What’s an ESP and how can it help you as an email marketer?

7 minute read

What is an ESP?

An email service provider (ESP) is a service used to send email marketing content and campaigns to subscribers.

DailyStory is an example of an email service provider and we’d love to give you a demo.

If you’re serious about achieving results, email marketing can deliver. And sending email is one of the core capabilities of an email service provider.

Email is an important way to reach your customers

Below are just some of the amazing statistics for email marketing.

  • In 2022, the number of global e-mail users amounted to 4.26 billion and is set to grow to 4.73 billion users in 2026.
  • 81 percent of emails are opened and read on mobile devices.
  • 320 percent more revenue is driven from automated emails than non-automated emails.
  • 81 percent of businesses use some form of email automation.
  • 77 percent of marketers say they use email to send personalized content to their subscribers.
  • 87 percent of B2B marketers say email is one of their top free organic distribution channels.
  • 81 percent of small and medium-sized businesses still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80 percent of small and medium-sized businesses rely on email for customer retention.

Email campaigns have an average email click rate of 3.3%. Compared to social media which is less than 1%.

Built for sending email blasts

ESPs focus on the tools and capabilities marketers need to create and send emails to thousands (or millions) of recipients – often called an email blast. Their platforms typically run in the cloud and have significant investments in hardware and software to get your email delivered to your recipients.

Inbox providers, such as Gmail, excel at helping individuals read, create, and send emails to other individuals.

The difference is that an ESP is built for marketers whereas an inbox provider is built for individuals.

Includes the tools you need for marketing

If you are sending an email to your customers from Gmail, you can easily send a plain text email. But if you are sending a marketing email you want to:

  • Include images – using images in your emails is a great way to increase engagement and help you email stand out.
  • Embed videos – while videos can’t be directly embedded, ESPs provide tools to use placeholder images for you.
  • Set the preview text – control the preview text shown in the inbox when a reader is previewing your message.
  • Track metrics – metrics such as email clicks and email opens are just some of the metrics ESPs provide.
  • Optimize for mobile – the majority of emails today are read on mobile devices and it’s important to optimize for mobile.
  • Schedule send times – control exactly when your emails are sent.
  • Manage opt-ins and opt-outs – follow CAN-SPAM guidance for sending compliant emails.

These are all some of the basic capabilities any ESP offers. And, they are table stakes for marketers sending emails.

Guidance and expertise to improve your marketing strategy

ESPs don’t just provide tools for marketers. They also provide guidance and expertise to help with your marketing strategy.

For example, there are laws such as CAN-SPAM and GDRP that impact how you, as a business sending email, needs to comply. As an ESP we routinely create content to you marketers stay in compliance and get email delivered to the inbox.

DailyStory, as an example, also provides services that marketers can purchase:

  • Campaign creation assistance
  • Additional training
  • Content creation
  • And more

Offers additional inbound and outbound marketing capabilities

Today many ESPs offer much more than just services for email marketers.

These are all capabilities DailyStory offers (and many more marketing automation features).

What services does an ESP typically offer?

Every ESP does not offer the same services. It’s important to take your organization’s goals into consideration.

Many ESPs provide a free edition or free trial. It’s a great way to kick the tires!

ESPs generally offer a broad range of capabilities for your email marketing. Here are a few features you should expect.

Scheduled or batched sending

Inbox providers like Gmail or Outlook offer some basic email scheduling capabilities and the ability to send to multiple recipients with a cc or bcc.

But an ESP makes it easy to send an email in bulk: from a few recipients to millions of recipients! Furthermore, each email is sent as an individual email versus requiring a laundry list of bcc:ed recipients. And, you can schedule precisely when and to whom those messages are sent.

Help with following compliance regulations

It’s important that you take spam laws serious. There are special requirements that apply to businesses that individuals don’t have to think about.

For example, every email you send needs to include an easily accessible “unsubscribe” link and your company’s mailing address.

An ESP will ensure your emails are complying with current regulations and upcoming regulations, such as the changes mandated by Gmail and Yahoo.

Building subscriber lists

Part of staying compliant with email marketing laws is building an opted in list.

An ESP can help you acquire email subscribers with lead magnets, web forms, and pop-ups. Every business and organization is unique, so it’s important to figure out the best method for your goals and audience.

And once you’ve built a subscriber list you’ll want to segment it.

Segmenting subscriber lists

Segmentation is a key feature that every ESP should offer (and most do). Segmentation enables you to create audiences, or lists, based on various information about your email contacts.

You can then create content specific to each segment, such as new customers, previous customers, customers that like a specific line of products and more.

Personalized emails and merge fields

If you’ve ever received an email that is address to you by name and includes content that is highly specific to your interests, you’ve received a personalized email.

A personalized email is one that uses information about the recipient to tailor the content specifically to that recipient.

Personalization is supported by ESPs slightly differently. Some only support merge tags and others only support full personalization.

Customized, mobile friendly email templates

Sending visually-appealing emails is something every marketer wants. And, an ESP can help with that.

ESPs provide customizable templates make emailing your segmented lists simple. You can easily send high-quality images, embedded videos, and customer links.

With the majority of emails read on mobile devices, it’s also important that your email templates are mobile friendly.

Integrated automation builder

Automations are one of the most powerful features you can leverage as a marketer.

Known in the industry as marketing automation, these tools enable you to take an existing process, such as as follow-up, and automate it.

DailyStory is a marketing automation platform. Much of the platform is centered around its automation capabilities.

If you are evaluating ESPs ensure that automation is a key capability offered. Don’t just look for simple auto-responders. Instead, you want full conditional and logic automation. You can use this to run email sequences, cart abandons, and so much more.

Monitoring analytics and engagement

After you’ve sent personalized emails to your segments, you’ll want to gauge their performance. An ESP streamlines this process.

Every ESP offers different reporting and metrics, but the basics always include: open-rates, click-tracking and bounces.

As it relates to open rates, see how Apple iOS 15 is impacting open rates.

A/B testing

Each subscriber will interact with your email differently. Because of this, it’s difficult to gauge how well your email will perform.

An ESP can help you develop slightly different emails, which you can send to small groups of different subscribers simultaneously. A/B testing shows which methods perform best in real time.

Once you’ve A/B tested, you can automatically send the winning email to a larger portion of your audience and enjoy the results.

Integration with your other platforms and tools

Often an overlooked capability is the level of integration an ESP offers for working with other platforms and tools. For example, integrating with Slack or Zoom.

When evaluating ESPs, be sure an consider their native integration portfolio too.

In conclusion

Choosing the right email service provider (ESP) can ensure your email marketing out-performs your competitors.

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