With such a huge range of email marketing tools to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start when you’re looking to send your first email campaign.

Here are our top 7 tips to help you choose the right email marketing tool. We’ll also share with you some of the tools we’ve used, and why we like them.

1. Number and Frequency of Emails

One of the key factors you will need to consider is how many emails you wish to send and how often.

If you’re sending to a small distribution list, i.e. hundreds rather than thousands, it will probably be better to use a tool which allows you to pay-as-you-go.

If you are sending larger numbers and more often, it may be worth using a monthly subscription tool which is likely to be more cost effective for you.

For smaller lists, there are some tools available free of charge, such as MailChimp, but these come with various limitations and your emails are usually sent with the tool’s logo in the footer.

2. How Easy is the System to Use?

Another important aspect of your email tool will be how easy it is to use. Some applications come with a library of templates to choose from, but all will have the option to create your own.

These can sometimes be complicated to use and may be limited in choice of layout.

It’s worth considering your level of design expertise and exactly what you are going to need your email to do. If it’s a simple newsletter then that should be relatively straightforward whichever package you choose.

But if you are going to be advertising a range of products in your campaigns, you may need to look into which tool is easy to use and yet still gives you a degree of layout flexibility.

If you need a particularly complicated design or would rather not deal with it in-house, some tools offer custom design services for a fee so that will be an important part of your choice.

You will also need to consider how your contacts are most likely to view your emails, as some applications are optimised to display well on mobile devices which may be more appropriate for your customers.

3. HTML or Text Emails?

Whichever application you choose, if you plan to send HTML emails (to allow formatting and images) you will also need a way to send the text version for those people whose programs can’t read the HTML.

Check to make sure your tool sends Mulitpart MIME type emails.

4. Adding Contacts to Your Email Marketing System

Once you have established your design requirements, you will need to look at how you are going to add your contacts to the tool. Most applications will allow you to load a CSV file which is usually straightforward.

Check how easy it is to update an existing contact, or to manually add a new one.

If you want people to be able to subscribe on your website, make sure the system you are considering provides the code you need to add to your website and that you can select the information you want your subscribers to provide.

5. Integration with Other Software

Some Email Marketing tools will integrate with other software including CRM applications, social media sites, accounts packages, sales & marketing automation systems, etc. This will allow you to import addresses directly into your email tool and will give you greater control of your data.

6. Work flows

Most email marketing systems will allow you to set up work flows.  These are particular processes you set up for your customer to go through, enabling you to nurture your potential customers if they’re simply not ready to complete a purchase.

An email marketing workflow, simply put, is a series of automatic emails that will be sent out as a response to your customer’s behaviour.

A perfect example of this would be when a customer abandons their basket. This can be a costly problem if you don’t react quickly and appropriately; but fear not… a lost customer can be recovered.

Creating a work flow that captures your list of cart abandoners, you can set up a rule to send out an automatic personalised email to a lost customer to remind them of the products in their cart, and even offer an incentive to continue through the checkout.

Remember to use easy links to their product page, making resumption to the checkout as simple as possible.

7. Tracking

As with any marketing activity, you will want to track the effectiveness of your campaigns.

All email tools will provide you with a report after a mailshot is sent, showing you how many emails were opened, clicked on, forwarded and how many people unsubscribed.

Check that the system also allows you to see any other information that is important to you e.g. the platform your reader is using, their operating system, what time they opened your email, etc

Some tools will then allow you to segment your lists by activity so that you can send a follow-up campaign specifically targeted at those who opened your email or clicked on one of the links etc.

Most email marketing tools will automatically integrate with Google Analytics and other similar software.

The more information your tool is able to provide the better, so that you can pinpoint exactly what works or doesn’t and can then tweak future campaigns to take this into account.

This means that the tracking capability of an email tool is another crucial element of your search.

With such a wide range available and so much variety in functionality, it is important to take into account your future business goals too, to allow for growth in your subscriber lists and email activity – and to avoid having to switch providers at a later date, which can be difficult and create a lot of work.

What WE Thought of Four Email Marketing Systems

We have trialled three email marketing tools to gain an impression of the range of functions and usability available.

  • MailChimp

mailchimpEasy to use, both in terms of template design and setting up the campaign – although their library of templates was fairly limited. MailChimp integrates with a very wide range of software and offers a good level of flexibility with subscription packages, helping to make it a very cost-effective choice.

Moreover, they offer a free tool for very small campaigns. Overall, we consider MailChimp to be a great tool for smaller businesses running simple campaigns. Check it out.


  • Active Campaign

We’ve been using Active Campaign alongside Mailchimp for our own marketing purposes and have found it to be Active_Campaign_Logoextremely proficient. Its easy set-up, as well as the pre-existing and well-designed templates have saved us a lot of time.

We’ve benefited from the capacity to custom-build forms, and from the excellent campaign automation functionality. The auto-responder and triggered campaigns are well-oiled, and the date-based campaign automation (which would, for example, allow us to send our followers a message on their birthday) could be an option for the future.

The main negative is that there’s no free version, although there are a variety of pricing options as well as a free 14-day trial.

Find out more here.

  • Campaign Monitor

campaign-monitor-logoStraightforward to use and as it allows you to send campaigns under a ‘white label’, which is ideal if you are sending campaigns on behalf of clients or you have several companies and/or brands within your group.

However, the tool is geared more towards very large mailings so there are fewer pricing options. Compared with other tools, Campaign Monitor offers less integration with other software and does not share across social sites.

Go to Campaign Monitor

  • Sign-Up To

A lot of functionality, but a less intuitive interface than the other applications we tested. However, they offer every user a free telephone tutorial when you set up an account with them and there is a great deal of support offered via the tool itself.

Sign-Up To offers split testing so that you can send up to 5 different versions of your email to randomly selected contacts, see which performs the best, then automatically send out the winning version to your remaining contacts.

Check out to Sign Up To

All four tools have comprehensive tracking and reporting capabilities and allow you to segment your lists by activity. However, even our small sample demonstrates how the various tools can differ and how each is geared towards a particular type of user and/or campaign.

Hopefully our short guide will give you enough information to get you started with choosing the right tool for your specific needs.

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