So, you’ve decided to start using email marketing in your business or you want to step up your email marketing game. Smart move! Maybe you’ve heard that email marketing has the highest ROI of any marketing channel – generating $38-40+ in revenue for every dollar spent. Perhaps you’ve heard all the buzz about list building, lead nurturing, and marketing funnels and you want to truly tap into the power of what modern email marketing can do for your business.
Whether you’re looking to start sending a simple well-crafted newsletter or drive sales from complex automated campaigns, first you’ll need to know how to select the best email service provider (ESP) to get the job done.
An email service provider is a company that offers a web-based platform to send bulk emails or campaigns. ESPs have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and they continue to evolve into feature-rich tools that enable marketers to send and track highly-targeted campaigns using segmentation and automation. Your ESP should help you carry out your email marketing strategy by allowing you to send the most relevant messages to the right contacts at the ideal times to nurture relationships and drive sales.
But there are so many ESPs on the market today you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the available choices. To select the most appropriate email service provider to meet your needs, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Am I tech savvy or do I have access to a team that can handle the development of my email campaigns?
- Do I need access to pre-built or drag-and-drop design templates?
- What’s my current budget and how will my costs change as my list size grows?
- What kinds of emails will I be sending — newsletters, transactional, promotional, broadcasts, automated sequences? Will I be personalizing emails and segmenting lists?
- What metrics will I want to measure and what kind of reporting is available?
- Will I need the option to do A/B testing? If so, what elements?
- Will I want to include dynamic content based on behavior, preferences, and interests?
- Will I need a tool with built-in customer relationship management (CRM) or a built-in shopping cart? Will I need a tool that integrates easily with other systems and tools, such as landing pages, sales pages, or membership sites?
Your answers will help you determine what features you need in an email service provider and which priorities are most important to reaching your email marketing goals.
As you consider tools, you may be tempted to automatically choose the cheapest and simplest option. However, you should also consider other factors as well.
Customer service and support.
How important is customer service and access to technical support to you? If you are simply sending a monthly newsletter or basic nurture campaigns, you may not need quick access to phone or chat support. However, if you are deploying time-sensitive launches and promotions, responsiveness of tech support may be more of a priority for you.
Do your research and make sure you sign up with a reputable ESP.
Pay close attention to recent reviews. Some older providers have fallen out of favor because they haven’t adhered to best practices or kept up-to-date with the latest technology. Some newer providers have attracted the wrong crowd (i.e., spammers) which can negatively impact your deliverability rates. It’s important to select an ESP that has a solid reputation with G-Mail, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other major players if you don’t want your messages landing in the spam folder.
Cutting costs may cost you more over time.
Keep in mind that since most ESP pricing is based on list size, your costs may rise quickly as your list grows, not to mention that your needs may shift dramatically as you scale. In some cases, it could be worth investing in a more robust tool from the outset that aligns with your short-term and longer-term goals. Once you’re on a roll, changing providers can be a bit of a headache and starting with a tool that has more functionality gives you an opportunity to learn and grow into it.
Here are some of the ESPs we often recommend, depending on each client’s specific needs:
- MailChimp — Mailchimp is our overall favorite. Their free plan is perfect for small businesses just getting into email marketing. It’s not all for beginners though, they also offer higher-level functionality like automation and testing.
- ConvertKit — Best for bloggers and those who want increased functionality but don’t need fancy templates or a drag-and-drop builder.
- ActiveCampaign — Not great for entry-level folks, since their cheapest plan doesn’t come with a lot of the functionality that others do, but they have excellent customer service, and their more fully-featured plans have some great tools for increasing conversions.
- Infusionsoft — Need all the things? Infusionsoft has them. They are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but that buy-in comes with all the bells and whistles you could hope for.
If you’re brand new to the world of ESPs, we recommend you sign up for the free Mailchimp account, poke around a little bit to familiarize yourself with the types of systems you’ll be dealing with and send yourself a few test emails. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get rolling with email marketing once you dive in!