RAAK_Blog-Header_Marketing automation tool or email marketing tool Let the features decide!

Marketing automation tool or email marketing tool? Let the features decide!

Using the right tools to organize your email marketing campaigns can make your life a lot easier. But choosing the right tool for the job… is not that easy. The market is cluttered with a multitude of tools and options that are quite difficult to compare.

As a full-service email marketing agency, we have tested numerous email marketing tools over the years. And if we can give you one advice, it is this: make a choice and – if it works for you – stick to it. Because transferring your data from one tool to another can be a drag.

So how to choose the right tool for your needs? Experience has taught us that 3 steps can really help to narrow things down. We call it our A-B-C of email marketing tools:

Answer this: do you need an email marketing tool or a marketing automation tool?
Build a complete list of the features you need
Compare features, price and reviews on the web

Read on, complete your own A-B-C and find the tool that works best for you.

A/ Answer this: do you need an email marketing tool (Email Service Provider or ESP) or a marketing automation tool?

Not sure? You should consider marketing automation if you can answer ‘yes’ to more than one of these questions:

  • Does your customer buying process last longer than a week?
  • Do you need more than email marketing to drive revenue?
  • Do you want greater insight into how your marketing campaigns are performing? Into which campaigns are the most effective? Into whether you should be spending more or less money on marketing?
  • Do you sell to different demographics that require targeted messaging?
  • Does your marketing team need easier ways to create and send targeted, multi-touch email campaigns?
  • Does your sales team have trouble identifying the right leads to follow up on? Are they complaining about the quality of leads your marketing team is delivering?

B/ Build a complete list of features you need.

The most common features you can find:

Contact Management
Contact List Management:
Easily upload your contacts into different lists and create your own custom fields.

Demographic Segmentation*:
Segment on known demographic data such as country, gender, age, job title, etc.

Behavioural Segmentation*:
Create segments based on behaviour.
E.g. contacts who visited your website in the last seven days, people who registered for an upcoming event, prospects who didn’t click on a specific link in an email, etc.

Identify and keep track of specific groups of contacts.
E.g. create groups of contacts based on their interests.

CRM Integration*:
Connect your tool with your CRM so you can easily sync your data and don’t need to upload new contacts over and over again.

Data Quality Control*:
Detect, clean out and standardize contaminated (CRM) data, duplicates and faulty fields.

Lead Scoring and Grading**:
Determine sales-ready contacts by attributing scores based on demographical and/or behavioural data.

Revenue Cycle Modeling**:
Set stages for how leads flow through the purchasing process, automate rules for how they move from stage to stage and to provide a streamlined framework for your sales and marketing process.

Email creation
You can find a HTML and/or WYSIWYG editor to create your emails in all ESP’s or marketing automation tools.

Drag & Drop Editor*:
Create good looking emails without any knowledge of HTML. As mobile devices become increasingly popular, it is important to check if the Drag & Drop Editor is suited for mobile optimized emails.

Custom templates*:
Add and edit your own templates for more customized options than merely choosing from a list of predesigned templates.  

Include information from your contacts (such as name) into your emails and landing pages.

Dynamic Content*:
Personalize part of your emails or landing pages based on segmentation.
E.g. show the wine article when sending to wine lovers, show the article on cheese to cheese lovers.

Enter a variable once and then auto-insert it into every relevant email or landing page.
E.g. your signature, your event location, etc.

Include part(s) of created content blocks in different mailings or landing pages. If you change your snippet, the changes will be applied in all related assets. You can also create a dynamic snippet based on segmentation.

Other assets
Create forms on your website(s) and/or landing pages to handle registrations and content or contact requests. Include different questions to improve the contact profile over time. Some advanced systems* give you the possibility to add social sign-in, hint text, tool tips, progressive profiling, etc. 

Landing pages:
Publish additional and/or personalized information online. Include forms, videos, social share buttons and more to improve your marketing campaigns.

Images and files:
Some tools offer server storage for your files and images. This can come in handy if your own server space is limited.

Batch Email Campaigns:
Launch batches of emails at a specific time to affect a specific set of leads all at once.
E.g. send a newsletter to your prospects list.

Triggered Email Campaigns / Autoresponders*:
Trigger emails to one lead at a time based on a specific action by the contact.
E.g. send a confirmation after someone filled out a form.

Send your contacts SMS messages to remind them of an upcoming event or to notify them when you have a sales promotion.

Lead Nurturing*:
Track and develop contacts into sales-qualified leads.
E.g. send a new contact a series of 4 welcome emails, sent each 7th day after signup.

Workflows – Scenario building**:
Create custom automation processes for your marketing campaigns. Define who needs to be included in the flow based on filters or triggers, and design the steps you want your contacts to follow. Including waiting steps and split choices when needed.

Event Marketing – Live events or webinars**:
Streamline the entire event process including personalized invitations, registration, reminders, post-event follow-up and analytics. This type of feature is often connected with other (webinar-)tools like Cisco WebEx®, Adobe Connect, Citrix, GoToWebinar, ON24, etc.

Social Sharing / Social Campaigns**:
Add share buttons to your emails or landing pages. Schedule automated posts to one or more social accounts. Or even launch social applications such as polls, sweepstakes, referral programs, etc. And of course reporting options to track all of these social campaigns.

Sales Support **:
Give your sales force insight into interesting movements of their prospects. Communicate automated feedback or tasks via email, RSS, mobile devices or CRM tool such as Salesforce.

Basic Analytics:
Get the basic figures of an email campaign, such as opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, etc.

A/B Testing*:
Submit two different versions of an email simultaneously to different contacts to measure which of the two (A or B) works best (usability testing). A small group will get the test version, the rest will get the winner.

Advanced Analytics**:
Think about ROI analytics, revenue analytics, multi-touch reporting, SEO analytics, measuring new contacts by source/campaign/month, landing page performance, and so on.

Web Analytics / Online Behavior Tracking **:
Know which contacts visited your site, what pages they went to, what keywords they use, even what they say on social networks. All with the goal of understanding who they are, what they are interested in and where they are in the process of buying from your company.

Save time by cloning entire marketing campaigns or single assets.

User Roles and Permissions*:
Assign permissions that align with specific functionalities or tasks.

Create and manage sub-accounts, e.g. for different business units inside your company.

Connect your tool with other apps or services like Facebook, Twitter, SurveyMonkey, Shopify, Magento, etc. so you can easily sync your data from those services.

API Connection*:
Allow other systems to connect to your email marketing tool through an application programming interface (API) to collect data or perform an action.

Keep track of budgets and expenses for each marketing campaign.

Manage a calendar for the entire marketing department, from promotions over email blasts to PR, etc.

Customer support
Get adequate technical support when you have an issue or a question, or when your tool is failing.
*not in all ESP’s
**only in Marketing Automation tools

C/ Compare features, price and reviews on the web
Once you decided if you need an ESP or Marketing Automation tool and you have listed all the needed features, you can start browsing the web to find the perfect solution for you.

G2Crowd is an interesting website that can help you with this project: select the wanted features and preferred price and get a list of recommendations. On top of that, you can compare different tools and read the reviews of users worldwide.


Making the right choice from the multitude of email marketing tools out there is a difficult strategic choice. But making a list of what you need can really help to narrow things down. Still not sure? Feel free to reach out to us! We will gladly sit down with you to resolve your issues together.  

Posted on
Jul 28, 2016