5 actionable tips for choosing the right Email Service Provider (ESP):
1. Consider your strategy
What makes email marketing so effective?
Well, the cost is relatively low, and the upside can be tremendous. It’s easy to start and you can begin as big or small as you like.
But hang on! Before you start testing solutions and providers, it’s important to figure out how email marketing fits into your overall marketing strategy.
Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
With all that potential, it’s vital to make sure you have clear goals, processes and tools in place.
Questions to consider as you build an email marketing strategy:
What are your goals for email marketing?
How are you going to achieve those goals?
How will you use emails? Newsletters? Lead gen? Upselling?
What metrics do you want to track?
Will you use features like mobile-friendly templates, A/B testing, dynamic content, and others?
Your answers will help dictate the features and priorities you need from an ESP.
2. Ranking the features you need:
Below are 4 must-have features in any email service provider.
You’ll want to make sure your email provider not only offers the features you need but also that it’s easy to use. Once you prioritize the features you need and want, you can better evaluate potential providers.
The key part of email marketing is, well, the emails. So you need an email service provider that helps you create simple, elegant emails quickly and easily. Look for a provider with a range of designs, flexible layouts, and mobile-friendly templates that look great on any device. Free image hosting is an added bonus.
Those beautiful emails won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t know how they perform. Make sure your email service provides a consolidated dashboard with all the statistics you need; open rates, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and social sharing—both large scale and drill down.
It’s important to send the most relevant messages to the right people at the right time and automation is what helps you do that. Make sure your email service provider offers solid workflows to help you schedule and send automated messages.
Your emails must work across the various devices people use to consume email. Today 53% of email campaigns are opened on mobile devices while 28% are opened on desktop clients and 23% are opened in Webmail. So unless your email campaigns are specifically optimized to work across all of those devices and clients, you’re missing out on conversions and revenue.
3. Define your budget:
Email doesn’t need a big budget to be effective—but in marketing, effective often isn’t enough. If you want awesome campaigns and analytics, you need to make sure you’ve got the appropriate budget in place.
There are very basic free tools out there and then there are tools that cost tens of thousands of dollars and have heaps of advanced functionality.
While enterprise level providers may seem attractive in theory, if you don’t actually use all those Cadillac features (which can take a lot of time to learn how to use in the first place) you’re just throwing good money away.
"In fact, email marketing yields an average 3800% return on investment for businesses in the United States."
Essentially, you have your choice of low, medium and enterprise level providers. Choosing the right one for your needs can keep your costs low and the return on your efforts high while still delivering the functionality you need.
Keep in mind that investing in email can result in a much better payoff than investing the same amount in search or social.
4. Look at delivery rates
Why? Because by investing in your email programs, you’re building customer relationships. After all, investing more in email marketing doesn’t just mean sending more email.
To have a chance of engaging customers and prospects, your messages have to land in their inboxes.
And while that might sound obvious, not every email service provider can ensure your emails get delivered at the same rate. Ask any potential email service provider about its delivery rate and how they work with their customers to keep that rate high.
You want to look for an average delivery rate of 98% or higher.
Look for providers with solid relationships with internet behemoths like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.
Keep in mind that delivery rates are a combination of both how the email service provider ensures delivery to inboxes on the backend and how you use the service, so be sure to ask for any resources they offer on best practices for content and list management.
5. Check out customer service:
Your email service provider should function as an extension of your marketing team—seamlessly and without much hassle.
But there will be an occasional time when you’ll need some help. When that happens, it’s critical to have access to a smart and resourceful customer support team to help you address any issue.
AND HERE'S THE THING …
While a lot of the free ESP tools might seem appealing, many aren’t set up to support you when you really need it, and that’s a big deal. Because if you’re a professional marketer—with goals and KPIs to achieve—you need to know that if something goes wrong you can get help quickly. In that case, you’re better off using a professional quality email tool that offers 24/7 customer support.
Make an informed decision
Choosing the perfect email service provider is critical to your company’s success, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Use the tips in this eBook, and this handy checklist to help make your choice.
Consider your strategy
Define your goals for email marketing
Decide what types of emails you will send
Decide what metrics you want to track
Decide which features are important for your email marketing
Rank the features you need
Templates: Look for a range of mobile-friendly designs
Tracking: Get a dashboard with all the statistics you need
Automation: Include workflows for sending and scheduling
Mobility: Ensure your emails are optimized across devices
Define your budget
Make sure you have the right budget to achieve your goals
Invest in email marketing to build customer relationships
Look for an email service provider that offers a variety of payment plans
Look at delivery rates
Look for an average delivery rate of 98% or higher
Find a provider with solid relationships with the internet giants
Choose an email service provider that works with clients to keep delivery rates high
Check out customer support
See how long it takes to get through to a rep via email or on the phone
Ask for help importing your list or creating segments