Marketing automation tools ease the manual burdens on sales, marketing, and email teams by following built-in workflows for preconfigured business policies. Marketing automation helps marketers analyze which customers should be contacted and when, the success rate of a marketing campaign, and the current intent of prospective buyers. This guide to marketing automation software provides an overview of the best solutions and features to look for when considering a marketing tool.
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What Is Marketing Automation Software?
Marketing automation software is designed to help marketers plan marketing campaigns, assess buying intent across channels like websites and social media, capture leads, nurture leads through the marketing funnel until they become qualified sales leads, and analyze campaign performance and lead behavior.
This type of software streamlines and simplifies some of the most time-consuming marketing responsibilities, making it an essential tool for B2C and B2B companies looking to connect with potential customers.
Features of Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation solutions provide tools that reduce manual work for marketers and decrease the chance that a lead will fall through the cracks. These tools also make it easier for sales and marketing teams to reach leads on consistent timelines, based on their funnel stage and behavior.
Workflows designed by users are what make automation possible. Marketing automation solutions allow sales and marketing teams to determine specific conditions to trigger the next action. The technology behind marketing automation platforms, often powered by artificial intelligence or machine learning, triggers the designated response when a lead performs an action.
For example, a marketer could select the action “Send text message to book appointment” to follow a specific user form submission on the website. As this automated workflow relies on if-then logic, if a lead fills out the form, then they’re automatically sent a text message with an option to book an appointment with an available sales representative.
Marketing automation software allows users to customize email marketing for segmented audiences, and more advanced systems can send triggered emails after prospects take a specific action, such as downloading certain content or filling out a form.
Lead nurturing is segmenting, tracking, and communicating with leads to turn them into prospects for sales teams. Depending on the lead’s stage in the sales funnel, marketers will provide them with informative content and reminders that serve their needs. Marketing content might include an invitation to a webinar, an e-book, or relevant blogs and articles. Reminders include notifications about appointments, meetings, abandoned shopping carts, or events.
Social media marketing
Marketing automation software often comes with social analytics tools to track audience interaction across social platforms. More advanced software offers functionality for creating polls, referral programs, and sweepstakes.
Analytics and reporting
One of the biggest benefits of marketing automation software is in-depth analytics. Dashboards resemble business intelligence software interfaces, displaying the most important KPIs for a user’s marketing programs.
Paid media, SEO, and digital advertising
Media features help marketing reps run paid campaigns from the centralized marketing tool. By viewing engagement and conversions on paid ads, marketers can gauge which campaigns they should prioritize and which have been less successful with leads.
Want to learn more about digital marketing? Read What is Digital Marketing? | Complete Guide at Small Business Computing.
What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation Software?
Benefits of marketing automation software include the following:
Automation of time-consuming manual tasks
Freeing employees from some of their previously manual marketing tasks gives them more time to work on valuable strategic work, like planning marketing campaigns or events. They’ll have better opportunities to study the results of their automations as well.
Multiple channels available to create comprehensive prospect profiles
Marketing automation tools utilize data from multiple sources, including emails and CRM solutions, to determine the next step in the lead nurturing process. Using multiple channels improves the accuracy of lead data.
Sales and marketing team unification
By setting scoring parameters and defining qualified leads, sales and marketing teams can get on the same page about their prospects. A marketing automation solution tracks specific metrics that determine when to move forward with a lead. This helps separate teams take a consistent approach rather than being siloed in their own plans. Marketing automation tools allow both marketing and sales to immediately transition to the next step of lead nurturing without having to wait for confirmation from multiple siloed channels.
Increased lead conversion and ROI
Sending consistent, useful communication to leads increases the likelihood that they’ll find your business useful and eventually convert. Marketing automation software also helps businesses find the leads that are most likely to convert more quickly, segmenting leads and determining which will benefit most from an organization’s products or services.
Top Marketing Automation Software
The following marketing automation tools have top-tier automation capabilities, helping businesses manage their email campaigns and lead nurturing, streamline their marketing strategy, and increase customer engagement.
Sendinblue is a marketing automation platform, CRM, and transactional email solution for businesses of all sizes. Sendinblue’s automation tools mainly focus on email and SMS marketing, although the tool offers other marketing features too.
