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This may sound obvious but it wasn’t until just about three years back that I came across a tool that I could use to organise all my email contacts’, and I had been an entrepreneur for 18 years! Before that I had no idea what was possible regarding email contact management, let alone remotely aware of the host of other features now available. I remember an exercise that I once did to manually extract my contacts’ details from my Gmail accounts and put them into a word document so that I could copy and paste them into my emails whenever I needed to send out a broadcast email. I vividly remember the time it took me to complete that exercise, a good 3 days full of frustration, hard work and long hours just to extract the details for around 500 contacts!
I also remember enrolling the services of a bulk email marketer because I knew my contacts list was too small and needed access to a wider pool of potential leads. When I started using these services the number of responses were pretty good and I was satisfied even though I did not have access to the actual campaign statistics. But when the enquiries and sales started dwindling until they altogether stopped coming after every campaign, that’s when I got worried and asked for the campaign statistics. The one bulk email marketing service provider seemed to have no clue what I was talking about while the other said the statistics would only be available after 2 weeks as there was a long process to extracting the data. I wished I could have these statistics at hand to extract at will but I thought the software would cost an arm and a leg, way beyond what I would be able to afford at that time. However, I started the process of researching anyway so I could maintain this tool on my radar for when I could afford it. What I discovered literally made me kick myself and wish someone had told me earlier about these tools, and in this article I’m passing on the favour I wish I had received. I am pretty sure there are quite a few businesses out there that don’t know this time saving and frankly liberating tool!
By the way if you are still using Gmail, Yahoo! Outlook etc and you need to be sending out bulk emails, then you need to consider the following carefully;
- Using these services usually gets your emails flagged as spam by ISPs and this seriously affects your deliverability.
- These services are just not suitable for bulk emailing
- Use of these free service providers will also negatively impact your brand perception by your target clients.
- This leads to more unsubscribes and that is sufficient reason to invest in a professional tool that will help you grow your business and get better ROI on your advertising spend.
What is An Email Services Provider
At the most basic level an email service provider (ESP) is a technology company that allows users to send email campaigns to a list of subscribers and build email lists. They help businesses and any other organisation that subscribes to their services to build and maintain strong communication and relations with contacts, prospects and customers while moving them through the buyer’s journey. These are different from email accounts hosting service providers like Gmail and Yahoo etc. Please note that when we refer to businesses we are referring to any public or private organisation that sends bulk emails including personal brands.
A variety of email service providers offering differentiated services have sprung up as the popularity of this marketing channel continues to grow. Oh yes email is not dead, not by a long short. Infact there are brands that vow that email is the only marketing channel where one actually has control over their lists and therefore much higher ROI than social channels. According to a 2020 survey, email marketing boasts a 4200% ROI, outperforming YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Google Search paid advertising.
Key Features Of An ESP
Here are some of the differentiated services that are offered by these email service providers;
Subscriber management is a feature that makes it a breeze to create email subscribers within the platform, import and export subscribers, modify profiles and subscription settings, create segments and interest groups for purposes of segmentation and personalisation as well as for maintaining a clean email list of engaged subscribers for more productive campaigns and other initiatives. This is one of the basic features for every email service provider.
Campaign Creation and Management
An email campaign is a sequence of communication or marketing efforts that contacts multiple recipients at once. Email campaigns are designed to reach out to subscribers at a specific chosen time and provide valuable content and relevant offers to the recipients. Campaign creation with an email service provider has now become so easy and a few clicks are enough, once you have added your campaign content, to send your basic campaign out. You must have an existing email list first set up using any one of the ways discussed above. Types of campaigns include RSS campaigns from your blog or podcast stream, .
Dynamic Content and Personalisation
Dynamic content in emails is any personalised part of a mass message that changes based on user behavior or data you have about your subscribers. This can be easily created by adding variables like demographic information location, age, gender and behavioural elements like purchases, views etc . These variables are then used to add the personalisation which may also include the recipient’s name in the subject line or body of the email, offers and discounts based on previous interactions with that offer or similar offers and even their birthday. Recipients are more prepared to share their personal data if they know it can benefit them or make their experience more enjoyable. Yes Marketing in their 2017 reported found that consumers open emails with personalised subject lines at a 50% higher rate compared to emails without personalised subject lines, yet only 2% of emails employ personalisation.
