Selecting a new ESP

When selecting a tool for your email marketing and marketing automation, there’s loads of decisions to take. Features, support, flexibility, contract duration, pricing, are all aspects to consider.

With this post, I’d like to help online professionals taking the right decision for their business.

First of all, it is important to decide on your short-term and mid-term goals. A few simple questions might point you in the right direction.

Is it enough to send a weekly email newsletter or are you looking for more automated campaigns? Is it ok to add all content manually or do you prefer the content to be added automatically from various sources? And what about segmentations, is it enough to segment on personal details only, or do you need segmenting options on behavioral data, order history and campaign results too?

There’s dozens of options, ranging from entry-level tools, to enterprise motherships.

If you’re an agency, selecting software can be an even more strenuous exercise. We’ve added two points in the bottom of this article for your consideration.

From my point of view, the following are elements should at least be taken into consideration

Separate modules or all-in-one

There are various newsletter tools available which are well equipped to send newsletters. Quite often they offer a number of modules to expand the features, e.g. to automate certain touch points, often proving to be a disadvantage. Eventually, tying several modules together makes your installation more complex and error-prone to manage. Needless to say, all of these modules including maintenance come at a price.

Email is just one of the channels to communicate with your relations.

Some companies have an email marketing tool, marketing automation platform, form builder, survey tool, database management tool, e-couponing tool, segmenting tool and an integration tool in house. That’s not ideal and you’d might want to look for an alternative to combine all of this.

Address lists or a database

Most often, entry-level software is developed from a channel perspective, e.g. email. Relevant and timely campaigns, however, should not be limited to one channel, relevant communications require various channels.

Almost all email marketing tools feature address lists, which are nothing like a database, but more like a spreadsheet, making it impossible to create anything resembling a single customer view. In order to achieve this with a simple email marketing tool you would then require an integration to a separate data warehouse where you store enriched profile information.

A proper email marketing tool is developed from a data perspective and offers a multi-dimensional data model, meaning: all data of an individual is stored in one profile, neatly divided over different tabs like products viewed, abandoned baskets, pages visited, campaign results (opens, clicks, bounces), surveys, etc.

Auto-responders or automation


If a campaign has a defined beginning and end, auto responders are a great way of sending triggered mails. If you’re automating a customer life cycle, you need to distribute relevant content in a more subtle and layered way, and auto-responders simply don’t suffice. An example is a retention campaign for customers who have not made any purchases in the last 6 months, or engagement campaigns to relations who have not opened your 3 last emailings. With an auto-responder it is impossible to schedule these type of campaigns.

If your tool offers a single customer view, you can automate your customer life cycle from the first moment a visitor identifies himself on your website or on a social media platform. With lead scoring, behavior triggered campaigns and subtle personalization you are able to be timely and relevant in all of your communications.

Stand alone or integrated

Manually uploading data to your marketing software is ideal if you like operational activities. In all other cases, integrations are a better solution.

Also, you might wwant to search for software with integrations to numerous CMS, CRM and e-commerce platforms. With these integrations you enrich profile data in the, already mentioned, single customer view. Most of the integrations are free of any charge. Besides that, an API might help for smooth integration with any system.

Boxed in features or flexibility

Perhaps you’re fine with limits in the data model, number of fields, importing limits of 1,000 contacts at a time, or the inability to import info@ addresses (MailChimp, anyone?). Perhaps you don’t mind using standard templates or being dependant of third parties to develop a bespoke template or web form.

Perhaps you find all of these limitations a bit patronizing, and you want to go for a professional solution. Design a data model, develop your templates and web forms just the way that you like them, without expensive consultants.



Are you completely independent and planning to create your marketing program completely by yourself or would you feel more comfortable with support, training, sharing of experiences with peers and knowing what is going on in the field is indispensable.

Exclusive or inclusive of support

Free software comes without Support. You will reach a point where you find yourself lost in the software and the online documentation is not able to help you out. Other software offer online documentation, video tutorials and free personal training, certifications, account management and 24/7 support.

If you’re an international organization, you may want to look for an interface and support in multiple languages.

Volume pricing

From a return on investment perspective, email is the most cost-effective channel. At higher volumes, email pricing can be substantial. Make sure to calculate your total spend before signing up for a software.

Walter van der Scheer - Closing notes
Walter van der Scheer – Closing notes

Closing notes

Selecting marketing software can be tough. By deciding on your requirements regarding features, flexibility and support beforehand, you will find it easier to compare software.

Investing in software is always something for the long term. You dedicate your time and budget to the implementation and training of your staff. Extra features, services and training are not part of the base fee for most software, and should be taken into account when calculating your total spend. .

You should be satisfied with the software, services and the ROI of your campaigns. It is advisable to negotiate flexible terms, especially for the initial period. Make sure that your provider and you are able to get some deliverables in place.

Finally, if you’re an agency, two other things are of substantial importance:

1: Recurring revenues

As an agency you might not want to be all too dependent on services only. Recurring revenues generate a stable stream of turnover.

2: Marketing support

How is the software provider going to make sure that you get enough customers on board? How important is marketing support and sales support for you? Would you like the software provider to generate leads for you or do you offer everything in white label?

Good luck, and if you have any questions about what might be the right software for you, feel free to ask.

About the author

Name an ESP and Walter van der Scheer knows it. Tell him what ESP you’re currently using, and he’ll tell you who you are. Marketing software comes in loads of sizes and shapes. Walter van der Scheer can help you select the right one for your purposes.+

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