Sending or receiving emails involves three parties: the sender, receiver, and the email service provider (ESP). Each one has a role to play, and with trusty email being one of the most effective marketing channels, the right ESP is crucial for your business.  In this article, we’ll discuss the roles of an ESP. We’ll explain what an ESP is, the difference between ESP and an email client, and the qualities of a good ESP. 

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the use of email to promote your products and services. In other words, it’s the use of email to inform prospects/customers, build a community around your brand, and drive sales. Despite being an older digital marketing channel, email still reigns with a whopping 3600% return on investment. In an effort to claim a share of that email ROI, brands and consumers send or receive more than 330 emails per day

Every time you send out emails to customers, other than direct responses to queries and order confirmation, you’re doing email marketing. For email marketing to be successful and deliver results, the subscriber has to read the email and take the desired action: buy something, book a demo, etc. 

However, they can’t read the email if it doesn’t land in their inbox. This is where the ESP comes into play: we’ll discuss the roles of an ESP in a bit, but first:

Why is Email Important to Your Marketing Strategy? 

Beyond the excellent ROI, email is the best marketing channel to:

  • Convert prospects into customers
  • Deliver targeted, personalized emails
  • Build relationships with customers
  • Retain customers

Email is more effective in attracting new customers than Twitter and Facebook combined. On average, email garners a 21.5% open rate, whereas Facebook and Twitter get 5.2% and 3.61% organic reach, respectively. 

To put that into perspective, say you have 2,000 email subscribers, 2,000 Twitter followers, and 2,000 Facebook fans. If you share a message via the three channels, 430 subscribers will open your email, whereas only 104 Facebook fans and 72 Twitter followers will see your post. 

Clearly, email marketing outperforms social media, but that doesn’t mean you should set social media aside altogether. The top-performing brands combine social and email marketing to make the most of each channel. 

What is an Email Marketing Service Provider (ESP)?

An email service provider is a service that allows you to send emails to a list of subscribers. Think of an ESP like the postman. If you were to send a letter to a loved one, your hope of that letter reaching its destination on time rests on the postman’s shoulders. 

That letter is like the emails you create. The ESP plays a critical role in ensuring the emails are landing in the subscribers’ inbox at the designated time. Beyond facilitating email delivery, ESPs allow you to store the email addresses of subscribers. 

In addition, modern ESPs such as Benchmark Email have added more advanced features such as:

  • Pre-made templates to expedite email creation
  • Lead capture forms
  • Email automation tools
  • A/B testing to help marketers determine the best subject lines, automation, and email content
  • Segmentation tools to boost email personalization
  • Analytics to monitor email performance

Don’t confuse email clients with email service providers. The ESP provides the software behind the sending and receiving of emails such as MailChimp, Benchmark Email, etc. On the other hand, the email client is the app you use to read your emails, such as Gmail, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook or Android Mail App. 

What is Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and How is it Different Than an ESP?

SMTP is similar to an ESP in that it facilitates the sending and receiving of emails. SMTP is the internet standard for email sending and it helps ensure your emails get sent.

So, what is the difference between an SMTP and ESP? Well, SMTP is an application and an ESP is a service provider. An ESP is a solution hosted by a company that also offers a suite of email marketing services, i.e. email creation, testing, sending, reporting, and contact management/segmentation.

SMTPs, on the other hand, offer servers that promise maximization of email sending. SMTPs deal explicitly with email sending and do not offer email marketing services that ESPs do. ESPs are an all-in-one solution, as SMTPs focus on one particular area of email marketing – email sending and receiving.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Email Service Provider

Not all email service providers are built the same: their core features may be identical, but the bells and whistles differ widely. For that reason, you have to come up with a list of qualities you want in the best ESP for your business. Here are some considerations when choosing an ESP:


The email service provider should be easy to use. Notice that ease of use is relative: if you’re only getting started, look for a beginner-friendly ESP such as Benchmark Email. Such a tool features a drag-and-drop editor and pre-built templates to help you create engaging emails with ease. 

The interface is user-friendly, and you won’t struggle to find your way around tasks like sending emails, segmenting subscribers, and tracking email performance. 


A reliable email service provider should have all the features you need to run successful email campaigns. It should come packed with features to create and manage contact lists, segment subscribers, send bulk emails, A/B test various campaign aspects, and track performance. 

Moreover, go for an ESP with a rich set of automation tools. You’ll need to automate your processes when you scale, and the easier the automation, the better. Benchmark Email ticks all these boxes. 


Besides having great usability and a rich set of features, the ESP should be reliable. This means the ESP should offer excellent deliverability rates. Remember: more than 330 billion emails are sent every day: out of this, 45% end up in the spam folder

If you want the largest possible percentage of emails to land in the subscriber’s inbox, pick an ESP with a great track record. Otherwise, your emails — in spite of how well-written and personalized they are — will not be seen by your target audience.

Try Benchmark Email Today

We blow our horn several times in this article, and that’s because we trust the abilities of our own product. Benchmark Email is a reliable email service provider, and our current users are reaping the reward for partnering with us. 

If you’re grappling with ESPs that only interest you because of the “name,” not performance, make the bold move today. Sign up for free to get a first-hand feel for the Benchmark Email features.