Email for Startups: Choosing an ESP Lauren Alworth June 7, 2017 Best Practices // SUMMARIES ?> Developing an email program can be tough, especially for new businesses like startups. One of the first things to consider is how you’ll be sending email, either through an in-house program or via an email service provider (ESP). Read on to find out why you should be sending through an ESP and how to choose the right option for your business. Why use an ESP? Setting up an in-house email program takes a lot of time, money, and patience. Using an ESP takes a lot of the guesswork out of your deliverability. Sending through an ESP can help with: Staying off blacklists – When you send email en masse from your regular mail address, you run the risk of being marked as spam, or just ending up directly in a subscriber’s junk folder. ESPs are experts in sending your bulk email and have good reputations as senders. List management – As your subscription lists grow, it can become difficult to manage who signed up to receive what emails. ESPs offer segmentation options to ensure your message is going to the correct person. Analytics and tracking – After working hard on an email campaign, you’ll want a way to measure its success. ESPs provide tools and statistics that allow you to dive deep into who did or didn’t open and engage with your emails. For more on deliverability best practices, download our 2017 Email Deliverability Guide and check out our blog post on Mythbusting ESPs’ Deliverability Claims. How to choose the right ESP With so many options to ch0ose from, the search for the perfect ESP might leave you feeling like Goldilocks. One might be too hard to use, one might be too expensive, so how do you find one that’s juuust right? Some thing to consider when deciding on an ESP: Make sure you choose an ESP that provides an API that integrates with your app or website so customers can access your business or service. Usability is key. If your staff can’t use the platform easily, productivity will go down. A user-friendly platform will streamline training and help you get the most out of your ESP. You need to be able to count on your ESP. Research the current, if any, crisis management plans and other tools available in case of an outage or other crisis. What else should you look for in an ESP? Read our blog post on switching email platforms for more inspiration. Scalability: Why it matters When successful companies start gaining traction and need to communicate with their users or customers, they need to scale their email alongside the rest of their business. This is where an ESP outperforms in-house systems. With an on-premise email solution, scaling could require adding servers, people, and other resources to handle the load. Do your research and find an ESP that can 1) handle your growing contact lists and email volume, 2) one that will allow you to simply continue to add recipients and 3) upgrade plans as you see fit. Download our updated Email Infrastructure Guide for more on the importance of scalability and importance of choosing an ESP. Email marketing and beyond As your business continues to grow, so will your email campaigns. Email campaigns work best with a combination of informative, transactional, and marketing emails. Even if your business isn’t at the marketing stage yet, it’s important to choose an ESP that will allow you to send promotional emails to start driving more revenue once you’re ready. Marketing tools to look for in an ESP include: Creation tools – Once you start sending marketing and promotional mail, you’ll want lots of brand integration and customization to stand out in your subscriber’s inbox. Segmentation – Not all of your contacts have opted-in to receiving all of your messages. List segmentation will help you manage your lists based on multiple criteria, and will keep you sending the right email to the right people. A/B testing – Testing is a great tool to help measure and influence the success of your campaign. A/B testing can show what subject lines draw the most opens, what links are most clicked, and how many subscribers follow through on your call-to-action. For more on A/B testing, watch our webcast Stellar Email Marketing: A/B Testing and CTAs on-demand. For even more email marketing, dive into our Email Marketing Survival Kit to learn the do’s and don’ts of running your own campaign. Takeaways Setting up your email system and strategy can be difficult, but keep these tips in mind to help ease the process. If you’re ready to put your ESP to the test and start sending, stay tuned for our next startup post on sending transactional email. Are you a startup looking for email help? Check out SendGrid Accelerate, our program specially designed to help startups get their email infrastructure up-and-running.