The market for professional email marketing services has grown to be pretty competitive over the last few years. ESPs are coming out of the woodwork and these days there are more than enough suitors to go around. Many firms look the part on the surface, but what really lies beneath the slick advertising jargon and shiny company websites? Is it right for you? Instead of getting lost in the glamour when looking for an email service provider, you should be focusing on the essentials.

What Do You Get?

Features are the driving force for most of the hosted services you find online, and email marketing isn’t all that different. ESPs sell solutions based on what their packages can do. The more a particular package has to offer, the more attractive it looks to the prospective email marketer. Companies can throw a lot of features your way, but the benefits are more important. Does the firm you’re evaluating have features that will allow you to easily deploy your campaigns, segment your audience and track your success? Keep your eyes peeled for the benefits and never invest your energy in getting the most features – as too much might add more complexity to the mix.

Can They Help You Deliver?

Deliverability is another variable that should come into play when searching for an email service provider. The good thing is that most ESPs have the infrastructure and reputation that will give your marketing message the best chance of reaching its intended destination. When partnering up with a reputable company, deliverability is still up to you, so the real issue is how good your partner is at helping you reach your audience. Look for an ESP with tools that will allow you to manage your bounces and keep your lists in order. Getting email delivered is your responsibility, but in today’s spam infested world, you need all the help you can get.

Where’s the Support?

Support is one of those factors that often gets overlooked in the hunt for email marketing solutions. It’s pretty easy to do when you’ve married yourself to features and getting the most bang for your buck. Yet support is extremely important when investing in any service. Not many service providers will admit to ignoring the phones or taking days to respond, so what you are likely to see when evaluating the market is dozens of companies that all provide “world-class support.” These claims can’t be taken at face value, so don’t hesitate to get a support agent on the phone to learn more about your potential partner. How they respond to your initial inquiry could be indicative of how well they support you should you become a customer.

Email marketing is all grown up, and the company offering perks such as custom HTML templates, social media features and video support may be hard to resist on first glance. However, if they can’t assist you in the areas of resources, deliverability and support, your email marketing strategy is hobbled before it even gets off the ground.