With over 59% of B2B marketers saying that email marketing is the most effective channel for generating leads and revenue, it is not a question of whether you need to adopt email marketing strategies or not.
That answer is yes.
Your strategies start with choosing the right email service provider (or ESP), and that can get overwhelming with the sheer number of ESPs that are in the market.
This article will take you through why you need an ESP, what makes it effective, and what to consider when choosing your ESP.
Table of Contents
What is an email service provider?
An Email Service Provider, or ESP, is software used to run email marketing campaigns at scale, providing a one-stop shop for managing and sending marketing emails.
A tool that systematically allows you to send out mass emails, ESPs let you customize email formats, add tracking pixels, segregate your subscriber list, and integrate with your apps or websites.
Email clients like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and iCloud Mail are all examples of email service providers.
Do you need an email service provider?
We wouldn’t need an article if you didn’t need one, now would we?
Your marketing efforts will be more successful if you choose an ESP that can cater to the specific needs of your company.
When making this decision, there are a few important variables to take into account as you weigh your options.
To cut down on the time it takes to set up your campaigns, streamline your daily operations, and simply analyze and evaluate campaign results, you’ll want to select the most suitable ESP for your business size and functions.
You’ll save money thanks to significant increases in production with the right ESP.
So, in short – Yes, you do need an email service provider!
What makes an email service provider so effective?
To understand this well, let’s take a quick look at a few facts.
It is more than evident that email marketing is still a massive part of every business’s marketing strategies.
Businesses of all sizes use email to communicate with their prospects and turn them into customers, and it’s consistently proved to be very effective.
However, it’s quite hard for anyone to maintain a long list of subscribers manually, and the options you have without an ESP are limited.
That’s where an ESP comes in. Whether you’re a small business or large, there are a variety of benefits that ESPs provide.
- Businesses see an unmatched average ROI of $36 for every $1 spent on email!
- From the third stat above, you can see that ESPs boost acquisition and retention to a great degree.
- You can manage lists, gather contacts, analyze, and improve email campaigns with an ESP.
- Additionally, ESPs enable you to comply with national and international email privacy laws like CAN-SPAM, which can lead to hefty fines if not adhered to.
- Because the ESP verifies your emails, your email lists are shielded from theft or hacking. Even standards for authentication like SPF and DKIM are supported.
In short, email service providers help you save time, energy, and money while pushing your business to achieve greater results.
What to consider when choosing the perfect email service provider
Everything you’re looking for when choosing the right ESP is based on your business’s specific needs and goals. With that said, let’s take a look at what you need to consider.
- Rank the features you need
- What are your main use cases?
- Define your budget and compare costs
- Think about your contact list size
- Decide on B2B or B2C
- Look at domain score and delivery rates
- Evaluate the ease of usability
- Compare ESP features
- Examine data and privacy policies
- Check out the provider’s customer service
Here’s what we mean.
1. Rank the features you need
Depending on your business needs, there are components of an ESP that you might want to carefully consider to make it work for you. However, there are four key features that a great ESP must have.
It’s not enough to send an email. It’s got to be something that people want to read as well.
You need an ESP that helps you create elegant emails quickly and easily.
To be able to send enticing emails, you need to look for a provider with a wide range of flexible designs and templates, as well as mobile-friendly use cases that look great on any device.
If it comes with a free image hosting service, even better!
What good is an email if you can’t see how well they perform with your audience?
Your ESP should have a centralized dashboard with all the data you require, including drill-down and broad-scale statistics on open rates, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and social sharing.
Relevant messages to the right audience at the right time – that is crucial to the success of your email marketing campaigns. And to nail that, you need automation.
Your ESP should offer sturdy workflows for scheduling and sending automated messages.
People work from multiple devices every day, and that is a crucial aspect you need to pay attention to.
The majority are mobile users (41%), followed by desktop users (39%), followed by tablets and other devices.
Most email campaigns don’t work because they’re not designed and optimized for multiple devices. That needs to happen.
Unless your email campaigns are optimized to work across all of those devices and clients, you’re missing out on conversions and revenue.
2. What are your main use cases?
Before you start testing for solutions and providers, you need to figure out how your email marketing fits into your overall marketing goals.
There are a couple of questions you could ask yourself to gain some clarity on what you need to fulfill your goals, such as:
- Are you sending transactional or marketing emails?
- How will you use your emails – newsletters, lead generation, dynamic content, drip campaigns, or email blasts? Or all?
- What metrics are you going to track?
- Will you be using mobile-friendly templates?
