How To

What to consider when choosing an email service provider

by Jo Crellin |

When was the last time you reviewed your Email Service Provider? With 3.7 billion email users in the world today, and research indicating that the average order value from an email is 3x higher than that of social media, email marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your digital marketing strategy.

Not surprising when you think about how many times that extra 20% off in your inbox has pushed you over the edge on that impulse buy…

When it comes to email marketing, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and stick to what’s always worked. While personalisation and automation features are standard for brands who have a clear CRM strategy or an e-commerce focus, there are still many marketers working with only one list with minimal data segments who also have great success.

So if you’re thinking about switching up your email service provider (ESP), here is my checklist of what you should consider:

1. What is your email strategy

You should choose your ESP based on your objectives, for example are you looking for traffic to your website, or is your email used for sales conversion? Perhaps you’re trying to drive event attendance or you are a medium-sized business and just want to reach your existing customers via a newsletter but are planning to grow. This all indicates whether you need a solution for large teams or perhaps a scalable solution that will allow you to start small but then build up to more complex email campaigns.

One you’ve defined this, you’ll have a better idea of whether you need a system with better data management e.g. with an api to your CRM or one that provides you with an interface for managing multiple automation campaigns – there are many options.

I recommend you write a list of what you want your email marketing to achieve and keep this to hand when you’re exploring the different ESPs.

2. What features do you need?

If you’re starting out, you’ll want to keep it simple and you can look at solutions like Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor or MailerLite. However, if you are working with large, well-segmented databases, then an enterprise solution such as Adestra, Pure360, Pardot or CommuniGator will help you to make the most of automation and bring together large teams. Regardless of your size, there are still some key features that you need to consider. Here’s a quick checklist to allow you to compare different ESPs:

Inbox preview– Can you see how your email renders in the different email clients? (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc.)

Spam checker – Are there alerts that highlight any spam copy or design elements that could cause you to end up in the junk folder?

Landing page builder– If you want to manage this away from your website, you could use an ESP’s landing page functionality for successful email conversion.

Templates – Do you want a drag & drop option, or the ability to upload completely custom templates?

Send limits – Your pricing plan may depend on send limits which may or may not include test emails. You should check what’s included in each price plan.

Tracking and reporting – Do you want downloadable reports or are you happy with checking the insights and creating your own? Check it matches with your measurement needs.

Automation – Depending on where you are in your digital marketing journey, you may have a requirement to send personalised and automated emails based on campaign triggers. These may be based on the date someone signed up to your website, a birthday, a purchase or even whether they haven’t opened your emails recently. Most ESPs offer these kinds of campaign journeys but with varying complexity. Just make sure your solution has what you need.

3. Will it grow with you?

Judging by the list of features you may just want to keep it simple but just be aware that if your email marketing takes off that you might soon outgrow your software plan. Most plans are costed by number of sends or number of contacts and there are usually variations in the automation options. All you need to do is make sure that you have a plan for what you will do when your email activity increases.

4. Do you have a CRM?

This is an important point for businesses with large databases. If you’re starting out you may use your ESP as your database (always in accordance with GDPR regulations) in which case a simple solution will work for you. If you already have a great CRM option consider whether your email service provider will bolt on to this. You should weigh up the pros and cons of your own CRM’s email option vs the options provided by an Email Service Provider and ensure that you aren’t paying for functionality in both places.

5. Customer support

Most of the free email software solutions don’t offer customer support as standard. Depending on how technical your team are, this may be something you want to opt for. Solutions like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor are quite intuitive and simple to use but if you are looking for strategic advice, many providers offer a Customer Success Manager in one of the higher pricing plans.

When it comes to email marketing, as with all digital marketing channels, the secret of its success lies in the magic combination of top-quality, technically-sound content coupled with audience personalisation. However, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can achieve success with both an entry-level software solution or an enterprise ESP and as with all major purchases, you only need to do your homework because it’s important to understand what you’re getting.

If you’d like support with launching an email campaign or need an email template design, please get in touch. We have a digital marketing and graphic design team here that would be delighted to help: