Email Service Providers have Jumped the Shark

email deliverability

In the event you never learned what the term Jump the Shark means… it means that it’s the beginning of the end. The term refers to Happy Days when the Fonz jumped a shark on water skis, throwing the show into a death spin it never recovered from.

If you’re an email service provider, don’t scream at me yet.

Email used to be a very difficult job and only the greatest senders had the talent, hardware, and applications to send high volumes of email to Internet Service Providers for companies with huge subscriber lists. The talent has begun to move around in the industry, the hardware has become plentiful (especially with the cloud) and applications are popping up left and right to send email.

The Email Industry Has Changed… it’s Cheaper and Easier Now

What’s happening in the industry is a proliferation of small email service providers popping up. They’re fantastic – have great applications, send very complex dynamic messaging, track perfectly, handle bounces, deliverability issues, comply with SPAM regulations, and have very robust integration methodologies that are typically free. And they’re doing it at a fraction of the cost of the big boys.

Here’s an example: Newsberry just became a sponsor of Martech Zone (that’s my disclosure). When I was checking out their site before approving the advertisement, I checked out their pricing page and was amazed at the prices:


I can have a subscriber list of up to 100,000 and send unlimited emails to them for $530 per month? That’s a little over $6,000 a year. I remember when I worked at an email service provider that our annual fees for a small business were about that… plus messaging fees… plus API access… plus, plus, plus…

These incredibly robust email providers are going to continue to shoot it out and businesses sending emails are going to be the ultimate winners. The losers are the very large email service providers who have been around a while – something needs to change.

Large Email Service Providers Overstate their Clout on Deliverability

Many of the large email service providers will tell you that the volumes of email they’re sending provide them with clout in the industry and they have better deliverability rates and relationships with the Internet Service Providers.

It’s not true. Small Email Service Providers can do just as great a job.

My good friend Greg Kraios manages some of those relationships between email service providers and internet service providers with his company, Den of Deliverability. He even helps companies who manage their own email get through to the ISPs! It doesn’t take a large company – it takes a great deliverability expert with good relationships – and Greg has them.

What Email Customers Need

Email service providers should be seamlessly (and I mean seamlessly) integrated with content management systems, customer relationship management systems, landing page optimization tools, and analytics applications. Marketing automation vendors like Aprimo and Eloqua are already stepping out in the lead on these. It’s not enough to send and measure email anymore… companies need more!

Even small, moderately priced email automation solutions are popping up, too! Infusionsoft is a solution with email and customer relationship management solutions fully integrated.

Customers need to easily repurpose content from throughout mediums, dynamically optimize content on the fly, measure the results – and even be provided with feedback on what won and lost. We don’t have time to jump from vendor solution to vendor solution during the day… and try to tie all the analytics querystrings together… and analyze for opportunities. Email service providers need to evolve to our needs.

It’s time for email service providers to take the leap, or they’re going to get blown by. Mailchimp announced 250,000 accounts added in 7 months to their solution. But even Mailchimp got terribly expensive as we grew our list successfully. We got tired of the big monthly bills so we built CircuPress – a beautiful, fully WordPress integrated email solution that’s saving us a bundle and automates our newsletters.

Do-It-Yourself Email Service Provider

Email has had a long, lucrative run – but it’s almost over. It doesn’t take much effort to build and maintain your own email service these days. Friend Adam Small was so fed up with the pricing and lack of automation methods, that he recently built his own for AgentSauce… now he’s got mobile, content management, Facebook, Twitter, and email fully integrated for his real estate clients. He’s even able to monitor deliverability, track opens and clicks and manage bounces!

If you’re not talented like Adam, you can go buy a box from folks like Strongmail, plug it in, turn it on, and have your own email service up and running. They’ll even help you get started.

Do-It-For-You Email Service Providers

Many email service providers and agencies are actually adding the service to the package as well. They recognize that building beautiful, compelling emails takes both time and expertise – and has a great return on investment, so they develop programs for their clients that are affordable and take all the effort off of the clients’ hands. A couple examples that I know of are Indiemark and Tomatofish.

How Email Service Providers Will Survive

My advice to the large email service providers out there is to find a content management system and buy it. Find a customer relationship management provider you integrate closely with… and merge with them. Get an analytics provider, and seamlessly integrate. And do it with robust targeting, segmentation, and testing solutions. If you don’t, someone will soon!


  1. 1

    This is a great article Doug. There are so many solutions available now to help a business scratch the surface of email marketing. I truly believe that the opportunity for many ESPs are exactly what they have spent years avoiding – and that is services. While its more profitable to sell and support software, its an increasingly harder sell when the market gets as saturated as it has become. If ESPs are able to actually provide companies tangible success (beyond software, but buy soup-to-nuts campaign planning, design, and execution) – that is worth way more than finding a tool to send email (90% of email marketing software functionality is really the same). Combine those services with strong integration points you have a package worth paying for.

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  3. 3

    I often like to create email in short shorts and a leather jacket. Is that not cool? Great article. In the section on do-it-for-you services, I would like to throw in davemail ( as an option. Our clients often give up on trying to do it themselves. As sophisticated as many of the online DIY providers are, they are not for everyone. Thanks for explaining the options.

  4. 4

    Quality Customer Data is the key for success in any marketing campaigns. There are literally too many companies that provide self-service email marketing or do full-service marketing for you. But, none of them can come up with the customer data except you and your business.

    Business (store-front’s in particular) need to find a way to “collect” customer information and “tie” it back to their purchases (this is fairly easy for online stores, but not quite for physical store-fronts) in your POS systems and make that information available for your marketing platform (email or sms or other). The true power of marketing lies in analyzing customer likes and dislikes and accordingly targeting them with proper offers.

    Good article!

  5. 5

    Hi thanks a lot for a discerning post, I really found your blog by mistake while searching on Google for something else ….I have bookmarked your site..keep sharing..

  6. 6

    I am looking if there are webmail providers that share profits with people who transfer their domain names for mail usage?

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