How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider

How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider
How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider

How do you choose the right Email Marketing Service Provider for you business? The answer depends on your goals and budget.  If you are going to do-it-yourself, it will also depend on your time, abilities and your interest in learning.   This post makes the following assumptions in attempt to provide a more detailed answer:

  • You are a small business owner
  • Your goal is to use email marketing to grow revenues
  • You want to do it yourself

What You Need to Know About Email Marketing Service Providers

You can find hundreds of Email Marketing Service Providers (EMSPs) to choose from using the Internet.  They all provide the same core functionality – the ability to send bulk email.  Some cater specifically to large businesses, others to medium-sized, and still others to small businesses.

You can greatly simplify your search by only looking at EMSPs that cater to your market segment – in this case, small businesses.  EMSPs that cater to small businesses have the simplicity, training, support, and pricing that will be the most appealing and helpful in getting started quickly.

As your level of sophistication and your email list grows, pricing and need for key features may drive you to an EMSP that typically caters to larger companies.  But don’t be in a rush.  Many very large companies successfully use the email marketing platforms of EMSPs that cater to small companies. Keeping things simple in the beginning will help you get off to a faster start.

Why Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider?

While you can probably figure out how to send bulk emails without using an EMSP, there are so many compelling reasons to working with an EMSP partner, you would be crazy not to.

Here are some of the most compelling reasons:

  1. Convenience – EMSPs give you access to their powerful email marketing software including everything you need to create emails, run campaigns, and measure results using a single dashboard. It would take countless hours to assemble all the necessary tools to do it yourself. Doing it yourself, you would more than likely end-up with a clunky, piece-meal, time-consuming and unreliable process for sending out marketing emails.
  2. Best Practices – If you want to look professional, there are many design, execution, and legal considerations when sending out marketing emails. Most EMSPs build these considerations into the tools they provide helping to prevent you from making mistakes.  Using their tools will help you look and execute email campaigns that are competitive with the big boys.  Additionally, they often provides gobs of free training.
  3. Legal Compliance – Avoidance of U.S. and foreign regulations is a VERY strong reason to partner with and EMSP.  There are VERY strict regulations that you must follow when sending out marketing emails.  The law in the U.S. that you must comply with is called the CAN-Spam Act. Failure to comply with CAN-Spam rules can result in significant fines for your business.  Once again, the EMSPs come to the rescue.  Their software was designed with these regulations in mind and helps you avoid making mistakes.

EMSPs also monitor your email sends helping to make sure you are following CAN-Spam rules. They will let you know very quickly if your email sends are not compliant.  While EMSPs play an supremely important role in helping you meet regulatory requirements, the ultimate responsibility is yours alone.

What You Need to Know About Pricing

EMSPs typically charge users a monthly rate based on the number of emails sent per month and/or the number of email addresses stored in their system.  However, many EMSPs offer free trials for 30-90 days.  A few EMSPs even offer free limited use of their service if you keep the number of emails you send each month below a certain threshold.

At low volumes, the features and pricing are similar between EMSPs, however, this cost comparison can quickly diverge as your volume of emails grows.  It pays to anticipate that your email list will grow. You will want to spend some time comparing what the pricing plans of different EMSPs to estimate what you will be paying after you grow out of their free plans.


A Great Place to Start

Given you are a small business owner just getting started with Email Marketing, a great place to start is with a free plan from one of the better-known EMSPs like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or AWeber.

All these EMSPs provide excellent starter services with a slew of features and training.  If you are like most email marketers, you will probably try several platforms before picking one for long-term use.

You will find that all of the suggested platforms are user-friendly and have more features than you will use initially.  Experiment with the different features and get a feel for how easy the system is for you to use.  You will quickly discover which features are important and if the ergonomics are suitable.  If you are not happy, move on to the next EMSP’s free trial.  For example, the first EMSP you test may not be intuitive or easy for you to use.  Or, you may discover it doesn’t have a key feature that you really need. Go try another EMSP.

