Email is the best way for businesses to reach their customers.
Not only does email have a higher ROI than any other marketing channel, but it’s also more convenient and cost-effective too.
You can set up an entire sequence of emails to arrive in your customer’s inbox, whenever you choose.
What’s more, you can track the performance of every email strategy to find out which messages have the biggest impact on your target audience.
There’s just one caveat. You need to find the right email service provider first.
Email service providers aren’t the companies that manage your email campaigns for you. That’s an email software company. Email software is where you segment your customers, test messages, and access templates for your campaigns.
An ESP is a little different.
So, how do you choose the right ESP?
Why Every Company Needs an ESP
First, let’s look at why you need an email service provider.
To build a relationship with your audience, you’ll need to send regular messages, at just the right time. Email helps you to do this, but you need an email service provider to make everything work. An ESP is the company that houses your sent emails, inbox, and draft messages.
Way back in the early days of internet, there was only SNDMSG and MAILBOX to choose from. Now, you can set up an email with everything from Outlook (Microsoft) to Gmail (Google).
Your ideal email service provider should work seamlessly with any email marketing software you want to use.
To pick an email service provider, you’ll need to:
1. Define Your Goals
Different email service providers have different features and benefits to offer. For instance, if you want access to an email platform that’s convenient to use alongside your existing productivity tools, you might prefer something like Gmail or Outlook.
These ESPs are available as part of a full selection of business tools, including document creation and file-sharing services. Gmail even has native file collaboration built-into its email service. That means you can respond to comments and messages on a shared document from within your inbox.
- Do I already use any existing tools from a service provider? If you already have accounts with Microsoft or Google, then it makes sense to add their email service into the mix.
- How easy is the software to use? Can you comfortably explore templates for your campaigns, and set up groups of contacts?
- Does my company need extra communication features? Some ESPs offer things like instant chat and threaded messages alongside email.
- How much storage do I need? Companies like AOL offer unlimited storage for business email users. However, not all providers can offer this.
- Do I need to send messages other than email? Some email service providers allow you to send text and instant messages from your inbox too.
2. Explore Extra Features
Most email service providers offer a selection of features to make sending messages and connecting with your customers a little easier. For instance, if you want to make sure that you reach the right number of customers, you need to ensure that your ESP offers emails that are responsive on any device. This is a common feature from most leading companies.
Email service providers also allow you to schedule your messages to reach customers at the right time or combine your email strategy with an email automation software to achieve similar results.
Another common feature of many ESPs is templates. These allow you to improve the appearance of your email so that you can drive better conversions for your brand.
Beyond those basic features, different ESPs have unique benefits to offer. For instance:
- Analytics: Analytics and reports give you an insight into which of your emails are making the right impact on your audience. This ensures that you can drive better results from your campaign. ESPs like Outlook integrate with multiple apps, so you can unlock extra information.
- Custom domain names: Many email service providers will allow you to choose your own domain name. A professional “from” address can boost your chances of a customer opening your email and responding to it.
- Easy file management: Yahoo mail has a unique media and attachment history section so you can search specifically for files that your clients send, rather than having to sort through hundreds of emails whenever you’re looking for an attachment.
3. Think About Your Budget
It used to be a lot more expensive for people to set up their own email servers. However, that’s not the case today. Most of the leading ESPs on the market are cloud-based. That means that you don’t need to pay for a technician to come and set things up on your end.
Plus, there aren’t a lot of maintenance fees to worry about.
Cloud ESPs price their services based on the number of users you’re going to need. This way, you can keep your experience highly scalable, paying for just the functionality you need for your business.
You can also set up your own email server with a free open script. However, that’s going to leave you with a lot of extra fees, like the price of owning a server. You’ll also need to make sure that you’re constantly keeping your server up and running properly.
That’s tougher than you’d think.
Generally, it’s better to stick with an ESP that can do the hard work for you.
If you’re worried about spending cash on email, remember that your email marketing will yield around a 3800% return on average. In other words, you really do get your money’s worth.
4. Look for Data Privacy and Security
Security is one of the most important considerations when looking into any new technology. You need to ensure that your employees and your customers feel comfortable interacting with you.
According to Hotspot, of the 150 billion email sent each day, many include attachments. 53% of companies say that they often lose files that have sensitive or private information inside.
Though there are steps you can take to protect your emails when you’re sending them, it’s nice to start with an email service provider that has your security in mind.
For instance, Proton Mail gives businesses 500mb of free space and access to totally encrypted email. That means that you can send messages that nobody else can read.
Finding an ESP that offers a good combination of security and usability will give you a lot more peace of mind when you’re running your business.
5. Look into Tools for Segmentation
The best way to segment your email list and send the right messages to your audience is to use an email marketing software. This software will help you to understand each customer’s journey so that you can target them with the right content.
However, there are email service providers that can help with segmentation too. These tools give business owners the option to separate their customers into specific lists based on information like a person’s age, location or gender.
Check to see if your email service provider has any segmentation criteria you can use to sort through your email list or subscriber. You might even find that some companies let you make notes on email addresses so you can personalize messages later.
The iCloud Mail ESP gives companies the freedom to label certain customers as VIPs. However, it’s best for mac customers.
6. Check Delivery Rates
Email deliverability is essential to driving results for your business. The more you invest in your email programs, the more you build customer relationships that pave the way for future opportunities. However, those messages will only make an impact if they reach your customers.
Email deliverability is the metric that determines how often your messages will land in an inbox. Not every email service provider can promise to deliver your emails at the same rate.
Although email delivery rates vary, you’ll want to ensure that the company you choose can provide a delivery rate average of around 98% or higher.
It’s also worth looking for a provider that can help you to boost your email deliverability too. For instance, allowing you to customize your “From” name, or providing you with articles on how to boot your email’s credibility is often helpful.
If nothing else, your ESP should have a customer service team dedicated to answering your questions if anything goes wrong.
Choosing the Right Email Service Provider
Choosing an ESP is a complicated process. There are a lot of different companies out there to consider, and all of them have unique benefits and disadvantages to think about.
The good news is that various ESPs will allow you to tray their services for free, before you sign up for a paid business plan. This can be a great way to get an insight into how a service behaves before you hand over any cash.
Remember, only once you have an ESP that you can trust can you begin looking into things like email marketing software.
Which email service provider are you using?