Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Picking a (Low Volume) ESP

I just saw a new low volume ESP emerge on the scene, and before eye rolling and “not another one!” I wondered just how difficult it is for people who want an ESP to pick one, amongst the myriad of options. So this is what goes through my mind when I evaluate a small volume ESP:
- Do they understand CAN-SPAM
- (if they have a blog) is their advice in line with best practices recognized in the community
- What kind of clients do they have, and are those examples, examples of good email?

Now, as a person shopping for an ESP, don’t get overwhelmed. Think about these questions:

1. Do you need a lot of handholding? If so, check if they have consulting available, or a reputation for good customer service.

2. Are you interested in leveraging templates? Templates are a great way to keep costs down and ensure that your audience, no matter the browser/email flavor, can have a rich experience. Some vendors have better looking templates than others.

3. Do you want a price-per-email, or a flat rate? I personally don’t like per-thousand rates, because it penalizes a prospering business, and there are some ESPs out there that loosely according to the amount sent.

4. If you can admit you’re responding to an ad, do some research before finally deciding. Some of the smaller size ESPs will give you a lot better customer service than the ones that are large and can afford marketing. But also, the ones that are busier will have better persistent systems, failover, etc. But in the negative, they will also have other customers that are spammy which can affect your campaigns.

There are a basic set of features to good ESPs:
- Very good sender reputation handling, a relationship with ISPs and feedback loops
- Sophisticated templates that work in all major browsers, O/S, webmail and email clients.
- Recommendations on best practices in email marketing
- Metric reporting on bounces, sends, opens by campaign

There are also new and emerging technologies that some are including (sometimes free, or included):
- Preview of design in various inboxes
- Email to RSS so you can distribute content (and vice-versa)
- Sharing chicklet to leverage social media
- Certification available with GoodMail so you can use video in email
- Response filtering, reusable segmentation
- Integration with web analytics for live, transactional emailing

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Written on Saturday, 16. May 2009 at 16:31 In the category vendors. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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  1. Great little post! All of the advice is really good if you’re looking for a small volume ESP, but also relevant if you’re shopping around for the bigger volume guys. You’d be surprised how many of the high volume ESPs don’t have some of the features you’ve mentioned, let alone consultancy and in-house knowledge of the industry and best practises.

    Also, not sure it’s ReturnPath that has certified Video in Email, I thought that was Goodmail? I won’t open the can of worms on CertifiedVideo, other than there’s plenty of other ways to do it – which is more compatible.

    Comment: Jake Holman – 17. May 2009 @ 1:31 pm

  2. Thanks Jake- you’re right re: GoodMail, and I corrected it.

    You’re right re: the larger houses, which I have more 1 on 1 experience with. But interesting enough- people don’t usually ask me about those. Seriously, there’s so many emerging low-volume ESPs out there. And in one instance, a colleague who had worked with larger ESPs was surprised at the culture shock he got when going to a lower volume ESP. No more weekly meetings to go over campaign effectiveness, best practice consulting, etc. So basically, the customer has to do more of the leg work to find the best ones. Which is probably why they ask me!

    Comment: banane – 17. May 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  3. Excellent! These are great questions to ask. Helpful for the newbies.

    Comment: sioux city used cars – 22. May 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  4. [...] Picking a (Low Volume) ESP Anna Billstrom shares some tips on picking a new ESP (tags: esp) [...]

    Pingback: links for 2009-05-23 | The Marketr – 23. May 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  5. This is definitely a nice guide to help somebody get started with choosing an ESP. Since so many offer free trials today, I usually tell people just to out there, sign up and see what happens until they find a good match. I think it’s important to find a good mix as you mention between the capabilities of larger companies and the customer service of smaller companies, good post.

    Comment: Jake – 10. June 2009 @ 11:43 am

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