Checklist: How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider

  1. Free trial – Look for at least a 30-90 day free trial.
  2. Ease of Use – This is very personal. Everyone’s brain seems to work differently. What is intuitive for one person may be confusing for another.  There are enough choices available that you should be able to find one that meets your needs.  Don’t worry initially about which EMSP has the longest list of features. You won’t use them all initially and added complexity may slow you down.
  3. Training & Support – The more support your EMSP provides the better. Look for phone, email, chat, community and FAQ support.
  4. Regulatory Compliance Support– The EMSP you choose should help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act via their terms-of-use policies, training, and software
  5. Simplicity/Ease of Use –The limited feature set typically offered with a free trial can be a good thing. Email Marketing software can get very complex.  We have found that what is simple for one person may be complex for another.  This is a good reason to experiment with multiple EMSPs as you get started.
  6. Free Template Libraries – Free libraries of email and newsletter templates will make it easy to have a professional look and save you oodles of time.
  7. CRM Integration – As you get more experienced, you will probably want to start gathering more data about your email list subscribers. Currently, EMSPs provide only a couple of small fields where you can save data. Plan ahead.  Make sure email software you select has a pre-built API (aka integration) to one or more Customer Relationship Management System platforms like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or Hubspot.  You don’t have to use a CRM but someday the benefits of using one may become impossible to live without!
  8. Pricing – Start with a free account but prepare for growth. Compare pricing for several EMSPs at different volume thresholds.  You will find dramatic differences between EMSPs.
  9. No Annual Contract – Do not sign up for any service that requires more than one month’s commitment. You will want the flexibility to change EMSPs.
  10. List Segmentation – You want the ability to segment your email list based on customer preferences, demographics, etc.
  11. A/B Testing – You need this feature to test email content prior to sending it out to see what works best (e.g. is Subject Line 1 better than Subject Line 2).
  12. Analytics and Reports – You want a wide variety of pre-built reports that will help you manage campaigns, track ROI, deliverability, email open rates, and link click-through rates.
  13. Automation – Email Marketing software is constantly evolving and increasingly capable of automating routine email marketing tasks.

 Email Marketing Service Provider Reviews

For your convenience, here are links to several comparisons of Email Marketing Service Providers:

7 Best Email Marketing Services for Small Business (2017)

The Best Email Marketing Software of 2017

The Best Email Marketing Services for 2017


About NextStep Partners, LLC

We help small business owners use email marketing to grow their revenues.

Our services include:

  • Selection and implementation of an Email Marketing platform
  • Training
  • Ad-hoc or ongoing support on special projects and campaigns
  • Complete Outsourcing

If you prefer not to run an email marketing effort yourself, you can fully outsource it to NextStep Partners.  This allows you to avoid the learning curve and ongoing time commitment at a fraction of the cost of doing it yourself.

Working with us, you are likely to achieve a superior look, execution, and result than what the you could achieve on your own.










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Why Every Small Business Should Be Using Email Marketing

Email Marketing has a very high ROI
Email Marketing has a very high ROI

The short answer: because it works!   Email marketing is also extremely cheap compared to other ways of getting new customers.

There are many marketing tools that you can use to get new customers. Few are as effective and inexpensive.

Email Marketing has an impressive ROI

Email returns a stunning $38 for every $1 spent. This is according to a 2015 Direct Marketing Association study[2]. One in five companies in this study reported an even higher ROI of 70:1. You can find even higher ROI claims if you search the Web. The obvious takeaway – Email Marketing is a VERY effective marketing tool.

Email is likely the best marketing tool, online or offline, for most small businesses to use to grow their revenue.

According to a 2009 Datatran Media Study[1], 39.4% of surveyed marketing executives ranked email as the best performing marketing channel. Email produced better results than SEO, direct mail, social media, mobile, affiliate and traditional media advertising. While this is an old study, we believe email marketing is still king.

Email is the least expensive Marketing Channel

Email has the lowest CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of any traditional or online marketing channel as revealed in the last published Response Rate Report in 2015[3].  It is cheaper than TV, radio, direct mail, traditional media advertising, social media, mobile, paid search and Internet display advertising.

The primary expense associated with email marketing is the time spent creating and managing email campaigns.


Despite the explosion of new of digital marketing tools, email remains one the most lucrative customer acquisition and retention tools you can use.

Email marketing should be a primary tool of any small business marketing effort.


