Vetting an ESP – Email Thursday

TOPICSEmail Marketing


Today’s topic is how to vett a new email service provider and decide what is right for you. We’ll talk about how to identify what you need and then how to find it in the saturated market of email service providers.

The first thing you need to focus on when looking for a new ESP is what type of functionality you will require… not just now, but in the future. If you looked into your email crystal ball to 6 months or even a year or two from now, what do you see? Has your subscriber base increased 10 fold? Has your store or business grown by leaps and bounds? Are your e-marketing needs far more complex and integrated with your other business initiatives?

These are all things to consider both when starting a new email program from scratch or if you’re looking to the future to expand your current abilities and offerings. In order to answer these questions and the questions listed above, you need to have a clear understanding of different types of email service providers and what they offer.

When looking for a new ESP, it is just as important to do your homework as it is to have a clear understanding of what your needs will be as your business grows. The last thing you want is to be spending more time and money to go through this process all over again 2 years from now because you made a short-sighted decision the first time or didn’t do your homework.

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So, some things to think about when looking at a new ESP are:

  • How many emails will you be sending per month? This answer alone can eliminate nearly 1/3 of the service providers on the market. If you’re looking at sending over 1 million emails per month, a small, boutique firm might not be robust enough to service your needs. Chances are, your emails will be more complex such as employing triggered marketing campaigns based off a transaction and many of the smaller service providers might have issues with integration of data and supporting the successful deliverability of so many communications.

  • How do you see your business growing in the coming years and do you see an increased need for email and social media interactions with your user base? If so, make sure that when looking for a new ESP the functionality is there so that your desire to reach out in more complex and highly targeted ways won’t be hindered by a lack of support or development.

  • Do you have the in-house support to design the creative, target your audience, test and launch the communications and then follow up with reporting and optimization for each campaign you send? Most ESPs will help you with this, but it costs money and prices for this type of support run the gamut from cheap to downright unaffordable.

So some questions to ask, or at least consider asking depending on where you are an where you want to be in the future:

  • Do you have an API. For those of you not geeky enough to know what this is, it stands for Application Programming Interface. Basically, does the ESP offer the ability to allow other programs such an e-commerce store or CRM system to have access to the database?

  • Is your database “flat” or “relational”? Again, geeks will understand this but for the normal person, a flat database has one table, a relational database has multiple tables that can cross-reference each other. Examples would be a single spreadsheet with tons of rows and columns would be considered flat. A spreadhseet with 4 worksheets that reference each other could be considered relational.

  • What are your deliverability ratings ie. Are emails sent from your system blocked by any Internet Service Providers? Many ESP brag about their deliverability ratings… ask them for more information to be on the safe side.

  • Do you have the ability to run triggered campaigns? Although you may not need this now, it may be a feature you want to include in the future. If your ESP cannot house your transactional data such as last purchase date, product purchased etc. then it may be very difficult or impossible to run the types of triggered campaigns that can really be effective at driving revenue.

  • Do you have any references? You wouldn’t higher an employee or contractor without checking their references, so don’t choose an ESP without asking around.

At Exclusive Concepts, we offer Optimized Lifecycle Email Marketing for our clients who are looking to maximize their revenue through this unique and ever-growing channel. If you are looking for a way to get a lot more revenue from your e-mail approach, consider our Optimized Lifecycle Email Marketing service to augment your other marketing efforts. We’ll show you how it works if you’d like – just give us a call at 800-504-4324.

Thank you for listening – have a wonderful Email Thursday!