Marketing Automation Software Buyer's Guide
The Best Marketing Automation Software is All About Efficiently Augmenting Marketing and Sales Teams
By Michael Shearer, MA Expert
Augmenting your business capabilities with software is essential, but it isn't always easy to get started. In addition to facing tough choices about overcoming the problems with automation and integrating it with existing CRM frameworks, you also have to choose the best tools to support growth. With so many different marketing automation platforms on the market, comparing them all can be a task within itself.
This guide will explain the basic functionality of marketing automation software and suggest some core features buyers should expect from their purchase. We’ll walk you through the steps to take when preparing to buy a platform and give you some tools and recommendations to help you in the software selection process.
- The goal of automated marketing software is to streamline the marketing process directly into the sales process
- Marketing automation tools convert prospects to customers by offering them highly personalized experiences and content
- This software organizes marketing and nurturing tasks as well as promotes department collaboration, improved conversion rates, retention and ROI
- The most popular features are: email automation, lead nurturing, campaign tracking, customer tracking, cloud-based deployment and access for multiple users.
- When selecting software, it’s important to set out parameters for your needs from marketing automation tools. You should start by identifying the core requirements that your organization will utilize most heavily. Then, explore some advanced benefits — it might offer a competitive advantage in your field.
Quick Navigation Guide
See how the top 10 Marketing Automation platforms fare against the most common key requirements
Marketing automation software offers multi-channel abilities. It allows teams to create targeted campaigns, segment leads, collaborate with sales teams and generally improve their strategy. It's often confused for customer relationship management (CRM) software, but the two perform slightly different functions.
The goal of automated software is to streamline the marketing process directly into the sales process. Marketers can utilize this technology to plan, coordinate, manage and measure campaigns and ROI from those campaigns. Automated marketing tools also automate repetitive tasks like batch emailing to free up teams’ time and creative energy for other activities.
Marketing automation platforms help convert prospects to customers by offering them highly personalized experiences and content. Leads are managed via generation, scoring, nurturing and segmenting to ensure reps are always aware of where a lead is in the sales pipeline and how highly qualified they are. This helps your employees always target the right lead at the right time for conversion. Marketers who consistently make data-driven decisions are significantly more likely to generate better customer engagement and loyalty.
Many online marketing platforms offer analytical insights that help users track customer behavior in order to respond with decisive action. This helps shorten the sales cycle significantly, improving ROI and general sales performance. Many include options for automating emails like automated responders, email templates and drip emailing.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top marketing tools
Your goals for marketing automation platforms are likely to be unique, so it's imperative that your software includes the specific benefits you need to reach them. By clearly defining your goals before you start looking at different tools, you'll decrease the chances that you'll be swayed or misled by bells and whistles that don't really get the job done.
|Goal 1 |
Create better, more targeted marketing campaigns
|Creating better campaigns is easy with marketing automation platforms. Tools gather customer data from a range of sources including email campaigns, social media and website clicks. With this information, users can create highly personalized campaigns to draw in highly qualified leads and deliver your product or service to the people who want it.|
|Goal 2 |
Track leads to better nurture them
|Marketing automation tools track and segment leads to categorize them for the benefit of the team. They are also tracked as they progress through the sales pipeline. This makes them much easier to nurture long-term and fosters a trusting relationship with your brand.|
|Goal 3 |
Automate repetitive tasks
|Automating menial tasks takes the legwork out of marketing and makes the whole team more efficient. When both sales and marketing teams can view lead positions within the sales pipeline, it becomes second nature to work together to turn leads into lifelong customers.|
|Goal 4 |
Align sales and marketing goals for long-term customer relationships
|When every task is organized and your teams are collaborating, customers are never bounced from department to department or harassed with too many communications. This promotes a positive relationship between your brand and your clients.|
|Goal 5 |
The combination of all these factors means you’re likely to see improvement in sales, conversion, retention and ROI.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top Marketing Automation tools
Basic Marketing Automation Platform Features and Functionality
Now that you've set some concrete goals, you can consider the kinds of features and capabilities you'll require to achieve them. Although some observers at Forbes and other outlets note the many similarities between competing digital marketing automation tools, they also say that each option typically focuses on specific automation actions and workflows in varying degrees. A platform that markets itself as being comprehensive won't necessarily make it equally easy to perform different kinds of common tasks.
