21 June 2016 - Sharon Beilis

 Comparing a low-cost SMTP Relay to a full-featured ESP often comes down to an ROI calculation. While ESPs have many benefits, at their core, their infrastructure uses an SMTP relay to send messages. SMTP Relays can cost significantly less than their more feature-rich ESP counterparts, so determining which is right for you typically comes down to assessing the features offered by the ESP and determining if they are worth the price difference.


User-friendly GUI

The graphic user interface, like this example from Constant Contact, typically appeals to less-technical email marketers because it makes it easy to manage contacts, schedule campaigns, and run the holistic email marketing operation.


Statistical Dashboards

To track performance and profitability, ESPs often include a dashboard, like this one from Aweber, which shows details of the subscriber base, along with open, click, and bounce rates of specific campaigns or broadcasts.


Templates and WYSIWYG editors

With campaign templates of different types (promotions, newsletters, etc.) and a WYSIWYG editor, ESPs make it easy to create messages without any advanced HTML know-how.

List management

Options to manage multiple lists (for example, for agencies that manage emails for multiple clients) or multiple segments of the same list (for example, for companies that send different messages to different personas), are a key differentiator for ESPs

Campaign management

ESPs can manage different parts of a campaign and report on the entire campaign at a bird’s eye view, or each element in a granular view.

A/B testing

While each ESP offers different A/B testing (and/or multivariate testing) a bit differently, they typically offer an easy and automated way to test different messages and report on the winning variation.

When the SMTP is the Winner


If some of these feature are less critical for you, or if you have the programming and technical abilities to perform these operations on your own, you’ll likely be able to reduce costs by opting for an SMTP instead of a full-blown ESP vendor.

Also, often times email marketers will opt to use an SMTP for certain kinds of messages (i.e., transactional emails) and use the full-featured ESP for marketing campaigns.

The Best of Both Worlds

For those who are truly committed to optimizing ROI and monetizing the email marketing channel, there is a way to get the best of both worlds. Opting for a lower-cost SMTP and adding a feature rich front-end like Ongage gives financially-prudent performance-seekers the best of both worlds: the lower cost of the SMTP, with all of the features they need to optimize their campaigns and streamline their email marketing operations.