Your Email Service Provider is one of the most important elements of your email marketing efforts. Choosing the right provider that best fits your needs is a challenge that email marketers face at least once in their careers.

If you are looking for the perfect ESP that matches your company’s needs, this article will walk you through the questions that you need to pay attention to.

What’s an Email Service Provider?

An ESP, or Email Service Provider, is a platform that allows you to send marketing emails to your email lists at the same time.

Without going through an Email Service Provider to send an email to hundreds of recipients, you risk getting marked as Spam, or even worse, blocked completely by the email client.

ESPs allow you to track your email campaign performance by tracking open rates, CTR rates, bounce rates, and more.

Email Service Providers allow you to automate your campaigns.

You can set up a trigger campaign that is set into motion once an existing or a new email subscriber interacts with your website or older campaigns.

What makes a good ESP?

In general, a good ESP is a provider that allows you to :

  • Create and maintain multiple email lists
  • Schedule email campaigns and set up trigger email sequences
  • Evaluate email campaign performances
  • Integrate with other marketing platforms (Adapts to your marketing suite)

Checklist for choosing the best Email Service Provider for YOU

Can you take it for a test drive?

No matter what marketing tool you are interested in, it’s important to be able to test it out before making a commitment.

ESPs, in particular, are a long term investment. Once you start setting up email automation and importing email lists, you are committed. It becomes time-consuming and counterproductive to keep jumping from ESP to another.

Make sure to test every email service provider you are interested in before making the final decision.

Is it easy to use? Does it have all the features you are looking for? Is it adapted for team collaboration with roles and access restrictions? Make a list of the main features that are crucial for you and your team. And start checking ESPs accordingly.

How much does it cost?

Before jumping in, make sure to plan a budget for your ESP. Check out the pricing pages and read them carefully.

Prices for some tools may appear lower than others, but if you calculate it in the long run, it might reveal to be the opposite. For example when it comes to automatic upgrades once you hit a certain number of email subscribers.

It can end up being a marketing mistake (and very costly) to forget additional costs and hidden fees. In order to ensure that you fully understand the ESP’s pricing system, you can simply contact them directly and ask for the information needed.

They will be more than happy to oblige.

Can you integrate it with other email marketing tools?

Most marketing tools allow you to generate API keys that you can use to connect with external tools.

Using these API keys, you can connect your ESP to your CRM, ERP, email builder, or any other marketing platform.

It’s also important to take a look at the ESP’s partners and pre-established integrations.

You might find that they are connected to marketing tools that you already use, which is a plus.

Will you have a unique IP address?

An IP address (Internet Protocol) is a series of numbers assigned to a hardware (generally a computer or a server) connected to a network (internet). The IP address is used to identify the device.

It’s important to find out if your ESP creates a unique IP address for each client. This will allow you to have full control over your sender reputation, and improve your deliverability. 

If you sharing your IP address with other ESP users, you risk getting affected by their potentially harmful behavior.

Will they assist you during the migration process?

Migrating from email service provider to another can be challenging, especially if you have large lists and older campaigns and data. This process needs to be completed without losing data and affecting your email marketing calendar.

Requesting assistance from email service providers throughout migration is important. After all, they know their product in and out. And they can help you manage everything to perfection.

Make sure that this is a viable option, and that it is included in the initial pricing.

Do they comply with GDPR and other regulations?

Depending on where your email subscribers are located, it’s crucial that you follow all email privacy regulations and personal data protection laws.

There are some ESPs that have predefined GDPR forms and settings which can make your life so much easier.

With a simple switch, you can apply all regulations to specific segments and lists.

You should also check out their email flows, from subscription to managing preferences, all the way to unsubscription.

How does the ESP collect emails, classify them, manage subscribers’ preferences, and unsubscribe them? These are all important elements to check.

Must-Have Features in Your ESP of Choice

Every marketing team has different requirements and needs. Depending on your team size, your email subscriber list size, how often you send emails, the type of emails you send out, and many more factors, your ESP choice will change.

In this section, we list all the main features that must be available in your future email service provider, no matter what your characteristics and requirements are.

Email analytics dashboard

How can you measure your success using your ESP? This is a major concern of every email marketer. Once you send out your campaign, all you want to know next is how well did your campaigns perform?

Your ESP should the first source of information to collect data:

  • Email open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Unsubs (and reasons why)
  • Email subscriber countries and preferences
  • Bounce rate
  • Spam reports
  • and more

Most email service providers track this data. You want to find the ESPs that have the most user-friendly dashboard, and that allow deeper data analysis.

You can find ESPs that give you specific details on every email subscriber:

  • When they subscribed
  • How did they subscribe
  • What emails did they open
  • How did they interact with every opened email

You can, later on, use this information to segment your list. Which brings us to the second must-have feature.

Email segmentation and personalization

Email personalization has now been established as one of the most important email design trends. It’s proven that email personalization generates higher engagement metrics regardless of email type, industry, target, or content.

This is simply because personalized messages are more relevant. They adapt to each email subscriber.

Your next ESP should give you the needed tools to segment your list according to the data they collect.

Some ESPs will even suggest email segmentations for you: using their AI, some email service providers will detect similar behaviors, interests, or profiles in your email list and suggest sub-lists.

A/B Testing

Testing will allow you to know what works and what doesn’t with your email lists. Your email service provider should allow you to create multiple versions of the same campaign in order to test out different subject lines and content.

Other test elements include CTAs and sending time.

Split tests are conducted to collect data about the best combination of content, CTAs, and other email factors that lead to the highest engagement levels.

That’s why ESPs should also provide with you a thorough comparison between the different campaigns.

Third-Party Integrations

Most ESPs have very basic email builders that allow users to design basic templates. That’s why we didn’t categorize this as a must-have feature. Most email marketers look for more out of their email designs: they rely on an agency to design their HTML templates, hire an email developer, or use an online drag and drop builder to put together emails in a few minutes.

That’s why it’s important to check if your email service provider allows connections with third-party websites, such as email builders.

Using Chamaileon, for example, you can design emails in a couple of minutes using the drag and drop builder. Our email code generator will automatically develop perfect HTML that renders perfectly on all email clients and devices.

You can then export your finished template to your ESP, after choosing a compelling email subject line and preview text.

Inside the Chamaileon workspace, you can also choose your email list and account. We don’t have direct access to any of your contacts, we can simply show the email list names.

Wrapping Up

Email Service Providers play a crucial role in the success of your email campaigns. Your ESP choice will impact the performance of all your future campaigns. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

We’ve come up with this quick guide to help you throughout the decision-making process.

If we have missed any must-have feature or important questions, feel free to let us know!

You can also check out Chamaileon’s integration list with ESPs. You might find yours!