Here are some of the most common marketing automation software features:
|Lead Management||Includes lead filters, capturing, nurturing, scoring, customizable qualifiers and more. Marketers and sales reps can view the same information within the platform to track and monitor opportunities.|
|CRM Integration||Seamless integration with a CRM allows users to import customer history and other important client data to make the client experience as streamlined and personalized as possible.|
|Campaign Management||Creating and managing campaigns is the core of these online tools. Integrated marketing tools include campaign automation, multiple asset assignment and collaboration are all crucial elements of this feature.|
|Automated Email Marketing||Arguably the most valuable channel for marketing campaigns, online email capabilities are vital. Users can create templates, send batch emails, track customer engagement and more.|
Understanding What You Need in the Context of What's Available
Lofty ambitions are awesome, but they may make it more difficult to settle on practical solutions. While it's important to find automation software tools that fulfills the functions you need, it must do so in a fashion that suits your modus operandi and corporate culture.
Suppose you're committed to implementing a comprehensive sales and marketing automation platform that automatically generates and organizes account information for new clients as you make contact. If you simply jump at the first application that offers such functionality, there are no guarantees that you won't end up with new account entries that overlook important contact information or skip over certain unique factors that are relevant to your niche. In addition to comparing products to each other, you may need to refine your goals.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top platforms
Advanced Features to Consider
From our research with hundreds of software tool owners and managers, all looking for the best marketing automation tools, we gained the unique knowledge of what software is being selected and which features buyers wanted. Below are features that were most frequently sought out by buyers.
|Cloud-Based||Users want the flexibility, low cost and versatility of cloud software tools|
|Email Automation Tools||Automating a variety of automated emailing processes including batch email sending, drip email marketing and tracking engagement with those emails is a crucial part of functionality|
|Lead Nurturing||Lead nurturing includes everything from capturing a lead to marketing funnel automation and guiding them along the sales pipeline to building a lasting relationship|
|Campaign Tracking||Marketing automation platforms should offer tracking features for user engagement with campaigns, campaign ROI and other key features to help guide future campaigns|
|Customer Tracking||Users should also be able to track useful information about their customers’ interests, buying habits and other behavior in order to more accurately personalize their experience with your brand|
|Multiple Users||Useful marketing automation tools offers access to multiple users across departments to create a cohesive, collaborative team experience|
Each of these features offers unique abilities to your enterprise or small business, so it’s important to know which are right for you. Comparing vendors can be overwhelming, especially when they’re all going to offer similar functionality. To find out how different vendors score for specific requirements, check out our software platforms comparison report.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top Marketing Automation tools
Before You Buy
Quantify the Advantages of Each Tool
Because it can be difficult to compare the value of unique features from different software packages, it's wise to actually figure out how much time, money or resources each one will help you save.
Don't forget about general features that might not necessarily be explicitly related to marketing tasks. For example, your tools need to be easy to integrate into other business software tools, so they should export data in various formats and function seamlessly as you transition from one platform or device to another. If something goes wrong along the way, you shouldn't have to wait for a new patch or update; you should be able to rely on immediate service from the software provider.
Set Specific Targets
Market data predicts that by the year 2020, consumers will manage around 85 percent of their relationships with companies without ever talking to another human. While it's definitely wise to ask yourself whether your automation and CRM software tools will be able to keep pace with the demand, a better question would be how well they manage the small details.
Metrics are critical to the success of any implementation, so they ought to figure into your initial comparisons too. For instance, only 11 percent of respondents in 2015 said they thought software tools were too costly, but if you don't want to find yourself becoming a part of that small-yet-disgruntled segment, you'll make marketing automation software comparisons based on in-depth factors. Consider measurable quantifiers like:
- The projected training time needed for complete adoption
- Monthly licensing and operating fees
- Immediate ROI potential
- User accommodation capacity
Gauge Your Ability to Adjust
When business intelligence data reveals more efficient methodologies, smart organizations make changes in kind. Consider how that might translate into working with different marketing automation platforms. Applications that feature customizable or modular structures may lend themselves better to your quest for a unique platform that's ripe for fine-tuning.
Don't just settle for whichever software tools package boasts the longest list of features. No app is perfect out of the box, so no matter what field you're in or how flexible your needs may be, there will come a time when you have to make changes to the way your marketing automation tools function. Picking an option that fights you every step of the way could mean you end up wasting valuable effort.
Perform a Real-Life Needs Assessment
Finally, realize that you need to take the decision-making process further than mere conjecture, because even the best tools have learning curves. The secret to making your transition as smooth as possible is getting a concrete understanding of your problems and the specific ways marketing automation platforms can provide solutions.
