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How to Choose an Email Service Provider

Whether you are just launching your list building efforts, or have had a mailing list for awhile, the choice of Email Service Providers is a critical one to the success of your email marketing efforts. What to look for in an ESP can be complex but shouldn't stop you from making the best decision for whatever stage of list development your company is currently in. Below are 10 considerations for evaluating an ESP.

1. Deliverability Deliverability stats are easy to document if the ESP is a good one. A few signs - check to see if the ESP will allow a third-party deliverability audit by a company such as PivotalVeracity or Return Path before requiring a contract. Do they consistently monitor deliverability? They should have a good data hygiene services, that scrubs against known spam traps, active complainers, and undeliverable addresses. The ESP have a team of postmasters to interact with ISPs to assure good deliverability This is an area that takes babysitting and diligence.

2. Training Some ESP platforms are very intuitive but many are not. Find out if there are costs for initial or follow-up training and if the training is available both online and live. Is training mandatory before being allowed to call customer support? You want an ESP that offers easy access to resources to ensure your ramp-up time is minimal. Spend a bit of time exploring their online training options(videos, tutorials and documentation)and see how comfortable you are.

3. Both broadcast and autoresponder options Broadcast is when you set up a message to be sent out immediately or at a certain day and time. A broadcast is going to go out to your full email list. Autoresponders, both drip and triggered, are emails that are set up to be delivered automatically at certain intervals after someone signs up to your list. As someone who uses email marketing, you want both options as they'll be useful to you in many ways while you work to reach your market.

4.Customer service With over 100 ESPs to choose from, much of email is being viewed as commodity-based. Therefore, level and quality of service is a prime differentiator. Consider the overall account servicing. Check their website or sales people to find out if you will have online or email access to immediate customer support, or if it will it be next day with a ticketing system. Ask for references from current clients. This will be most telling.

5. Multiple email lists hosting Some programs only allow you to host one email list. You will likely want to keep separate email lists for different websites, topics or even to separate customers from potential customers.

6. HTML and Text email creation Some people prefer to send plain text emails while others like to add images and html code through an HTML email. Be sure your ESP can do both.

7 Easy and flexible sign-up form creation You will want to have the option of creating multiple sign up forms that will create multiple lists. This is crucial for better targeting as your marketing becomes more complex. Check on their form creation capabilities, if they even have one.

8. Reporting and analysis If you're sending out emails without knowing the results then it's very difficult to be successful. Make sure you're clear on the metrics that matter for your business and review how well the reporting capabilities of the ESP match those needs. Standard metrics should include sends, deliveries, opens, click-throughs and forwards. Find out what level of detailed reporting is available for bounced messages (i.e. why did a message bounce).Take a look at the standard reports. This should give you a good overview.

9. Templates and design assistance If your design skills are limited or non-existent, templates can be very helpful. Some companies make it easy to get a professional email campaign started by providing templates.

10. Pricing You don't want to choose your ESP based solely on price, but you do want to know exactly what you're getting. Some ESPs require a 12-month usage/revenue commitment, while others have a pay as you go model scaled for volume. Determine which optional features have associated costs. Ask for contracts from potential ESPs and have them reviewed for any red flags before final vendor selection. If you are in a larger enterprise, get a copy of the agreement from ESPs that are finalists so that your legal department can review indemnity and liability language. The inability of either side to be flexible can be a deal breaker. All that work you put into finding your favorite ESPs can be wasted if you can't come to terms.

The best way to figure out if a program is the right one for you is to do your research first, then explore the option of taking a trial of the program.Your email list is without a doubt one of the biggest assets you will ever have in your online business.Take some time to do your homework and set it up correctly and that initial investment of time and effort will pay of in multiples for years to come.

About Author Elyse Tager :

Elyse Tager is a social media strategist and founder of Elymedia.&nbsp; Elyse develops effective marketing strategies to help the small business grow significantly. Want to learn more about growing your business with Social Media? Sign up for Elyse's free introductory teleseminar available at => <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

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Article Added on Thursday, September 9, 2010
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