With over 100 email service providers (ESPs) to choose from, it can be quite daunting to make up your mind about which email service provider to use.
Choosing the right ESP will make it easy for you to connect with your donors. A bad decision will be inconvenient, plus it will make it harder for you to reach your email marketing goals.
There are several advantages to choosing the right email service provider.
- It will save you the hassle of having to switch to another ESP later on
- It will increase the chances of most of your emails landing in your readers inboxes
- It will help you automate most of your email campaign processes
- It will help you to scale up your campaigns when your organization grows
- It will enhance user experiences, making it easy for your subscribers to view and read your emails. This will reduce the unsubscribe rate in your list.
16 Factors to Consider When Choosing an Email Service Provider
- How much money are you willing to spend?
Different ESPs charge different rates for their services. You have to compare the prices and find the one that is most affordable for your company.
Prices range from $10-$15 to send emails to a list of up to 500 people. Service providers base their cost per a thousand subscribers that you have.
Different ESPs have different pricing plans. This includes
-Monthly rates – In this case, you pay a monthly fee depending on the number of subscribers you have on your list.
The more subscribers you have on your list, the more you should expect to pay.
While most service providers allow you to pay on a month by month basis, some providers will want you to pay for a whole year upfront.
-Pay as you go plans – In this case, you do not pay a monthly fee, rather, you pay a fee whenever you want to send out a campaign. The fee will be based on the number of emails that you want to send out at that particular time.
Some providers have free forever plans that you can join, if you do not want to spend any money. However, you should be aware that free plans only offer limited functionality. If you want more features, you will have to upgrade to paid plans.
For instance, MailChimp has a free forever plan if your list has less than 2, 000 people. You will find their service great, if you only want basic functionality.
- How many people are on your list?
Your ESP should be able to comfortably send emails to all the people on your list. If you have many people on your list, it is best to find ESPs that can handle such a large number of people.
Also, when sending out many emails, keep in mind the cost. For instance, sending out emails to 40, 000 people in MailChimp costs $240, while it costs $7.37 to send the same number of emails to your subscribers using SendinBlue.
- What types of content would you like to send?
Your ESP should be able to handle the type of content that you want to send. That is whether you want to send text, images, audios and videos.
If you only intend to only send text and images, most ESPs should be able to handle this.
- How much customer support do you need?
This will depend on the complexity of the ESP and how technically savvy you are. Complex ESPs can be more challenging to use, especially if you are starting out, so you will need a lot of customer support.
In such a case, it is important that you know how you can easily reach the support team. The more means the company provides on how they can be reached, the better. Some of the ways most support teams can be reached include through sending a support ticket on their site, live chat, telephone, fax or email.
Some ESPs will give you priority customer support if you are a paying customer, as compared to if you were using their free plan.
The bottom line is that it should be possible for you to reach the support team whenever you need to. The support team should also be competent enough to solve any issues that you have. They should also respond in a timely manner. It can be quite discouraging to have to wait for up to 3-5 days to get a response to an urgent support ticket.
One of the ways to test their support team is to get in touch with them and see how long it takes them to get back to you and how helpful their response is.
- What features do you want?
ESPs have different features. It is up to you to decide which features are most important and see if the ESP that you are interested in has those features. Some of the most common features include
- A/B spit testing-This enables you to split test email content and subject lines against each other to see which ones your clients respond to best.
- List segmentation-Allows you to personalize emails sent to different groups of people on your list.
- Drag and drop feature-Allows you to easily design your newsletters, even if you are not a designer or you do not know HTML.
- Autoresponder sequence-Allows you to send a series of automatic emails to your subscribers once they sign up for your newsletter.
- Allows importing and exporting of your contacts list
- Free newsletter templates
- Reporting and analytics-Will enable you to evaluate how your emails are doing. For instance, you can tell how many people viewed your emails and clicked through your links.
- Inbox preview-enables you to see how your emails will look like in different email clients like Safari, Chrome, Mozilla etc.
- How much control do you want over the software? –If you go for a managed solution, the software company will develop and send out campaigns on your behalf.
This is the best solution if you don’t have time to develop and send out campaigns on your own. It is also the best option if you have little email marketing experience. Just beware that this option gives you the least amount of control since it is the vendor who develops and handles your strategies and campaigns.
