An email service provider (ESP) is a company that offers bulk email software and services.
An ESP may provide tracking information showing the status of email sent to each member of an address list. ESPs also often provide the ability to segment an address list into interest groups or categories, allowing the user to send targeted information to people who they believe will value the correspondence.
General Email Service Providers
MailChimp: allows you to do incredible things with email, like integrating your email lists' social media data to help you target and personalise.
Campaign Monitor: rated best for beautiful email design templates.
GetResponse: easier to get going with quickly because it has less features, it's also a little cheaper per email than Campaign Monitor and MailChimp.
Emma: Emma distinguishes itself through service. It's team of experts are there to help you do email marketing like a pro, especially on the list management side.
MadMimi: has a fun and easy user experience, and less features than the larger and more complex ESPs.
Constant Contact: good option for small businesses and small non-profits, focusses on non-technical users by providing the simplest features for design and sharing.
GraphicMail: a South African ESP with world-class features and support for companies of any size.
Everlytic: a South African email service provider with world-class features and support, recommended for SA companies with large email lists/
ExactTarget: owned by Salesforce, specialises in customer-journeys and automated realtime email marketing. A good option for large companies with skilled digital marketing teams.
SilverPop: owned by IBM, it offers the deepest analytics and intelligent targeting and automation options. It's recommended for big clients with complex email marketing needs.
TotalSend: full-service South African ESP that is specialising in transactional emails
Vero: focusses on email automation, and behavioural targeting and remarketing particularly.
ESPs may have similar basic features and functionality, but vary in volumes, policies, and deliverability, which makes the selection of an appropriate ESP critical to both the success of an email marketing campaign and the cost effectiveness of its implementation.
ESPs policies, also known as terms and conditions (such as an Acceptable Use Policy), are meant to prevent abuse by users in order to ensure that no spam is sent through their systems. This is intended to result in the best possible delivery rates, with no messages blocked as spam.
An ESP will provide a service which may include the following features:
- Ability to create templates for sending to contacts and/or the use of templates pre-made
- A subscriber list, which is uploaded by the user for distributing messages. This may be enhanced with custom fields in order to hold additional information for each subscriber for filtering and targeted messaging purposes
- A send engine, which allows users to distribute their message to the subscribers
- Updating of the subscriber list to suppress those requesting to be unsubscribed
- Statistical reviews of each email sent to measure the success rate of the campaigns
- Testing of templates for compatibility with email applications
- Spam testing to gauge the score of the email against known factors that will place the template at risk of being blocked
- The ability to send both html and plain text formats to improve delivery success rates (known as Multi-Part MIME)
- The ability to customise dynamically the content of emails that are sent out, to tailor personalised and relevant communications
- The level of service provided can be according to the above basic features, or the number of subscribers uploaded, or the frequency of use – or any combination of the above criteria.
Some ESPs cooperate with Mailbox Providers, through organizations such as the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, to ensure compliance with legislation and best practices, and get feedback on the messages they send.
Do you have a favourite ESP you'd recommend for any particular reason? Please let us know in the comments.
RocketSeed: lets you centrally manage the email signatures for your whole company, and even serve targeted email signatures to different audiences based on who your staff mail.
Litmus: Litmus provide email testing solutions. You can check how your email appears in different desktop and mobile clients, and do advanced testing on the performance of your emails.
Mandrill: has servers around the world to ensure faster delivery of your email. For this reason it is the ESP of choice for automated emails that need to be delivered quickly, like receipts.