Choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP) can be difficult. Very difficult if email marketing is new to you or your company. There are tons of questions to ask, tons of features to research, and then there’s just simply trying the product to see if it’s even enjoyable to use. For some there’s integration questions around APIs, A/B split testing, dynamic content functionality, data/list segmentation, etc. This can be a daunting challenge for someone who hasn’t had the time invested into the technology and the industry.
Let’s begin there; pretend for a minute we’re all still learning how to leverage email marketing technology and marketing strategies to make a 43:1 ROI (Return on Investment) for our place of work (We’ll never stop learning, truly). Our bosses would love it if we could all do that, right?
Beginning at square one, the first step is finding an ESP that fits your needs and budget. In your search, chances are you’ll take a recommendation from a coworker, friend, or a website maybe. While that’s fine-and-dandy, you could still run yourself into some trouble. You may end up putting your friends’ needs for an ESP over your own and never try the competition. Don’t do that.
Find 5-6 potential ESP’s for evaluation, regardless of affiliation. Just pick a handful of ESPs at the right price point and that seem to have the features that would benefit you.
(The next step takes a little time, but will pay dividends in the end with regard to getting the most out of your money.)
Demo and free trial each vendor to get a feel for what work. Ask questions, even if they seem silly and test sending emails to yourself. You don’t learn how to ride bikes by buying a $3k racing bike and a snazzy Lycra outfit, you take them for a spin first. Then pick your top two.
Now, here’s where coworkers and friends come in. You’ve done your homework, you’ve narrowed your search to two prospects and it’s opinion time. I’m assuming you’ll do this step, but you may find that out of those 5-6 ESP’s you love-love-love one of them. Good for you; feel free to stop reading now if you’re one of those lucky folks. If you’re not sure still, here’s where the opinions of others will help. They’ll tell you the good, bad and ugly on your top two prospects. You’ll hear about customer service, downtime, speed-to-send, ease-of-use, value, and overall satisfaction of the product and company.
Use the counsel and experiences of others to filter out your final choice. A great email marketing product with terrible customer service could very well turn out to be a horrible experience.
Here’s what you don’t do; take the advice of unqualified resources for the sake of not wanting to put in your due diligence. Here’s an example – Worst Place to Find Marketing Advice . Here’s a web property that’s giving you email marketing software advice in order for their website to benefit from the SEO value of the content. The intentions of this information might be good, but there’s a severe mix in ESP size and offering within this list. ExactTarget and iContact aren’t comparable vendors, these are two totally different approaches to email marketing software for two totally different market segments.
For great advice from various different seasoned email marketers jump on Twitter and use the #emailmarketing tag to find answers to your questions. There are also tons of reviews and resources available for you to get exactly what you need.
Find me on Twitter @rorycarlyle