This post is Part 3 in a three-part series on email innovation by Cassie Lancellotti-Young. Read Part 1 and Part 2 and download the full Forrester report, “The Time is Right for Email Innovation”.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: when it comes to digital marketing, email is still the most powerful driver of conversions. For every dollar spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25.

This mini-series on email marketing has already explained why you need to embrace innovative technologies to take your email program to the next level; to recap, there are four key technology strategies that will help drive your success: personalization, microsegments, the “mobile first” approach, and email addresses as keys for customer ID.

It goes without saying that to accomplish your marketing goals, you’ll need to find the right partners – a process that can often feel a bit like speed dating, as prospective beaus eagerly work to impress you with their good looks and panache, hoping to win your attention with a slick pitch. But don’t let a smooth talker lead you astray; the success of your marketing program means finding the partners who offer the best fit, and that means marketers must go well beyond a cursory assessment.

In its February 2015 report on email marketing, Forrester recommends that when assessing email vendors, marketers take as many meetings as possible with challenger email vendors who are disrupting the status quo. With the needs of email marketing continually evolving, so do the needs for technology partners to deliver on those needs. And the fact is, most legacy vendors out there today aren’t ready to rise to the freshest challenges.

Before you meet with a potential partner, however, it’s critical to map out both your near-term and longer-term goals and rate how competitors’ offerings stack up against those strategic objectives. If a company’s product doesn’t meet all your needs, move on and continue the search for another whose does. There are plenty of options to explore, and you shouldn’t settle for any less than a comprehensive solution that will support your marketing vision.

Here are some tips for conducting an effective search for a well-suited technology partner.

  • Find the perfect fit. Compare and contrast the features and price points of each product, and don’t settle for a partial solution. You can do better than that.

  • Take it for a spin…a few times. Ask vendors for a live demonstration of how their products work, and be sure to have them map their product capabilities back to your use cases and objectives. Be especially mindful that the solution offers the infrastructure needed to support innovation needs such as personalization, microsegmenting, predictive intelligence and so on, as there can quite a bit of smoke and mirrors in the market. Due diligence is crucial.

  • Ask for recommendations. When possible, talk to other marketers (not your direct competitors, of course!) who have successfully deployed the vendor’s software for detailed insights into use cases and pros and cons.

  • Seek flexibility. Look for a product that is agile enough to suit your changing needs and to grow with you as you scale your business. Nothing will stunt innovation more than an inflexible solution.

Spending the time to do your homework will pay dividends in the long run, and you might be surprised by what you learn in the process about the viability and flexibility of different email solutions. A careful search will help you identify the perfect partner and take your email – and ultimately, your revenue – to new heights.

Cassie Lancellotti-Young, EVP of Customer Success