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Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide 

Introduction 

Businesses have more ways than ever to reach potential customers, so it can be difficult to figure out the best marketing strategies. But technology is now making the job easier, providing automation and scale. 

Marketing automation software helps businesses reach more prospects, fill their lead pipelines and develop data-driven marketing strategies.  

Marketing Automation Stats 

  • The marketing automation software market is expected to reach $32.6 billion by 2024. Source: P&S Intelligence. 
  • 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation. Source: EmailMonday. 
  • 70% of companies rank improved targeting of messages as the most important benefit of marketing automation. Source: EmailMonday. 
  • The number of email users globally will grow to 4.3 billion by 2022. Source: Oberlo. 
  • Every $1 spent on email marketing delivers an expected return of $32. Source: Oberlo. 
  • About 80% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) rely on email as their primary customer retention channel. Source: Oberlo. 
  • The average open rate for a welcome email is 82%. Source: Oberlo. 
  • Emails with personalized subject lines generate 50% higher open rates. Source: Oberlo. 
  • Adding videos to emails can increase click rates by 300%. Source: Oberlo. 

What is Marketing Automation Software? 

Marketing automation software helps companies manage marketing campaigns and convert leads into sales. Businesses can use automation and tracking tools to reach high volumes of prospects, analyze their behavior and nurture relationships through the sales funnel. The software supports email, social media, web and multichannel marketing strategies. 

Common Marketing Automation Features 

Marketing automation solutions have several standard features, including: 

Email marketing – Email marketing delivers email blasts, such as promotions and newsletters, to multiple contacts simultaneously. The contact list usually contains subscribers or people who’ve opted in to receiving emails. 

Triggered email marketing – Companies can define specific prospect behavior to trigger email marketing. For example, if a customer purchases a company’s product, a triggered email can be sent to promote additional products or services as a means to upsell. 

Forms and landing pages – Custom forms and landing pages allow marketers to capture lead info (name, email address, qualifying questions, etc.) when people sign up for offers or download an asset from a website. 

Lead management – A lead management system, also known as customer acquisitions management, generates new customers to increase revenue and business development. 

Lead nurturing – Companies can create and automate lead nurturing workflows that send relevant messages to prospects based on their behaviors or predefined campaign parameters. 

Lead scoringThis feature prioritizes potential customers based on how much interest they show in the company or products, which reduces the risk of chasing down dead-end leads. 

Campaign reporting and analytics – Reporting and analytical features help companies measure the success of advertising campaigns. Tools include dashboards and built-in or customizable reporting templates. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) system integration – Integration with CRM solutions allows Marketing and Sales to work together. Both departments can access relevant prospect and customer data to generate effective leads and convert them into customers. 

Top Benefits of Marketing Automation Software 

There are numerous benefits of marketing automation software, such as: 

Smoother workflows  

Workflow automation features keep all activities, processes and documents involved in a marketing campaign organized, making workflows smoother. Automating routine tasks that involve asset management, conversion processes and budgeting can also reduce the risk of human error.  

Increased productivity  

When used effectively, marketing automation reduces the amount of manual, repetitive tasks in marketing processes. This saves times and energy, allowing marketers to focus more on the quality of their campaigns and other tasks that require manual monitoring.  

Centralized marketing management  

Marketing automation tools can be used with different digital platforms, like email, landing pages and social media. Using marketing automation to centralize the management of these disparate channels will simplify various tasks for cross-channel campaigns.  

Increased revenue  

When marketing processes are running at peak efficiency, team members rely more on delivering quality messages at the right time, which can acquire and retain more customers to boost revenue.  

360° campaign view  

Marketing automation makes it easy to track the performance and expense of a campaign. It also tracks how prospects respond to a campaign, allowing marketers to easily monitor its success.  

Higher customer relationship retention and extension  

Relationship marketing focuses on a customer’s satisfaction, which can result in long-lasting relationships and repeated sales. This includes techniques like upselling, cross-selling and loyalty campaigns. Marketing automation allows companies to deepen their relationships with prospects and customers through features that monitor buying behaviors, deliver trigger campaigns and nurture leads.  

