What is the best ESP out there?

“What is the best ESP out there?” This question gets asked a lot. During a recent Focus.com roundtable, that bull was taken by the horns in what turned out to be a very interesting discussion about email vendor selection.

Andrew Kordek, Co-Founder of Trendline Interactive and former email optimization superguru at Groupon:

We often see people asking, “What is the best email service provider out there? And I’m looking at this and this. What’s your advice?” I know what my advice would be, but I see an awful lot of these, and I think we can kind of maybe put that to bed right now. So I would love to hear how you would answer that.

So for everyone who is listening, maybe we can auto-post this to every single post of what is the real best email service provider out there.

Dylan Boyd, VP of Growth at Urban Airship and former VP of Sales and Strategy at Email marketing agency eROI:

It depends on what you are looking to do. I sat through an hour-long meeting of a major enterprise customer yesterday who’s looking at doing something – and listening to requirements. Number one: What are their requirements? Why are we moving? What are we trying to accomplish? I mean, listing the basic things out of why you’re doing this narrows down that list.

We at eROI have had the fortune of working across so many platforms. We worked with SilverPop, Exact Target, e-Dialog, Responsys. You name it, we worked on it. All the way down the food chain to software like Constant Contact and MailChimp – all the way down. And I can tell you that each of them serves a purpose, and not one is better than another. Some are better in enterprise situations, some in on-premise and some in costs, if that is a factor.

With a downmarket solution you often trade costs for functionality. And when I say that, I mean depth of functionality, because oftentimes you see a lot of providers that have 10,000 integrations and 10,000 new widgets, but they are a mile wide and an inch deep. And a lot of people in doing evaluations don’t understand that they get what they pay for. If you are serious about email marketing, you are looking at the kind of tools you need to use and those you can actually use.

Andrew Bonar, Email Deliverability Consultant & Founder of Emailexpert.org:

I would say prescription without diagnosis is malpractice, to quote John Caldwell, which I think is the most used to answer that question. You can’t really tell someone what is the best ESP or even whether the ESP is the right route for them until you’ve got a much better idea of what they’re doing as a business, how they’re using email, how they plan to use email and how you can possibly improve their marketing program overall as a result of the solutions available.

Loren Mc Donald, VP of Industry Relations at IBM Watson Campaign (previously Silverpop):

I obviously agree with everything Dylan and Andrew said. There are at last count more than 100 email service providers out there and so the question is a trick question. There is no best ESP. There hopefully may be a best ESP for your company, your needs and your culture – those kinds of things.

Some of the big differentiations between what a lot of people need or really want, is full service versus self service. Are they an agency or are they a retailer, and things like shopping cart abandonment, integrations and transactional email and sophisticated trigger capabilities are really important. Or maybe they are a publisher and it’s all about the price.

There are just so many variables, hundreds upon hundreds of variables. And I think the most important thing is you need to sit down and really figure out what your needs are, what is critical and what you are really looking from that email service provider.

And the best email marketing provider is…

As all agree, selecting an email service provider isn’t to be taken lightly, and there isn’t one best ESP. But people will be asking that question as long as people are looking for email solutions. As Andrew Kordek said: “Maybe we can answer this to every single question of what is the real best email service provider out there.”

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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