Choosing the right email service provider (ESP) is crucial to your marketing strategies and eventual results. Your sender reputation, deliverability, campaign performance, and customer satisfaction depend on the level of ESP’s proficiency and technical characteristics. That’s why you need to pay careful attention before making the final decision.
However, when you’re new to email marketing, it may be hard to consider all pros and cons. The below tips will guide you in the right direction and show where to start with when choosing the email platform for your business.
1. Study and compare pricing plans.
Remember how you shop at the mall: first, look at price tags and only then take a piece to the dressing room. The same approach applies to choosing an ESP. Carefully study all available pricing plans and find out which one fits your needs the most.
Note that your business goals will evolve with time. You’ll acquire new communication channels, your audience will change, your product or service will get updated, and you may need to switch to another pricing plan or subscribe to additional functionality. So make sure the ESP’s you opt for allows such transfers. Most professional marketing automation platforms, for example, eSputnik, offer fluid pricing plans, but don’t be afraid to ask questions if needed.
Some other positions to clarify in terms of pricing:
- Do I pay per email or per contact?
- What other communication channels can I use under my pricing plan?
- Do I pay for the transfer between pricing plans?
- How much do additional advanced services (data storage, web tracking, advanced segmentation, AI, etc.) cost? You may not need all of them or any at all, but it’s important to know what other expenses to expect (even hypothetically).
- Do I pay for support services?
- Are educational materials (articles, guides, video guidelines) free of charge?
It’s better to have all the answers before you sign up. Introduction to the system and its testing can be a time and effort-consuming process, so before starting with it, make sure the price issues are settled.
2. Test functionality.
After you’ve fixed upon pricing, move on to testing. Most ESPs offer a demo tour and a free trial period; use both and don’t neglect a demo tour. It’s not just a mere advertisement of the system and its benefits. An email platform is a complicated system with its own rules, and a demo tour will save your time and introduce to basic features and their management.
Note that some ESPs offer demo tours only to big companies (enterprises). In this case, visit the company’s YouTube and find an overview or introduction of the system to have at least a general picture of what to look for inside.
Next, register for a free trial and start exploring. Your company has its own needs and goals and you’ll test the system based on them, but there are general points to pay attention to:
- User-friendly interface with intuitive navigation;
- Understandable and easy to digest guidelines;
- Helpful support, responding fast;
- Import and export (contacts, data sources, reports, email template code);
- Data transfer to the system (API, web tracking);
- Additional communication channels (SMS marketing, Web Push, Mob Push, messengers);
- Additional services (website product recommendations, pop-ups, mobile marketing).
Pay attention to how fast the system works, how often failures happen (if any), and how promptly they’re fixed.
3. Exercise email and workflow editors.
As for now, most ESPs provide drag-and-drop email and workflow editors. They’re convenient, have a user-first interface and enable you to create an email within minutes. The library of ready templates and modules simplifies the task and is a real saver to those new to email design. You choose the right template, fill it with your content, do minor editing, and your campaign is ready,
However, different platforms may have a different number of ready-made templates, and not all of them can be used under a free trial. Editor functionality can be minimized as well. So clarify what options will get available after you subscribe to a pricing plan and how you can test them.
If you plan using advanced editor features (Multilanguage, AMP blocks, SRT blocks, synchronized modules, custom fonts), find out which are standard and included in all plans and which are charged separately. Platforms have different conditions and pricing, so if you simultaneously compare several systems, don’t mix up their terms.
Editor basics to pay attention to:
- Ready templates;
- Custom Plain Text and HTML design;
- Available code export or import;
- Email responsiveness;
- Mobile preview;
- Smart blocks;
- Message testing.
4. Review available analytics.
Statistics assessment is an essential part of email marketing. No matter how effective you believe your messages to be, only numbers can prove your right or wrong. And a comprehensive email report is where you find these numbers.
When choosing the ESP, pay attention to the data included in reports. Is it enough to track the effectiveness and see what changes are required? Is it presented in a clear logical way? Are there disparities or deviations in different parts of the same report?
The following data is obligatory for any report:
- Open rate;
- CTR and CTOR;
- Spam reports;
- Unsubscriber rate;
- Unavailable contacts;
- Click map;
- Reaction time.
It’s also a plus for a platform, when you can sort the results by selected parameters, for example, by domain, segment, language, geo, activity time, email type (HTML, AMP), campaign type (bulk, triggered), etc. The more filtering option, the more detailed your analysis would be.
The above four positions are the main to consider when choosing the right ESP but not the only ones. Contact profile data, email list validation, integration with external platforms, deliverability, campaign scheduling, available A/B testing, segmentation, and personalization – these points should be considered as well.
Determine what functionality is key for your particular needs and explore it first when starting to test this or that email service provider. Also, study the feedback and testimonials on social media, company website page, and third-party sites to learn from the real experience of those who have already tried the service. Although comments are not accurate, they can drive your attention to some issues you might have missed.
Jessica is the co-founder and content manager here at AnySoftwareTools. She has been fascinated by the startup culture in Silicon Valley and she loves building things from zero to one. When she is not writing, she loves getting close to nature and shoot photos with her iPhone and Canon EOS 80D.