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Marketing campaigns are getting more complex every day.
Which is … good news for customer experience, but a nightmare for you as a marketing manager who deals with thousands of moving parts (and countless employees) every day.
In short, there's a lot going on behind the scenes.
Particularly complex technical challenges that most consumers and employees will never see or fully understand.
Fortunately, more and more automation tools are popping up to make your life a little easier.
However, it does mean that choosing the best marketing automation software for your business and team is harder than ever.
From business solutions to the cheapest options, my team and I have researched, tested, and used almost every software imaginable. And I can honestly say … that's not an exaggeration.
The good news, however, is that I've narrowed it down to my top six recommendations, reviewed them, and made a comprehensive list that takes into account what to consider in your final decision.
The top 6 options for marketing automation software
- Freshmarketer – best for small to medium-sized businesses
- Pardot from Salesforce – best for B2B companies
- ActiveCampaign – best for automating email marketing
- Acoustics – best suited for enterprise multi-channel marketing automation
- HubSpot – best for sales, customer service, and marketing automation
- Act-On – best for marketing agencies
How to choose the best marketing automation software for you
I stand behind all of my top recommendations. However, choosing the right one for you is not always easy as it depends on various factors.
So before we dive into the topic, let's talk about how to narrow things down and find the best marketing automation software for your business.
B2B companies have different marketing needs than D2C companies.
In addition, marketing agencies are presenting a number of new challenges to marketing automation. Because of this, special software may be required to meet your specific needs at a reasonable price.
The size of your company also plays a role. Big companies run complex campaigns on a large scale and have bigger pockets. So small business tools don't go well together.
However, smaller businesses are likely to find business features confusing and budget-friendly, which is why these small business tools exist in the first place.
So make your final decision based on who the software is designed for.
Number of contacts
Most pricing plans are based on the number of contacts or leads you have. The bigger your list, the more you'll have to pay to maintain and keep in touch with them.
When you have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of contacts, business solutions are likely to be more cost effective. However, this is not the case when you have a few hundred or even a few thousand leads on your list.
Keep that in mind and remember that certain plans may limit the maximum number of contacts you can have.
If you hit these limits, you'll have to upgrade to a higher plan or pay an additional fee.
Your marketing channels
Different marketing automation software supports different marketing channels.
And there is no single solution.
From SMS and email marketing to social media to push notifications, choosing software that does everything you need is crucial.
Smaller businesses with simple campaigns may not be using a variety of channels and can get away with a cheaper tool.
However, large companies with complex campaigns spanning multiple channels need something more robust to manage all of the moving parts.
In addition, some software contains different channels at different price levels. So you can start at one level and have to move up to get access to more marketing channels. Or you may need to switch to (or integrate) a new tool.
It can be helpful to plan your upcoming campaigns and decide which channels to use.
Automation is at the heart of every tool on this list. However, some offer more advanced automation features than others.
Do you need to score leads and prospects? You might want to combine SMS, email marketing, and Facebook ads in the same customer journey. Or you may need the ability to send hyper-targeted emails using the autopilot.
Regardless of the complexity of your campaigns, don't forget to consider the following:
- Shared A / B tests
- Automated email campaigns
- Event and website tracking
- Contact management
- Visual customer journey mapping
- Automated segmentation and personalization
- Prospect and lead scoring
- Dynamic content
- Transactional emails
- AI-based recommendations
- Action and logic based triggers
- Reporting and analysis
You may not need all of them, and some tools don't include them. Therefore, it is important to understand what you need (and what not) before making your decision.
It's not uncommon for marketing automation software to include a handful of features that are normally found in a CRM tool, such as: B. Live chat or customer support functions.
Before making a final decision, it is very important to understand what additional features you will need to bridge the gap between marketing and sales or customer service.
These systems may already be in place. So you don't need these additional functions. If you don't, you can potentially save money, hassle, and time by choosing software that brings everything you're missing under one roof.
Hubspot is a great example of this.
It includes customer service, sales, and marketing automation tools in one place to streamline data movement and drive automation across your organization.
