We’ve just wrapped up the 2013 edition of our annual Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide and will be releasing it soon.  Over the past four years our guide has grown significantly in both participants and detail.  In 2012 we had to break our Guide into two parts, a Small-Market Guide, and a Mid-Market to Enterprise-level Guide.  This year we’ve modified the scoring criteria of the Small-Market/Mid-Market version of the Guide to make it more reflective of those selected participants and not hold them to the same advanced features scoring of Enterprise-Level products. 

This year’s Small-Market/Mid-Market Edition weighs in at around 120 pages of detailed information that will be overkill for many Small-Market platform users.  That’s okay because we feel it’s better to have a large amount of information that you might not need than it is to not have enough information that you might.  The Mid-Market/Enterprise-Level of the 2013 Guide tips in at around 200 pages of detailed information that will come in handy for the serious high-end shopper.  

Over the past eight years we’ve been involved in around 50 vendor selections – most including RFPs – for our clients.  In each and every one of those engagements we’ve been involved in, we have never seen any one organization use any more than 20% to 30% of the detailed information contained in our Guides; the thing is, none of the organizations, their technical and/or data resources, or unique business units ever care about the same 20% to 30%  as any other organization.

So how did I get into this whole vendor selection thing?  Eleven years ago I was charged with keeping track of email deployment vendors capable of meeting the high-volume and complex needs of my then large enterprise employer.  While guides and reports available at the time did a good job of giving the opinion of analysts that had never created an email, hit the Send button, or made a living sending email; none met the challenge of providing detailed information necessary to make sound business decisions based a vendor’s functional capabilities. 

When my VP of Engineering asked what ESPs could support the technical requirements of our email messaging, “Forrester says” or “Jupiter says” was an inadequate response; neither of them provided that level of vendor detail.  It was then that I developed my first Features & Functions matrix that has since grown to collect over 500 points of data asked of approximately 80 different Email Service Providers from around the world. 

Having been involved in over 50 email vendor evaluations and selections over the last eight years – and launching literally tens of thousands of campaigns on dozens of email platforms over a 17 year career; not including migrating companies from one vendor to another or integrating third-party products – our comprehensive Vendor Guide questionnaire covering those near 500 data points come from real-world clients and their applications and requirements of email deployment tools; and from the many Features & Functions of competitive products. 

If you are looking for someone or something to tell you “what’s the best ESP”, our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide probably isn’t for you; on the other hand if you’re willing to do the work to determine what the best ESP for your organization is, you will find no better resource than our Guides.  And if you’re looking for someone to run your vendor selection and RFP process for you, we have the skills and experience in helping organizations such as yours to select the best vendor to meet current and future needs.

We work for our clients and the purchasers of our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guides.  Vendors don’t pay us to be in our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide – they can’t – they are invited based on their abilities.  Our opinions cannot be bought or influenced by any vendor; we do not ask for nor will we accept from any vendor any fees associated with our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide; nor will we ever ask for or accept any fees from any vendor to be included in any vendor evaluation or RFP process that we participate in.   

When we talk about technical vendor integrations and integration capabilities we do so from first hand, hands-on, experience.  That’s one of the reasons our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide goes into the technical detail it does; we know what an organization’s technology department looks for because we work with them all of the time; and we speak their language, too.  Show your technology team the full edition of the Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide and they’ll tell you which vendors can support your business needs from a technology standpoint. 

And we know what marketing teams look for, too; we work with them every day doing production work for multiple business units of name brand products and services – we still “push the button”.

The 2013 Guides provide more than just vendor details.  This year we’re including a section on Preparing for Vendor Selection.  The Vendor Selection section covers items such as Discovery, where we include a portion of the questions that we ask all of our vendor selection clients in preparation for their Vendor Selection.  We also talk about putting together Specifications that should be included in the RFP.  Also provided is the outline of the very RFP that we use; and last but not least, a sample copy of the vendor scorecard we provide our clients before vendor product demonstrations begin.

But guess what?  We’re not going to make you buy a copy of our Guide just for the section on Preparing for Vendor Selection; we’re going to give it away here, so check back soon, or better yet, subscribe to our blog so you’ll know when it posts….

 

(Updated March 16, 2013)