How the right ESP can skyrocket your email ROI

How do you get more ROI from your email marketing campaigns? Is it all about what you write and send? Not really.

Your email ROI is influenced by the very first step you take – choosing your ESP.
Let’s see how you can make a choice, that will boost your ROI from the very beginning.

There’s no denying that email marketing has a great ROI. In fact, some studies say the average clocks around 3800%. High performers get a ROI of $70 for every $1 invested in email marketing, while low performers get less than $5 (or even a negative ROI).

email marketing ROI

Everyone wants to be in the top performers category and increase their ROI, I’m not talking about A/B testing or email copywriting (although they, too, matter a lot!).

I’m talking about the one of the first steps of every email marketing strategy – choosing the right ESP. Typically, when a company has to make that choice, they take into account two major factors: price and features.

However, FOMO can take control – “we’ll get this ESP, it has the most features and we might need them in the future”. The same goes for choosing the cheapest option. Small companies or startups are quite familiar with penny-pinching. But choosing an ESP with only price in mind can turn out costlier in the long run.

The right kind of ROI calculation doesn’t just rely on costs versus benefits. You won’t be using your ESP only once, so you have to think about your long-term investment, costs and benefits. What sounds like a great deal now may entail thousands of dollars in hidden costs later on.

In the words of Warren Buffet:


Let’s take a look at how you can avoid paying dearly in the future. If the price or feature scenario sounds like you, keep reading.

How to Choose the ESP that Boosts Your ROI

Price and features are important when choosing an ESP. But we should not forget the actual work you have to put in. As in every marketing tactic, the right ROI balance comes from factoring in internal processes and, most importantly, balance with your business goals.

Let’s see how we can apply this to real life.

Questions to Ask Yourself before Making Your Choice

First off, you need to answer the deceitfully easy question: “what will you be using your email marketing system for?” I know, I know – it’s an email service provider, so you’ll be using it for email marketing.

But emailing has become so much more than sending a few lines of text. You’ve got hundreds if not thousands of options (graphic design, A/B testing, audience segmentation, video and many others), so weigh this one out carefully.

For example: as a blogger, you could do with simply sending newsletter with the latest blog posts. You may not even need any advanced reporting — it’s enough to see who opened what and who clicked where. However, if you work for an e-commerce business, then you will need to look for features like triggered and transactional emails (for instance abandoned carts and order confirmation emails). When your ROI depends on more than the traffic email marketing brings, you need more options and features.

Another question to answer is “how big is your email marketing team?” How many people are involved in every stage of your email campaigns, from copywriting to design and technical issues.

email marketing process

Image via CoSchedule
Answering this question will also tell you how much you have to rely on your ESP’s support and services. How much of all you want to do needs to be outsourced.

If you are just beginning with email marketing and you have a small list, you may be tempted to opt for a provider that offers a free plan. But keep in mind that the vast majority of completely free plans come without dedicated support. So you may be left spending valuable hours trying to figure out things on your own.

Think about it this way: an subscription that has ongoing, 24/7 support might cost $100 extra per month.
This means roughly three hours per month spent by your internal person figuring things on their own. Three hours! That’s it! If it takes you more than that or if you need to involve more team members (perhaps even IT support), then the scale tips the other way.

Without a support team or an internal tech team in place, your ROI could take a deeper dive than if you had paid for an email marketing plan with ongoing support. More importantly, even if you have that team in place, think about what they could do with the time they spend figuring out all the features and tricks on their own.

Digging Deeper: Advanced Features and Dilemmas

Whenever I work with my agency’s clients on strategy, I urge them to always ask themselves or their team the following question: “will it help me grow?”

In this case, “it” can be anything, from a new marketing tactic, to adding a new social media platform to your marketing mix or sending more emails than you usually do. This is growth hacking done right – not jumping on every train you see coming your way.

In the words of Sean Ellis, the founder of Growth Hackers:
“Since most growth ideas fail, it becomes critical to test a lot of them. The faster you can hack together an idea, the sooner you can start testing it for some signs of life.”

Here’s an example: after creating a series of topic clusters for an SaaS client, they wanted to turn them into gated content so they can collect more email addresses. A sound plan you’d say. But would it have helped them grow?

We tested gating some of the clusters against allowing others to roam the site freely for SEO and on-page conversions purposes. The second option won by far in our test. The added value for their brand awareness and trust building was incredible. And so was their conversion rate.

I strongly believe it’s a valuable question in a time when everything in marketing seems to be the cool new kid on the block or the “must-try strategy that will change everything”.

The truth is that the above-mentioned FOMO can turn into very poor decisions. When you stretch yourself to thin, you run the chance of not really acing anything.

And this stands true for email marketing as well.

So before you choose your email marketing platform, get clarity in the following areas:

1. What are your short- and medium-term growth plans?

Free email marketing software may sound great right now (and you should take it if it suits you!), but make sure that said email provider can still cover your needs when your business grows and when your email list grows along with it.

Data migration can be an ordeal, so scalability should be one of your top priorities.
Speaking of which:

2. Does your vendor offer solid integration for the other solutions you are currently using?

Digital marketing without SaaS apps integration is like pizza without cheese. Terrible.

You will be spending valuable hours migrating databases. I don’t need to remind you that every hour your team spends on menial tasks impacts the email marketing ROI and, ultimately, your pocket.

3. How does your ESP handle compliance and deliverability?

The CAN-SPAM act and GDPR are no joke. Before you decide on an email vendor, be sure that your provider can help you become and stay compliant with GDPR as well as all the current rules and regulations.

You could be unfortunate to appear on a blacklist or get deliverability problems. That can greatly impact the return on your investment, as it squeezes the audience you can reach. To mitigate these risks, your ESP should help you prevent deliverability trouble, and help solve any problems if deliverability trouble arrives.

4. Does your ESP help with reporting and strategy?

A crucial part of any campaign is knowing what you did wrong and what you did right. This is why detailed and insightful reporting is crucial.

Before you commit, ensure that you will get all the data you need from the reports. Ask your shortlisted ESP for sample reports and for case studies that outline ways in which they can help you.

Think about how you are going to lay out your email marketing strategy. An ESP could also help you with email strategy, you can do it yourself or ask help from an agency or consultant. Think about the differences in cost and quality, especially if you have a small team handling your email marketing.

Email marketing can seem pretty straightforward, but you’d be surprised to learn how much difference the right strategy can make. Similarly, advice from pros in the field can help you build an email list that really boosts your ROI.


While you may think about email marketing ROI only in terms of cost versus outcome, remember that the email marketing software you choose can have a great influence.

Make sure that you team can handle working with the ESP you chose, that you have the proper internal support in place. More importantly, ensure that your long-term ROI is not affected by penny-pinching right now. Think about scalability and your growth over the years, as well as about app integration. Can your ESP handle all your needs?

There is no one-size-fits-all in choosing email marketing and automation solutions. You have to take a very close look at your internal process and at your business and marketing goals in order to be able to make the right choice.

About Adriana Tica

Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the CEO of Idunn, a digital marketing agency that helps clients all over the world with copywriting, social media marketing and marketing strategy.

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