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Transitioning to a New Email Marketing Platform

Katelyn StaabenKatelyn Staaben/Digital Marketing Strategist
March 26, 20198 min read

You’ve chosen a new email marketing platform. Great! That’s half the battle.
The second half is actually making the transition to your new service. A successful transition requires time, planning, sound data and insight into the industry.

Where to begin?

Take Stock of What You Have

Before moving any content or data to your new email, list everything created or stored in your current email marketing tool that must be replicated or uploaded to your new tool. This list includes:
• All forms (also note where the forms reside on your website)
• All marketing automation workflows (and their triggers)
• All contact lists
• All email templates
Be thorough; leave nothing behind. You may find old or out-of-date workflows or lists. Note them. They will come in handy when you clean up your data down the line.

Download Your Data 

The inevitable loss of data is one of the worst parts of transitioning to a new email marketing platform. You can prevent loss by downloading as much of this information as you can before shutting down your account. Consider downloading:
• All contact data
• Email performance reports
• Customized email code
• Marketing automation workflow diagrams
Some data is difficult or impossible to download, such as contact tracking information and notes sent by team members. If any of this data is crucial, consider manually transcribing it or taking screenshots of web pages. This time-consuming solution might be the only way to save certain pieces of data before you close the old account.

Clean up Your Data

The transition to a new email marketing platform offers the perfect opportunity to deep clean your data. Jettison out-of-date information that may have been forgotten. Think of this new email marketing tool as a chance for a fresh start.

Email Contact List

Unengaged contacts, out-of-date email addresses, spam traps and hard-bounced emails clutter email lists. Your current email marketing platform may have been removing some of these malignant accounts for your automatically, but probably didn’t get them all.
A manual review of your contacts, though time-consuming, can eliminate obsolete contacts, such as individuals you know have left organizations or changed email addresses, and spam accounts that have entered your list through a web form.
Combing through a very large email contact list might be impossible. In such a case, break out the most likely problem areas. For example, focus on infrequently used contact lists and lists fed by web forms that a bot could fill out.
Consider cleaning up your contact list through a re-engagement campaign. Send an email to your entire list or to selected portions of it. Ask your contacts if they wish to continue receiving your emails. By opening the email or clicking a link within it, the contact confirms a desire for continued engagement.

Email Templates and Marketing Automation Workflows

Look for out-of-date email templates or marketing automation workflows.

The transition period to a new email marketing platform is a great time to update and reconsider templates and workflows. Review each of them to decide which should have a place in your new tool.

Take a second look at any potential out-of-date items identified during your initial inventory. Determine which you will need in the future. Note also any email templates or other items you will need but require updating, perhaps because the images are out of date or the brand colors have changed. Make a note of these needed changes in your inventory, so you know to set aside time for updates during the transition.

Setting up the New Email Marketing Platform

Begin setting up your new email marketing platform by importing your business’s basic information. Some tools automatically import some data, such as your business address and other contact information, from contract information needed to comply with the CAN-SPAM act. If not, update this information first, to guarantee compliance with CAN-SPAM guidelines.
Next, set up your email authentication standards. These records, connected to your business, signal that your emails come from a reputable source. They protect your reputation as a sender. Many email marketing platforms prompt you to set up these items before you can begin sending your email campaigns. If not, set up these email authentication standards prior to sending any emails by using:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC)

For more about the important roles these items play in making sure your emails land in your contacts’ inboxes, check out our blog on email deliverability.

ReBuilding Your Content

The bulk of the transition to a new email marketing platform involves rebuilding your email templates, marketing automation workflows, forms and more within the new platform. When re-creating your content, consider the following.

All Email Marketing Tools Function Differently

These two workflows accomplish the same goals on two different platforms.

The way you created marketing automation workflows and email templates in the past may not be the best way for your new platform.

Refrain from trying replicate the previous workflow. Focus on the goal of the automation. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Be open to reaching the same goals through different workflows.

Create all Forms Ahead of Time and Test Privately

Take the time to create and test your forms prior to pushing them live, even if you use just a few forms on your website.

Functionality testing is obviously important, but appearance matters, too. You may need to do additional formatting for the forms to display as you would like them to.

Take Advantage of All Onboarding and Trainings Offered

Even if you’re seasoned in marketing automation and email marketing, each platform is different. If your new email marketing platform offers training or onboarding, take advantage of their resources. Ask questions. Discuss options for rebuilding workflows on the new platform or tips for working with the new tool. You will learn something new, and that’s good.

Give Yourself Enough Time

The transition to a new email marketing platform takes a great deal of time – certainly more than you expect at the outset. Don’t rush to rebuild everything. Take it slow and think through every decision.


