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An email service provider—or ESP—is a bulk email delivery engine. And nope, Outlook does not count as an ESP. Yes, you can send an email from Outlook, but gone are the days of sending marketing emails to thousands of recipients using Outlook. While Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo! can hold thousands of names in their contact lists, that’s pretty much their only function outside of having a “Send” button and enabling you to read incoming email. An ESP provides 5 features that are absolutely necessary if you are building an email list of potential clients. 

1. Compliance

If you’re brand new to email marketing, then you might not have heard of the CAN-SPAM Act. Or, maybe you’ve heard of it, but don’t really know what it means. The CAN-SPAM Act was passed by the Federal Trade Commissions and includes some simple requirements if you are using email to send promotional or commercial messages. For example, you must tell recipients where you’re located (easily done in the footer when using an ESP) and tell recipients how to stop receiving future emails from you and honor those requests (both easily done when using an ESP).

2. Design

While many email marketers now send emails with little-to-no design, many ESPs still offer the ability to add design elements to your email, such as adding a header photo or matching your website’s colors. It was their templates that initially set ESPs apart from using your personal email account for sending marketing emails.

3. Management

In our ‘Deep Dive’ video series, you’re going to hear Jay talk a lot about tagging recipients and segmenting your list. Tagging enables you to personalize and segment your email list. For example, we ask our readers to answer a short survey that helps us understand what stage their business is in. That way, we can segment them into one of three lists to ensure they only receive emails that are relevant to them.

4. Automation

In my opinion, automation is the most powerful feature of an ESP (but that’s probably because I’m not the tech half of this team, so the coolness factor of automation literally makes me squeal when Jay explains it to me). Automation enables you to send a series of emails that only occurs after your reader triggers an event that sets off the automation. The simplest example is sending a welcome email as soon as someone signs up for your list. But you can also set up your welcoming sequence so that the new subscriber immediately gets a welcome email, and then gets a promotional email 3 days later that is customized to them based on where they signed up (that example uses both tagging and automation). The trick with automation is that you only have to set up this sequence once. It is automatically triggered every time someone signs up for your list. Imagine if you had to manually send out these emails every time someone new signed up for your list! That sounds tedious and time consuming to me. Automation allows all of this to happen without you having to sit by your computer waiting for it to ding “you’ve got email” (or should I say an email subscriber).

5. Reporting

Nothing is more frustrating than regularly sending content to your list but not knowing if it’s even getting read. ESPs each have different reporting options and features so that you know who opened your email and if anyone clicked on any of the links embedded in your email. You can even track where your readers came from so you know which opt-in form on your website works the best or if they are all opting in from an outside source such as Facebook.

Are you ready to choose the perfect email provider for you and your business? Click the link below to download our free cheatsheet and choosing a provider will be as easy as understanding its features.

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