How to Choose an Email Automation Tool

I have been lucky enough to work with most email automation tools out there, large and small. From the entry level tools such as MailChimp and Campayn, to the more “robust” systems of Eloqua and Marketo, and those in between like Silverpop, HubSpot, Pardot  and Manticore (now Sales Engine), I’ve used them all. And from all that self-taught knowledge, I gained one basic understanding; they all do the same thing, which is empower your marketing strategy. With that said, the answer to “Which email marketing tool should I choose?” is very simple: the one that fits your strategy (and budget).

Simple enough, right? Maybe. Do you know what your marketing strategy is, and what type of strategy you intend to achieve? If so, then close your browser, have a beverage of your choosing and go on with your already booming business. If not, keep reading.

If you don’t have a fully structured campaign, the best email automation tool will do absolutely nothing for you other than sending email blasts one at a time. The first step is to think of what you want to accomplish with the email campaign.

These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you sit and “strategize” about your email nurturing/automation tool decision:

  • Do you need to educate the market before they purchase?
  • How many emails do you estimate would take to engage in a conversation?
  • How long is your sales cycle?
  • How much are you willing to spend on each lead?
  • How many Digital Marketing formats will you use?
  • How long are you willing to wait before your first email goes out?
  • How big is your company and your pockets?

You should also think about and prepare the following:

  • A specific segmentation of your database (hopefully you already have a database). Blasting everyone with the same message is not only unproductive, but annoying if you are on the receiving end of something you feel is irrelevant.
  • Have an asset worth sharing. If I had a dollar for each email I receive that provides no value to me, I would be the next Mark Cuban. Make sure to only email those who you expect to be interested in what you have to say.
  • Set up your Key Performance Indicators (KPI).  If you can’t measure, you will never know if what you are doing works.
  • Have a gradient of messaging. You wouldn’t like to hear my life story in one sitting, and though it is debatable you would like to hear it at all, I bet I stand a better chance if I give you bite-sized stories that will eventually paint the whole picture. Start with an introduction to your business, follow up with “how to do xyz,” then round it out with a third message showcasing the highlights of your product or service.

As you can see described here, the email marketing tool of your choosing is an incredible asset that will help you accomplish your marketing strategy, but as the old saying goes:”If you don’t know where you want to go, you will never get there.”  Take these questions into consideration before you start your RFP process.  It doesn’t mean that you should not go for a big email marketing service provider if you don’t have these elements just yet, but I would suggest to hold onto your hard-earned cash and go for a more economical approach like MailChimp or Campayn to get your feet wet before you go for the heavy hitters.

My Recommendations:

  • When to choose an enterprise level solution:
    • If your business has a long sales cycle
    • You are planning on segmenting and nurturing these segments for a long time
    • You have a robust CRM that helps you communicate marketing value with sales
    • You employ more digital/interactive marketing tools than just email
    • You have something similar to a marketing team with someone willing to learn how to use these tools or be willing to hire a consultant
    • Your company is an enterprise-level company with the budget for it
  • When to chose a mid-tier solution:
    • You have a fair grasp on your marketing strategy at least a calendar or fiscal quarter in advance
    • You will be introducing some more elaborate segmentation to your campaigns
    • You want a decent level of automation (and have planned accordingly)
    • You have enough time on your hands to familiarize yourself with the tool
    • You are willing to spend some considerable time comparing all the different options out there
  • When to choose an entry-level solution:
    • All you want is to send a quick newsletter from time to time
    • You don’t have a database and can benefit from one integrated with your ESP
    • You want to try something without a lot of commitment


There is no simple answer to this question, but I have worked with too many companies that buy a tool much bigger than what they truly need.  As an analogy, a Ferrari won’t get you faster to work in the morning commute than a Honda Civic, so you should only buy a Ferrari if you will have the room to use those 500 horse-power engine. Always start with a piece of paper, that is the one tool you need to figure out first.

For more information on how to pick your email marketing tool,  call us at 508-361-9049.

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