[1] Datran Media, 4th Annual Marketing & Media Study, December 200

[2] DMA, National Client Email Report, 2015

[3] DMA, Response Rate Report, 2012

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Why You Should Be Using Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing has turned the world of Sales and Marketing upside down.  Marketing, using digital tools on the Internet (e.g. websites, email, blogging, social media), is a more effective way to acquire new customers than traditional sales and marketing methods (e.g. newspaper advertising, radio, direct mail, etc.)

Digital Marketing costs less than traditional advertising

The average cost to generate a sales lead is 60% lower using online marketing than traditional marketing methods. (Hubspot:  Whatever traditional marketing tools you are currently using, there is a probably a cheaper (and more effective) way to do it online.  Internet Marketing provides the highest ROI (return on your “marketing” investment) when compared to ALL other marketing mediums.

Digital Marketing is more effective than traditional marketing

The Internet has empowered your prospects and customers as never before.  Most now begin any purchase process by first doing research on the Internet.  If your products or service cannot be found on the Internet, your prospects and customers will likely be buying from your competitors instead of you.

Digital Marketing also empowers you!   Using digital marketing tools, you can engage more intimately with your prospects and customers thereby increasing the chances of a sale and customer loyalty.  Traditional marketing tools are largely mass broadcast, one-way forms of communication that don’t allow customers to easily communicate with you to express their preferences.  Internet marketing tools such as your website, email, and social media allow you to engage with very intimate,  one-to-one, two-way communications.  Engagement is what your customers expect to receive when interacting with a business or brand.

Digital Marketing levels the playing field

Digital Marketing tools give small businesses access, for the first time, to sales and marketing resources, business processes, customer intelligence, and markets previously available only to large companies.  A small home-based company with a well-designed online store can now compete successfully for customers with Fortune 500 companies.  This same online store can easily sell beyond the physical confirms of a brick-and-mortar storefront including internationally.

The obvious takeaway:

If you are serious about growing your revenues, you should be using Digital Marketing.


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Digital Marketing Toolbox


The Marketing Toolbox
The Marketing Toolbox

Welcome to Our Blog – The Digital Marketing Toolbox!

The Internet has enabled an explosion of exciting digital marketing tools that enable business owners to reach prospects and customers in new, very cost effective, and very measured ways.   The sheer number of tools, combined with the frequent improvements to each tool, creates a daunting challenge for any CMO or business owner.  The number of tools may only be eclipsed by the number of consultants and guru’s hawking them.

The joy and goal of this blog will be to explore, share and discuss digital marketing tools with other entrepreneurs and small business owners.  The goal is to help you research, select and implement a set of digital marketing tools that will help you reach your goals for generating leads, gaining new customers and growing your revenues.

It will be a slow and considered development based on industry best-practices, what we have experienced in our own business, and in our work helping other small businesses. We will be quick to point you to great articles, resources and respected experts.

In the end, your success with digital marketing will depend on you and your skill level.  You are probably tempted and confused by the daily barrage of success stories by gurus of this tool or that.  While their claims may be true, even the most tried and proven tool may not work for you at a given time.  You must be informed, methodical and quick to move on when a particular tool does work for you.  There are too many alternatives.

In the interest of fair disclosure, NextStep Partners L.L.C., is a Constant Contact Solutions Provider.  We sell and promote their email marketing platform. If you buy their email platform through us, we are compensated by Constant Contact.  In turn, we provide you with a high level of support in your email marketing efforts.  We are also Certified Salesforce CRM Admin, SalesCloud, and  Email Marketing Specialists.  We are not compensated by Salesforce.  You can hire us to help you get started and/or fro ongoing support.

We have chosen an email marketing platform to build our consulting practice around because it is the one marketing tool that nearly every business can and should be use in their marketing mix.  It has the highest ROI of any digital marketing tool.  Of the many Email Marketing Service Providers, we find Constant Contact to be just right. It is simple to use but has the core features you need at a great price.

In our opinion, Salesforce is the Blackbelt of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.  CRM is the operating system of your marketing efforts. It allows you to fully leverage customer data to compete with sophisticated competitors.  Not every company will operate with a CRM in the beginning, but it is a natural evolutionary step as your business grows in complexity.

Thank you for reading this first blog post.  We hope you come back again and that find our posts helpful in growing your business.


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