Why do Super Senders put up with bad ESPs?

Jul 09, 2019
Roger Barnette

Super Senders generally detest their email service provider. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s like a dark family secret that no one talks about in public. But that doesn’t make the problem go away.

It’s always been striking to me how obvious this seems to be to everyone, but they try to ignore it because they feel like it’s just the way things are. After a career managing technology companies, I’ve been in the email world for 5.5 years now. I’m new enough to have been able to come in and see things with fresh eyes. There are many reasons why virtually all ESPs are, frankly, doing a terrible job serving their largest customers. To name a few:

  • The software for all the large marketing cloud platforms was first built over 20 years ago.
  • The marketing cloud ESPs were built for “batch and blast,” not personalization at scale. This fundamentally has not changed.
  • Super Senders (the largest B2C email marketers) have invested in modern data storage systems that don’t easily connect to the marketing clouds.
  • The customer service from the marketing clouds is bad. Ask any of their customers.
  • They’re expensive.
  • They require multi-quarter migrations that are expensive and make switching costs prohibitively high.

The current leading enterprise ESPs are often afterthoughts in their own company’s priorities: remnants of smaller companies bought up and clunkily bolted onto the larger ecosystem of services the massive company provides. These platforms were designed and built before Gmail and iPhones. It really doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

It’s clear that the ESP ecosystem is fundamentally broken for the Super Senders.

It’s clear that the ESP ecosystem is fundamentally broken for Super Senders. Solving this large problem has been the mission of MessageGears from Day 1 — It’s the chief reason we exist as a company.

How do we break through this current, dismal state? How do we both create a better product solution and convince modern enterprises of the value of switching from the devil they know?

MessageGears has turned the industry upside down by creating a product solution that focuses on the four major disconnects between Super Senders and the ESP landscape:

  1. Direct data access
  2. Personalization at scale
  3. Easy and inexpensive migration
  4. Service that Super Senders deserve

We believe these priorities need to be the pillars of how the ESP industry can change course and begin serving Super Senders in the way they deserve to be served.

Direct Data Access

It’s the data, stupid. Enterprise marketers need direct access to their customer data in order to send personalized messaging at scale. Period. Marketing clouds don’t provide this capability for large customer data sets.

Cross-channel marketing is driven by your customer data. It is its lifeblood and the key to its success. But here’s the thing: Virtually all the ESPs serving enterprise customers are marketing cloud SaaS products. This simply doesn’t work when the data you need for successful campaign personalization isn’t accessible by the software you are using to personalize said campaigns.

This is ludicrous. This is 20-year-old technology that is holding back the cross-channel messaging industry. SaaS ESPs were built for “batch and blast,” and that’s still the only thing they do well.

Email marketing is driven by your customer data. It is its lifeblood and the key to its success.

Getting personalized messaging right is critical for your customers today. That requires getting your data access right. Pure SaaS solutions simply aren’t set up to tackle the data-related issues that large companies present, and they’re still not on their way to getting there.

Personalization at scale

Customers are demanding personalized and relatable messaging. It’s part of the implied contract they expect in exchange for giving you their email address and other information.

The Super Senders struggle with personalization the most. Personalizing is hard to do well at scale in the best of circumstances, but nearly impossible in a marketing cloud ESP platform if you have a customer database containing millions of records. Brands work around these data limitations by cutting static lists from their system and sending the list to their ESP. This “workaround” is cumbersome and laborious. Dynamic content is difficult except in the most basic use cases. Don’t get me started on triggered emails.

You need an ESP that fits neatly into your current martech stack, integrating seamlessly with your existing database.

Some marketers tackle this problem by using a third-party vendor to personalize their messaging. While that can help to cobble together a solution, it’s clunky, expensive, and shouldn’t be necessary in today’s world. It only creates yet another piece of software to implement and manage. And, by the way, if you’re using one piece of software to create a list, and yet another to optimize your content, why do you need an expensive ESP?

The answer: You don’t. You need a customer engagement platform that fits neatly into your modern data stack, integrating seamlessly with your existing database and empowering you to personalize cross-channel messages at whatever scale your business needs. Stop cutting lists and relying on a host of cobbled-together vendors to cover for the limitations of expensive cloud ESPs.

Easy migration

It should only take a couple days to migrate from one ESP to another, but we all know that’s rarely the reality.

The frustration level with vendor migration is off the charts.

Because of their basic infrastructure requirements, it usually takes companies quarters to switch ESPs. I recently spoke to an executive at a large brand who said it took her company over two years to migrate from one marketing cloud ESP to another one, and they had to renew the contract with the vendor in the middle of the process. We’ve all heard the migration horror stories and many of you undoubtedly have your own. The frustration level with vendor migration is off the charts.

These migration disasters discourage even dissatisfied marketers from wanting to make a much-needed ESP change.

Super Senders need to be able to get set up efficiently with the technology they need in order to do their job. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s what we tell ourselves every day, why I get up in the morning fired up and ready to get to work. It’s the problem that’s plaguing so many Super Senders, and it’s one we’ve figured out a way to solve — by bringing our customer engagement platform’s technology to your data rather than the other way around. Every ESP was essentially built with the entire market in mind. But you know Super Senders have unique needs. So do we. And we’re the only ones that exist specifically to meet them.

Service that Super Senders deserve

This is one of the areas where MessageGears takes a lot of pride in being entirely different. It isn’t hard to migrate to our platform, and we aren’t locking you up into cumbersome, penalty-laden contracts. So it’s imperative that we’re devoted to taking care of our customers. The fact that we’ve won numerous awards for our service may be what I’m most proud about with our team. We’ve made service a cornerstone of what we’re doing, and those years of hard work and hiring the right people are reflected in what customers say about us.


We’ve built that new way, and we’re improving on it every day. It’s what drives us.

It’s abundantly clear that email and cross-channel marketing need to be better and more efficient for Super Senders. Many marketers would love to demand more, but they just don’t think it’s possible. There’s a better way to serve them, and to ensure they have the tools they need to deliver the best campaigns they can dream up. We’ve built that new way, and we’re improving on it every day. It’s what drives us.

About the Author

Roger Barnette

As CEO of MessageGears, Roger has extensive experience leading and growing technology businesses. Prior to MessageGears, he was President of IgnitionOne, formerly named SearchIgnite and a company he founded. He writes about the email marketing industry, email best practices for enterprise companies, and the entrepreneurial side of business.