How to Plan a Successful ESP Implementation or Migration

AllCloud Blog:
Cloud Insights and Innovation

Implementing an Email Service Provider (ESP), or switching to a new one, is a significant change for your organization. Whether your existing provider is sunsetting the ESP your organization uses, or you’re investing in an ESP for the first time, this is a perfect opportunity to alleviate email marketing challenges in your organization and align email efforts with other areas of your business.

While you may be excited for what the future can hold with your new ESP, the task of implementing the solution or migrating from a legacy ESP can feel overwhelming.

The key to a successful transition lies in planning ahead. Many challenges of rolling out a new technology solution can be anticipated, if not outright avoided, with a sound plan.

Here are three tips for planning your ESP implementation or migration to help make the transition a smooth one.

1. Follow the 80/20 Rule: Your Plan Determines Your Success

When it comes to ESP implementations, success is highly dependent on how good your plan is — much like an email marketing campaign itself. While planning your ESP implementation (or migration) may account for only 20% of the work required to get you up and running, it can drive 80% of the results. 

This follows the 80/20 Principle, which suggests that 80% of your outcomes will be caused by 20% of your efforts. By identifying which 20% of your work will produce the highest value, you can focus your time and resources on that 20% to improve your success.

In the case of a new ESP, the 20% that can make the biggest difference between a smooth rollout and a messy, complicated experience is in the planning. 

Have multiple discussions with your implementation partner about creating a plan with timelines, milestones, and stakeholder responsibilities before diving into the hands-on work. A partner that rushes into the development stage without adequate time spent on planning time isn’t looking out for your best interests or the long-term success of your implementation.

A good partner will take the time to talk through your goals, needs, and pain points with your current or past ESPs; and then craft a written step-by-step plan for the timeline of your implementation, with milestone dates and measurable goals for the rollout.

By taking the time ahead to outline who is responsible for each implementation step, how the work will get done, when each review or approval will take place, and how the team will communicate throughout, you’ll encounter fewer hiccups or roadblocks in the development, testing, and training steps of the process. 

Work hard to hammer out the path in the planning stage, so the rest of your implementation stages have a smooth path to run on.

2. Separate Your Needs From Your Wants

When choosing a new ESP, it’s tempting to list everything and the kitchen sink as a “need” for your organization. Particularly if you’ve been frustrated with your legacy ESP, you may be eager to find a solution that goes above and beyond. 

The problem is, coming in with too many need-to-have features can delay the implementation process and run up the price tag for your next solution.

To be conscious of your budget and get the best value for your resources, it’s important to separate out the true “needs” from the features that you want, but aren’t necessary for your team’s success. For instance, Salesforce Marketing Cloud is an enterprise-level ESP, capable of supporting a wide range of business types and sizes. Whether you have a small and mighty multi-functional team or multiple groups of users supporting multiple departments and/or channels, you have options when it comes to choosing the right solution for your business.

“Marketing Cloud enables marketers to build a single view of the customer, map and optimize every journey, deliver personalized content on every channel—email, advertising, social, web, mobile, apps—and measure the impact on their business. Using Marketing Cloud, you can now create a complete view of each member by gathering data from every touchpoint he or she has with the brand, and then leverage that data to tailor an experience that is unique. For example, a member may receive an email notification providing a 25% percent off coupon for a Spa. Another member who is training for a marathon might receive a reminder on her mobile app to track her workout for the day to ensure she is getting the right training mix to prepare for her big race. Each of these members has a unique journey and need different information to achieve their goals. Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder enables you to retrieve the right data and organize it the right way to have multichannel, personalized engagements with its members.” 

Guilda Hilaire, Director of Product Marketing, Salesforce  


The Salesforce Marketing Cloud has a plethora of solutions outside of email. It may be tempting to “grab one of everything,” it’s essential that you prioritize your immediate needs. A good implementation partner will be willing to help you identify which features your organization absolutely needs in an ESP to achieve your business goals, and which are the nice-to-haves that would help you meet certain goals faster. This is where a prioritized roadmap comes in handy.

3. Set Timelines and Milestones

Avoid the tendency to speak about time in loose terms with vague definitions. A strong implementation or migration plan will include defined timelines, with target dates for each step to be completed, reviewed, and approved. 

For instance, set target dates for launching your new ESP, retiring your legacy ESP, and training users on the new system. Plan realistic timelines for IP warming, dictated by the number of contacts you have and the volume of emails you send. If your legacy ESP is retiring, note the key dates for end of life of the system, or the official end of your contract with the vendor. 

Talk through key integration points with your implementation partner, assessing which will be easier and which may take more time. Together, you can put these in priority order, and set realistic expectations for when each will be completed and ready to put into use.

This doesn’t mean that your timeline must be completely inflexible. In any technology transition, there are bound to be unexpected hiccups that arise. Account for this in the planning stage, by including some buffer time in between major development and configuration steps. You and your partner should also talk through, at a high level, the options for how to pivot the timeline if key milestones are delayed. A good implementation partner is willing to acknowledge the reality that timelines don’t always go as we plan, and create a “Plan B” if that is the case.

ESP Migration Decision Matrix

Looking for a partner to help you migrate to a new ESP efficiently and with little disturbance in your operations? 

At AllCloud, we’ve developed tailored packages to help organizations implement an ESP for the first time, or to move seamlessly from a legacy ESP to a brand new solution. We leverage our marketing expertise and best practices to guide organizations through migrating quickly and accurately, so you can start realizing the power and value of your new ESP as soon as possible. Contact our expert team to discuss how we can help you transition to a new ESP and build a foundation for long-term growth.

Chris Zullo

Marketing Cloud Practice Director

Read more posts by Chris Zullo