There are many reasons why SparkPost has become the world’s fastest-growing email delivery service. And we’re certainly proud of the technical and business benefits we deliver for developers and enterprises.

But we know you have options when you’re integrating email into your app or web site. In fact, the number and variety of choices sometimes can seem a little overwhelming. That’s why our team has put together a list of questions you should be asking us—or any email delivery service—to see which is the right fit for your business.

  • Does the service have a robust email API? This one should be a no-brainer, but you might surprised at how limiting some APIs can be, especially when they’ve been bolted onto an older platform. A modern technology stack should be built API-first, which is a key requirement for real-time, data-driven transactional email delivery.
  • Does it supply real-time data and analytics? Savvy senders understand that email metrics go way beyond “sent,” “opened,” and “clicked.” And in today’s world, an email service provider needs to supply that data in real-time. It should also give you access to detailed event history for each message, with the ability to access data via API. And if you’re really looking for data-driven insights, ask about the ability to stream activity with webhooks to as many webhook endpoints as you need.
  • Do they really understand email deliverability? A lot of ESPs consider an email “delivered” even if it ends up in a spam trap. The reality is that a provider with deep expertise, strong technology, and great relationships with global ISPs can help ensure as many emails as possible get to where they count— the inbox. A good email delivery service should be able to tell you their inbox placement rate, how they use technology to automate processing of deliverability signals from ISPs, and what they expect from you as a sender to ensure great email deliverability.
  • Is the service you’re considering a true cloud platform? Implementing an on-premises solution made sense a decade (or longer) ago, but it sure doesn’t today. And even a lot of service providers rely on a traditional data center model that’s become less viable every day. When you’re talking with prospective email delivery services, ask them directly about their platform. Are they built on a cloud native platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS)? Can they tell you about cloud auto-scaling and how it delivers radically better scalability, elasticity, and latency?
  • Does it incorporate security by design in every aspect of its platform? A strong perimeter defense should be a given (but ask anyway). Still, every wall can be breached somehow, somewhere. A modern cloud-based platform can defend the “squishy middle” inside its perimeter defense by incorporating security by design throughout its service, and when a provider compartmentalizes its service, it limits runaway vulnerabilities. Ask for certifications. And really do ask about that squishy middle.
  • Does it provide a meaningful service level agreement (SLA)? If email drives revenue for your business, you should ensure that your email delivery service has your back. That includes SLAs with teeth, burst rate guarantees, publicly available uptime history. Ask any service provider you’re considering to explain if they offer an SLA that covers just a narrow piece of their infrastructure—or if they cover the things that really matter, like end-to-end service and business continuity.
  • Does it offer the level of support you need? Whether you’re looking for great API docs and developer-friendly communities like Slack or dedicated account management by a team you know and trust, the right support can make all the difference to your success. So ask a prospective ESP whether they’ll give you support on your terms. And if a problem arises, will you know who you’re talking to, and will they understand your business?
  • Does it have happy customers? Don’t overlook intangibles like business growth. A track record of success backed by happy customers who are willing to publicly sing its praises is better than any marketing claim. And when you speak to references, be sure to ask what other email delivery services they’ve left in the past. You might notice a pattern that should tell you something.

I hope you’ve found these questions to be a helpful starting point when you’re looking at your options to integrate email delivery into your own app or business process. What do you look for when you’re evaluating options for email delivery? I’d love to hear what qualities matter to you—just leave a comment below.


P.S. Want to learn more? We’ve made a downloadable guide that builds on these questions to help you choose the right email delivery service. (Pro tip: it’s great for sharing with your colleagues.)


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What to Ask Before Implementing a Triggered Email Program

You’ve been digging into triggered email questions. You’ve learned the basics of triggered emails, mastered the triggered emails every retailer needs, and discovered the secrets of some really innovative triggered emails. What now? If you’re revved up to go, just ask yourself one question: is triggered email a fit for your business?

Well, I’m not going to equivocate. If you’re sending list-based marketing email, you should be sending triggered email as well. The growing ubiquity and affordability of cloud-based marketing automation platforms means the technical and cost barriers to entry have made triggered emails accessible to senders of every size—and no successful competitor is going to stand still.

That’s not to say it’s time to start throwing the switches, levers, and triggers without forethought. Triggered email is a powerful tool for nurturing customer engagement—and with great power comes great responsibility. Here are five triggered email questions you should consider before implementing your program:

  1. Have you optimized your existing email programs? From frequency to design, there may be ways to wring more out of your present efforts, even if you’re committed to a triggered email option.
  2. Who will oversee implementation? It should be a marketing responsibility, rather than IT. So make sure you have a clear understanding of who will manage the program, and give them a voice in picking the right platform to pull it off.
  3. Should you set frequency caps? There’s a hinge point at which a marketer’s emails can move from “informative” to “annoying.” So be sure to tread carefully here; test and re-test, as necessary. And be sure to consider the frequency generated by all your emails, not just the triggered ones: consumers certainly don’t discriminate between them.
  4. Do you have measurement and analytics procedures in place? There can be many adjustments involved in a triggered program. You may want to calculate how many purchases you would have gotten with versus without specific triggered emails, for instance. Or what your shopping cart retrieval rate was, and how it translated into revenue.
  5. How do I stand out from the competition? If others can use triggered email, they probably will. How can your branding and messaging help you? How might your sending times and trigger rules figure into this?

Turning Triggered Email Questions to Action

By putting the right information in front of that person at the right time, triggered email can garner very positive short-term outcomes while nurturing customer engagement over the long term. There are few stronger examples of win-win in email marketing. If your business depends upon customer engagement, triggered emails could be just the strategic tool you need.

What are some of best practices you’ve developed for implementing triggered email? I’d love to hear the questions you asked—and the answers that resolved them.


P.S. Do you have more triggered email questions? Check out my guide, “Getting Started with Triggered Email,” for a great introduction.