Autoresponders and Email Marketing Automation
Auto responders are responses that are automatically triggered by an action, for example a welcome email when someone signs up to your newsletter or emailing list. Similarly email automation is also triggered based on certain actions and/or filters and are configured to start once that certain action occurs, for example;
- auto email resend if a recipient does not open an email within a specific period
- delivery of certain types of campaigns to certain geographies e.g. promotions of winter wear to European recipients only during the winter season in Europe
- delivery of emails by time zone and best delivery time optimisation so that recipient can receive emails at the best time possible for them to see it and open it.
- RSS campaigns from a blog or podcast feed is another type of automation configured to deliver an email once a new post or episode is released.
According to Hubspot, 68% of companies use automation and 70% of these companies say that the most important benefit is better targeted communication.
A/B testing of email subject lines and email content allows email senders to test which subject lines or content will receive the most responses like opens and clicks with the objective of selecting the warmest message for broader distribution to the rest of the emailing list or for extraction of other metrics for use in other campaigns. A/B testing can also be used for entire automations like the welcome automation series. Companies that A/B test every email see email marketing returns that are 37% higher than those of brands that never include A/B tests. (Litmus, 2019)
If you don’t have creative design skills, if you are multi-tasking and you wish a day would have 72 hours instead of 24, or if you have experienced a writer’s or creative block before you will appreciate how valuable templates and visual content editors are. Campaign creation features mainly include code free drag & drop editor, rich text editor, custom HTML editor, newsletter templates to enable anyone to create email campaigns without hassle and technical knowledge. Lead capture forms, pages, website embedded forms and popups to capture email addresses of leads and landing pages to send prospects to learn more about services and products offered are some of the content you can easily create in little time yet producing powerful and beautiful emails. Afterall who wants to spend too much time creating content? Over 20% of marketers surveyed say that email design is improving their email engagement. (HubSpot, 2020)
Website tracking involves following your website visitors journey across your website and knowing which assets they engaged with, how much time they spent on your website and which pages they spent time on, to collect more insights about subscribers and the information extracted from tracking of website visitors may be used for segmentation, win back campaigns, personalised offers based on pages and products viewed for example among others.
Segmentation is another key feature that makes subscriber management, offer and message targeting easier and precise. Segmentation can be based on location for geo-targeting, on other behaviours like browsing and purchasing which reveal what subscribers are interested in. Such insights make it easier to present relevant and personalised offers to clients and prospects. Email campaigns segmented by user interest see 74.53% higher click rates as compared to non-segmented campaigns. (Mailchimp, 2017)
Report and Dashboards
Reports and dashboards are useful for tracking of email campaign results by opens by location, click maps, emails opens through campaigns and newsletter reports enable higher ROI on campaigns by precisely targeting audiences with the right offer at the right time and price. A series of three emails performs better than a single email: 90% more orders for welcome emails, 63% more for abandoned cart emails, and 75% more for customers reactivation. (Omnisend, 2018)
Integration With Other Tools Like CRM
While some email service providers come with integrated customer relationship management (CRM) features, for those that do not this feature inbuilt they certainly can integrate to the main CRMs available on the market. A CRM is a piece of software that helps organisations create, manage and track customer relationships, capturing key information generated during those engagements and they focus on transactional data and activity from known customers.
All email engagement efforts and spend would be a waste of time and resources if your intended recipients don’t receive the emails into their inboxes. Any good email service provider should ensure high delivery rates. High bounce rates are the fastest way to be blacklisted and low delivery rates. That is why the ability to constantly clean your email list is key to maintaining your reputation. Most good ESPs also come with inbuilt ways of making sure the emails you send are GDPR or other web laws compliant which reduces the burden on you to ensure this compliance. That is why relying on third party bulk email marketing services is a bad idea, especially when you don’t know the health of their email list.
8 Best Email Service Providers in 2021
If you don’t yet have an email service provider, you are leaving money on the table and wasting your time on tasks that you could otherwise automate so you can focus on other things!