Marketing automation was a $1.8 billion industry in 2015, and is expected to be worth 25.1 billion by 2023. In short, this means you have ample options but also that there are bound to be some that don't fit. Create an itemized list of what you're looking for, and as you compare marketing automation tools, don't be afraid to add things you might not have previously considered. To get started, use a requirements template or similar tool to narrow things down and focus your search.
SelectHub’s List of Marketing Tools
Of course, no automation comparison guide would be complete without an introduction to some of the most popular companies on the market. While we can’t choose services for you, we can give you a list of the most frequently chosen vendors of the past year as detailed at the top of this page.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top software tools
Questions to Ask Your Organization
- What are some short-term goals you hope to achieve with marketing automation tools?
- What are some long-term goals you hope to achieve with the software platform?
- What are your current KPIs, and how can you use them within your marketing automation software to show each department’s value?
- What deployment best fits your organization’s needs?
- What kind of reporting capabilities do you need? Do they need to be customizable?
- How many contacts do you need to store within the database?
- Do you anticipate growth in your organization? Can this software tool scale with you?
Questions to Ask Marketing Automation Software Companies
- Does this product support social media plugins?
- What apps does this product integrate with?
- What kind of support can they offer you?
- How customizable is this software tool?
- Does this product offer mobile capabilities?
- How long does implementation take?
- Is it easy to add additional users?
- Is employee training with the software included in the price? For how long?
- Can additional features be added after implementation?
- How often are new features or updates applied to this product?
The Final Word
Marketing automation software platforms are the ultimate solution for working smarter, not harder. It is designed to improve campaign targeting and lead segmentation to empower teams. This kind of software tool also promotes alignment between sales, marketing and management teams to improve efficiency and communication within your organization. Finally, automation aims to streamline overall pipeline flow, improve customer retention and deliver significant ROI for your business.
There are thousands of different types of marketing automation platforms out there, and some are even free to try. Make sure to ask for free trials and demos when you speak with sales reps to make sure you have explored all your options. Learn more about what might work best for you by requesting a free report.
HubSpot provides a cloud-based platform built around inbound methodology and designed to help businesses be more customer-centric. It offers a free CRM package along with marketing, sales, service and CMS hubs, which can be deployed individually or together for full flexibility and scalability.Timeline segmentation provides users with an overview of their prospect’s journey from the attraction stage to closing. Additional capabilities include funnel automation, lead targeting, analytics and reporting, email templates and more. It caters to small businesses but has paid versions robust enough to support the needs of larger organizations.
Based in Chicago, Illinois, ActiveCampaign provides cloud-based marketing services. It’s ideal for businesses of any size, as it offers a flexible, device-agnostic deployment model. It also functions as a marketing-oriented CRM with different integrations and exporting options to assist sales.It provides machine learning that can be used on data including phone calls, emails and sales. Machine learning enables predicting win probability and using predictive sending. Customers can also take advantage of a consultant directory with certified consultants from different countries.
Pardot is a tool from the award-winning company SalesForce. Pardot comes with a powerful set of features to help achieve alignment and meet KPI goals. The software comes equipped with automation features like lead management, automated email, analytics, landing page generation, lead generation and more. Insights generated by AI help augment the user experience with robust data and performance checks.
Infusionsoft by Keap is a comprehensive software platform designed to help small businesses save time and grow revenue. Rated as a top sales product for SMBs in 2019, this vendor brings automation and organization to sales and marketing activities. The available toolkit allows small businesses to gain extensive control over their efforts to help form personal, lasting connections with their customers. This product is suitable for individual business owners or small teams looking to scale and handle an increasing task load. The implementation includes a required kickstart package (available in three different price tiers) that helps users get set up with the program and positions them for success.
Eloqua is an MA product that was acquired by Oracle in December of 2012. The software boasts a number of standard MA features that aim to streamline the marketing process. With this product, marketers have access to features like targeting, audience segmentation, campaign personalization, visual campaign builders, integrations with popular messaging platforms and more. The software also boasts marketing-sales alignment features to help unify user’s messaging efforts across departments.
Marketo is a platform that offers numerous integrated features, all of which are industry standard and fine-tuned for users of varying knowledge levels. With powerful built-in features such as search marketing, landing page building, social media, analytics, SEO optimization, email automation and more, users of this product can gain powerful automation features to optimize their efforts.
SharpSpring touts itself as a simple, affordable marketing platform that automates various functions such as landing page creation and segmented email campaigns.Equipped with a number of standard and unique features, it offers marketing professionals variety and agility in their workflows.
