Last updated: How to choose the best email provider for your brand

How to choose the best email provider for your brand


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We’ve been told nearly every year that email is dead. But all signs indicate that email is alive and well, and remains a core tool for marketers.

There were four billion email users worldwide in 2020, and experts predict there will be 4.6 billion by 2025. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 87% of marketers rely on email to distribute organic content.

It’s easy to see why email remains so popular with brands: Each dollar spent on email marketing can net a return of $44.

But making sure your emails strike the right note with customers and prospects requires picking the right email service provider.

Choosing an email service provider: 5 factors

Some email service providers are better at some things than others. With email marketing critical to your brand’s success, you need to choose carefully. A hasty decision could mean your emails wind up in spam folders or trashed.

Top factors to consider when picking the best email service provider for your brand:
  1. Services
  2. Cost
  3. Customer service
  4. Average delivery rate
  5. Data security

Take the time to determine your requirements and budget before reviewing your options, whether this is your first email service provider or if you’re switching providers.

Types of email service providers

While it may seem like the safest bet to choose the ESP that offers every service, that could be costly and an overall bad fit for your brand. Get familiar with the different types of providers out there and the range of services they offer.

Here are some common types:

  • Fully-managed services do everything, from creating templates to sending emails. They also work with top marketing automation tools. For brands that are new to email marketing and want someone else to manage it all, this is a good option.
  • Managed services focus on email blasts. You’re responsible for creating email campaigns and integrating them with marketing automation systems. This is a good fit for those that have email marketing experience and just need campaign management.
  • Unmanaged services is best suited for those who are already familiar with marketing automation tools.

Budgeting for an email service provider: Check the fine print

Like any contract, details matter. Prices for email service providers can vary widely. Make sure to read the contract carefully in order to spot hidden fees and requirements.

Your budget obviously is a huge factor in your decision, but don’t prioritize price over quality.

Going with the cheapest option could undercut your marketing efforts or even wind up costing you more in the long run if you have to make up for service that falls short.

If you’re switching to a new ESP, consider all the potential costs of making the switch, including infrastructure, training, and downtime. Changing providers isn’t a simple task. You’ll need to be able to justify the costs with the expected benefits.

Find the best ESP: Questions to ask

When reviewing potential email service providers, there are a number of questions to ask that will help determine whether they can meet your business needs.

  • How much downtime do you experience? What’s your average downtime hours?
  • How many emails can you send within an hour, day, or month?
  • Can you add custom fields to lists in order to segment contacts?
  • How many emails do you usually lose during delivery due to poor address recognition?
  • How do you display deliverability issues? Are messages tagged as spam or junk? Are they blocked by the server, logged, or forwarded?
  • Do you work with other systems, such as marketing automation platforms or CRMs?
  • Do you include recipients’ unsubscribe requests each time they send a campaign?
  • What types of tracking and reporting features do you offer?
  • How user friendly is the interface?

Free trials, which some ESPs offer, are a great way to test out a service before signing a contract.

Drill down into average delivery rate & security

Look for an ESP that can handle growth in your email marketing. Email service providers should be up-front about their average email delivery rates and opt-out rates.

As you add more contacts and aim to increase email volumes, a provider’s average delivery rates becomes super important. Watch out for restrictions that require account upgrades before you can expand your campaigns.

You also should look closely at the ESP’s data security practices. Will your data be safe with them?

Will they back up your subscribers in real time? Are they compliant with government regulations and industry standards, such as CAN-SPAM, CASL, and GDPR?

Walk away from any email service provider that isn’t transparent about their data security, including where they store data, their security protocols, and what would happen if their servers crash.

Will they be there for you?

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. Make sure to find out what kind of support the email service provider offers if you run into problems.

ESPs offers varying levels of customer service and support, but the most reputable have readily available customer service to troubleshoot problems at any time, day or night. Agents should always be available to answer your questions on a variety of channels, including messaging apps and email.

Occasional downtime can happen, but the provider should be able to get you back up and running fairly quickly.

There are some great email service providers on the market today, but every company is different and has unique requirements. Make sure you find one that can provide the support you need to drive business growth.

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