTML to do or block building to do.
Bailey Busch: Yeah, I would say from my experience, most people like to rebuild a template because it's a good excuse to get that work done that you don't otherwise have time to prioritize. It's a natural place for it to fit. Then, it also depends on how much personalization is in it. Like you were saying Mike, if there's not too much personalization, it's easy to bring it straight over just as regular HTML, if you can get access to it in your other platform, and then start sending theirs.
Yeah, good question. Question three is, what advice would you give to someone who may not necessarily have internal resources to help with migration, and when would an agency be appropriate to help support that?
Great question. I've worked with a handful of clients that have done it either way. They're either doing it all in-house, internal, or we've also coupled, where there’s the brand, and then there is an agency that's brought in that handles migration. I would say the most important part if you're going to bring in an agency to do it, is well one there's a cost component to consider there, and that's going to vary depending on your business and what you have to be able to spend on that. However, if you're going to bring in an agency, it's ideal if that agency also has access to your other platform and knows your other platform, I'd say it's less optimal if you've hired an outside agency and they've never worked with your incumbent ESP, or your existing, new ESP. I wouldn't recommend that because you've just offloaded money, to say, I'll pay you guys to learn both platforms and struggle to try and figure out how to extract stuff over here and then get it all set up here.
Make sure that they've worked with your old platform, and can have access, can go get the data, and can help you in moving the data over. That's one of the bigger parts, so that's why I'd say it's helpful to have an agency that can do that. Then, it's possible to have a successful migration using an agency, but just seeing it both ways.
Mike Nelson: Yeah, I'm going to raise my hand and say, I did the last migration all by myself, and I'm not super technical, I'm more on the business and strategy side of things than I am on actually jumping into the data, and I was able to find how to get all the data I needed from my incumbent ESP. Then, we packaged that up, gave it to Bailey's team, and we uploaded it there. They were able to figure out what the ramp-ups were based on the engagement that we could pull out of the old ESP. Again, we were using more of those bigger legacy ones, where they say they have more bells and whistles, so we could grab that if you’re going from maybe a MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, not to throw anyone under the bus, but when you export those customers, they're not going to come with how engaged is this individual so you will probably have to roll out some more filters and figure that out with some pivot tables, which is not that difficult if you know anything about Excel.
Bailey Busch: Cool yeah, and I would go back to this slide too, kind of what you said. You did that with basically just support from us at Cordial here and the team. Between deliverability, between solutions, and between myself, we were able to help you through the migration so it does depend a bit on the services and what the services that an ESP can offer. That can help maybe move the needle if you're just a team of one or two. As you said, Mike, there are often email marketing teams that are pretty small and nimble, so you're not alone there. That is a common thing where you could be a team of one or a team of two, but you can pair with an ESP that's got these services to help you, and you can have a very successful migration.
Mike Nelson: Would I have hired somebody to do it? Yes, but could I have afforded it? No.
So if you have the luxury of hiring somebody, I say go for it. That's probably the easiest way and less stressful way of doing it.
Bailey Busch: Awesome. Well, thanks for all the questions. Thanks for joining in with us, answering the poll questions, listening to our silly jokes, we appreciate you joining us for Really Good Migrations and you'll get the recap of this later.
Mike Nelson: Cool. See you guys later.
RGE co-founder. Speaker. Lame marketing guy. If you found a typo on the site, it was probably my fault.
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