G2 Crowd to roll out ESP ratings grid

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Choosing a new email service provider is no small task, but a new peer-led ratings system may make it a little easier for marketers. G2 Crowd, a provider of software and services reviews, this month will release its first email marketing ratings grid. Based entirely on user reviews, the grid provides a new way for marketers to get real-time feedback on ESPs. (It is currently available in beta but is scheduled to launch on Nov. 12.) The site, which lets users compare such business software and services as CRM, marketing automation, help desk and e-signature offerings in addition to ESPs, has already garnered more than 300 user reviews in the email category. Each ESP is rated using 40 structured questions including price, deliverability and usability. Reviews are fair, said G2 Crowd co-founder and CEO Godard Abel, because the site requires identification verification. "To become a [reviews] contributor you need to sign in with your LinkedIn profile," he said. "That way we can confirm that people aren't reviewing their own services or a competitor's. Based on their skills and assets listed on LinkedIn, we can also be sure they are competent to review an ESP." The categories enable G2 Crowd to segment data based on company size or vertical as well. Abel expects to add more reviews quickly because the site's traffic is growing about 20% each month, he said. The company is incentivizing reviewers with gamification, prizes and the ability to be known as an expert on LinkedIn in a particular subject. "People share their reviews and badges on LinkedIn because it strengthens their profiles," he said. So far, G2 Crowd's reviews have confirmed what email marketers have known for a while: There's a huge return on investment when you implement a successful email program. "The ROI for all of the tools reviewed on our site is very high," Abel said. "The median payback for investment is about six months." Because results are displayed in real time, when ESPs add new features, they will show up in reviews and rankings. This is different than a traditional industry analyst paradigm, Abel said. "Those research methodologies are not in real time," he said. ""Those firms send the surveys and take six to 12 months to publish their research, and that becomes the bible for 12 months to two years." Today, viewing the basic reviews and The Grid—the site's ratings on an axis—is free of charge. Users who pay a fee receive premium access, which enables sorting by 40 different features along with access to special reports and research.
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