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What Is An Email Service Provider? And Do You Really Need One?

What is an Email Service Provider?

Today we’re going to take a looksy at what is an Email Service Provider. When I was first getting started on the internet back in 2003, I only knew of Mailchimp. And in all honestly, that original account probably still exists somewhere!

Yet today – over 14 years on – there are MANY options open to you if you’re looking for an email service provider.

(FYI: Sometimes Email Service Providers are called other names. Such as Email Marketing Provider. Or Email Responder. For convenience, and because the term is used more often, we will stick to email service provider!)

So, what is an email service provider? What do they do? And most importantly, do you really need one?


What is an Email Service Provider?

Email service provider – also known as ESPs for short – are the companies that handle email lists.

Whenever you have signed up for a mailing list, you have had to input your email address into a box in order to be kept up to date with news and offers right?

Sometimes this is done in person – and makes for a lot of work for whoever is building a list that way – but usually it is done on that company’s website using an opt-in form.

What’s An Opt-In Form?

Here is the opt in form on my website: (It’s a screenshot so you can’t actually input your info!) 😉

What is an Email Service Provider? - The Creative Curator Opt In Form - Eve Tokens

Here’s one from my friend Toni’s website:

What is an Email Service Provider? - Blissfully Crafted Opt In Form - Eve Tokens

And this one is from my project planner website:

What is an Email Service Provider? - PerfectProject Planner Opt In Form - Eve Tokens


So, you can see that an opt-in form is quite common on a website. And as they are VERY common, it makes for lots of email service providers to choose from!

If you are planning on building an email list for any reason, you will want an email service provider so that you can add an ‘opt-in’ form to your website for collecting emails addresses. It is much faster and easier than trying to read, and type up, handwritten email addresses!

What Is A Double Opt-In?

There’s also the issue of double opt-in. Now, don’t panic about it, but a double opt-in is required by law in many countries.

A double opt-in form means that when you write your name and email address into the form on my website, I will email you straight away. The email I send you will have a button for you to click, and when you click it, you have ‘double opted-in’ for my mailing list.

In Basics: when you put your email address in, it’s a single opt in. Clicking the button in my email is the double opt-in. It means that you won’t get spammed by multiple companies if anyone used your email address without your consent.

I LOVE double opt-ins because it means that the person who has signed up REALLY wants to hear from you.

A single opt-in could be used for spammers, and will bloat your email list.

And as email service providers cost money, we don’t want unnecessary bloating! It is FAR better to have a small engaged list than a huge, bloated and non-engaged list. Honest!

Sending Emails

So, as well as enabling you to add a sign up form to your website, an email service provider also allows you to email your subscribers.

  1. You can set up a newsletter as a broadcast that you send once a week or month.
  2. You can set up sequences – also called automations – so that when someone signs up as a subscriber, they are sent a series of emails welcoming them to your list. If you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get four emails from me, which are my welcome sequence!
  3. You could even use a sequence as a way to deliver some freebies to your subscribers! I have done this with a long email course on my other website.
  4. You can even set up sales funnels too, where you nurture your subscribers before making them an offer on one of your products.

Which Email Service Providers are suitable?

Now, there are quite a few email service providers out there, and not all of them are equal.

Some have ridiculous price tags for what they offer, some are great value but would be massively advanced for a newbies needs.

My suggestion is to start off simple if you’re new to building your email list.

Here’s a bunch of Email Service Providers:

  • MailerLite
  • Mailchimp
  • MadMimi
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Drip
  • ConvertKit
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Aweber
  • InfusionSoft
  • Constant Contact
  • Ontraport

And there are sill more I’m sure that I have never heard of!

Now, the email service providers I know and have used are:




Let’s take a look at each…


Like I said earlier Mailchimp has been around for some time. I use it for my email list here at and for the political party that I volunteer for.

It has a visual editor that can create well designed emails, but it doesn’t have the best ‘strike’ rate at getting emails into inboxes and not spam folders.

MailChimp is free for your first 2000 subscribers, and they recently incorporated automation into this – before you had to pay!


MailerLite is the new kid on the block out of the email service providers I know and use. They have great customer feedback – they reply to emails VERY fast! And though their interface is a little trickier to get used to, it is worth the effort. Emails sent using MailerLite have a better open rate for me than MailChimp.

MailerLite is also free for the first 1000 subscribers and is then $10 / €9 per month up to 2500 subscribers.


Now, this IS my favourite. I use ConvertKit for my main website (The Creative Curator) because it is more advanced yet easier to use than MailerLIte or MailChimp. The moment I start creating multiple products for this website, I will be transferring to ConvertKit.

Why? Ah, it is just nicer! As there is no visual editor built in, everything is text based and it just works. I use tags, segments, sequences… It’s a beautiful beast, with the perfect amount of functionality for a small business owner / online entrepreneur that isn’t planning on setting up lots of automated and complex funnels.

It isn’t cheap though. It does cost $29 for the basic 0-1000 subscribers, and then it becomes $49 per month for 1001-2499. 😮 But, I have used it for The Creative Curator and despite wanting to ‘trim the fat’ as they say on the costs of that business, I haven’t trimmed ConvertKit as it has been integral to growing my email list.

If you use this link to check out ConvertKit you’ll get your first month free!

Conclusion: Email Service Provider

So, do you need an email service provider? Yes, if you plan on selling anything on your website at any point. We didn’t go into it in this post, but you cannot rely on the likes of Facebook of Instagram to reach an audience. They are the same company now, and they are making it harder for small business owners to reach customers, without paying for ads.

Having an email list, which you nurture and attend to, will set you off to a cracking start!

That’s all for this week…










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