Looking for a new email service provider, or trying to get more out of the one you have?
You have to ask some tough questions, writes Carolyn Nye, director, Digital Interactive Group for Acxiom, in an article in Practical Ecommerce. As part of your due diligence, ask if your ESP provides these capabilities:
First, an ESP must be easy to use — many marketers lack the technical background to cope with a complicated solution. Second, the ESP must be able to import data on new subscribers or a segment of existing ones in batches. And it must offer segmentation tools and automatic A/B testing, Nye says.
That’s the basic marketing stuff. Now let’s move on the creative features you need:
- WYSIWYG editor — An interface that allows marketers who lack coding skills to create and edit email designs.
- Email templates — Preset templates that render on desktop and mobile.
- Image hosting with auto redirects — This drives personalization and response.
- Web analytics tracking — The useradds URL parameters to links in an email, facilitating tracking in Google Analytics.
Next, does your ESP fulfill these systems functions?
- Cloud-based platform accessible 24/7 — This allows users to respond to email marketing emergencies outside of regular working hours.
- Setup and maintenance — More complex ESP functionsrequire higher levels of support. Don’t sign on with an ESP with excessive staff.
- History of downtime or upgrade schedules — You don’t need unexpected downtime. Choose a reliable platform.
- Availability of shared and dedicated IP addresses — Many ESPs force clients to accept shared IP, Nye writes. Make sure your provider has the setup that is right for you
- Deliverability management — You need deliverability feedback—on unsubscribes, bounces, address changes, and undeliverables —and your ESP should supply it.
Now we come to the most sensitive question: the economics.
“Some ESPs have a fixed monthly fee for set features and email volume,” Nye writes. “Others have a combination of fixed and volume prices based on the number of deployments. Focus on what you need. Don’t pay for unnecessary features.”
You can have it all. Nye observes that “mail service providers are responding with new features and capabilities at, frequently, a lower monthly cost.”