Sendinblue organizes contact information into data fields, but users can also create their own custom data fields to further segment contacts into appropriate campaign or email groups. Segmented marketing groups are often based on customer behavior—for example, products previously purchased. Sendinblue records website visitor behavior, tracking the links a site visitor clicks and the pages they visit.
Sendinblue’s API allows users to design their own integrations with other software and import data from those platforms. The platform also features lead capturing through forms that customers can embed on websites and within company emails. The data that leads provide is automatically stored in the marketing solution.
With Sendinblue, marketers can design their own workflows with a visual editing interface, creating a map based on a potential user journey. Sendinblue offers customizable workflow templates to get them started.
Sendinblue integrates with popular web commerce platforms like WooCommerce, WordPress, BigCommerce, and Shopify. For small businesses and startups, Sendinblue’s marketing automation solution is free for up to 2,000 email contacts. Each plan offers all of Sendinblue’s automation features.
Considering an e-commerce tool? Read Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses.
HubSpot is a customer relationship management, marketing, and service software provider that offers advanced automation capabilities. With HubSpot’s lead nurturing automation, users can design a no-code email campaign by dragging and dropping emails and configuring the lead actions that trigger each email to be sent. The options for creating workflows are extensive: users can choose from multiple conditions and triggers to determine when emails are sent to leads.
Lead nurturing is also available in a visual format. The visual editor allows users to view the natural order of the workflow they’ve designed. Users can set internal notifications, triggered to send to the appropriate team members when a lead takes a particular action. These notifications tell sales personnel when it’s time to reach out to the lead.
HubSpot’s marketing automation features belong to its Marketing Hub, one of five modules offered by HubSpot. Customers can purchase a hub on its own or purchase multiple ones. HubSpot is a good choice for larger businesses or more experienced teams that have the time and skills to customize ideal workflows for their businesses. But HubSpot is still a viable choice for smaller businesses; it just may take additional time to implement.
The Marketing Hub Starter package starts at $45/month and includes 1,000 marketing contacts. Automation features include form and email automation. The Professional plan, which starts at $800/month, includes omnichannel marketing automation features and 2,000 contacts.
Keap offers sales and marketing automation software for startups and smaller businesses. One major highlight of Keap is its automated email campaigns: users can design automatic responses to lead generation forms once they’re filled out so that leads are immediately able to book an appointment. They can also design bulk emails in response to common queries so sales teams don’t have to consistently write the same emails. In addition, users can set emails that follow up with leads before and after an event.
Keap has automations for booking meetings with new clients, sending them appointment reminders, and following up with funnel-stage-appropriate content like courses and special offers. Users can automatically assign tasks to their sales teammates based on lead behavior and timing.
Although Keap is designed for small businesses, it offers plenty of specific email marketing automations, including promotions, payment reminders, and abandoned shopping cart notifications. Consider Keap if your business is particularly focused on setting easy email automations.
ActiveCampaign is a marketing and automation solution that serves B2B, B2C, and e-commerce business needs. It’s a tool for businesses of all sizes with a wide range of pricing options.
ActiveCampaign users can set workflows that track contacts’ interest levels based on actions like opening emails. An engagement score is compiled based on the number of actions they perform. Users can set automations that notify the sales team, for example, when a contact’s score reaches a certain threshold.
ActiveCampaign has over 850 integrations and plenty of features for larger teams to utilize; note that sales and marketing personnel may need weeks or months to learn how to use all of these features effectively.
ActiveCampaign’s many integrations provide flexibility for businesses that want to retain some of their old sales and marketing software and use it alongside ActiveCampaign: the marketing automation tool integrates with Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Freshworks, and Insightly, just to name a few. Consider ActiveCampaign if your company wants to take advantage of plenty of integrations but also has the time to implement and configure them.
ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan starts at $29/month for businesses with 1,000 contacts and only one user. Quotes for its largest plan, Enterprise, are available upon request.
GetResponse is a marketing automation platform for startups and small and medium-sized businesses. Its e-commerce marketing features include automatic abandoned cart emails and specific recommendations, populated within emails, that are based on website browsing history.
GetResponse allows users to design emails based on leads’ page visits and analyze lead behavior on web pages. For smaller businesses that want user behavior analytics, GetResponse can help teams customize messages for individual leads.
