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How do I choose the right email service provider (ESP) ?

September 2020 by CSA

E-mail service providers are more than just senders and it is essential that they attach great importance to the privacy of their users. Free expert advice at the Certified Senders Alliance’s Digital Summit 2020.

The first step in finding the right email provider is a careful analysis of your previous e-mail marketing strategy. What was good and what not? What do I want to change in my campaigns in the future? Have I worked in compliance with the GDPR? Do you only send regular newsletters, transactional emails or do you want multi-level personalised campaigns? You should focus on a concrete use case and analyse it thoroughly. This is the best way to see what you really need. Then create a requirement profile that can be very useful when choosing a supplier.

Since the first e-mail was sent more than 30 years ago, it has become an integral part of the marketing mix of almost all major brands and also of small and medium-sized companies. However, e-mail marketing has long since become much more than just sending a regular newsletter to the largest possible distribution list. Automated campaigns with personalised e-mails provide recipients with exactly the information they want. A reporting telling the sender which recipients have been interested in which articles in the newsletter is common practice today. It is of course essential that you only work with addresses that have been collected in accordance with the GDPR. For years now, brands have hardly sent their own e-mails anymore. Marketers now rely on e-mail service providers to send their e-mails. The requirements of corporate marketing departments are as varied as the services offered by the providers. So how do I find the right provider for my e-mail marketing strategy? The Certified Senders Alliance (CSA) has put together some tips on how to choose one.

Here are a few points that you should definitely consider when choosing an e-mail service provider.

Service and support

The most beautiful e-mail is of course useless if it does not reach its recipient. So make sure that your e-mail service provider attaches great importance to the topic of deliverability and takes appropriate measures, such as certification by the Certified Senders Alliance (CSA). Also make sure that the provider of your choice uses the usual authentication procedures such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC. In addition, the BIMI standard can be used and the sender’s brand logo can be displayed in the inbox, which provides additional trust for the recipient. The more dedicated the IP and domain configuration is, the more you can monitor and influence the deliverability and reputation your e-mails in the inbox. Another important issue is data protection. Violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has been in force since 25 May 2018, are subject to severe sanctions. As far as the GDPR is concerned, you are of course primarily responsible. You must ensure that your address file is clean and only contains addresses that have been collected in accordance with the GDPR. You must also conclude a contract with your e-mail provider for data processing. Basic and advanced training courses on e-mail sending, deliverability, data management and automation are not absolutely necessary, but they constitute a constant transfer of knowledge and can help you to increase the success of your e-mail marketing.

A fast and reliable customer support service will help if problems should arise. In the end, you decide which features to include in your requirements profile, according to your budget.

A look at the platform can also help you decide for or against a particular ESP. In addition to many useful tips for selecting the right ESP, more than 400 ESPs are listed here.

Address management

In e-mail marketing, the addresses of your recipients are your most important asset and the quality and topicality of the e-mail addresses contribute significantly to the success of the channel. They must therefore be treated with the appropriate care. As a brand, you will be responsible for registration and deregistration in accordance with the law. However, you must ensure that the provider of your choice processes the data in compliance with the regulation and provides the appropriate technical facilities to be able to carry out these processes in a legally compliant manner. Subscribing to a newsletter, for example, must always be done via a Double-Opt-In (DOI). Registrations must also be recorded and must be retrievable at any time. Careful bounce and complaint management ensures the long-term reputation of your brand and thus the deliverability of your mails.
E-mails tailored to the respective target group are a basic prerequisite for successful e-mail marketing. That is why you should also segment your mailing lists for different mailings according to certain criteria such as age, gender or interests. Check to what extent your ESP supports this requirement.

Customisation and automation

That messages should be addressed personally should go without saying, but personalisation goes far beyond that. For example, you can set individual delivery deadlines or send individual product recommendations based on user behaviour. It is also possible to conduct multi-stage, fully automated and triggered campaigns. Overall, you should try to integrate your email provider as much as possible into your business strategy, for example by connecting it to CRM and CMS systems or your resource planning.

Analyses, tests, reports

A good subject line can have a significant influence on the opening rate of e-mails. But you will only know if a subject is good after you have tried it. Different test procedures are possible, from a simple A/B test to a complex test with several email variants. This allows you to optimise your mailings in terms of opening, click or conversion rate.
After sending your newsletter, you naturally also want to know whether your mailing was successful and has been read. Almost all ESPs offer extensive reporting and analysis functions for this purpose. So think carefully about the figures you need to evaluate your mailings.

To learn more about the latest technologies, trends (e.g. BIMI, the e-mail of the future) and legal regulations for e-mail marketing, visit the free CSA Digital Summit webinars. Under the motto "Bridging the Gap", the focus will be on the different expectations of all those involved in e-mail marketing. The responsibilities between ESP and the brand will also be discussed in detail in a session. The CSA Digital Summit brings the world’s leading experts in the email industry together virtually. More information and the complete programme can be found here:
More information about the CSA, a certification and also a list of certified ESPs can be found here:

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