Marketing Automation Software vs. Email Marketing Software 

Marketing automation software and email marketing software are closely related but differ in scope.  

Email marketing software includes all the core email features of marketing automation software, such as batch emails, segmentation, trigger emails, forms, dynamic content and split testing.  

Marketing automation software is more extensive and includes features that follow the customer through the sales funnel, such as lead scoring and nurturing, social media, analytics and reporting, and CRM integration. 

B2B vs. B2C Marketing Automation Needs 

Companies may have different marketing automation needs depending on whether their customers are other businesses or individual consumers. 

Business-to-business (B2B) – B2B companies market to other companies. Purchase sizes are generally large and buyers are often more knowledgeable. B2B marketing usually requires a long sales cycle, as relationships need to be nurtured and developed. 

Because converting leads into customers can be difficult, B2B companies should look for marketing automation software with lead management, nurturing and scoring features. In addition, buyers will want CRM integration, so that info can be transferred seamlessly from Marketing to Sales. 

Business-to-consumer (B2C) – B2C companies sell products to consumers. Although B2C companies have shorter sales cycles than B2B companies, they need to reach high volumes of prospects who usually make smaller purchases. 

B2C companies will want marketing automation software that can manage a large database of customer data, as well as analytics and segmentation tools to define the target audience and automate marketing for leads. 

Types of Marketing Automation Software Buyers 

There are three main types of marketing automation software buyers. 

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)Because small and medium-sized businesses often have limited marketing employees, they benefit from a marketing automation solution that can reach a high volume of customers or automate time-intensive administrative tasks, such as generating warm leads and reducing cold calling. 

SMBs should purchase a marketing automation solution that provides only the features they need to avoid overpaying for unnecessary functionality. For example, some solutions focus mainly on email marketing while others offer lead scoring and nurturing.  

Large and enterprise-level businesses – Large and enterprise-level businesses often have extensive marketing, sales and content teams. They benefit from marketing automation solutions that can provide coordination, collaboration and visibility tools. For instance, lead scoring can help sales staff monitor where customers are in the sales funnel. In addition, dashboards allow marketing teams to develop a content calendar and schedule posts at the most effective times. 

Large companies may also run sophisticated marketing campaigns and benefit from tools like A/B email testing. They should look for a marketing automation solution that can integrate with other business software, such as CRM systems. 

E-commerce businessesE-commerce businesses rely on marketing products to consumers at scale without human labor. Potential customers mainly engage with the company’s website, online advertisements and emails. 

E-commerce businesses benefit from a marketing automation solution with automated trigger messages, such as a reminder email when a consumer abandons an online shopping cart or an upsell email right after a customer has made a purchase. In addition, online retailers will want a marketing automation platform that can integrate with order fulfillment and shipping software. 

How to Choose a Marketing Automation Vendor  

Marketing automation vendors can vary significantly in features and pricing, so it’s important to do your research and investigate your options. We recommend the following steps when choosing a marketing automation vendor. 

  1. Identify your company’s needs

The first step in identifying your needs is to understand the number of marketing campaigns you’ll run, contacts you want to reach and users who’ll access the system. 

You should also consider what type of functionality is important to your business. Do you want lead scoring and nurturing capabilities? Is triggered email marketing part of your strategy? 

It’s a good idea to know which key performance indicators you want to improve by investing in marketing automation software. Common goals include increasing sales conversion or filling a lead pipeline.  

  1. Create a shortlist

Research vendors that best fit your needs. In addition to current requirements, consider the implementation process and the scalability of the marketing automation software 

Note that the implementation process can vary significantly. You’ll want to speak with vendors and ask about timelines and fees. Be sure to see if training is available, too. 

It’s also important to think about how many contacts you want to reach now and in the future. If you plan to grow the company, make sure the marketing automation solution is scalable. You should have the ability to increase email volume down the road. 

Once you’ve researched these issues, you can put together a shortlist of vendors whose software matches your needs. 

