In email marketing, the term "email service provider" or "ESP" gets thrown around a lot. For a beginner looking for the best email service provider to start sending marketing emails with, the amount of options out there can be daunting.
To help make the choice a little easier for you, we're taking you through all you need to know about getting set up with an email service provider, plus going over all the key features to look out for.
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What are the benefits of an email service provider?
- Gives you full control of your email marketing strategy
- Helpful tools like email automation that make your marketing life easier
- Allows you to create highly engaging emails
- Improves your email deliverability
- Track your email performance
- Tells you more about your target audience and their behaviour
First, try to figure out what are the main criteria that are important to you. To help you out, we've listed the features and other key points to consider when choosing your email service below.
- Go through the list of questions
- Create a checklist of ideal and must-have features
- Go through the different email service providers and check them against your criteria
- What is my projected monthly email volume?
- How fast is my subscriber list growing?
- Do I foresee my volume surpassing the limit of my budgeted plan anytime soon?
- What is my email marketing budget?
- Does the price of the service plan fall within my budget?
- Does the plan that falls within my budget give me access to the tools that I need for my email campaigns?
- How much are the next tiers?
- What are the types of emails I plan on sending to my subscribers list? Are they mostly promotional emails, or surveys, or transactional emails?
- Does the email service provider have features for the type of emails I want to send?
- Are there any image editing tools in case I don't have photoshop?
- Can they host my images?
- Do they have an image gallery with stock photos?
- Can I send triggered emails based on certain activity or inactivity?
- Can I run A/B split tests?
- Are there survey or polls generator?
- Can I schedule email campaigns ahead of time?
- Can I create unique workflows or customized autoresponder series?
- Does the email service provider allow me to segment my list?
- Can I create personalised, automated email series based on the segments I choose?
Reputation and Security:
- Does the email service provider take sole responsibility for maintaining the IP reputation?
- Does the email service provider allow for automatic IP warming (ie the gradual increase of mailings through a specific IP address)?
If the answer is no to both, then consider these questions (FYI: These can get quite technical):
- Do I have a unique IP address or do I have to share an IP address with other senders?
- Can I send emails using my own domain?
- Can I use and manage DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) for improved deliverability?
- Quick Tips:
- Use MXToolBox's DMARC record lookup tool to check your domain's DMARC record
- Unlock the Inbox allows you to create a DMARC record for your domain
- Quick Tips:
- Will I be able to use SPF (Sender Policy Framework) or SenderID so that the recipient server can check my domain for authentication?
- Quick Tip:
- EmailStuff has a cool tool that allows you to check your SPF and DKIM key record.
- Quick Tip:
- Does the service support DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) that will let me embed information within the email to authenticate my domain?
- Quick Tip:
- SparkPost has a helpful DKIM validator tool that you can try for yourself.
- Quick Tip:
- Can I use SRS (Sender Rewriting Scheme) so that forwarded messages of my emails will still pass SPF checking?
- Can I get quick assistance in case I have any technical questions?
- Can I send test emails before sending to my list?
- Does the email service provider have good reporting tools for deliverability issues?
- Am I only allowed to send permission-based emails?
- Will my emails get through spam filters?
- Does the email service provider review my email campaigns and make sure that they are compliant with spam laws?
- Does the email service provider have good deliverability scores with major email providers?
Opting-In and Opting-Out:
- Can I create my own opt-in form and customize it?
- Am I able create my own opt-out form and can I customize it?
- Can I choose whether I want a single or double opt-in?
- Am I able to design landing pages for opt-ins and opt-outs?
If not, then:
- Can I integrate opt-in/opt-out form generator apps with my account?
- Am I able to integrate landing page generator apps with my account?
- Will new opt-in/opt-out addresses be automatically updated on my list?
- Can I manually manage and alter my subscribers list?
- Does the email service provider automatically take out opt-out requests or do I have to do it manually?
- Is there an automatic deletion system for email addresses that always bounce?
- Can I add details about each contact?
- How many details can I add per email address?
- Can I give my subscribers the power to change their email frequency whenever they want?
- Does the email service provider check for errors and autocorrects things like typos?
- Can I upload my contacts via a .csv file or a .txt file?
- Can I add my contacts by copy & pasting from a spreadsheet?
- Are new opt-ins automatically added to my list?
- Can I do real-time tracking?
- Am I able to track opening rates, email bounces, click-through rates, conversion rates, and other data that is important to me?
- Can I see which emails did not receive the campaigns and which ones did?
- Will the email service provider tell me if the email was delivered to the inbox or to the spam folder?
- Can I track if a subscriber has forwarded my email campaign to another person?
- Am I able to see if the forwarded messages were opened by other people?
- Can I track the social sharing of my email campaigns?
- Am I able to track the number of new unsubscribers?
- Does the email service provider allow me to gather data on why people unsubscribed?
- Can I download and email or print the analytics data?
- Can I connect my e-commerce shop with my account?
- Does the email service provider allow me to integrate information into a CRM system of my choice?
- Can I easily work with other email marketing softwares?
- Am I able integrate all of my necessary apps?
- Can I get support whenever I need it?
- Will I be able to get support in my preferred language?
- What kind of support does the email service provider provide?
- Are there additional tools and guides available online from the email service provider?
- How long is their average response time?
Ease of exit:
- Does the email service provider automatically renew my plan with them?
- Can I cancel my plan with anytime that I want?
- How long ahead of time do I need to notify them if I want to end my plan?
- Will I be able to transfer by subscribers list easily?
- Will I be able to transfer my custom tags along with the addresses?
- Prioritize what are the most important features
- Create a checklist and see if the email service provider meets your requirements
- Try out multiple ESPs before you make your final decision
Mail Designer 365 supports all leading email service providers and marketing automation tools. To see a full list of our supported platforms, plus step-by-step guides on how to export your Mail Designer 365 template to use with another service, check out our export guides index.
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