Your Existing ESP Is Probably Holding You Back—Here’s How To Change That
Al Harnisch
Al Harnisch

Your Existing ESP Is Probably Holding You Back—Here’s How To Change That

Al Harnisch, VP of Growth

Picture this: your marketing team has come up with a smart, innovative messaging campaign to drive your brand’s most important KPIs. Everyone is on board and excited to see the campaign come to life. However, when your team digs in and tries to actually execute the campaign, they hit an unexpected roadblock: the email service provider (ESP) you’ve selected simply isn’t built to handle sophisticated campaigns. With no time to spare, your team is forced to scrap their innovative ideas in favor of a generic, run-of-the-mill campaign.

Believe it or not, this is a scenario I hear about quite often when speaking with marketing teams at large B2C brands. Thankfully, the mobile revolution has resulted in some great technology which enables marketing teams to really push the limits with strategic, innovative messaging campaigns. If you haven’t evaluated your martech in the last few years, now is the time to do so.

Choosing a Cross-Channel Messaging Tool

To start, there are a few must-have features for any modern tool you are selecting: cross-channel support, cohort segmentation, lifecycle mapping, A/B testing, analytics, and open API.

1. Cross-Channel Support

Gone are the days of siloed messaging tools. If your current tool doesn’t offer cross-channel support, it’s time to consider switching platforms. A solid messaging platform should support email, push notifications, in-app messaging, and desktop push notifications. In fact, some of the more forward-thinking platforms are already investing in voice to provide their users with a truly all-in-one B2C communication hub.

2. Cohort Segmentation

Any marketer worth their salt knows how important it is to segment their customer base and tailor their messaging to each cohort. Unfortunately, many marketing teams are overly reliant on engineering. While collaboration between teams is great, such dependencies can slow things down to a crawl. Your technology needs to support the ability to segment your customer database and tailor messaging to each cohort without having to rely on your engineering team or data scientists.

3. Lifecycle Mapping

If you’re like most companies, your messaging tool will need to support three types of messages: transactional, campaign-based, and behavioral. Behavioral campaigns are an area where many brands have the most room to grow—and one that allows the most creativity. In order to run a truly effective behavioral messaging campaign, you’ll need a tool that enables you to map out the entire user lifecycle and insert messages at key moments.

I’d suggest a tool like Braze’s Canvas, which enables marketers to visualize paths in each customer’s journey and create dynamic messaging flows for multiple channels, as well as test copy, audience targeting, and cadence within a single interface.

4. A/B Testing + Analytics

The ability to A/B test copy and creative is a critical piece of any messaging strategy, as well as a critical component of any solid messaging tool. Not only should your messaging tool enable you to A/B test on all channels, but it should also provide adequate and trustworthy reporting on the results. Some messaging platforms aren’t built to function as analytics tools and will open their APIs to connect with a tool that is designed for more advanced analysis. You should take a hard pass on any messaging tool that has neither option.

5. Open APIs

Speaking of open APIs, most of the tools developed within the last ten years now use this method to connect with other systems in order to both accept and send out information. This is in stark contrast to the marketing clouds of old that might get a manual CSV to work with, if you were lucky. Open systems allow you more flexibility to send and receive special user cohorts, conduct deep analysis on the impact of your messages, connect a lifecycle to advertising data, and so on. This is a critical piece of the puzzle—one which I’ll cover further in Part II.

What’s Next

In my next post, I’ll be diving deeper into open APIs and sharing a few key integrations that I’d recommend for anyone bringing a new best-in-class messaging platform online.

What challenges have you experienced with your existing messaging platform? If you’ll be attending MAU in Las Vegas on April 24-27, come find me to talk more! I’ll be on the Retention Track on Thursday, April 26th at 3 pm and would be happy to chat after my panel.