Unfortunately, switching email service providers is far more complicated than turning on one switch and turning another one off. The process is a technical minefield, especially in the case of trying to avoid deliverability troubles.
If the process is not properly handled from a technical standpoint, email from the new ESP stands a very real chance of triggering ISPs’ spam filters.
So it is imperative to get IT involved as early as possible in the process. Springing for pizza a few times is probably not a bad idea, either.
Early IT involvement will help make sure outgoing messages hit subscribers’ inboxes throughout the process.
First, you’re going to have to consider what new sub-domains you’ll be creating during the switch and make sure they’re consistent with your brand. In other words, links in email sent from the new provider must look like they’re from your brand to assure recipients they’re not being phished.
A little background: The Domain Naming System is a hierarchical construction, starting with top-level domains like .com and .net. Sub-domains are what come before the top level domain, like Yahoo, or Google.
You may currently be sending marketing emails containing links to Marketing.YourBrand.com. A new sub-domain set up for the switch might be Marketing2.YourBrand.com.
Often during an ESP switch, companies will have email programs running concurrently at the two different providers. In order to test outgoing messaging at the new provider, creating new, unique sub-domains will be necessary in order to be able to track metrics back specifically to the new vendor.
For example, using a new sub-domain for email links like Marketing2.YourBrand.com sent by the new provider, you can know that any clicks that come through those links are coming from email sent by the new provider, and not from some old email that has been sitting in subscribers’ inboxes for months with links to Marketing.YourBrand.com.
After the switch is complete, it may be a wise idea to keep the new sub-domains that are associated with the new provider active so any historical metrics track back only to campaigns sent through the new provider.
But during the switch you really do need to have unique sub-domains active for both providers and IT must know what each and every one of the new sub-domains will be well in advance.
IT will be required to make the proper DNS entries to map the new sub-domains to the proper IP address and they will need time to do it. IT will also need to make sure your new sub-domains are properly authenticated by setting up SPF and DKIM records properly. And if you didn’t understand those last two sentences don’t sweat it, your IT professionals will understand, and will know what needs to be done.
Essentially, IT will be making sure sub-domains are attached to the right IP address and that inbox providers can recognize the IPs as authorized sources of email for your brand. This is necessary because like everything email-related, spammers and criminals ruin everything they touch and you must take the proper steps to show you’re not one of them.
You simply need to get the new sub-domains into IT’s queue as early in the process as possible so they have time to process them properly.
Another point of consideration during an ESP switch is whether you want to use a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address. If your list is clean and permission based and you send a lot of email, you want a dedicated IP address.
The reason: If you’re on a shared IP address, your reputation for spamming is affected by every other sender on that address. If another sender on the IP address, say, buys a list and gets blocked as a spammer, your reputation will suffer along with every other sender’s on that IP address.
Some email marketers who are sloppy in their list-building practices or who want to send mail to an old or dirty list prefer shared IP addresses so they can ride on the hopefully good reputations of others sending from that IP address, but that’s not you, right?
In any case, when switching ESPs you must collaborate extensively with IT as early in the process as possible. And don’t forget the pizza!