In this article virtualROI offer advice on how to choose the right ESP (Email Service Provider).
In order to identify the right ESP, it is important to be aware that a lot of suppliers focus on different areas and have differing specialties in order to appeal to certain type of companies. Understanding each suppliers’ strengths and weakness will allow you to make the right choices instead of ending up with a ‘sledgehammer to crack a walnut’.
One of the first steps as a buyer is to establish what model is most appropriate for your budget and the needs of your company. A fully managed model might be preferred if you have restrictions in terms of skills or resources internally (IT infrastructure, html/database knowledge or integration know-how to your CRM system). If this is not an issue for you, then a self-service model might be a more suitable option.
Other questions that might play a part in your evaluation process could be:
- Do you need a global ESP with experience in many countries and with multi-lingual support options?
- Will the chosen supplier be able to scale up (or down) and have the flexibility you may need moving forward?
- Will the ESP need to interact and co-operate with an existing agency roster for online and offline?
For successful vendor selection in larger organisations understanding the internal stakeholders requirements and limitations can be just as important as the capabilities of the chosen supplier.
- What functionality do you require now vs in six month’s time?
- Who are the people that will implement, use and approve the budget for a system implementation and will it fit in with their strategies and objectives?
- Identify suitable project managers for internal execution.
- How will success and ROI will be measured?
It is advisable to make a list of the features that are vital to the future of your business to ensure you can execute against your strategic goals and objectives. Here are a few options that might be worth considering.
Private IP Address
The IP address shows the origin of an email. If an ESP shares IP addresses between clients, this could have an impact on spam complaints if too many emails are sent from the same IP. You should consider a supplier that uses a private IP address to ensure higher deliverability rates and helping to prevent the possibility of you as a sender from being blacklisted. Sharing an IP could also affect your sender reputation in a negative manner.
Type of emails
Understanding the different types of email that you would be sending could be an important factor to consider. If you have a requirement for transactional emails, real-time triggered emails or automated daily emails, you would need to ensure that your ESP provider can accommodate this.
Add-on services, customer support and training
If you were to get stuck on how to do something then additional services do become a deciding factor in terms of support hours/helpline and perhaps also training to ensure efficient campaign execution.
Integration with other databases
To future proof your investment, integration abilities of your chosen ESP platform could be a major feature in the strategy for your company. Easy transfer of data and tracking history against your contacts contained within your CRM platform would ensure that your marketing efforts are available regardless of who you use in the future.
If you don’t have the relevant IT infrastructure internally to house a larger application, then it is probably worth utilizing a cloud solution which nowadays is what is most commonly used. Your and your suppliers connection speeds will now be an important factor to ensure fast access and quick execution on your campaigns.
Reporting and analytics
Calculating the return on your marketing investment is an increasingly critical part of marketing, particularly as budgets are required to stretch further than before. At a basic level, your solution provider needs to give you 24 hour online access to metrics such as open-rates, click-through rates, deliverability, and soft metrics as well as subscriber management. At a higher level, you might want to explore further behavior by linking your email marketing to your social media and web analytics.
Segmentation and dynamic content
Depending on your marketing strategy, you might need the ability to dissect your marketing database into segments that make sense from an industry, product, behavior or interest point of view. The more options you have for filtering the total available contacts, the more accurate and sophisticated you can be in your marketing. So is a ‘spray and pray’ or more of a precision marketing approach suitable to achieve your objectives.
Hand in hand with segmentation is the use of dynamic content which allows you to create and broadcast multiple versions of content based on the specific content requirement for each individual, without the need for multiple broadcasts.
This feature makes it easy for marketers to send automated messages to individuals that have signed up for to a mailing list. Typically it is used at to manage unsubscribe requests, spam complaints and inactive email addresses.
Just like location location location is important in the property business, testing testing testing is the key for getting to know your own contact base. A/B split is a basic and most frequently used approach, where you can test different versions of the same email to see what works best. But bear in mind to test one thing at the time, to ensure you gain the correct insight.
If you are going for a self-service solution, then test it out before you buy as it is the best way to find out how easy the tool is to use and whether it will fulfill your requirements.