What an Email Service Provider is and how to use one

what exactly is an email service provider?

What exactly is an ESP and how does it work?

The term email service provider (ESP) means very little to most email users. However to email marketers it refers to the delivery engine behind all of their marketing communication. If we consider that an ESP is an email delivery engine, then it follows that selecting the right one for your needs is crucial to the success of your marketing. This article will give you some tips and resources to help you do just that. Before we get on to that, here is a bit of background as to what an ESP is and how it works.

Basically an ESP operates and maintains the requisite software and hardware for delivering bulk email. In summary, an ESP provides a platform for managing and segmenting your contact lists, building email templates, and sending and tracking your campaigns on a larger scale than personal software allows.

An email marketer may use ESPs for many reasons, including gaining knowledge as to how much engagement consumers had with an email and whether its driving traffic to a specific website. In other words, these email services allow an email marketer to evaluate the effectiveness of the bulk emails.

Here are some of the basic functionalities of an ESP:

With the way the digital world is changing, ESPs should consider convergence with other forms of marketing such as SMS and MMS. According to Mitch Luptides, president of Fulcrum tech, we need to consider all these other forms of marketing when sending out emails, as well as cross- channel marketing”. This refers to how some mail service providers are able to manage your social media presence as well.

ESPs are becoming more than just a way to send out bulk mail, as they are now able to create a single marketing plan that will be capable of being used on multi-channels. For instance email marketers could attach videos that could be used for both email and mobile use. ESPs need to be able to facilitate this single channel convergence to remain competitive.

So how exactly should an email marketer go about selecting an ESP?

When making this choice you need to consider the following:

  • Opt for a private IP address or one with very few users. The IP address indicates where the email came from and your ESP should not force you to share your IP address with too many customers, as your company might receive spam complaints and may no longer be able to send emails.
  • Ensure that your ESP has infrastructure that can support high speed connections. When choosing an ESP you should always ask about their infrastructure to have peace of mind that their servers won’t go down.
  • Your mailbox provider should always provide you with customer support so you can better understand how to use their service.
  • An ESP should portray results to users that are easy to understand. They should report back on deliverability, click-through rates, how frequently people engage with the email etc.
  • The ESP should always meet the CAN SPAM Act and make it easy for users to unsubscribe.
  • The ESP should allow you to categorize your results into certain demographics. It should also facilitate a focus on content marketing to have a better distribution strategy, i.e. you should be able to segment your mailing list to send out content relevant emails to specific users.
  • Your selected ESP should allow for A/B testing. According to Neil Anuskiewicz, from Streamsend,this allows you “to test different versions of your email to find out what works”. A/B testing involves looking at what works in your email content and subject line.
  • When selecting a pricing plan, always consider what best suits your company’s needs.
  • Find out whether the ESP offers a variety of complementary services, such as a marketing strategy and creative consulting services.
  • Try out the email providers using a free trial first.
  • Don’t sign contracts longer than a month, in case it is the wrong one.

How to effectively use an ESP

Once you’ve chosen an ESP you need to make sure that it performs certain functions. An important part of this is list management to create strategic segments in your email list that relate to certain demographics. According to Mark Macdonald from Ecommerce University, consumers need to be given “an incentive; which allows you to follow up or get their permission to send out the information.

So ESPs need to help email marketers create this list, and they do this by making it easy for users to OPT–IN. Lead generation is what drives consumer interest, and a lead is usually created through content marketing in an email. The lead should in turn create a follow through action, such as joining the subscriber list. Leads are all about creating this opt-in approach. According to Jonathon Pavoni from Inside Hub, an ESP should allow email marketers to create responsive web design that will in turn generate a lead. The way in which an email is designed is supposed to drive leads “deeper into the sales funnel”. The purpose of this design is to create more sales and monetize from the process. Content strategies focus on everything from the subject line, to imagery to the conciseness of the content, all in order to nurture the consumer to click on the product or service and follow through.

So in essence ESPs serve the email marketer by making it easier and more efficient to get to this follow through point.