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 MailChimp and Constant Contact – 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, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. Named on of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016 " by Entrepreneur magazine.

  • Anonymous

    These are all great answers to that question. Obviously, I’m biased in my answer of that question. Whether or not you put Benchmark Email at the top of your list, I can say this for us: like Avis, we try harder.

  • Pradeep

    How about writing sometimes about ESP software providers like Awebdesk.
    Anyways Thanks for the great info.

  • Pewit

    Perhaps of more use would be an article suggesting how you should go about evaluating ESP services.

    • Jordie van Rijn

      Thanks for the comment Pewit, there are several evaluation articles on the site. If you would like an article on a specific topic, we are always open to suggestion. 

  • D.G. Bentley

    The options seem to expand as the list grows. To start, I suppose MailChimp is the obvious, and only solution?

    • http://twitter.com/jvanrijn Jordie van Rijn

      In no way that is the only option. There are many alternatives to each ESP D.G. Just have a look at the email vendor list on this site. Adding an “alternatives to” function is on my wish list, so I hope that will be of use once we add it.

      • Dave

        Definately not the only option! We have moved onto http://www.marketmailer.co.uk and they are cheaper and much more helpful. There are loads of options out there!

  • M.Corona

    Has anyone heard of or tried http://www.dangerousmailer.com/success?

  • ESP extra sensory perception

    so basically, “the best ESP out there is”….. drum roll please….. “it depends”. I think that was the same question I had when I came to this article.

  • Leandro

    Hi guys!! I work at a coupon company in Argentina, and have tried -and failed- with many ESPs.

    Our business is impulse buying, yes, but the truth is that our deals are what people actually want to buy, since every time our emails get through the Hotmail / Yahoo spiderweb, we do see a linear increase in sales.

    So my question would be, how can I ensure that our emails go through, while sending 2/3 emails per day as we usually do, but also following all best practices regarding optouts, optins and errors (temp and permanent)?

    Do you have any advice or even providers to recommend?

    Thanks a lot!!

    • Tiago Oliveira

      Hi Leandro,

      Hope this message finds you well! :)

      In order to better engage with your target-audience, I’d strongly suggest a multichannel approach. too many e-mails, too many sms or too many push notifications, based on just segmentation might be a bit “too much” for them to stand.

      Instead, analysing their behavior within each channel (e-mail, sms, etc), and acting accordingly, by preparing Lead nurturing Funnels & Automated Sequences, will definitely decrease your opt-out & complaint rate and increase your ROI.

      You’ll be basically sending the right message, at the right time, through the right channel.

      Hope this helps. :)

    • Sarah

      Give JangoMail a call, they are specialists at delivery issues and working with you to get the best delivery possible. They’ve also got great support so you don’t get dumped by a sales person and have to figure it all out by yourself! JangoMail is one of the industry’s best kept secrets because they don’t spend millions on advertising or force their branding on your messages. I’m a bit biased but give them a try and find out for yourself!

    • Saurabh Singh

      try “sales-push” once

    • Saurabh Singh

      hope “sales-push”will help u

  • Alice Erin

    Thanks for posting this! With so many options out there it’s so hard to make a choice.


  • dragonsnap

    that didn’t really answer the question.

  • Digital Media C&S

    This is a VERY loaded question.

    having worked and RFP a multitude of ESP’s I would need to break it down in various components.

    1. Are you a marketer?
    2. Are you developer?
    3. How advanced are you technically?
    4. How complex do you get with your campaigns and data?

    I am an developer who works in the marketing department which means I build all custom applications, integrate systems, analyze the data and work with the marketers that do the strategy.

    So from my perspective I look at a wide variety of features and majority of ESP’s do not offer those except Salesforce or Maropost.

    SF and Maropost allow you to sort of build a data mart within the applications majority of ESP’s do not. Their job is to dumb everything down for marketers to be able to leverage most of the features WITHOUT the need of developers or them managing that part.