May 29, 2020

A Practical Guide to the Top Email Marketing Automation Tools

by Digital Marketing Institute

Email marketing is essential for digital marketers for several reasons, including how effective it is and the return on investment (ROI). In the world of B2B specifically, email marketing comes in at number three for the most influential source of information, and that’s only because industry experts and colleague recommendations take the top two spots.

Moreover, for every dollar you spend on email marketing, you’ll generate about $38 – that’s an ROI of 3,800%, making it one of the highest grossing forms of marketing you can engage in.

There are plenty of platforms and tools out there that can make your life easier when planning and executing email marketing campaigns; so many, in fact, that it can be difficult to wade through all the information and pick the right one. There are lots of good platforms, but it’s important to know what makes a great email automation tool, and that includes things like built-in customer relationship management (CRM), social media integration, advanced content capabilities, ease of use, and even available training and customer support.

To help you choose the right email marketing tool for your needs, here’s what you need to know about four of the most popular platforms on the market today.


Key functions and features:

ActiveCampaign is geared toward small- and medium-sized businesses as well as corporations, making it a versatile and well-rounded platform. Along with basic features like automating email responses, creating calendars, and automated sending, the platform also allows you to segment your audience, personalize emails, and manage deliverability. Once an email has been sent, you’ll be able to see who’s opened it, who’s clicked through, which pages they visited, and more. When it comes to guaranteeing the most successful campaigns, this tool also has you covered, with key functions and features such as:

  • Mobile optimization
  • A/B testing
  • Analytics for revenue, ROI, and keywords
  • Landing page creation
  • Tracking online behavior and search

Pros and cons:

Anybody who has used ActiveCampaign will tell you it has far more pros than it does cons (in fact, most people have trouble coming up with cons). The pros include that the platform is easy to setup and use, there’s no activation fee, and with subscriptions starting as low as $9 a month, you can’t beat the affordability. It also has all the key features you’d want in an email automation platform, and more, including integration with social media. The one con that some people mention is the reporting could be clearer, but you still get access to all the insights you’d expect from a tool like this.

Why choose ActiveCampaign?

One of the key features of ActiveCampaign is that it’s equipped with its own CRM that provides lead scoring, and that you can use it to manage and nurture leads, which makes the process of email marketing more streamlined and efficient. And because the CRM is integrated with the tool, it makes it easy to customize campaigns based on data that’s specific to each subscriber.


Key functions and features:

MailChimp is an extremely comprehensive email automation tool, and there are very few features and functions this platform doesn’t boast. You can either work from templates or design your own emails from scratch; you can segment your lists and send customized emails to different groups; and you can even send drip emails based on individual subscriber activity.

As you would expect, you can automate a variety of tasks, including sending automatic emails whenever you update your blog, thanks to the RSS-to-email function. The platform also has basic analytics about open, click-through, and other rates, and you can integrate it with many other platforms, such as WordPress, Magento, and Shopify.

Furthermore, you can create custom signup forms that are easily integrated on social media and websites.


Something that people love about MailChimp is how easy it is to use: the design and interface are very intuitive, importing and exporting lists is a breeze, and this makes email marketing simple, even for a beginner. The numerous integration options are also very appealing because this improves efficiency and ease-of-use. Moreover, when you have a paid subscription, MailChimp offers just about every function and feature you could ask for in an email automation tool.


One of the cons of MailChimp is that even though it has a ‘forever free’ version, there are some restrictions, including lower send limits, a lack of auto-response, and a reduced contact limit. Another problem people cite is that it requires a double opt-in from subscribers (they sign up and then have to confirm their email), and this can reduce your list size and cut you off from subscribers who actually want to receive your emails.

Why choose MailChimp?

Unlike most other email automation tools, MailChimp offers a completely free version of their platform, and this is especially appealing to start-ups and small businesses who recognize the need for email marketing but don’t have a huge budget. Even the forever free account lets you send 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 contacts, which is more than enough for some small- and medium-businesses.


Key functions and features:

Marketo is ideal for both B2B and B2C enterprises, and is consistently ranked among the top automation platforms on the market. The comprehensive offering includes features like automated responses, segmentation, and email personalization, and basic reporting and analytics. The tool also allows you to set up automated emails that can be triggered by more than 40 different subscriber behaviors, and it allows for the creation of dynamic content. Other key features include:

  • A/B testing
  • Automated alerts
  • CRM lead integration options, lead nurturing, and lead scoring
  • Event and webinar marketing
  • Social integration for ads, sharing, engagement, and listening

Pros and cons:

Marketo doesn’t have a setup fee, but subscriptions start at $895 a month. Although this is far from the most expensive tool on the market, it certainly does require a budget. The full suite of features, however, is well worth the investment, as it also offers tools for sales teams and integration options with a variety of other platforms. Marketo is also good for people who are just getting started with email marketing because you can start with basic functions and progress to more complex techniques as you get familiar with the platform. The tool also gets high marks for usability and ease of setup. There aren’t too many negatives that users talk about with Marketo, but one of them is that the landing page builder needs to be updated, because it can be difficult to use. People also say the analytics and reporting could use work, as they’re currently limited and take a long time to generate.

Why choose Marketo?

User-friendliness is probably the number one reason to choose Marketo. The platform is relatively easy to set up, you can get going with campaigns quickly, and the interface is intuitive and easy to use. Moreover, Marketo offers top-notch customer support for people who encounter problems, and there’s a large and active community you can rely on for anything from troubleshooting technical problems to campaign advice.


Key functions and features:

GetResponse is a favorite automation platform for many organizations, and there are good reasons for this. For starters, it has all the basic features you will need, including automated responses, segmentation, personalization, dynamic content, and reporting and analytics. Beyond that, however, you can also use the platform to create landing pages and responsive forms, and there are integration options for CRM and third-party lead-generation tools. It also has advanced A/B testing options, tracking functionality, and you can set up automated emails based on various subscriber behaviors. Other features include lead filtering, scoring, and tagging.

Pros and cons:

GetResponse is easy to use for both beginners and advanced email marketers, and it’s also one of the most affordable platforms out there (for $10 a month, you can get access to all the basic automation features) – plus, it offers a free 30-day trial. It also has hundreds of well-designed templates, stock photos, and more, which simplifies the process of creating visually appealing and professional campaigns. Other features that users love about GetResponse include:

  • Single opt-in
  • Suggestions for optimal times to send campaigns
  • Great customer support
  • High deliverability

One of the main concerns people have with GetResponse, however, is that the automation tools are basic and limited, even though they do have autoresponders.

Why choose GetResponse?

Beauty in simplicity is the name of the game with GetResponse. The drag-and-drop features of the platform make it so easy to create and automate email campaigns that even a beginner will be able to manage, and seasoned email marketers will appreciate the effortlessness of it all. With the drag-and-drop feature, you can create, segment, and choose dynamic content, and this means you can execute automated campaigns with ease.


Email marketing may be one of the original forms of digital marketing, but it’s just as important and popular now as it was in the beginning. However, just because email marketing is vital, it doesn’t need to take up your entire day. Email automation platforms like the ones discussed here can improve your campaigns, your efficiency, and the ROI you see on your email marketing efforts.

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