Having the ability to contact your prospects or your current customers in a relatively unintrusive way (especially compared to phone calls), is essential to increasing your sales, customer engagement, and retention. These emails keep you top of mind with customers and improve brand awareness.

While it may seem simple enough to use your regular email system in the beginning when business is small and clients and prospects are few and far between, the thought of sending individual emails to people when you have a large contact list is time-consuming and unnecessary. In order to handle the volume of emails you’ll be sending out, you need to enlist the help of an email service provider (ESP).

An email service provider is software that allows you to send email campaigns to a list of subscribers. It is a set of tools for email marketing that stores email addresses and sends emails. However, depending on your needs, ESP companies offer a variety of different functionalities to help you achieve your goals.

Some of these can include:

While there are a number of options to choose from, you’ll want to research ESPs before committing to one. Look for a program that has:

When looking for an ESP, remember that price and functionality will differ. Decide what you need out of your email service provider then look for one that best fits your needs. Here is a list of some of the most popular ESPs:

Mailchimp’s free starter version has basic functionality that allows you send custom emails to up to 2,000 contacts. For more advanced options like email and landing page templates or advanced segmentation, you’ll need to upgrade to a more advanced plan.

Constant Contact offers email service for small businesses looking to grow their lists. In addition to email functionality, Constant Contact integrates with social media ads for a holistic approach to reaching your audience.

ActiveCampaign is an email service provider focused on customer retention. This platform offers features specifically for ecommerce, B2B, and B2C businesses.

For those looking for extensive template options, Campaign Monitor could be a great platform to start with. This platform’s template builder makes creating custom, on-brand emails quick and easy.

ConvertKit is a popular platform for content creators and small business owners. In addition to email service, ConvertKit offers landing pages, integrates with most popular website builders and CRMs, and is fully customizable.

Sendinblue’s email marketing tools help make personalized emails easy to make. Users can create unlimited lists and groups for easy segmentation.

Once you’ve determined what functions you need in order to reach your marketing goals, and how many contacts you have or are looking to collect, you can decide on the right ESP for your business.