Choosing an email service provider (ESP) is a lot like buying your first car. You compare features, price, and weigh up the pros and cons. Maybe you’ll even take one for a test drive before making your final decision.
Well ESP migration is like trading in your first car after it no longer fits your needs. Perhaps that first car costs more to maintain than it is worth, or your growing family needs more space and features.
Whatever the reason, you’re not stuck with one car or one ESP forever.
Switching ESPs is easier than trading in your first car.
So if you’re no longer happy, then it’s time to plan your migration.
In this step by step guide, we’ll show you what to look for in a new ESP and how to easily trade in one email marketing platform for another.
When shopping for a new email service provider, you'll come across lots of shiny features and claims that will grab your attention. Remember, car salesmen are charming too. Just focus on your own needs and look for these 7 key attributes that make up a quality ESP.
Email deliverability is the ability to deliver emails to subscribers' inboxes—arguably the most important factor when considering a new email service provider.
Even the fanciest features are useless if your emails aren’t reaching inboxes.
You don’t have to test every email platform yourself. ESP review website, Email Tool Tester performs a bi-annual deliverability test of top ESPs to find out which platform has the best email deliverability.
You can see how different ESPs rank in successfully delivering emails to specific email clients, as well as their overall performance.
During the migration process, having access to quality customer support is like being helped onto a boat. You could probably do it yourself without getting wet, but it’s a whole lot easier if someone offers you their hand.
This is especially true during onboarding. It takes time to learn your way around a new ESP and uncover all the time-saving hacks a new platform has to offer. Having a helpful, human customer support team available to help you overcome a steep learning curve and continue to help you on your email marketing journey, is a must-have feature for all ESPs.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between having customer support and having good customer support. You can work out which platforms invest in their customer support teams by checking out review websites like G2 and Capterra.
Different ESPs offer a wide array of features and varying price points. Consider the features that are a priority for you and find a platform that offers those features in a reasonable plan. For example, MailerLite’s free plan includes unlimited email automation—whereas other platforms only offer the same feature as part of a paid plan. So if you have a smaller budget, but require advanced automation features, then you might consider choosing MailerLite over other ESPs.
Another factor to look for is whether you can get all the features you need from a single platform. For example landing pages that can trigger automations using pre-designed email templates.
Other important features that may be high up on your list include:
"I decided to switch to MailerLite because my previous email service provider in the last few years has been constantly adding new features not strictly related to email marketing, becoming an over-complex and costly kind of beast.
I've preferred to use a more focused tool; after all, email marketing is the only thing I needed and I did not see the reason to pay for features I don't use."
- Gianca, Founder at FaChords Guitar.
The chances are, your email marketing efforts are just one arm of a larger business. Being able to integrate your ESP with other platforms such as your CMS (Wordpress, SquareSpace etc.) or CRM is a sure-fire way to simplify your workflow.
For example, if you’re running an eCommerce business using a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, an integration with your email service provider would allow you to automatically sync customers to your subscriber list, send targeted emails based on purchases, set up sales funnels and create beautiful, branded abandoned cart emails.
You can use integrations for a number of things including:
Automation between tools
Referrals, memberships and gift cards
Subscriber email address verification
If you’re using multiple software products to run your business, keep an eye out for ESPs that integrate with your stack.
An in-depth knowledge base with an easy-to-navigate search function will prevent you from pulling your hair out if you come across an unexpected obstacle. Plus, it will also help you discover the ins and outs of a new system much faster.
The better the resources the smoother the transition.
For a resource center to be truly thorough, it should extend beyond simple how-to articles. As a new user, you’ll find tremendous value in wide-ranging resources such as email marketing tips, video tutorials, industry guides and product courses on top of step-by-step instructions covering different features.
Overcrowded, overcomplicated… over it!
Sometimes the biggest shortfall of an email platform has nothing to do with the features, support or pricing. It's usability.
The products you use for your business become your office. Small annoyances in your day-to-today workflow can grow to become full on pet peeves. Much like you might Marie Kondo your home office, you can swap a cluttered ESP for a new platform that sparks joy.
Most ESPs offer a free trial period. So if user experience is a top priority for you, you can take a new platform for a spin to get a feel for it before starting your migration plan.
