Email Service Provider (ESP)

Purpose – Selecting your Email Service Provider

  • This page identifies fifteen popular Email Service Providers and a set of five factors to consider when choosing one that’s a best fit for you to meet your objective.

Table of Contents

  • Why is an ESP important?

  • Choosing Your ESP

  • Here are fifteen popular Email Service Providers you can choose from

  • Here are five factors you may want to consider on making your choice for an ESP

    • Contact management

    • Message design and setup

    • Content and delivery

    • Email management

    • Account administration and support

  • Recommendations for you

Why is an ESP important?

An ESP allows you to:

  • Send a single email to people at a specified time automatically.

  • Send out an automatic sequential set of emails as shown in a Marketing Funnel.

  • Create professional looking emails of an available template.

  • Emails not just mobile friendly, but mobile responsive.

  • Choose a great-looking opt-in form.

Choosing Your ESP

Here are fifteen popular Email Service Providers you can choose from:

1. ActiveCampaign:

2. AWeber:

3. Campaign Monitor:

4. Click Funnels:

5. Constant Contact:

6. ConvertKit:

7. Drip:

8. Emma:

9. GetResponse:

10. iContact:

11. Infusionsoft:

12. Mad Mimi:

13. MailChimp:

14. OntraPort:

15. VerticalResponse:

  • They’re all excellent. You just have to consider your objective and goals when making a choice.

Here are five factors you may want to consider on making your choice for an ESP:

1. Contact management

Opt-in forms – having a great looking form helps to increase your opt-in rate.

A couple of suggestions to look at:


Sumo: –

Opt-ins with double and single functionality.

Have an ESP offering both.

Gives you the flexibility in your choice.

Your ESP should offer both options.

Double opt-in gives you firm permission to send a subscriber emails.

List or subscriber based contact management.

List-based – messages sent to subscribers on your list.

Same subscriber could be on multiple segmented lists.

Some subscribers would receive multiple copies of the same message.

Do you really want to do that? Doesn’t look professional.

Subscriber-based – using tags to manage your subscribers for sending messages.

SharpSpring, Marketo, and HubSpot are available Marketing Automation Tools using tags to manage your contacts.

You segment your subscribers within your tags.

Need to be careful on not letting your tags get out of control.


Your ESP has list-based methods to segment your list based on your subscribers contact characteristics or behaviors.

If you want to use subscriber-based segmentation, look for an ESP that allows using tags to segment your list.

Do the segmentation routine. You will find it very helpful when you build your email conversion funnels.

Additional information is on the Segmentation page of this website.

2. Message design and setup.

Templates – we have a quandary on using some types of templates.

Some studies report that plain text messages outperform superbly designed HTML email messages. Ones containing several images and color.

Test both options. Your ESP provides both.

If you favor the plain text method, do it with an HTML email template. That way you can track the email message’s performance.

ESPs provide a wide variety of templates for your email marketing messages.

You can move sections around and add sections

Add your text and images and you’re on your way.

Look for an ESP that provides templates free as part of your subscription rather than one where you have to pay extra for a template


You might want something more in design than a template available from your ESP.

In that case, look for an ESP that allows you to move sections around, change colors, or add images and video in the template anyway you like.

If you want more customization opportunities, look for an ESP that makes its Application Program Interface (API) code available so you can build exactly what you want.


Mobile-friendliness must be a priority.

You need email templates that are automatically optimized for mobile devices.

Templates sized for being viewable.

Images that load quickly.

Readable fonts.

Automation and campaigns.

This is the area where Email Marketing becomes powerful.

Automation is the process of sending out email messages automatically based on people’s actions.

An action example is the reader submits an opt-in form. Or clicks a link.

A “Thank You” message is then sent automatically.

You’re beginning to start a conversation. A relationship.

Campaigns include one message and are sent out manually.

An example of a campaign is sending out the weekly newsletter.

They’re just one-time messages.

Look for an ESP where it’s easy for you to set up to send one-time campaigns and an automated series of messages.

Actions include:

Drag and drop tools to set up automations.

Action triggers to start the automation.

Scheduling for when sending messages.

Determine what messages are sent based on the subscriber’s previous actions or their behaviors.

As your marketing program grows, your automations can become very sophisticated.

3. Content and delivery

Personalization and dynamic content

Personalization is delivering content based on the individual client’s preferences and behaviors.

Called dynamic content. Message content that changes depending on who the client is.

