Email is one of the most frequently used tools in today’s marketing world, and both businesses and consumers know it. 72% of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses through email and 73% of marketers think that email campaigns are crucial to their success.

There are numerous email marketing tools out there, from MailChimp to Aweber, that can help you create email campaigns and easily track your subscriber list, but these tools aren’t that efficient and will require more and more of your time as you grow your email list. To get ahead in 2016, businesses are increasingly turning to automation, from software automation tools to robots in factory assembly lines, in order to optimize the use of their resources and streamline their workflow – email marketing is no different.

To handle a growing email subscriber list and optimize conversion rates, businesses need to automate their email marketing funnel to better segment subscribers and get them to the content that will encourage them to convert and become paying customers. Here are the top 3 tools to automate your email marketing funnels in 2016.

1. Convertkit

Described as “email marketing for professional bloggers,” Convertkit is a great tool for small businesses to pull in potential customers and convert them. The service provides companies with customizable website opt-in forms to increase the number of subscribers entering the top of the sales funnel, but Convertkit’s real power comes with its email automation software.

Convertkit allows users to intuitively create drip email campaigns through a single window, in which you can see the entire chain of automated emails and reorder them with ease and ensure the campaign flow progresses from one communication to the next. The strongest feature of Convertkit is that you can set triggers and tag your customers to send them into different funnels of your email marketing campaign. For example, if a potential customer downloads a sample of your book or a free trial for your webinar, Convertkit can mark that email address and then send a follow-up email a few days later asking them if they would like to purchase the rest. Similarly, if a customer buys a product outright, you wouldn’t ask them if they’d like to buy the same thing again. Convertkit can funnel those customers through a different drip campaign, in which you could up-sell different products or services.

Convertkit offers only a handful of integrations with other services, so if you have an established tool set already, Convertkit isn’t the easiest choice to add to your arsenal. While this is a minor setback, Convertkit is a great tool and is growing swiftly. With the low starting price of $29 per month, it is a strong choice for businesses that solely want to focus on creating automated email marketing funnels.

2. ActiveCampaign

Similar to Convertkit, ActiveCampaign lets users create their emails with a drag-and-drop tool. In both cases, these drag-and-drop tools are somewhat limited and lack some of the customization that you can find with services that focus purely on email marketing. However, they can still create effective, if simple, emails.

ActiveCampaign is trusted by over 100,000 businesses according to its website, and it is easily the most established of the three tools on this list. One advantage that ActiveCampaign offers is that it takes the customized funnel one step further than Convertkit. Not only does the tool let you tag customers based on contact information and behavior to funnel them into different drip campaigns, but ActiveCampaign also lets you track what happens after customers receive your emails with a dashboard that shows conversion rates, clicks, and opens, among other email metrics, and it integrates with your customer service platform too. If you want to insert a personal touch into your automated campaign, you can set that up in ActiveCampaign, and the tool will send you a notification when it’s time for you to contact a customer through a personal email or phone call.

ActiveCampaign is slightly more expensive than Convertkit, with prices starting at $49 per month, but it offers a more robust service and also integrates with over 150 apps and services, making it easy to set up with your current marketing tools.

3. ClickFunnels

The most expensive of the three tools, beginning at $97 per month, is also the one that offers the most. ClickFunnels wants to be your one stop shop for creating your entire online sales funnel. ClickFunnels offers tools to design your landing page and organize your entire website around a sales funnel optimized for what you’re selling.

For an additional cost, the ClickFunnels toolset also includes “Actionetics,” which allows users to schedule automated text messages, emails, and physical mail to be sent to customers. ClickFunnels clients first design and write the communication that will be sent to potential customers and then specify when and under what circumstances consumers will receive those communications, allowing for the creation of separate conversion funnels. ClickFunnels will then send out your communications automatically, and users can look at the entire funnel across these different platforms in one window and easily make adjustments to it.

ClickFunnels also provides the added bonus of tracking your success across every part of your funnel, from your website to your email campaign, making it easy to identify strengths and weaknesses to optimize your sales funnel. While ClickFunnels is expensive, all clients get a two-week free trial, so you can test out the software before committing resources to it.

All three of these tools offer email marketing automation and will help you create a better sales funnel that will boost your conversion rate while requiring less of your time, so there is no wrong choice. Use email marketing automation to your advantage, and start optimizing your business’s experience for your customers’ satisfaction today by creating different funnels that target each of your customer’s needs.

Bob Adams is a serial entrepreneur and founder of