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Selecting a Web Content Provider



Selecting an Email Service Provider (ESP)

Permission-based email marketing is an effective way for your business or organization to sell to known prospects, send out an email newsletter, and build customer loyalty.

An ESP is a service that hosts email marketing services on their servers, which are specifically optimized for this purpose. While you control your email marketing account and send out emails using a Web browser interface, the ESP’s servers and Internet connections do the heavy lifting. If you tried to send bulk emails through your regular Internet Service Provider (ISP), your campaign could be blocked, as regular ISPs are not set up for—and sometimes prohibit—bulk mailings.

An ESP also provides detailed reporting on the results of your email campaign: delivery success rates, email open-rates, and link click-through rates. You should even be able to see which of your subscribers performed these actions. Good reporting is an invaluable feature as it helps you measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

Most ESPs also make it very easy for you to comply with the CAN SPAM Act regulations. For example, an ESP should automatically include an unsubscribe link in every email sent through their service (and automatically remove these addresses from your lists), as well as verify that all emails are sent from a valid, working email address. Most ESPs also require you to send only to lists of subscribers that have opted-in to receive emails from you.

ESPs allow you to execute professional, organized email marketing campaigns. Now, what should you look for in an ESP to make sure you choose the right one? Here are some criteria to consider:

1. Private IP address (best) or Shared IP with very few users. The IP address from which an email is sent is like a phone number; it indicates the origin of an email. Just like you would not share a phone number with a large group of strangers, you do not want to share an IP address with other customers at your ESP. If your ESP makes you share an IP address with other customers, too many spam complaints against another customer could get your shared IP address blacklisted by a major ISP. This would prevent your emails from being delivered, and it can take time for your ESP to get the IP off the blacklist. Be sure your ESP can provide you with a private IP address.

2. Customer support and training. Your ESP should offer both online and phone customer support and training.

3. Robust infrastructure. Make sure your ESP has multiple, high-speed connections to the Internet through more than one source and hardware redundancy. This ensures reliability if one of the Internet connections fails or there is a hardware failure. Ask prospective ESPs about their infrastructure. This is important because a lot of ESPs will offer “click-tracking” tools. The click tracking will require that the links go to the ESP first, and then it is redirected to your web site (that’s how it can track the click). There would be nothing worst than sending to your valuable prospects and customers and having the ESPs servers go down. The people reading your emails won’t be able to click through!

4. Good reporting. The ESP should offer a variety of user-friendly reports: deliverability success, open-rates, and click-through rates.

5. CAN SPAM compliance. Your ESP should require customers to comply with the CAN SPAM Act and make it very easy to do so.

6. List Segmenting. Your ESP should enable you to segment lists by demographic and other criteria, Targeting subsets of your list with content relevant to them leads to more successful email marketing campaigns.

7. A/B testing. It is important to have the ability to test different versions of your email to find what works. A/B testing is a way to test your email content, subject line, etc., to see which version gets the best results. Often this involves randomly splitting up the list and comparing results, and your ESP should be able to provide this functionality.

8. Free trial. Most ESPs offer a free trial. Do a test drive to see if the service meets your needs.

9. No term contract. Do not sign up for a service that requires anything beyond a month commitment. If you are unhappy with your service, you should be able to cancel and switch services at will.

10. Pricing Plans. ESPs host your email list on their servers. Some charge a monthly fee based on the number of emails on your list, while others charge a monthly fee you based on the maximum number of emails you think you will send per month. Be sure to choose a pricing structure that fits your needs.

About the author: Neil Anuskiewicz is the Sales Director of EZ Publishing, Inc., the creator of the StreamSend Email Marketing Service

For Additional Information

Email Vendor Selection
Contact Information
A site designed to assist with evaluating and selecting an email service provider. Email Vendor Selection provides articles, an extensive vendor list, a glossary of industry terms and other resources designed to assist in choosing an email service.



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