These are simple examples of the questions most companies typically try to answer, but again, try to answer your business needs.
3. Define your budget and compare costs
There are free basic email marketing tools, and there are those with loads of advanced functionality that cost thousands of dollars. Choose yours wisely.
Enterprise-level providers are tempting in theory, but they have a very time-consuming learning curve. If you don’t actually use all the features, it’s a waste of good money that can be used on a provider that’s best suited for your business needs.
You should ideally settle on a provider that keeps your costs low and the return on your efforts high while delivering the functionality you need to make your campaign work.
With that said, there are other costs that you need to look out for.
ESPs typically charge on a subscription basis or based on send volume. License charges, usage rates, and overage costs are some of the variables that affect the channel’s overall cost.
Additionally, consider the add-ons that a specific ESP charges.
4. Think about your contact list size
If you’re a small business with a relatively small subscriber list, you could opt for providers focused on streamlining your customer experience and feature set, with simpler functionality.
For larger businesses with massive contact lists and an array of use cases, you could opt for enterprise-level providers. These come with advanced features and complex functionality.
5. Decide on B2B or B2C
Email service providers and the tools they come with are specialized for different audiences.
B2B tools focus more on lead nurturing, while B2C tools veer more towards managing the frequency of messaging and promotions.
6. Look at domain score and delivery rates
Email is a direct line of communication with your audience. You’re trying to build customer relationships more than anything else here.
In order to nail it, the first step is to ensure your messages actually land in their inboxes.
Not all email service providers can guarantee the same rate of email delivery. Inquire about the delivery rate of potential email service providers and how they work with clients to maintain a high rate.
What you’re looking for should have an average delivery rate of 98% or higher.
Additionally, look for providers that have solid relationships with internet giants like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo.
Delivery rates depend a lot on the domain score, so check for the delivery rate, deliverability rate, and other crucial email marketing metrics.
7. Evaluate the ease of usability
When choosing an email service provider, ask yourself:
- How easy is the provider to implement and use? How easy is it to get results?
- How much technical support do you need to implement and maintain it?
- How available is their support team for migration?
- What do potential API integrations look like?
- How much time does your team need to invest in learning the functions of the provider?
Your email service provider should offer a user interface and features that anyone can use without confusing instructions or demo sessions, especially if your team has a time constraint on learning the platform.
8. Compare ESP features
When thinking about the capabilities that you must have with your provider, compare the features they offer against each other.
Here are a few basic features that you might want to consider:
- Tagging and segmentation – Divide your email list with specific criteria to send email campaigns to different customer segments.
- Personalization – Target audiences with personalized content based on location, purchase activity, and interests.
- Device optimization – Can you optimize your emails across all devices (desktop, mobile, tablets, etc.)
- Metric tracking – What metrics can your ESP track and how useful are they to achieve top-tier email marketing campaign outcomes?
9. Examine data and privacy policies
ESPs store customer data. Data security is crucial.
Sensitive information should never be compromised while being sent to its intended recipient.
Take into account a given ESP’s ability to safeguard your customer database and stop security breaches that might expose the data of your clients, as well as whether it satisfies your security requirements.
Consider the security measures that a specific ESP employs, such as firewalls, password guidelines, and encryption techniques.
10. Check out the provider’s customer service
No matter how good the ESP is, there will be occasions when you’ll need additional help.
Whether it’s understanding the next steps, understanding best practices, assessing delivery rate issues, or resolving problems with your email campaigns, you should be able to access a resourceful customer support team to help you.
Take time to browse their online knowledge base. Ask them about other resources they offer to help you and your customers and see how long it takes to get through to a customer support representative over email or phone.
While free ESP tools may appear appealing, many of them aren’t set up to support you when you really need them. As a professional marketer, you must be confident that you can quickly get assistance if something goes wrong.
You need a professional email tool that offers around-the-clock customer support.
You might also want to see if you can quickly troubleshoot problems using the company’s resources by looking at their documentation, resources, and guides.
Making the final decision
Email marketing has consistently proven to be an influential marketing tool, and using a suitable email service provider is a no-brainer at this point.
As you saw above, choosing the perfect email service provider is not complicated. It only requires your team’s time, consideration, and discussion as to what suits your business needs in the best way possible.
Ultimately, the right email service provider can help you build stronger relationships with your customers, drive sales, and grow your business. So take your time, do your research, and choose wisely.
If you need help choosing the right ESP or are looking to ace your email marketing game, reach out to us and we’d be happy to be of service!