Dynamic content shows the specific client, the right material, at the right time.

Make sure you have this feature in the ESP you choose. You will be using it.


A/B split testing leads to boosting your email marketing conversion performance over time.

It’s a must.

You will want to test elements of your campaigns and automations continually. And you’ll be finding performance improvements time after time.

Make sure your ESP offers split testing and makes it easy for you to perform and measure the results.

Inbox preview snippet

See how your marketing message will look in your subscriber’s inbox.

Do this before you start sending out the messages?

Look for the ESP that lets you preview two things:

How it looks in Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo inboxes.

How it looks on desktops, smartphones, tablets, and multiple mobile operating systems (Apple, Android).


Make sure your ESP has a wide variety of processes to improve email deliverability.

You need to actively manage your sender reputation.

Things to consider are:

The reputation of the IP address and domain you’re sending from.

Authentication to verify the sender’s identity.

Your email list quality.

Only send email to people who have opted-in.

Clean your list regularly.

Monitor hard bounces and inactive subscribers.

Avoid spam traps.

Content – take steps to keep your messages from being flagged as spam.

Chad White in his book “Email Marketing Rules” has a list of 20 best practices on deliverability for your review – pp. 89-120.

Susan Gunelius in her book “Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing For Business” has a list of eleven email content best practices – pp. 36-37.\

Recipient behaviors

Important to regularly email relevant content to your subscribers. If it’s not on a regular basis, the subscriber may mark your message as spam.

Internet service providers (ISP) review how recipients handle your email messages. Do they read the messages, send them to a folder, forward or reply, click links, is the address for a real person, and so on.

You would like to determine if your message really got delivered.

One way to do that is to ask the recipient to whitelist your email address.

Include a link in your request that will tell the recipient how to whitelist.

Blacklists – a database of known addresses and domains that send spam.

If your address lands on a blacklist, your messages may be blocked.

You can use one of these sites to check if you appear on a blacklist:





4. Email management – review the following four features in comparing ESPs.

Bulk editing

Can you easily edit multiple addresses in your ESP?

Changes happen. Your ESP must be able keep up with your changes without requiring hours of manual updates.


Choose an ESP that integrates well with other tools you use.

Tools like Zapier (, for invoicing, calendar, ecommerce, etc.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

If you’re not ready to implement a full CRM tool, look for an ESP that has the level of CRM functionality you need.

Performance tracking and reports

You will need to track your performance results.

Have an ESP that will provide reports you can easily understand.

Also to be able to analyze raw performance data.

An ESP that integrates with Google Analytics or other analysis tools.

5. Account administration and support – review the prices for the following support activities.


You want to feel confident you can easily import a new list of contacts into your Elist.

A list where you don’t have to do it manually.

Also, for whatever reason, you may want to export contacts from your Elist.

And you will want to be able to have that done easily.

Import/export is performed differently for each ESP.

Each ESP does this.

They will have instructions for you on how to do this.

Setup and migration

Be careful. Some email marketing tools charge you a hefty sum to set up your account.

Also, look for an ESP that makes migration easy.


If something goes wrong, you want to feel confident you will get the necessary support.

Support comes in several forms for content and work hours. It varies among ESPs.

Check on what forms of support are available and how the support is handled.


Look for a provider that allows you a free trial.

Compare prices between ESPs.

Usually four common pricing models are available.

Plan-based, subscriber-based, message-based, or freemium.

Each are reviewed next.

Plan-based pricing model

Sets fees for specific subscription plans by the month or year.

Price is not variable on how many subscribers you have or how many email messages you send.

Subscriber-based pricing model

Charges you for the number of contacts on your list.

Doesn’t matter on the frequency or number of messages you send

Typically comes tier priced for the number of contacts.

Watch out for multiple charges for the same contact being on multiple lists.

Message-based pricing model

Charges for the number of messages sent each month.

Also comes tier priced.

Freemium pricing model

This model is not common.

Model offered for a tier with the fewest features, allows the fewest subscribers, or fewest sent messages per month.

Model is popular for SaaS tools.

Allows people to try an application.

May not be the best model to use for the long term.

Be careful.

It’s difficult to change to a better pricing model.

Recommendations for you

Suggest to narrow your ESP list down to three.

Then use the five factors shown above and compare them side-by-side.

Think for the long-term.

Don’t overbuy.

Questions? Do you need help with Email Service Providers?

Call Paul at 585 703-0646.

Or email