  1. Contact vendors

Begin contacting vendors on your shortlist. You should request a demo of the solution to see how it works. Make sure to test the software with the managers and staff wholl use it most often 

As discussed in the Pricing section below, marketing automation software can range in cost. It’s important to fully understand each specific vendor’s pricing structure, and factor in the number of contacts and necessary features your company needs. 

Some vendors also charge extra for implementation, support and training. Keep this in mind when asking for a quote. You’ll want to compare all-in prices among different vendors. 

  1. Get customer references

Once you’ve completed a demo of the marketing automation solution and have a better understanding of price and support, it’s time to get references from the vendor’s current or previous clients. If the vendor has been in business for less than five years, it’s particularly important to get references.  

The vendor will give you the names of clients with positive experiences, but make sure to ask for companies that have similar needs to yours (e.g., businesses with high-volume emails or that want advanced lead nurturing capabilities).  

When contacting references, ask if there have been any issues with the vendor or the solution.  

Pricing for Marketing Automation Software 

Marketing automation vendors generally use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) pricing plan. Companies pay a monthly subscription fee to access software through the cloud. Here are two common pricing models. 

Per month – Many vendors offer per month subscription plans with tiers based on the level of features and maximum number of contacts. The highest tier plans often include integrations with sales platforms and the ability to segment target audiences and nurture leads. 

This pricing plan is best for companies that need advanced functionality to analyze their target market, convert leads or cross-sell products. 

Per contact, per month – In a per contact, per month subscription plan, vendors provide full functionality and only charge for the number of contacts in a company’s marketing database. Some vendors provide an online calculator where companies can input their number of contacts and receive an immediate quote. The minimum number of contacts is usually 1,000. 

This pricing model works best for B2C companies that need to reach high volumes of prospects with email marketing campaigns. 

For more details on costs, check out our 2019 Marketing Automation Pricing Guide. 

Challenges of Marketing Automation Software 

Although marketing automation software offers many benefits, it also poses several challenges, such as: 

Implementation and integration with CRM 

Implementing marketing automation software can be a time-consuming and complicated process. From migrating data to integrating the platform with e-commerce tools or a CRM, there’s significant risk of technical difficulties.  

Be sure to check with the marketing automation vendor, as well as the vendor of your CRM solution if you have one, to discuss installation, integration, training and support. 

Lack of marketing strategy 

Some companies may fall into the trap of believing that marketing automation software will provide a cure-all for their marketing strategy. They set up the platform and proceed with a single plan. 

In reality, marketing automation software is a tool that can help marketing departments create more efficient strategies. But that comes with consistently monitoring the results of campaigns, making changes and comparing the results in order to develop better campaigns. 

Software and strategy misalignment 

Not all marketing automation solutions are created equal. Some focus on emailing a high volume of contacts while others target coordination and collaboration tools for lead scoring and nurturing.  

A business that chooses the wrong vendor may not have the necessary features to execute their strategy and may not see the benefits of their software investments. It’s important to make sure that the software you choose is aligned with your marketing strategy. 

Marketing Automation Market Trends 

The marketing automation software market is undergoing many changes. Here are a few of top trends to follow. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning 

Marketing automation vendors are now incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their platforms. These include predictive analytics, which evaluates how prospects have interacted with the website, emails and social media in the past to suggest targeted content in the future. Dynamic content, in particular, analyzes a customer’s previous engagement with content and products to offer personalized recommendations. 

Improved social media tools 

Between managing content and interacting with followers, social media marketing can be labor-intensive. Marketing automation platforms are helping to solve this issue with various tools to manage content schedules, periodically repost evergreen content and analyze important social media metrics like views and comments. 

Omnichannel marketing technology 

Because businesses market to customers using a variety of channels, the strategies and technology they use are often disconnected. As companies move to omnichannel marketing strategies that include multiple methods of customer acquisition, they’re looking for a single marketing technology platform.  

Vendors are responding by consolidating, as well as offering product suites that engage both B2B and B2C customers throughout the entire sales funnel. These platforms are all-in-one systems that can be used for email, social, and mobile marketing channels. 

Recent Marketing Automation Blog Posts  

To stay up to date on what’s happening in the market, check out our recent marketing automation blog posts.