ETrigue DemandCenter is an automation tool aimed at small to medium-sized teams. The product offers a bevy of standard MA features that marketers have come to expect of their tools, as well as several unique features that the eTrigue corporation brings to the automation landscape.Features include sophisticated campaign building, email marketing, analytics, landing page construction and more. The product also comes with its “campaign in a box”, which serves as a complete, full-execution campaign for six to 12-month operations.
Choose Oracle Marketing Cloud to build customer obsessed cultures, create and manage ideal customers, and power revenue performance. Award-winning technology and expertise to transform marketing by truly knowing the customer, engaging with cross-channel marketing, and achieving data driven accountability.
Sendinblue is a cloud-based suite of communication tools, including email marketing, transactional emails, text messages, CRM, signup forms and more.It includes features such as segmentation, retargeting, real-time statistics and website chat, and is suitable for companies of any size. Heat maps enable visualizing the engagement path of readers in a newsletter-type email by tracking clicks and aggregating them.
Bitrix24 facilitates the execution of the customer journey. It supplies organizations with tools for marketing, sales and customer service activities such as lead generation, marketing automation, campaign management and call center support.It comes with a free edition for companies with less advanced needs or a smaller budget. Deployment is available in the cloud and on-premise. It’s suitable for smaller businesses as well as enterprises with up to 50,000 employees.
Ontraport provides a cloud-based set of solutions that help small businesses handle marketing and sales processes. Its all-in-one design allows users to seamlessly switch between tasks and access information from a central location.Users can leverage the capabilities to store and track contacts, send multichannel marketing messages, automate sales processes, create landing pages, analyze marketing metrics, engage in e-commerce activities and more.
GreenRope, a cloud-based CRM software, consolidates and optimizes email marketing, social media, sales, event and project management simultaneously. It bridges the gap between sales and marketing to make data and processes easily accessible and transparent. Its all-in-one sales, marketing and operations modules simplify business processes to deliver optimized omnichannel customer experiences.
Digital marketing products — to keep simple marketing simple, and complex marketing possible. In today’s connected world, every customer interaction matters. Marketing Cloud helps you make the most of every touchpoint, giving you the tools to manage the customer journey across all channels. Today, the world's most innovative brands trust Marketing Cloud to help them build personalized customer journeys at every touchpoint with their brand — across all channels.
SALESmanago Marketing Automation provides next generation solutions that redefine the way traditional marketing tools are used in eCommerce, B2C and B2B companies. Every day we are going above and beyond the expectations regarding the capabilities of email marketing, dynamic personalized website content, social media marketing, anonymous marketing automation, online advertising and mobile marketing.
Mothernode CRM is a dynamic, highly expandable system which scales based on a company’s specific business and customer needs.The highly configurable application can be set up to align with a business’s industry, customer requirements and more. As SMBs grow into themselves, additional features and editions can be integrated for continued operations with a boosted level of functionality. No other system within Mothernode's class offers the same number of capabilities that are present in this system. With such a high degree features-to-price ratio, SMBs can take full advantage of a robust set of modules without overextending their budgets.
iContact, formerly known as Outmarket, is an email automation and marketing tool geared towards small and medium-sized businesses running Windows, MacOS and Linux.IContact offers several standard features, with a distinct focus on email automation features and easy-to-use technology. The software also comes bundled with a handful of unique functions such as A/B testing and a free email lookbook, which helps it stand out from industry competitors.
Make your leads travel faster down the sales funnel. Increase your traffic to lead conversion with mobile responsive landing pages, generate more leads from your existing website traffic using website widgets, and seamlessly capture leads from all your sources – inbound email, online campaigns, phone calls, website, chat, lead generation websites and more with LeadSquared.
Constant Contact is a web-based email marketing application suitable for small businesses. It enables businesses to import data from spreadsheets or email clients such as Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and other popular vendors.It provides built-in email templates with drag-and-drop elements and real-time reporting features to track email opens, clicks, forwards, social shares and more.
Mailchimp is a web-based marketing platform that specializes in email marketing, sending, monitoring and personalizing communications. Given its pricing point, it’s great for small or medium-sized businesses who want a fully-featured marketing implementation. Some of its standout features for include an intuitive website builder with a drag-and-drop interface, an integrated marketing database, as well as robust landing page builders for web and social media traffic. It also facilitates the creation of digital ads as well as physical postcards to reach customers via postal services.
