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There are several considerations that go into choosing a provider:
- Provider reputation
Pricing – Pay-as-you-go or Pricing Tiers.
Choosing a provider based on the lowest current cost may seem practical, but can backfire if it doesn’t meet your business needs now or in the near future.
There are 2 major ways email providers price their products:
- Cost is based on your subscriber list size. This type of pricing is the most comment for email marketing platforms that specialize in sending marketing (aka bulk) emails and typically offer features like drag-and-drop template editors and pre-made email templates. This type of pricing benefits senders who send frequent updates to their subscribers – daily alerts or frequent (x2-3 per month) blog post updates.
- Cost is based on the volume of emails sent, aka pay-as-you-go plans. This type of pricing is used by providers specializing in transactional emails (e.g. SendGrid). This type of pricing benefits businesses with infrequent sending schedules – monthly or bi-weekly product updates or occasional promotions.
Besides pricing type, you also need to consider the structure of the pricing plans – are price changes incremental (typical for pay-as-you-go plans) or dramatic. Some marketing platforms have pricing plans with many incremental levels (say 5000 or 10000 subscribers) but many have pricing plans with fixed volume ranges, so a small list growth by 10% can result in a 100% increase in the monthly cost.
Consider your current and future list size to estimate future costs. Tier jumps can make a big difference. See table below:
When estimating your cost, consider any additional charges that may not be clearly listed on the pricing page:
- Overage charges – contacts, emails sent, signup forms, landing pages.
- Cost per seat (user)
- Cost for dedicated IP addresses
Email Service Provider Features.
When choosing a provider, you need to consider not only current needs but future needs as well. The most important features to consider are:
1. Support for the campaign type you need.
- Marketing/bulk/broadcasts/newsletters – this type is called by many names, but it’s basically a onetime send to a list.
- Automation/auto-responder/drip – this campaign type is triggered by a trigger event, typically a subscriber joining a list or performing some action on your website.
- Transactional – emails triggered from your application via API call, typically customized based on a subscriber’s transaction or event.
2. Multiple users or clients
Support for multiple users or clients at different access levels (user/login management, billing changes, access to list exports, etc). Do you want your template design intern to know what you pay for your service and have access to your customer list? If security is important to you, then you will need the ability to limit your user’s access to all your account settings and assets.
3. Email template editor options
- HTML editor – allows you to import your existing templates and edit the code directly. HTML templates are hard to optimize over time in order to make emails appear correctly across many email clients.
- Drag-n-drop editor – allows you to use a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to drag modules and elements to build a template without touching a line of code. These editors typically produce mobile-optimized templates automatically.
- Pre-made templates library – templates you can grab and change for your own use. This option is popular with SMBs (Small Business Owners) who don’t want to spend much time creating email templates.
4. Signup forms and hosted landing pages.
Most providers support embedding forms into your website by providing you with HTML code to copy/paste. Does your marketing/sales team use or plan to use a lot of custom landing pages you need your email provider to host? Not all providers offer hosted landing pages and many charges extra for both signup forms or landing pages above the number included on a given plan (often in the 3-5 range).
5. Subscription preferences.
If you are in EU and need to comply with GDPR, your email consent has to be unbundled (e.g. explicit) and you may need to provide an option to manage subscription preferences. Even if you are not in EU you may send different types of emails and prefer to let your subscribers unsubscribe from some type instead of the entire brand.
6. Option to get a dedicated IP address(es).
If you are an e-commerce company or send important transaction emails like transaction receipts, event registration confirmations, or printable tickets, you would need the highest possible inbox placement, which can be helped by sending emails from your own dedicated IP addresses.
By default, accounts on most platforms start on a shared IP pool and have to request a dedicated IP explicitly, because they cost extra. Some providers don’t offer an option to add a dedicated IP address and many require a customer to be on a certain premium plan and higher billing rates.
7. White label option.
Are you an agency that offers managed email marketing services to your clients? You may need a platform that offers white label email marketing to agencies and allows you to bill your clients any fees you want without disclosing what platform you use.
8. Support options.
It’s not uncommon to wait 2-3 days for a response from a market leader like Sendgrid or Mailchimp as can be evident by searching their account mentions on platforms like Twitter. If email marketing is mission-critical for your business, you may want quicker support options like live chat or phone.
Provider Reputation and Customer Reviews.
Make sure to check for provider reviews on popular platforms like Capterra and G2Crowd and read the most recent reviews, or ask for a recommendation in your professional network.
You can also check social networks – Facebook page posts or Twitter mentions – happy customers will be happy to recommend the service their use and love and unhappy customers will be easy to spot as well.
Special Needs – Agencies or High Volume Senders
In recent years, there has been a rise in offerings from providers catering to high-volume senders – agencies, large publishers, and e-commerce websites. Some platforms offer email marketing via Amazon SES (Amazon’s Simple Email Service), by requiring customers to connect their own Amazon SES accounts for sending emails while managing all email assets and reporting (which SES doesn’t offer).
This new model allows these platforms to offer very competitive prices with exceptional ROI while taking advantage of the very high deliverability that Amazon SES offers.
Feeling overwhelmed? Check out this comparison page for bulk email marketing service providers that has an easy-to-reference table with features and prices to compare. You might find it’s a good starting point in a search for your new email service vendor. Compare Bulk Email Marketing Service Providers.
BigMailer – Email Marketing for Agencies
Email marketing platform with user/brand management, templates, and various email types.