Should I Send An Email Using a Default Program or an Email Program? We’ll help you decide.

Sending emails is a core component of Marketo. While we do not generally consider email a tactic in itself, it plays a strong supporting role for other tactics and channels. Email is a common way to promote a trade show or event, or to distribute a piece of content to a specific audience. 

Screenshot of New Program in Marketo. The Program type is Default.

Like many things in Marketo, there are a couple different methods for HOW to send an email. One way is through an Email program, and the other is through a Default program. 

Choosing your program type is an initial step in the creation of any new email program.*

* We recommend creating two email channels during your channel set up. One should use an Email program type and the other should use a Default program type. 

While both program types will accomplish the basic task of getting an email out the door, there are distinct benefits and pitfalls to each program type. Let’s dive in. 

Email Program Type:

Screenshot of Marketo Email Type Program
Use an Email program for all of your email blasts. Think: One email, one list, one send.


  • Email programs can be nested under Event or Default program types for improved organization and folder structuring. For example, we recommend nesting Email programs promoting a webinar underneath the webinar Event program.  
Screenshot of a Marketo Email Program dashboard
  • A visual dashboard highlighting basic email metrics
  • More robust A/B test functionality than the Champion/Challenger used in Default programs. Email program A/B testing functionality performs traditionally, by testing an element on a determined sample size and then sending the winner to the remainder of the audience. 
  • Head Start and Recipient Time Zone functionality to reach your audience faster and at a more relevant time
    • Head Start: Selecting this option will start your email processing 12 hours in advance — getting large sends into inboxes sooner 
    • Recipient Time Zone: Choose a send time based on the location of the recipient. For example, set up your email to send at 8am and Marketo will use database parameters to send at 8am for people across all timezones 


  • Less sending flexibility. You cannot:
    • send two different emails within one Email program
    • send the email to a second audience within the same program once the email has already been sent. Email programs do not accommodate ongoing or repeat sends
    • send an email X days after a given action or data change. An email program is a one-time send at a chosen point in time

Default Program Type:

Screenshot of Marketo Default Program Type
Use a default program for sends requiring more complex logic, repeat sends, or multiple emails.


  • You can use more advanced send logic. For example, you can add a wait step to send 2 days after a certain action, or choose to send one version of an email to customers and another to prospects within a single flow step
  • You can choose to send the same email ongoing or on a repeatable cadence
  • You can monitor the performance of an email test over a period of time using the Champion/Challenger testing functionality


  • More restrictions on organization. Default programs can only be nested in an Engagement program 
  • There is no visual dashboard
  • There is no head start and recipient time zone functionality

If you’ve reached the end of this post and are still scratching your head over which option to choose, answer a simple question: Can you accomplish your task with an Email program using one email, one audience, and one send? If so, use an Email program to take advantage of better overall email send functionality. If your needs are more robust, then turn to the Default program. 

Happy emailing!

Your marketing technology experts.

At Digital Pi, we use technology to connect revenue to marketing efforts. We fuse marketing strategies, processes, data and applications to make marketing technology solutions work for clients' businesses.

Learn More
Share this resource

Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but if you’d like to make adjustments, you can visit our Cookie Notice page for more information.