If you ask which standard features to look for in an email marketing system, you’re asking the wrong question. The correct question is what do you need. Here’s why…
Recently at a marketing conference, one of the speakers stated that consultants are notorious for starting their answers with phrases like, "It depends."
Clients might think that’s a runaround. It’s not. Quite often, the answer to a client’s question isn’t, “If you do X, you will get Y”. Quite often it’s, “It depends.”
That’s also the way to start off any answer to any question about the features to look for when considering an email marketing system. It depends on what your needs are.
If choosing an ESP or email marketing system meant looking for standard features only, we likely wouldn’t have over 100 ESPs to choose from. If there were standard features that narrowed down your choice and made comparisons easy, many of us would likely be out of business.
In reality, email marketing systems come with a wide range of capabilities in order to fulfill a wide range of business requirements. As a result, comparing email marketing systems or ESPs is like comparing apples to oranges.
If you can’t simply start with a checklist, then where do you start? You start with your requirements. That is your checklist. The question shouldn’t be, "What features should we look for?" Rather, "What features do we need?"
Two factors you must consider
There are two factors you must consider no matter the ESP or email marketing system. One is the deliverability rate and the other is uptime. No matter the provider or system you choose, the deliverability rate and the uptime have to be as high as possible.
Uptime is easy to determine: Ask.
However, with deliverability "it depends" because it will vary for everyone. If one ESP gets a 97.3% deliverability rate for one customer and list, it doesn’t follow that they’ll achieve that same deliverability rate for another company with a different list. To make sure you choose an ESP or system with the highest deliverability rate for you, try and take your choices for a test drive, using the system to mail to your own list to test deliverability.
Unfortunately there isn’t any one checklist that’s going to help you find the features you must have, but finding an ESP with an uptime of 99.5% or higher and high deliverability among its IP addresses is key to finding an ESP that is going to serve your best long-term.
– Marco Marini