Selecting the best email service provider (ESP) is a challenge. Committing to a vendor is an expensive investment, and it’s difficult to know whether the solution will support your current needs and continue doing so as those needs evolve.
While ESPs of the past were solely for sending emails, today’s providers must enable a holistic view of each customer, orchestrate customer journeys, drive cross-channel campaigns, personalization capabilities and detailed analytics.
Searching for an ESP
While vetting your options, be proactive in order to get as thorough an understanding of the various platforms as possible. You can narrow down the pool of options by determining the size of the provider that best suits your needs: SMB, for smaller businesses; mid-market, which typically support options for both smaller and larger businesses; and enterprise, for larger, more complex organizations. This unbiased Email Vendor Guide from Red Pill can help in determining which vendor will meet your needs.
Walk through the program with a sales or customer success representative, being especially aware of integrations with other important marketing channels and tools. Ask for client references to get a firsthand account of the solution or customer case studies, and check out online professional reviews where available. Finally, have the questions below on hand to ensure the ESP you sign on with allows you to have the most impact.
Questions to Ask Potential ESPs
Growth and scalability
Most organizations grow out of their ESPs after just two years, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Ensuring a solution will grow and evolve with you means you can have a fulfilling partnership for the long haul.
- What is the size of your typical client?
- What is your product and/or feature roadmap?
- How scalable is your platform?
- Do you have an example of a client who scaled with you?
The end user of the provider you select－your marketing team－must be able to efficiently utilize the platform to produce impactful email campaigns. If the program is too complicated to use, these users will get frustrated and won’t even end up using it.
- What is the typical onboarding period for your platform?
- Does your platform optimize emails for mobile?
- Does your platform feature pre-built templates or are there modular design options?
- How is the platform interface organized?
Segmentation and personalization
Personalization is everything in today’s marketing world; if you aren’t customizing messages for different members of your audience, they won’t be engaged. The email tool you use should have all the capabilities you need to target different customer segments based on their interests and behavior.
- What type of segmentation functionality do you have?
- Can your platform support dynamic content for personalized messages?
- Does your platform allow for email automation?
- Do you leverage any kind of machine learning?
A benefit of enterprise-level ESPs is that they often come with top-notch customer services and support. But not all support is created equal. You want to have the peace of mind knowing the vendor has your back and is accessible in case of urgent needs or technical issues.
- Do you offer tutorials or other training materials?
- How are issues reported and resolved?
- What are your help desk hours?
Data and analytics
As a marketer, you know how vital data is, not just for email, but to also use across other channels. You’ve got to be able to harness all data available to you to get well-rounded view of each customer and create the best experience.
- What does your reporting look like?
- Is reporting in real-time?
- Does your platform integrate data from other channels (website, social, etc.)?
The critical data mentioned is no good if it’s not protected. When personal customer data is compromised, they lose trust in your brand.
- How do you protect client data?
- What tools are in place to prevent a breach?
- Have you experienced a breach in the past? How was it handled?
Asking the right questions will provide you with invaluable insight about which ESP will serve your needs and email marketing goals. Use this guide to inform your final decision.