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May 8, 2024

How to Choose an Email Marketing Service Provider for B2B Businesses

Whether you’re a small business looking to grow or a larger B2B business looking to improve your marketing campaigns, an email marketing program is a great way to engage and grow your audience.

You may already have an email service provider (ESP), but if you’re a new business or have grown exponentially since picking an ESP, you could be in the market for a new platform. Email service providers play a significant role in the success of marketing campaigns, so it’s crucial to pick one that matches your needs. The right platform will be able to scale with you and allow flexibility, provide the right features and functionalities to keep your team moving forward, integrate with your other platforms, report on the metrics that matter most to you and your business, and so much more.

When switching email service providers or selecting a new one altogether, there are some steps you should take to ensure you choose the right fit.

1. Understand Your B2B Email Marketing Requirements

First, you need to know what your marketing goals are. Are you using email to primarily sell to distributors? Or are you driving awareness and knowledge to the end users? How complex are your campaigns? Are you focused on monthly newsletters, or are you also planning to set up intricate drip campaigns designed to send users through different flows based on their interests and engagement?

You also need to look at the volume of your sends. Are you planning to release emails weekly? Daily? Multiple times a day to different audiences? Is your audience made up of a couple hundred subscribers, or are you sending to 25,000 different addresses?  

Different platforms will fit different needs, so it’s important to consider your current subscriber count and how you want to scale. If you’re a small business, do you want to stay small, or do you plan to grow exponentially while keeping the same resources in place? If you plan to grow slowly, services like Mail Chimp, Customer.io, and HubSpot will likely fit your current and future needs. But if you have a large subscriber list, you’d do well with enterprise solutions from Salesforce Marketing Cloud (previously Pardot), Klaviyo, Oracle Suite, or Marketo. Of course, ESPs for larger companies tend to be more technical, so you must remember that you’ll most likely need a dedicated team member to manage the platform and understand the more complex aspects. It's also important to note that the price increases considerably with these larger solutions, so finding the right ESP for your brand’s size is key.

2. Analyze Features

Once you understand how you want to leverage the platform, you’ll want to review the features offered by each ESP. Consider both where you are currently and how you want to grow.

Pay close attention to core features like the limit on number of contacts, how many emails you can send daily (keep in mind that “one email” is not the same as “one email campaign” - instead, it’s equivalent to the number of recipients receiving your emails each day), and the number of users (or “seats”) allowed on the platform simultaneously.

List out what features you cannot live without and those you want but don’t need. Then look at which ESPs offer the features you require and assess how they stack up to each other.

You should also consider how these different features will scale with you. Can you move from sending hundreds of emails each week to potentially millions each day? Or will that require you to switch platforms again in the future?

3. Review User Experience

Never underestimate how easy or difficult the user interface of a platform will be. When you’re considering more robust platforms like Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Marketo, you’ll need to keep in mind that not every member of your team will be able to pick up on it after a quick tutorial. You’ll need to decide how you want to balance requirements and user-friendliness with more advanced functions and desires.

Consider if both old and new team members will be able to adjust seamlessly without much downtime, or if you’re agreeable to either, train someone currently on the team or hire a new employee to specialize in the platform. If you prefer to have multiple team members learn the platform, assess how much downtime you’re willing to experience during the transition or if there will be overlap between onboarding onto the new ESP and off-boarding with the old one. Keep in mind: transition time also includes moving any preferred templates and graphics, working with your technology team to whitelist the new platform and transition any IP addresses.

You should also evaluate the service’s compatibility with your other software, or if you’ll need to set aside more time for manual functions if the platform doesn’t integrate well with other parts of your marketing and sales technology stack.

4. Take Pricing into Consideration

After key features, price-point and cost efficiency is one of the most important aspects in choosing an email service provider for your marketing efforts. You want to select the option with the greatest price-to-value ratio. Your best choice might not stand out from the crowd immediately, so take time to weigh each platform’s offerings, accessibility, and possible ROI against its up-front cost.

5. Look Into ESP Security & Compliance  

How the ESP handles security is often overlooked as part of the consideration process as purchasers often believe every platform is the same when it comes to compliance. Yes, there are many similarities across most offerings, but you want to be sure that your choice of ESP will handle the protection of your data during a potential security breach in the way you would want it to be handled. It’s better to pay a premium than take a risk with something less secure.

You’ll also want to make sure they’re compliant with all major legal requirements and protocols, particularly CAN-SPAM, CASL (if you have recipients in Canada), and GDPR (for any European recipients). Most data treatment is standardized, however, so most ESPs will operate similarly when it comes to security compliance.

6. Review Reviews

One of the best ways to confirm a good experience with a future provider is to see what others say about them. Look for customer testimonials from each platform you’re considering, preferably other B2B companies. This will give you a better understanding of how the provider will be helpful during future issues.

If you can, review available case studies. They can give you a more in-depth look and show you how the ESP may handle difficult and unique situations.

7. Read the Terms of Service

The terms of service will tell you what the ESP expects from you as a customer and what requirements you’ll need to follow as a user of the platform. Obtaining this knowledge ahead of time will ensure that you have a successful relationship with your provider; that in turn can mean a good customer profile for you, and you’ll be more likely to receive the best support they can offer when you need support.

Making a Final Decision

In the end picking the right provider for B2B email marketing services shouldn’t be difficult – but it does take a bit of research. An inexpensive solution may appeal to you the most, but it may not meet your needs, which will put you back at square one while still being locked into a contract.

Following the steps above can help you ensure that you’re choosing the right ESP to fit your B2B organization, both now and as you grow.

And if you still need help choosing the right provider, True can help lead you down the right path.

See how True’s content team can get you on the right track with your email marketing requirements and help keep you there by learning more about our offerings.

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