Rethinking ESP RFPs: How to Find The Perfect Fit

Finding the right cross-channel messaging platform is challenging, and it's important that you get the RFP right.

For Super Senders looking to switch ESPs, the RFP — executed well — is a valuable tool for maintaining an efficient and objective process with a result that greatly improves a company’s cross-channel messaging operation. But our new research suggests that many marketers are making crucial mistakes that are undercutting the effectiveness of their RFP process. And that’s leading to negative misconceptions about ESPs and decisions that cause immense frustration for the marketing and I.T. teams.

In our recent webinar, MessageGears CEO Roger Barnette and Marketing Democracy President Chris Marriott discussed the research, and offered expert advice from both the ESP and consultant perspective on how you can make your next RFP more efficient and successful.

Poor starts

Companies feel like the RFP process helps them stay more objective in their decision making, but our survey indicated that more than half (55%) had a preferred vendor in mind from the outset. Barnette talked about how that can derail the process right from the get-go. Marriott said it’s not inherently damaging to be thinking of a top candidate when you begin, but it’s extremely important then not to allow that bias to leak into your thinking by keeping to a strict scoring system. In addition, two-thirds of companies are relying on internal knowledge as the main source of information on who to include in the RFP, also lending itself to bias and lack of full perspective being an issue.

Time and pain are major factors

When you see that 78% of those surveyed think the RFP process will take more than 6 months and 65% think transition to a new ESP will take just as long, you start to understand why so many marketers are hesitant to make a switch. Marriott noted that those numbers, while startlingly realistic with most RFPs and ESPs, it’s easy to see why they’d create a hindrance. And Barnette pointed out that the migration time is significantly reduced to days and weeks rather than 6+ months with MessageGears. The survey also showed that more than 60% changed less than half of the RFP each time they issued one, suggesting they weren’t willing to take the time to ensure they got a solution that worked for their current needs.

Advice going forward

Marriott stressed that you need to ensure you’re looking at an array of options that could potentially fit what you need in particular areas to get your cross-channel messaging working the way you want. Barnette said the key is to focus on outcomes and what you want to accomplish, and allow the RFP flow to work from that.