Finding the Best Email Service Provider (ESP), 5 Things you should know
(Article 2: Email marketing for beginners)
An Email Service Provider is what you want when you need a service for email marketing. Basically, you control your account and they do the “heavy lifting.”1 Choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP) is a little like shopping around for a house – you should look for one that suits your particular needs and budget.
Here are a few things you should look for:
1. Customer care, free trial
When you’re new to email marketing, you might end up with more questions than answers. It’s important you make sure your potential ESP offers support and training. Have a representative from the company you choose come out and give you an onsite demonstration of what the company can offer you. Also, a lot of the ESPs offer a free trial which is a great way to try things out and see if they work for you.
2. User-friendly reporting
You’ll want a provider that integrates with an online analytics service like Google Analytics. Your ESP provider should also give you the ability to access detailed and easy to understand reports on the results of your email campaigns. Standard reports usually include delivery success rates, open rates, and click-through rates. If you can’t tell what’s working and what’s not you can’t learn and improve on your campaigns.
3. Ability to segment your List
You want the ability to separate your emails by the criteria of your choice. For instance, you might want to divide your customers by how much they spend, or their interests, or even location. When you target your specific groups with relevant messages you’ll get better results.1
Any ESP you consider “should require customers to comply with the CAN SPAM Act and make it very easy to do so.”1 In part this means all emails should have a working unsubscribe link3 that is visible and opt-out requests need to be “honored within 10 days.”4 For full details on the CAN SPAM act and all that it entails you can read about it on Wikipedia here.
Different ESPs charge in different ways. For example, by the month, or by the number of emails you’re going to send. Look for the pricing plan that you’re comfortable with and avoid long-term contracts. If you’re not happy you should be able to switch by the next month.
A Note about Free ESPs
There are also free email services for you to consider. The tradeoff is that the providers will have their own advertising around your emails and you’ll get limited space for messages. If you’re a very small company with a small email list and you are considering a free ESP read Pros and Cons of Using Free Web-Based Email Providers for an in-depth discussion.