So you’ve settled on a new email service provider or marketing automation platform – congratulations! The trek up the mountain to compare solutions and find agreement with other teams is over. But I hope you’ve saved enough energy for the climb down. There’s still a lot of progress needed to call this thing done.

The trick is finding a good, safe trail before making your descent. The risks are great of starting without a path or losing vigilance because you’re fatigued. We’re talking severe injury – campaigns that don’t get migrated, data loss, email misfires and customer journey complications, etc., or even casualties – sudden death for the ESP migration project or a life-flight out of there to return home disappointed, defeated and frustrated.


Ready to make a move? Get your marketing platform migration checklist here.


Start with research and documentation.

Document what needs to be migrated over – lists, templates, files, data, and what needs to be reconfigured – automation workflows, integrations, sending IPs, automated reporting, etc. This may include auditing your email templates and campaigns and deciding what things aren’t working. No need to spend time and energy moving over what’s broken or needs redone.

I recommend creating a Work Breakdown Structure of deliverables and key assets. From there, you can outline granular activities required to move each asset over. I’m a fan of piloting and testing to identify the right approach. Test migrating a single list, template or file, and outline what steps you took to do that successfully.


WBS Diagram


Make a plan.

Once you have all assets and campaigns outlined, begin to prioritize and sequence activities, and define your task managers. Get estimates from your task managers on what it will take to complete tasks, then develop your schedule.

If you’re on a new dedicated sending IP address, move over segments of engaged recipients and your high-performing campaigns first, to solicit positive engagement and strengthen your new sending IP reputation.

Parts of your plan will be progressively elaborated. You may not know what it will take to reconfigure all opt-in methods or data syncs, so you can elaborate on those tasks as you talk to the right people and identify requirements and strategies.

Here’s a sample task list, with a few mandatory task dependencies called out.


Take as much time as needed and no more.

No lollygagging down the mountain. The longer you are sending from two ESPs, the longer you must keep suppression data in sync. Not only is that exhausting, if it’s done through manual data syncs, but it’s a liability. To be compliant with U.S. CAN-SPAM laws, you have 10 days to honor suppression requests. That means you should be updating suppression data in both systems at least weekly.


Create an exit strategy.

Exit criteria that’s defined early with key stakeholders, along with contingency plans should that criteria be met, are two things that will help reduce stress during the project when you run into issues. Consider what signs of failure will look like and the team’s tolerance thresholds. Or said differently, consider what success looks like and what to do if that criteria isn’t met.

Campaign performance and deliverability might take hits initially, but should level out over time. Set that expectation so teams don’t lose confidence early in the migration.

Were there must-have requirements used to compare ESPs that need to be top of mind during migration? If something doesn’t end up working the way you thought it would – an automation or reporting feature perhaps – who does that need to be escalated to and are there any workarounds?


Get started.

Time to get moving. Make sure you’ve reserved enough time and energy for this part. Don’t let other distractions slow you down. This isn’t the time for planning new campaign launches – delegate or postpone what’s not a priority. Set a cadence for progress check-ins with the team and stick to the plan.

Don’t end up in trouble – pregnant on a mountain in Alaska (read as, “carrying the team”), lost during descent on an abandoned trail, tensely crab-crawling on the side of the mountain, guilt-ridden and trying desperately to avoid sliding down to the tree line for my imminent demise. Find your well-researched trail, pace yourself, and persevere. You got this.


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