Once you have decided to add email marketing to your business plan, how do you go about choosing the right email service provider (ESP)?
An ESP is a service that hosts email marketing services on their servers, which are specifically optimized for that purpose. While you control your email marketing account, create the content and send out emails using a Web browser interface, the ESP's servers and Internet connections do all the technical work.
A good ESP will also provide detailed reporting on the results of your email campaign, which includes delivery success rates, email open-rates, and link click-through rates. You should even be able to see which of your subscribers performed these actions. Having access to detailed reporting is an invaluable feature as it helps you measure the effectiveness of your overall email marketing campaigns.
Most ESPs also make it very easy for you to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act regulations. What that means is, an ESP should automatically include an unsubscribe link in every email sent through their service as well as verify that all emails are sent from a valid, working email address. Most ESPs also require you to send only to lists of subscribers that have opted-in to receive emails from you. Remember, don't buy or rent lists.
Here are some features to consider when choosing the right ESP for you and your business.
Private IP vs. Shared IP
If your ESP makes you share an IP address with other customers, too many spam complaints against another customer could get your shared IP address blacklisted by a major ISP. This would prevent your emails from being delivered and it can take time for your ESP to get the IP off the blacklist (if ever). SimplyCast offers the option to upgrade to a free dedicated IP address when you sign-up. To learn more about the differences between shared and dedicated IPs, click here.
Customer support and tutorials
Your ESP should offer both online and phone support and tutorials on how to use the service. SimplyCast's customer care team is always at your service and you can reach them via online chat, email or by phone.
The ESP should offer a variety of user-friendly reports including deliverability success, open-rates, and click-through rates.
CAN SPAM compliance
As mentioned above, any ESP that you choose should require customers to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act and make it very easy to do so.
Email storage space
An ESP in most cases will limit the amount of space you can use to store your emails and any attachments. The amount of space varies throughout the many providers and some even charge extra when you go over your limit. Know what you have to work with before joining.
Make sure your ESP has multiple, high-speed connections to the Internet through more than one source and hardware redundancy. This ensures reliability if one of the Internet connections fails or there is a hardware failure. Go ahead and ask prospective ESPs about their infrastructure before signing up. There would be nothing worse than sending email campaigns to your list and having the ESPs servers go down.
Your ESP should enable you to segment lists by several different criteria. By targeting subsets of your list with content relevant to them leads to more successful email marketing campaigns.
Free trial with no long-term contract
Do not sign up for a service that requires anything beyond a month commitment. If you are unhappy with your service, you should be able to cancel and switch services as much as you want.
ESPs host your email list on their servers. Some charge a monthly fee based on the number of emails on your list, while others charge a monthly fee based on the maximum number of emails you think you will send per month. Be sure to choose a pricing structure that fits your needs.
Ease of Use
Finally and most importantly, how easy is the service to use? Do you need to contact technical support a lot to figure things out? If you don't enjoy using an ESP, there is a good chance it will influence the result of your email campaigns in a negative way. Remember it is okay to try before you buy.
Now that you are ready to shop around for an ESP, we invite you to take a look at everything SimplyCast has to offer.