New Year, New ESP? Here are the Pitfalls

When it’s time for a new email service provider, the new year is typically when the hunt starts. But in some organizations, the new-vendor-selection process often goes off the rails before it even begins.

Why? It usually comes down to culture, internal politics and resources. For example, the people who do the research and make new-ESP recommendations often report to the people who sign the contracts.

As a result, those doing the research will naturally be in CYA mode throughout the process. They will be risk averse and will want to be able to cite voices of authority for their recommendations. The natural place to look for authoritative recommendations are analyst’s research reports.

Armed with these reports, the people doing the research can say to those who will sign the contract something along the lines of: “Segment-O-Mail was the top-rated email vendor in Galaxy Research’s 2017 ESP Report and it offers all the features and functions we want. We should go with Segment-O-Mail.”

What too many people don’t understand is that many research firms’ reports are pay-to-play, and the top-rated vendor often has paid the most to be in the report. This isn’t to say research reports typically lie about what the vendors in them offer. However, the rankings within the reports often don’t mean a whole lot.

Then there is culture. Every vendor has one. They’re all different. And no analyst report will tell a researcher if a particular vendor is a cultural fit. That information comes from personally knowing the VP- and C-level folks at the various vendors.

Frankly, all of the ESPs in a typical analyst report are going to be top notch. No reputable research firm will waste time with a garbage vendor.

But the pay-to-play aspect of most analysts’ reports skews their rankings in a way that significantly devalues their usefulness for accurately identifying vendors likely to be the best fit. The inherent flaws in pay-to-play reports are why no vendor pays to be included in Red Pill Email’s annual Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide.

At Red Pill Email, our philosophy is there is no “best” email vendor, only the best vendor for a particular organization.

A top-rated vendor may offer all the features and functions an organization is looking for, yet may require far more expertise and/or resources to leverage them than the organization has.

Consider the following nightmare scenario: An organization takes months selecting a vendor. They base their selection significantly on analyst reports. Once they select the vendor, they spend several more months integrating it into their system.

It’s a process that is so long and arduous, that once it’s done, the issue can’t be revisited for at least three years.

Then the switch gets flipped and it becomes apparent that some or all of the features and functions for which the vendor was selected are either financially or technically out of reach of the organization.

I have personally walked into situations like this and they are not pretty for all involved. The vendor fails to deliver. The client hates the vendor and is looking for the first chance to bail.

And once the client does finally manage to escape—and trust me, they will see it as an escape—they will bad mouth their former vendor every chance they get.

The email-vendor selection process happens so rarely at any given organization, and the industry is so fluid, chances are the people considering the switch have never been involved in the process before. This lack of experience and expertise coupled with the pay-to-play aspect of the reports these folks often rely on is a recipe for a years-long organizational headache.

If there is any enterprise-level business issue that calls for expert outsourcing more than ESP new-vendor selection and integration, I have yet to see it.

John Caldwell
President, Red Pill Email