GetResponse’s pre-built workflow templates can also be linked together using tags and tag assigned conditions, so teams can create more complex workflows and extend automated lead nurturing one step further. For example, a marketing team might set up an automation for a welcome email when a new lead fills out a form on the website, but they might want an additional workflow to trigger after the welcome email, like an SMS message.
GetResponse integrates with e-commerce tools like Shopify, WooCommerce, and PayPal and other sales tools like Zendesk, HubSpot, and Salesforce. It has a free plan for businesses with up to 500 contacts, making it a good starting point for entrepreneurs and startups that don’t yet have the budget for a full-featured marketing tool.
The plan with the most features, Ecommerce Marketing, starts at $97.58/month for 1,000 contacts; this offers abandoned cart recovery and promo code features. The 24-month Ecommerce Marketing contract costs less than the 12-month, at $83.30/month for 1,000 contacts.
Marketo Engage, offered by Adobe, is a solution for building marketing campaigns and automating internal workflows. Teams are able to choose between multiple engagement program types and trigger specific campaign types. Marketo users can build landing pages that have integrated lead capture forms as well.
Marketo users can customize weighted lead scoring models based on lead engagement and can also score third parties. Another important lead feature allows users to configure lead and account routing so leads go to the appropriate sales representative. For example, a rep based in the lead’s geographic region or experienced in a particular technology they’re inquiring about can have those messages routed to them. Additionally, teams can configure automatic alerts for sales reps to let them know when a lead performs a specific action and needs a follow-up.
Automation features adjust based on sales and CRM data, personalizing customer experience when sales team members update lead information within the CRM. Consider Marketo if your team is prepared to invest plenty of hours in learning and implementing its wide range of automation features.
Marketo Engage integrates with other products within the Adobe Experience Cloud, so it may be a good choice for larger businesses that already use the Adobe suite. The solution comes in four different pricing plans; all require contacting the company, and pricing for the first three plans is determined by the customer’s database size.
Mailchimp is an email marketing automation platform that caters to businesses of all sizes. It allows customers to design user journeys based on conditions like signing up for emails or making a purchase. Mailchimp users specifically benefit from viewing leads’ progression through their automation workflows.
Mailchimp offers send time optimization for emails in some plans. Send time optimization uses data science to determine the best time to send an email to a lead, with some restrictions based on how much time is left in the day in the lead’s assigned time zone. If users don’t want to use send time optimization, they can simply schedule the email to send to the lead when they choose.
Mailchimp offers multiple e-commerce integrations, including Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Magento. These integrations allow users to design automations triggered by data from these e-commerce sites, like generated suggestions based on purchase history.
Mailchimp also offers a feature specifically for developers where they can design transactional emails through Mailchimp’s Transactional API or, alternatively, a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) integration. Transactional emails give leads key data like password reset notifications in a quick timeframe and help businesses develop trust with their leads.
Mailchimp has a free plan, perfect for small startups, with a monthly email send limit of 10,000. The Essentials and Standard plans are priced low, too. Mailchimp’s largest plan, Premium, starts at $299/month and is designed for professional marketers that want to heavily customize their email campaigns.
How to Choose Marketing Automation Software
If your business plans to purchase a marketing automation solution, consider the following questions.
How much customer support do you need?
Do you have a smaller or inexperienced marketing team? How many of them have used CRM or email automation tools in the past? If your team doesn’t have much experience with marketing tools, choose a provider that has excellent customer support reviews in case your team needs ongoing help as you deploy and learn the software.
What kind of tool would be appropriate for your business’s size?
If the company is an enterprise with experienced team members or former Salesforce administrators, you’ll likely benefit from a fuller-featured solution, even if it takes a few weeks or months to deploy. But a smaller business may need something simpler as its teams learn how to automate customer experience for the first time. Also consider how quickly your company is growing; you may want to choose a mid-range tool if you have a small business that you expect will double or triple in size in the near future.
Which features are a priority for your team?
If you’re primarily selecting a marketing tool for your email team, then prioritize software that has plenty of email marketing features. If your large enterprise needs a full suite of automation features, choose a larger solution with more customization options, such as a CRM.
Considering a customer relationship management tool? Read Best CRM Software & Tools next.