Email service provider (ESP)

What is an Email Service Provider (ESP)?

To marketers, an email service provider (ESP) is a company that offers email services. Because email (marketing) services come in shapes and sizes, that is a pretty broad definition. Luckily, we can break this down into several categories.

Email marketing platform

An ESP is a company that helps you send email marketing messages by offering an email marketing platform or email tool. Many companies offer email software as self-service. Meaning you can send create and send emails, newsletters, and email promotions by yourself without help.

Many of these ESPs will also offer a free version of the email software to use and get to know the platform. Here is an overview of free and cheap email marketing services compared.

What is the most well-known Email Service Provider (ESP)?

The most well-known email marketing services is Mailchimp. Mailchimp is mostly used in smaller and mid-sized email marketing senders who don’t ask a lot from their email marketing service.
As such, there are a lot of Mailchimp competitors, some cheaper, some more advanced or with more customer service. We have reviewed the best Mailchimp alternatives here.

Complete list of Email service providers

There are well over 450 email service providers. Each with there own way of doing things, this is one of the reasons why it can be so hard to do a proper selection.

We keep a complete and updated list of email marketing platforms. So if you are looking for a good ESP, look no further. One way of

Functionalities of an email marketing platform

Basic functionalities of an email marketing platform include:

  • Create email templates and/or use pre-made templates
  • Maintain a subscriber list, uploaded by the user for distributing messages
  • Send email, allowing users to distribute their messages to subscribers
  • See statistics and reports of email campaigns and individual emails to measure success

Agency-style email service providers

In addition to offering email marketing platforms, some email service providers also offer email creation, consultancy, training and other email related services. These agencies are known as full-service ESPs. There are many online marketing agencies of course, but not all specializing in email marketing. We listed a selection of email marketing agencies.

Some agencies only work with their own or one specific platform, while others will work with multiple platforms or on the client’s own email marketing platform. Many allow their clients to pick the services they want “a la carte” and do the rest in-house or with help of another company.

Additional email marketing services

The following services also fall under the label “ESP”:

  • Deliverability services
  • List broking
  • Mail transfer agents (MTA)
  • Rendering test platforms
  • Whitelisting services
  • (Inbox) monitoring
  • CRM and survey tools
  • Campaign management software

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and analyst. He is the founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

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