-If you choose to go for the software as a service option (saas), it means that you will use the web based interface of the company to send out your campaigns. You develop the content that is to be sent out and you will use the online interface and bandwidth of the company to send out emails.
With this option, you access the tools you need to create and send out campaigns and the company takes care of the back-end technicalities. This option will work best if you have experienced marketers to handle your campaigns.
-With an in-house option, you buy the license fee of the program and then have the program installed in your organization’s premises. This gives you full control over the software.
Be aware that you will need to maintain the software and hardware, as well as the bandwidth used.
- How technically savvy are you?
Ease of use matters a lot. If you are quite knowledgeable about email software, then you can go for more advanced solutions.
If you are starting out, then go for software that is easy to use and has a simple interface. It will be best if you went for ESPs that have a drag and drop feature.
- Who will manage the ESP?
The number of people who you want to manage the ESP matters. While some ESPs only allow you to have one user per account, some service providers will allow you to let many people using the same account.
Some service providers will even allow you to send emails from different departments, under the names of different people. This will work best for big companies.
- Is it mobile friendly?
53% of people read their emails on their phones, thus, it is important that the service provider have responsive newsletter templates. This will enable you to send newsletters that can easily be read on mobile phones and tablets.
- What do other people say about the ESP?
Before selecting a service provider, check out reviews and see what other people are saying about it.
Customer testimonials will save you a lot of headache, as it will prevent you from engaging with a service provider who is not efficient. Check out reviews online or talk to other people you know, who have used the services of the provider before.
- What are your company goals?
For instance, are you a small company now but you are looking to expand in a few years time? If you are planning to grow, choose a provider that will give you room to expand in future without too much hassle.
You have to be aware of your current and future needs as an organization.
Alternatively, you can start out with a provider and then switch providers later on when you have grown bigger and your needs have changed.
- CAN SPAM Act compliance
Your emails have to comply with the CAN SPAM Act. A good email service provider enables you to do this easily, for instance, all your newsletters should have an unsubscribe option in every email that you send out.
Also, you should only send out emails to people who have opted to join your mailing list. ESPs make this possible by allowing you to set up sign up forms that allow anyone who are interested in joining your mailing list to do so voluntarily.
- How long is the contract duration?
If you are just getting started with an ESP, it is a good idea not to get into a long term contract with them until you are sure about their services. You can try out the service provider for a couple of months before locking yourself into a longer term contract.
Take advantage of trial offers and free plans to test drive the platform before paying for long term contracts.
- Does the ESP integrate with other programs that you are already using?
Being able to integrate your email service provider with other programs that you already use in your organization will make it so much easier for you to handle and process information.
Some 3rd party applications that can be integrated with service providers include WordPress, SalesForce, Magento, social media platforms, such as Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts.
Some providers allow you to tap into their application programming interface (API) to build your own custom integrations.
- What is the subscriber opt-in process?
How do people join your mailing list? Some service providers only allow people to join your list through a hosted form on your website, while others allow you to add people manually without necessarily having to use your sign up form.
Some providers allow for a double opt in process, while others allow for a single opt in process to your list.
A double opt in process means that once someone signs up to join mailing list on your website, they get a confirmation email that they have to click to confirm that they indeed want to join your list. In a single opt in process, the subscriber does not receive a notification email when they sign up to join your list.
- Do you want to be an affiliate?
If you would like to promote the services of the provider to other people and make money doing so, check whether the provider uses affiliates to market their products.
Download this checklist and use it to check all these important points one by one.
What else should you consider when choosing an email service provider?
Are you an NGO or a Non Profit organization? Would you like to get more funding for your projects?
Julie can help you do this by writing better emails/newsletters to send to your donors. Her main aim is to help you attract and retain donors, so that they can give more money towards your organization.
She can also manage your website and get more people to visit it by writing engaging blog posts, white papers, reports, brochures, case studies and whatever else you need. She does all this with the aim of attracting more people to your website, so that they can see and understand what you do and get encouraged to give financial support towards your organization.
If you need someone to write, format or set up your fundraising newsletters or write fundraising copy for you, you can reach Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.