What is the cheapest ESP? Don’t fall for the cheap trap

Whether you are just branching out into email marketing, or you are considering changing your email service provider, there’s always a number of factors to take into consideration. One of the pitfalls in selection is falling into the “cheap trap”. Choosing the cheapest ESP vendor, one that looks cheap, but turns out to be quite expensive.

The good, the bad and the ESP
Having worked with several different companies and as a freelancer, I’ve learned that every ESP has its good and bad points, but you need to weigh up what you really need before you jump in with both feet.

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Looking at your email marketing budget in a smart way

The first question you probably need to ask yourself when selecting an email service provider is “What is my budget?” and I don’t just mean how much you are prepared to spend on sending out the email itself.

For example, if you are sending to a very small list of recipients (< 2000), do you really want to pay for A/B testing? There are many optional extras that ESPs offer, that allow you the potential to generate a greater return, but consider what your key measures of success are... not everything is about revenue! Three functionalities I think would be useful, but not essential for everyone.

  1. Best time sending (based on recipient behaviour)
  2. Subject line testing (send out subject lines A&B to a percentage of database then send out winner based on opens/clicks/transactions)
  3. Visual email marketing reporting with graphs & charts plus click overlay maps

Get buy in from day to day users

Getting buy in from the day-to-day users of the email marketing tools is so important. Ascertaining the skill level and understanding of the email process and what you want from your Email agency is such a key factor in deciding your ESP.

If you feel you will need to get expert advice, or need help with the coding, you should look for an ESP that offers account management to help you make the most from your system. If you feel that you can manage, or you prefer to learn on your own, you can go for something a little more self-sufficient.

Data and ease of implementation

If you’re planning something a little more in-depth, you might be considering a complete email program involving a series of emails triggered by the recipient’s behaviour. You will need to understand how data will flow into your new ESP and ease of implementation.

It might just be a simple case of adding a sign up form to your site, but you might also need to do exports. Either manual, which could be costly and time consuming or using data handling by marketing automation tools. The setup and ease of implementation of such a program should be easy to understand.

So keep in mind what you will be wanting to do in a later stage, you might not be using some of these functions right now, but if they will be used later, they might end up adding to the costs of the email service provider and software. Those are things like behavioral Triggered emails or Multi-channel marketing (adding more than email to a nursery program e.g. retargeting ads & customised website banners.

Watch out for the cheap trap

cheap esp trap
Don’t forget when considering cost what you actually get for your money. I know of one ESP who sounded really cheap…but that was just for the very basic package. When it comes to adding any of their extra functionality like importing data automatically or adding a Facebook Like button, the cost of setup was unbelievably high compared to other ESP’s who includes these sorts of features for free. So in the end the cheapest ESP might not be the cheapest ESP after all.

About Becs Rivett

Freelance email consultant. Becs is a busy email designer, builder and advisor. You can find more of her advice on her company blog http://becsrivett.com.

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