The Hidden Costs of Switching Email Service Providers

If you’re switching email service providers, one of the questions that’s likely top of mind is, what will it cost to move from one ESP to another?

Although there are steps you can take to make the ESP migration easier, you still might not understand the real costs. Based on anecdotal evidence from watching—and helping—clients switch email service providers, both before and during their engagements with iPost, I’ve pulled together some hidden costs to consider to help you understand those real costs associated with switching ESPs.

Please note: This is not a breakdown of the costs of switching email service providers, nor a guide to figuring out if the cost is worth it. It is, however, a compilation of some observations that I hope you will benefit from as you start number crunching.

Knowing how to justify the costs when switching ESPs
Deciding you need to switch ESPs is not a decision that is made lightly! Switching email service providers is not like choosing a different brand of milk while at the grocery store. There is a real cost involved with switching, not to mention the whole undertaking is time-consuming—and time is money. Will the cost of switching be worth it when all is said and done?

If the ESP switch means a better infrastructure, that you can scale as needed, that you’re gaining much-needed functionality, or you’re gaining something else that will increase your revenue, then the costs of switching email service providers are in a way simply spending money to make money.

The cost (and time) of training when switching ESPs
Training is one of the costs often overlooked when projecting out. The more people you need trained on the new platform, the longer that will take, and time is money, as I said above. Some degree of training is probably included in your initial costs with a new ESP as part of the ESP migration, and if that’s all you need because you have few users and simple needs, then your costs will be proportionately low. Add users and complexity, however, and training costs and time will go up.

Time and revenue lost while switching ESPs
Then there’s the cost of time lost during the switch. Depending on your specific situation, you might not be able keep your email marketing program going at full speed during the transition, which might lower your revenue temporarily. This might in part be caused by the fact that your team members won’t be spending all of their time on email marketing, as they learn the new platform, and as people do their parts to make the ESP migration happen.

The costs of empty promises after an ESP migration
Sadly, you also have the potential of paying the costs later for empty promises now. For example, if you choose your new email service provider only to get a specific functionality that is promised to you, then later find out that you can only have it after going through the time and expense of a custom integration, you will pay a price.

Know what your costs will cover when switching ESPs
The actual cost breakdown for switching email service providers will depend in part on how complex your current email marketing program is. The bigger and more complex your email marketing program (not your company), the higher your costs will likely be.

You’ll probably get a cost breakdown that includes initial setup and integration costs. But what about data issues, rules, reporting and analytics, templates and images…all of the things you’ve set up or archived with your current ESP that you still need? What are the costs to move those over during an ESP migration? Also know who will be responsible for what during this time.

The different costs of the different stages
In addition to the breakdowns of the different parts of switching email service providers, keep in mind that not everything you’re paying for is coming from your ESP. You’ll have the cost to maintain productivity during the switch, the costs of two ESPs at the same time as you do the ESP migration, and the costs of paying people to actually do the work, whether that’s your internal team, the ESP’s team or a third-party vendor. Keep in mind also that if you’re counting on your IT team to help with switching or integrations, you’re keeping them from other initiatives and those kinds of decisions also have a cost.

How to keep costs down and predictable before the ESP migration
If you want to be sure of your costs for switching ESPs upfront, make sure you have a very detailed ESP migration plan. Work with your new ESP to ensure everything is considered or mapped out.

You can also keep costs down by working with a company that has helped others to make the switch. Take that into account when evaluating ESPs: Which ones have handled similar migrations? Which one can be your guide through a challenging ESP switch?

The more details in your ESP migration plan, the fewer surprises. The fewer surprises, the lower the cost of migration.

If a switch to a new email service provider is inevitable, then learn everything you can upfront about expectations and costs, and make sure to think outside the box to take into account every possible kind of expense that might result from the ESP migration so you go into this with your eyes—not your budget—wide open.