What is an Email Service Provider (ESP) and how to choose the right ESP?

Understand what is ESP in email or email service provider. We also share the top 5 recommended ESP providers to choose from.

Email marketing is an overwhelming exercise that is easily automated using a good email service provider (ESP). Email marketing, a channel that is nearly four decades old, is popularly high ROI even today. However, 26% of business owners still feel that their email marketing strategies are ineffective.

Using an ESP can help you achieve feats of marketing you otherwise can’t. ESPs offer automation and marketing tools that help you create and send eye-catching emails in just a few minutes. 

In this article, we will guide you to know what an ESP is, why you need one and how to choose a good ESP provider.

email service provider

What does ESP mean in email?

An ESP or an email service provider is software that businesses use to manage their email marketing. In simple words, it allows you to deliver emails to your prospects in an efficient way. It eliminates the need for you to send each marketing email on your own.

How is ESP different from email software?

An ESP is not the same as email software. An ESP offers software that powers email sending and receiving, such as Benchmark Email, MailChimp, and others.

On the other hand, email software is a web or mobile application that the email is sent to and which you use to check those emails. Gmail, Outlook, and AOL are all examples of email software.

Is Gmail / Outlook / AOL an ESP?

No, Gmail / Outlook / AOL are email software. They are not designed for email marketing campaigns or any email automation. In fact, any automation or bulk emailing from your business domain could result in poor email deliverability or blacklisting.

Why should you use an ESP service?

Email Service Providers make it simple to manage your email lists, collect fresh email addresses, and analyze email marketing campaigns. However, they are much more than that. 

Here are three reasons why you should get an ESP service:

Ensures higher deliverability 

Sending marketing emails using your Gmail account might get them a ‘spam’ label by the ISPs. So, there’s a high chance that your emails won’t even arrive in your customers’ inboxes. Using a good email service provider will prove to the ISP that your emails are legitimate. That’s because most ESPs are either approved by ISPs or are whitelisted.

Saves your time

ESPs saves you a ton of time by enabling you to schedule your marketing emails and set up an autoresponder.

Enables better target marketing

Segmentation is one of the most powerful features of an ESP email. It allows you to make sub-lists as per the benefits offered to each customer persona. You can send emails to distinct lead groups according to their relationship with your company.

How to choose a good email service provider?

Consider the below features while choosing your Email Service Provider:

  1. Deliverability rate - A high deliverability rate increases the chances of your emails ending up in your subscribers’ inboxes. An ESP with a low rate of delivery will cost you time, money, and reputation. Worse, it can even get your domain blacklisted.

  2. Integrations - An ESP should offer integrations with major CRM, CMS, and eCommerce platforms. If not, they should have API access to add custom integrations. Without these, you’ll only end up incurring extra costs to get third-party integrations.

  3. Your HTML knowledge - Most ESPs offer pre-made templates to build emails. But with some HTML knowledge, you can customize these templates to align with your brand. If you are a beginner, it is better to use a drag-and-drop ESP that comes with an email builder.

  4. Security - Consider password restrictions, encryption measures, and the use of firewalls. With consumers growing more mindful of data security, it's critical to select an ESP with stringent security regulations.

  5. Budget - Ensure you factor in extra expenditures, such as dedicated IP addresses, extra functionality, and data storage. You should also look into how your ESP determines its pricing - does it charge per thousand emails? Or does it have monthly subscription tiers? Choose as per your marketing budget and audience size.

Top 5 ESP providers with the best deliverability rate

Here is a list of the top 5 ESP providers with the best deliverability rate:

  1. MailerLite

  2. CleverReach

  3. ConvertKit

  4. ActiveCampaign

  5. Sendinblue



Source: G2 Reviews

MailerLite is an affordable, efficient, and easy-to-use ESP designed for freelancers and small and medium-sized businesses. Its features include third-party integrations to design responsive newsletters and email campaigns.


  • A/B testing

  • Mobile optimized emails

  • Subscriber management

  • Customizable templates

  • Reporting/ Analytics

  • CAN SPAM compliance

  • Autoresponders

  • Customer Survey

Price (per user per month)

  • Free - $0

  • Growing business - $10 

  • Advanced - $21


clever reach

Source - G2 Reviews

CleverReach provides newsletter marketing solutions. It has a simple user interface that makes it easy for any beginner marketer to send marketing emails.


  • Automated email responses

  • Email and mobile preview

  • High-volume sending

  • Manage email lists

  • Manage email deliverability

  • Building and personalizing emails

  • Sending outbound emails

Price (per month)

  • Lite - $0

  • Essential - $8.92

  • Flex - $23.78

  • Enterprise - $494.38



Source - Capterra Reviews

ConvertKit is an email marketing solution that scales with your organization and customer base is simple to use, and is efficient. It is focused on the creator economy to enable creators and small businesses with email marketing.


  • CAN SPAM Compliance

  • AB Testing

  • Click Tracking

  • Auto-Responders

  • API

  • Campaign Management

  • Campaign Segmentation

  • Contact Management


  • Free - $0 for 300 subscribers

  • Creator - $9 per month

  • Creator pro - $25 per month


active campaign

Source: G2 Reviews

ActiveCampaign was established on the premise that outstanding customer development must extend beyond traditional advertising touchpoints such as email. It focuses on email automation and leads management via emails.


  • Manage email deliverability

  • Building and personalizing emails

  • Sending outbound emails

  • Dynamic content

  • Automated email responses

  • Marketing lead database

  • Mobile optimized

  • Segmentation

  • Data quality management

  • Lead nurturing

Price (per 1000 users per month)

  • Lite - $29

  • Plus - $49

  • Professional -  $149

  • Enterprise - customizable



Source - G2 Reviews

The Sendinblue allows you to follow web activity, email interaction, and information from your customers and leverage it to construct sophisticated automation processes.  This saves you time while also assisting you scale and expand your business.


  • IP Address

  • Domains

  • Content

  • Policy compliance

  • Processing time

  • Placement

  • Campaign performance

  • Domain reputation

  • Brand reputation

  • Blacklist and whitelist

Price (per month)

  • Free - $0

  • Starter - $19.79

  • Business - $49.71

  • Enterprise - $975.82

Research your use case before investing in ESPs

An email service provider is more than just a ‘helping hand’ in your marketing strategy. You may want automation for transaction emails, sending newsletters or onboarding new users. What you want to achieve with email is crucial to choosing an ESP provider, apart from the tips shared in this article.

Businesses use it to stay ahead of their competition by generating more leads. ESPs with the best deliverability rate ensure that your emails end up in your prospect’s inboxes and eventually be read by them.

So, if you still haven’t explored using an ESP, now is the time to do so. 


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