Finding an ESP with fair pricing means you don’t have to pay for subscribers you don’t have or features you’re never going to use.
For example, at MailerLite you don’t need to buy a huge plan to access all of our premium features. There are multiple premium plans available for varying list sizes, so you only have to pay for what you need.
Preparation is the key to success—and ESP migration is no exception. The first step of a migration plan is to prepare for the transition. Follow these best practices before migrating to ensure a smooth ride.
Practicing email list hygiene is an important part of email marketing regardless of whether or not you’re switching ESPs. But it’s particularly important when migrating to a new platform. Cleaning your list protects your sender reputation and improves your deliverability. Tools like MailerCheck allow you to find and remove bad emails at the click of a button.
If you have organized your subscribers into separate audiences in your current ESP, export them into separate files based on those groups. This makes migration easier, as your subscribers will be preorganized before you import them to a new platform.
This also helps you to stay GDPR compliant, as you won’t accidentally email subscribers with content they haven’t signed up for.
Give subscribers a heads-up before you fully transition to a new ESP. Let them know what (if any) changes to expect. Letting subscribers know you’re switching ESPs also gives you a chance to re-engage inactive subscribers and invite them to whitelist your sending domain.
If you have a larger email list (think 50k+), you might consider using a dedicated IP address. Dedicated IPs need time to “warm up” and build a good sender reputation before they’re ready to use. So hold off making a full transition until you’ve been notified that your IP address is ready for sending.
Once you and your subscribers are prepared to transition to a new ESP, the migration process can be broken down into 5 easy steps:
1. Export subscribers from your old ESP
Remember, if possible, keep your subscribers organized by exporting them into separate lists based on their groups or tags.
If you’re not sure how to do this, you can contact the customer support team of your old ESP or search the knowledge base.
If your old ESP doesn’t allow you to export tags separately, just ensure that the tag information is included in the CSV file you export so you can organize your segments later.
2. Clean your subscriber list using an email validation tool
Email verification tools like MailerCheck scan your subscriber list for invalid email addresses and allow you to delete them from your CSV file before importing them to a new ESP.
3. Import cleaned subscribers to your new ESP
Take your freshly scrubbed email list and import it to your new ESP. If you’re unsure how to import your subscribers, search the website for a help article or contact the customer support team.
4. Install your integrations
Before you start sending emails, you’ll need to install any integrations that you need to connect with your email program in order to effectively run your business. Most ESPs have an integrations page where all available integrations are displayed.
If you can’t find the integrations you need, you can check third-party integration tools like Zapier and Integromat.
5. Rebuild your email automations and campaign templates
This step will take the longest, but having your content ready to rock and roll before you start sending allows you to remain consistent in the eyes of your subscribers.
If you need help rebuilding your content, check and see if your ESP offers a migration service that includes recreating automations and branded email templates.
Switching from Mailchimp to MailerLite is the easiest ESP migration to make thanks to the MailerLite Mailchimp integration:
When importing subscribers, click Import from Mailchimp followed by Connect.
You will be prompted to log in to Mailchimp, select the lists you want to import and voila! It’s as simple as that.
Follow along with this video as Marcin shows you step-by-step how to import subscribers from Mailchimp to MailerLite. →
Before the switch:
Review subscription forms that will need to be replaced
Export your subscriber lists
Clean subscriber lists using a verification tool
During the switch:
Import email subscribers
If not already in predefined lists, organize your subscribers into groups
Set up domain authentication to improve deliverability
Replace signup forms from your old ESP
Set up automations and integrations
Notify subscribers about the switch
Send your first email campaign 🎉
Don’t be afraid to embrace change. If you grow out of your car, you’d research a replacement. The same goes for ESPs—if something isn’t working and there’s no solution, switch it up!
As long as you follow a sound migration plan, your transition will be nice and smooth.
Thinking about switching ESPs? Take MailerLite for a test drive. 🚗
Enjoy free 14-day access to our premium features including live chat, pre-designed templates, auto resend campaigns and promotion pop-ups—as well as main features like automation, website builder, landing pages and more when you sign up for a free MailerLite account.