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The Achilles Heel of ESPs and Email Marketing

“We’re not really designed for that.”

If I were to encapsulate the state of email marketing and the plight of ESPs into one phrase for anything outside of retail, that statement would be it. Let’s face it. ESPs are geared toward retail organizations, and why not? That’s where the money is.

With retail, a strong “relationship” with a customer is only needed to get the message through. You can get multiple sales off of the same person. It makes sense. I get it.

And of course, ESPs are quick to offer whitepapers, webinars, advice, and help in any way they can… provided they can use a retailer as a case study. Here’s where we run into problems:

  • I don’t work for a retailer (I work for WGU).
  • I don’t have multiple products to sell.
  • I can only sell a one-time-only product (two-times if we’re lucky, and that’s 4 years later typically).
  • I have to work with a complicated “sales cycle” with multiple departments having hands in the process.
  • I have a Buy Decision that could take as little as a week and as long as 6-12 months.
  • My audience skews older (average student age is 36).
  • I use a somewhat sophisticated trigger-based automated email system, and duplicating/bettering that is critical.
  • I have to establish the relationship well before a buy decision is even considered. And I have to establish this relationship for a “salesperson” before they even pick up the phone.

So where’s my webinar? Where’s my whitepaper?

This is what’s frustrating for email marketers like me. Not only am I on the client side, but I’m on the client side in an industry where the experts don’t really know how to approach the process–at least not that I’ve seen. I can go to conferences, watch webinars, and read whitepapers–yet have to take everything with a little bit of a grain of salt. (Not the design stuff, mind you. Those are good best practices.)

At work, we just went through (a few months ago) a pretty in-depth RFP process for a new ESP. In the interest of staying neutral on my blog, I won’t reveal who we went with, but I will tell you this with all honesty: There was no eureka moment. There was no perfect match scenario. No ESP could step up and give us everything we wanted. But we didn’t have to necessarily settle either. I just kind of figured out that we were too unique.

So I conclude: The retail orientation of the email marketing industry and ESPs in particular represents, in my opinion, a weakness–an achilles heel if you will–in the armor.

So now I lay a challenge to you ESPs out there. What can you do for me?

How would you tackle a complicated, one-time-only sales process that takes time?

Let’s talk.

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