Testing is the hidden time drain during the transition to a new email marketing platform. Test every single piece you are building for users in a variety of situations.

Email Templates

Saving the email template HTML code from your previous platform will not guarantee that the old email templates will work in the new platform. The old HTML is a great place to start, but not a cure-all.

Each email marketing platform interacts with code differently. Each slightly changes the code when you import it into the email marketing tool and changes it again when you click Send.

This is normal; expect it. But don’t expect your previous template to behave as it did on the prior platform. Whether you use previous code or create a template in the platform’s email creation tool, test the templates thoroughly before using them in your campaigns.

How will that email render once it hits inboxes? The appearance can vary considerably depending on who provides that inbox (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) and whether it’s on desktop or mobile, among other factors. You can test this in a couple of ways.

The first option is to invest in a tool, such as Litmus. These tools test how any email displays in any inbox. This paid service makes it easy to see how the email will be appear in the eyes of your audiences.

The other option is to create free accounts in all the popular email inboxes and then send your emails to a testing list of these addresses. Review the emails on both desktop and mobile. While this would take more time, it is free to do.

Going Live

Say that every workflow, template and form is thoroughly tested and ready to go. What should you keep in mind when it’s time to go live?

If Needed, Warm Up Your IP Address

If you’re transitioning to a brand new IP address, warm it up before using it. Do so by sending email to smaller segments of your most engaged contacts first, to establish this new IP address as valid for your domain. These contacts are more likely to open and engage with your emails, which helps build a good reputation for future sends.

Warm-up is much less important if you switch between two email marketing platforms that share IP addresses. This is the case for most third-party email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp and Act-On. If you’re unsure of your type of IP address, ask your email marketing platform vendor for clarification. Find more on the differences between shared and dedicated IP addresses in our email deliverability blog.

Import Your Contact List Last

One of the last things to do before launching your new platform is import your contact list.

Your public-facing website and email marketing tool have probably been operating business as usual throughout the transition. New email addresses have been joining your list, contacts are engaging with your site and being tracked, and data is being gathered.

If you export your contact list from your old tool too soon, you’ll lose valuable data gathered in the transitional interim.

Download the lists from your old tool only when you know you are ready to switch on the new tool. Then upload the contacts to your new tool and make the official switch with as little downtime as possible.

Note: Avoid importing any hard-bounced email addresses, unsubscribed contacts, or spam complaints as valid contacts to your new tool. Most email marketing platforms allow you to upload a suppression list, which is a list contacts who have asked to be removed or have been removed in the past. The suppression list prevents these unsubscribed contacts from accidentally becoming re-subscribed in the future.

Don’t Switch Platforms during a Busy Season

Avoid moving to a new email marketing platform during a high-volume email season or a busy sales season.

A little downtime is inevitable as you switch from the old to the new. Make the transition when traffic is low, whether that’s time of year or time of the 24-hour day. This will prevent users from submitting data to the old platform while you are making the switch.

Don’t Use Two Platforms at Once

Resist the temptation to run some of your marketing automation workflows or email templates on the new platform while others still run on the old platform.

To do so will create many problems in tracking how users interact with your campaigns and website. Some tracking data will be stored in the old system while new data accrues to the new system. When the time comes to merge the two, you will lose much more data than you would have by waiting to launch everything at once on the new platform.

Do Not Make Major STrategy Changes During the Transition

Avoid major changes to your email marketing strategy while transitioning to the new platform. With so many changes in play, you won’t be able to determine whether the strategy changes or the platform change drove your results.

What to Expect After the Transition

The transition to a new email marketing platform can be long and tedious. Don’t expect instant perfection. You will make mistakes, because you are unfamiliar with the new platform or something fell through the cracks during testing. This is normal.

Expect a slight decline in your tracked KPIs. It’s normal to see open rates drop slightly and to receive slightly more spam complaints or a higher bounce rate. This will level off over time. If you see a significant change, check your platform and historical data to find the reason for it.

The transition to a new email marketing platform can be a great way to make sure you get the most out of your email marketing. The process should leave you with clean, verified data and a platform that better fits your needs. You’ll have a fresh start to tracking the information that is most valuable to you.

You’ll look back and say: It was worth it.

Katelyn StaabenKatelyn Staaben/Digital Marketing Strategist

Katelyn Staaben is a social media strategist and digital marketer with a background in developing strategy for B2B organizations. Certified in conversion writing through Conversion XL and Google Analytics, she supports the Northwoods digital marketing and account teams by contributing ideas to web design projects, social media, SEO, digital strategy consulting, and content management implementation.

Connect with Katelyn on LinkedIn | Read Katelyn Staaben's Blogs

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