Inbox Insider: E-mail service providers break the mold

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E-mail marketing service providers are becoming more than just that. They are transitioning to social marketing providers, mobile marketing companies, behavioral marketing firms and so on.

Even the term “ESP,” widely used throughout the industry for years, may be a bit old — its inventors are disowning it.

David Daniels, a former analyst at Jupiter Media and Forrester Research, took credit for coining the term “ESP” years ago. However, he's now throwing around the phrase “connect marketing service provider” at his new consultancy firm, The Relevancy Group. Daniels told me last week that this term will better explain the services the traditional e-mail guys are offering nowadays.

To grow beyond their ESP status, many e-mail marketing companies are acquiring firms to build out additional offerings. This week, Constant Contact, one of the better known e-mail companies and a services provider for small-to-medium-sized businesses, acquired social media measurement company NutshellMail to expand its social/e-mail offering.

Last month e-Dialog, a mid-level e-mail player with clients including JetBlue and Office Max, acquired database marketing company MBS and mobile marketing company M3. These acquisitions expanded e-Dialog's services to include database marketing and mobile marketing.

Responsys, another mid-level e-mail player with clients such as Southwest Airlines and See's Candies, bought digital marketing consultancy Smith-Harmon last fall. The move expanded its strategy offering and its ability to produce creative.

Because marketers want more services in one place, companies are realizing it is no longer just about e-mail, but instead about how e-mail can tie to mobile, social, database and creative.

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