Aritic is full stack automation software platform for digital business. Aritic PinPoint is a full-stack marketing automation software platform for the digital marketing team. Aritic Mail is transactional email relay system which help in delivering email to mailbox of the recipients. Aritic CRM and Aritic Desk are full-stack customer relationship management and service desk application which effectively helps business to maintain a continuous relationship with their end customers.
With IBM Campaign and Leads (formerly Unica), you can design, execute, and measure campaigns across all of your channels, and generate leads and convert them into loyal customers. The IBM® Lead Management solution is a complete set of capabilities for generating leads and converting them into loyal customers. When leads are not well managed, efficiency of sales decreases and the cost of marketing increases. The gap between sales and marketing can get even wider, resulting in a loss of productivity and an inability to achieve critical objectives.
CallidusCloud is a sophisticated email marketing, lead generation, lead management and sales acceleration product. Due to its robust features and scalability, it’s ideal for businesses of any size, though it’s typically a larger investment than its competitors.
Silverpop, a part of IBM Watson since 2014, is a cloud-based tool that provides automated email, campaign tracking, lead management and more to companies. This software has a strong market share in North America, Europe and Australia. Built around its email automation platform, the solution has since expanded its core features to a bevy of tools and is ideal for small, medium and large businesses, as well as freelancers and marketing professionals.
Sugar Market, formerly known as Salesfusion, is an enterprise-grade platform that enables companies to automate their marketing efforts. Based in the cloud, it’s suitable for medium-sized businesses. Features include email marketing, advanced automation, campaign builders, reporting, social media management, AdWord management, lead scoring and nurturing, marketing analytics and marketing resource management. Unlimited custom fields provide options for advanced segmentation and personalization, allowing marketers to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. It also allows users to set up multi-step nurture campaigns and measure success with BI-grade analytics and reporting.
HootSuite is a social media management system for brand management created by Ryan Holmes in 2008. The system’s user interface takes the form of a dashboard, and supports social network integrations for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, TrendSpottr and MixiWhether you’re managing a project, working with clients, or a member of a global team, HootSuite makes it easy to focus your efforts.
Infusionsoft is the leading sales and marketing software for small business owners that helps them get organized, grow sales and save time. Infusionsoft makes it easy to create and execute a sales and marketing strategy; centralize customer interactions; capture new leads; close sales faster; and automate repetitive tasks like follow-up, contact management, billing and payment—all from one place. Infusionsoft combines everything your business needs—contact management, CRM, marketing automation and e-commerce—into a single online system. It’s the easiest way to grow sales and save time.
Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is an integrated marketing resource management solution for marketing operation, planning, execution, and analytics across all channels—email, digital, social, SMS, and traditional.
ActiveDEMAND is an integrated marketing automation platform. Enables marketers, agencies and businesses to supercharge their efforts through streamlined campaign management, campaign recipes and attribution reporting while integrating with many other applications.
More than just CRM, 1CRM is a Customer Relationship and Business Management system for SMBs. Providing all the tools you need to manage and grow your business within just one online platform. Marketing Automation, Order Management, Service Project Management are just some of the features 1CRM provides. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device, 1CRM is the CRM you need to take your business to the next level.
CRMnext believes that CRM is all about amazing customers and keeping them happy throughout their lifecycle. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not only about physical software but also about strategy to solidify relationships with customers. With high impact CRM software solutions, organizations can align your strategy, processes and technology to manage customers and teams partners, efficiently and effectively.
LeadMaster is a cloud-based, customizable suite that allows businesses to manage sales leads more efficiently and automate marketing processes. Capabilities include lead management, email marketing, web integration, analytics and a virtual call center. It helps qualify and convert leads from multiple sources such as webinars, landing pages, sales lead suppliers, call centers and more. Field names, dashboard charts, forms and various other functions can be customized according to unique business needs. It can be integrated with other products via Zapier, and also supports integration with Outlook, Google Calendar, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Encompass, MindBody and click-to-dial VoIP. Subscription for a month covers installation, upgrades, maintenance and software licensing.
Agile CRM is an all-in-one cloud platform that enables companies to handle all activities and tasks across the customer lifecycle. With integrated modules for marketing, sales and service, it provides capabilities such as contact management, a deal pipeline, lead scoring, project management, email marketing and campaigns, service automation, and live chat.Targeted primarily at small businesses, it allows users to maintain visibility into contacts, boost results with sales enablement, engage web users and deliver comprehensive support. Free and premium versions are available.
Pricing & Cost Guide
See the Price/User for the top marketing automation tools… plus the most important considerations and questions to ask when shopping for software.
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