How to Convince the CMO It’s Time for a New Email Service Provider

There comes a point in the life of a rapidly scaling business when its marketing team realizes that it has outgrown its email service provider (ESP).

The organization now has so much data and is growing so fast that its existing ESP can’t handle the workload anymore without bogging your team down in rote operational tasks just to keep the trains running on time – and they keep running late anyway.

This is a critical inflection point: email marketing has inevitably been a key piece of the company’s growth to this point, but suddenly the platform that helps you send it becomes one of things threatening to inhibit that growth going forward. It also creates a related challenge: How do you convince the CMO and other decision-makers that it’s time for an upgrade?

It’s tougher than it may first appear. The CMO is likely to be reluctant for multiple reasons. For one, switching to a new ESP that better serves the scope and scale of your business today — as opposed to your business two or five or 10 years ago — will inevitably require budget allocation, including for the up-front costs of acquiring and implementing a new system.

For another, change can be hard – in perception if not actual reality. If your ESP has worked relatively well until recently, the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset might kick in. And switching ESPs does have a reputation for being a bit of a pain.

With that in mind, there are some reliable, results-oriented ways to make a convincing case to the CMO that it’s time for a new ESP.

1. Make Clear That ‘Good Enough’ Is No Longer Good Enough

In all likelihood, your existing ESP has been mostly fine. The problem is that “fine” no longer cuts it – not for your company’s goals, its current and future scale, and least of all for your customer experience.

Consider that many of the ESPs on the market have been around for close to two decades — both standalone options and those previously acquired by larger enterprise software companies like CRM, ERP, and database vendors. The underlying technology in these email tools probably hasn’t changed a whole lot over time, even though innovation in marketing technology is constantly accelerating.

The legacy options may still be suitable for many small and even midsized companies with a relatively straightforward trajectory. In those cases, they function well enough. But if your company is scaling faster and faster — with ambitions of continued growth — then these tools are no longer good enough. They can’t handle the pace of today’s marketing programs and technologies, nor the massive data stores that feed them. Continuing to use an ESP that wasn’t designed to handle that scale will limit the value of your marketing data, along with any productivity tool you’re using if it doesn’t integrate fully.

2. Present Specific Business Problems

With that first point as your foundation, it’s time to dig into details. Your business case should connect to specific challenges that make clear the cost of inaction.

Where are your pain points? What is overly difficult or virtually impossible to do today with your current ESP? What opportunities are being set aside because of technology headaches? How is this harming the customer experience?

CMOs and other executives don’t just want to hear “There’s a problem” — they need specifics. Perhaps your existing ESP doesn’t integrate well with other tools or systems in your martech stack, for example. It requires a lot of manual data syncs, workarounds, and “band-aids.” Make these issues a visible part of your pitch, especially if you can connect the dots to business performance or customer experience.

The CMO also wants to hear about potential solutions. Do your research. Determine what your options are and then evaluate them in terms of how well they’ll integrate with your data (and how you have it stored) and your existing tools (i.e. your martech stack). Show how a different ESP would solve your current pain points, enable you to do more with your data, and pursue even more ambitious marketing goals.

3. Have a Plan for Who Will Do What

Major technology migrations – moving from one application or system to another, especially when it’s critical to daily operations – are notoriously stressful. There are lots of dependencies and lots at stake.

As a result, the CMO is much more likely to support switching to a new ESP if you’ve already determined who on the team will be responsible for key phases of such a move, from start to finish. Seeing a plan, including contingencies if the team encounters bumps in the road, will help put the CMO’s mind at ease.

Your proposed plan essentially answers the question: How will this actually get done? How will we ensure that workflows and campaigns don’t get interrupted? Answering questions like these is a significant step toward getting the buy-in you need.

4. Align Your Timing with the Bigger Picture

Timing matters. If you do digital marketing for a consumer fashion brand, for example, don’t pitch your boss on changing ESPs in mid-November.

You know Q4 is absolutely a peak season for sales. It’s not the time to be making a major change in your martech stack unless absolutely necessary.

In any sector, you know your busiest times of year. Don’t expect your CMO to want to have a conversation about changing ESPs during one of those times. The team and your martech stack is already running full tilt and can’t realistically devote the focus and energy required to give switching ESPs the serious consideration it deserves. Wait until a steadier, quieter spot on the calendar to propose the upgrade, so everyone can devote the time necessary to make a sound decision and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

5. Project ROI and Cost Savings

At the end of the day, the CMO and her peers on the rest of the executive team ultimately care about the top-line and bottom-line impacts: What is the ROI for this change? What cost savings will it generate over time? How about time savings (from eliminating those workarounds and other manual effort required today)?

It’s even better if you can do a side-by-side comparison with the ROI or TCO of your current ESP and show how the upgrade will be an improvement over the status quo.

Search online to see if the new options you’re considering have done a Total Economic Impact (TEI) report, or a similar ROI/TCO analysis conducted by an independent firm. If so, that will likely include numbers (or a method of calculating your own numbers) you can use when presenting your case. The vendor’s website might include this information, too, though it’s always better if there is third-party validation (versus the company simply saying “We’ll save you money.”)

Your goal in bringing all of the above into the discussion is to show the CMO that there’s a strong business case — you’re not simply coming to them and saying “I want a new ESP.” Instead, you’re showing why changing ESPs is actually the best path forward for continued growth and success.


  • Jeff Haws

    Jeff Haws is senior marketing manager at MessageGears, which delivers advanced customer segmentation and message personalization and delivery through direct data access and innovative platform capabilities.

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