One of the questions we often get before engaging on an email vendor evaluation and selection is, “Where do you draw the line in determining what makes an ESP a small, mid-market, or enterprise vendor?”  

Our standard response is, “You can find that in our Email Vendor Features & Functions Guide“, but since we’re already here I’ll just share that part with you now….

The vendors in our Guide range from small-volume limited option deployment tools to highly sophisticated high-volume email marketing tools; to commercial in-house and appliance solutions.  The fundamentals for implementing email marketing deployment tools are the same regardless of the size of the organization.  The primary difference is between the vendor’s abilities to support enterprise, mid, or small market clients is scale and sophistication.

Enterprise (Highly Sophisticated; High Volume): 
A key consideration of an enterprise-class email deployment tool is its ability to send tens of millions of messages per month per client.  Other considerations include bi-directional data integration capabilities with the client’s data base(s), with the most advanced tools featuring open relational data table structures; integration to third-party applications; multi-channel support; integrated Promotional and Transactional platforms; dedicated IP addresses; and conditional data-driven messaging based on the user’s business rules. 

Advanced campaign and operational reporting at a granular level in real or near real time is a standard feature of an enterprise-class ESP.  Sophisticated User Interfaces provide non-technical user access to the advanced functions of the tool, while more technical users may operate the tool via command line or API.  Better SLAs, superior uptime, and an improved user experience allow internal IT staff to focus on core competencies and strategic tasks.

Commercial MTAs and appliances are generally considered an enterprise tool due to in-house operational and maintenance requirements; however larger mid-market users may want to investigate these options, also.

Enterprise-class tools benefit intermediate to advanced users with email volumes of several million to tens of millions of messages per month; those with highly sophisticated conditional rules-driven messaging needs; and/or those requiring a high degree of integration and customization.  

Mid-Market (Moderate Sophistication; Moderate Volume): 
Mid-Market deployment tools are competitive with Small-Market tools on one end of the spectrum and Enterprise tools at the other.  While some Mid-Market vendors offer free trials of their products, most require term contracts; unique IP addresses per customer are standard fare.  The widely varying capabilities of mid-market applications can make comparing solutions difficult.  The costs, the stability of the vendor, and flexibility of services are all key considerations in selecting mid-market deployment tools.

Mid-market vendors provide a higher degree of integration and customization than most small-market solutions, and like enterprise applications, generally provide import and export wizards, application program interfaces (APIs) and third-party integration tools for streamlined system implementation.  As with enterprise tools, mid-market tools provide the ability to more readily customize the application for particular business requirements and objectives.

Mid-Market class tools benefit beginner to advanced users with email volumes of tens of thousands to several millions of messages per month; those with enhanced data and messaging automation needs; and/or those requiring a moderate level of integration and customization.

Small-Market (Minimal Sophistication; Low Volume): 
Signs of Small-Market email tools generally include free trial offers with no contracted month-to-month service, pre-made message templates, and shared IP addresses. 

Several vendors offer basic to intermediate integration capabilities, and many support advanced features such as RSS, video, and built-in sharing to social networks.  User Interfaces and segmentation capabilities range from basic to intermediate as do reporting features. 

Small-Market tools benefit beginner through intermediate users; those with email volumes of thousands to tens of thousands of messages per month; and/or those requiring only basic messaging and reporting needs.

As you may have noticed, the key here is volume and sophistication.  A low volume sender with sophisticated needs will pay a higher Effective CPM for more advanced tools that they will typically see from a small market vendor.  But if the revenue gain significantly outweighs the cost, who cares?

It doesn’t always work the same in reverse.  High-volume senders with basic messaging needs need to pay close attention to a small or mid-market vendor’s throughput and their ability to support the sender’s volumes. 

How we define sophistication, well, that a whole other conversation….