What is an ESP and why should you care?
An ESP – Email Service Provider – is the software and hardware infrastructure which provides mail servers to send and receive marketing campaigns, transactional emails and newsletters for other organisations and/or end users.
Although email marketing has been around for ages there are still companies that think quite low of it in terms of its efficiency in a marketing strategy. Before we go deeper into why an ESP is important, let’s consider a typical email marketing approach.
A company that sells shoes has a subscription form to allow users to register and receive updates about new products and special offers. The company has approximately 150.000 users registered to receive a monthly newsletter.
Problem A: Where are all these emails stored? In a modern e-commerce store emails and customer data (names, sex, age) can be stored in some CRM product. But apart from the larger e-shops, most companies don’t have an integrated CRM tool in their website.
An Email Service Provider allows web developers and site administrators to design and deploy a signup form in their website and decide on the data that need to be captured. Moosend allows you to define the custom fields that describe the customer (e.g. subscriber’s address and company name) and host it directly into your website by pasting a code snippet generated directly from the web UI.
Also, if you are only sending a weekly newsletter and don’t require to store user details for other reasons an ESP will free you from the hassle of managing email addresses and worrying about storage and security. After all, you really shouldn’t care about things like that and focus on growing your business and do what you do best.
Problem B: Another major problem is deliverability. If you need to be sending a newsletter to 150.000 or so subscribers a month then you need to start thinking about distributing the email load across multiple machines, about which are trusted smtps compared to newer, less known to ISPs and spam filters, and of course monitor the state of your machines in popular black lists. If one of your SMTPs gets blacklisted then you need to have a strategy in place that involves switching to a different machine or removing it from the smtp list. But why on earth should you care about all these geek talk when your business is selling shoes?
ESPs employ various strategies to make sure that their deliverability is high and satisfactory for their clients. Many, like Moosend, employ a large list of SMTP machines distributed worldwide. New machines enter the sending loop after a warm-up period and machines that get blacklisted are removed instantly from the sending loop (to avoid sending email newsletters directly to your recipients spam folder).
Problem C: So you finally decide that you don’t care about all that and just want to send your first weekly newsletter through some SMTP server. You send it to your registered clients and wait for the results. But wait…what results are you expecting? Typically wouldn’t you care about things like delivery, open and bounce rates? To be compliant with CAN-SPAM rules you should also provide an one-click unsubscribe link and handle newsletter opt-outs. You probably also care about how many people visited your products through your email, as well as track conversion rates and integrate with other tracking and reporting tools like Google Analytics. Most want much more information like popularity by country, email client and newsletter interaction by user.
So how are you gonna get all these data by simply sending your campaign? How do you know if Email Marketing is an efficient way of promoting your products and how can you tell if sending a newsletter weekly is better than sending twice a month?
An ESP provides detailed reporting on the results of your email campaign: delivery success rates, email open-rates, and link click-through rates. You should be able to see which of your subscribers performed these actions. Good reporting is an invaluable feature as it helps you measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
All these together with dedicated IPs, maling list management and segmentation and affordable pricing are provided by typical ESP tools.