The different types of marketing automation software
Marketing comes in all shapes, sizes, and complexities.
From physical mailers and print campaigns to social media and email marketing, the best marketing automation software will help you create, automate and optimize all types of marketing campaigns.
Marketing automation software is often confused with customer relationship management (CRM). However, the two are not the same or interchangeable.
CRM software focuses on sales activities while marketing automation software focuses on marketing tasks. Marketing automation software is also used to generate, maintain and qualify leads.
On the other hand, CRM software is designed to close the sale and promote communication or relationships after the sale.
In a perfect world, the two systems work well together and create a seamless flow of data from your marketing team to your sales team.
In addition, there are numerous subsets of marketing automation software, including:
- Email Marketing
- Social media marketing
- Advertising management
- SMS marketing
- Live chat
Every other tool is powerful in itself. With real marketing automation software, you can create and optimize customer journeys across marketing platforms for campaigns of varying complexity.
# 1 – Freshmarketer Review – The Best Marketing Automation Software for Small to Medium Business
We're big fans of Freshworks here (if you can't tell).
Freshmarketer is a smart marketing automation platform that helps small and medium-sized businesses save time, attract the right people, grow their audiences, and make more money.
For most users, this is my first recommendation – and for good reason.
From awareness to customer loyalty, you get all of the automation features you need to get more leads, convert those leads into customers, and keep those customers for a lifetime. While you work less and get better results.
Plus, you don't need technical skills or a dedicated support team to get started. Commissioning takes about a minute.
You also get access to incredible features like:
- Email campaigns and contact management
- Visual Drag & Drop Customer Journey Builder
- Website, forms and offline event tracking
- Tools to optimize the conversion rate
- A / B and split tests
- Advanced personalization
- Dynamic heat maps
- Audience segmentation
- Real-time funnel analysis
In addition, the software can be seamlessly integrated with the other Freshworks tools. Therefore, it is an excellent choice if you are currently using or planning to use any of your business software.
You can try Freshmarketer forever with its limited free plan or a 21 day free trial of its paid plans, which are incredibly affordable and accessible to businesses of all sizes. However, they depend on the number of contacts you have. So keep that in mind.
Their plans include:
- Sprout – Free for up to 500 contacts with limited functionality
- Garden – $ 49 per month for 1,000 contacts (great for growing teams)
- Discount – $ 99 per month for 1,000 contacts (best for large teams)
Remember, the cost of any plan increases after you max out your 1,000 contacts.
# 2 – Pardot from Salesforce Review – The Best Marketing Automation Software for B2B Companies
As a B2B company, you market to other companies, which presents a unique set of marketing challenges. Hence, you need a marketing automation tool designed for the job.
Pardot helps B2B companies build relationships and turn those relationships into revenue. Plus, it's fantastic marketing automation software based on the world's leading CRM.
So you know you are in good hands.
From lead generation to sales alignment, the software offers a variety of functions including:
- Dynamic content and data-based personalization
- Leading email automation
- Prospect and lead scoring
- Visual multipart automation builder
- Extended segmentation
- Landing Page Builder
- Smart forms + drag and drop builder
- Planning, profiling and analyzing social media
- Tracking lead activity
- Campaign performance report
- Life cycle and funnel reporting
- Pardot Einstein for lead and behavior evaluation
Additionally, more than 2.8 million users worldwide rely on Pardot for their marketing automation needs, making it one of the most popular platforms on this list.
However, it's a bit expensive, so it's best for larger businesses. Their paid plans include:
- Growth – $ 1,250 / month for up to 10,000 contacts and basic features
- Plus – $ 2,500 / month for up to 10,000 contacts with deeper automation + analysis
- Extended – $ 4,000 / month for up to 10,000 contacts with AI and all features
- Premium – $ 15,000 / month for up to 75,000 contacts with recharge capabilities
They also offer some add-ons that are free on the Premium plan. These add-ons include Salesforce Engage ($ 50 / user per month), Analytics Plus ($ 3,000 / month), and Engagement History ($ 300 / year).
All plans and add-ons are billed annually.
# 3 – ActiveCampaign Review – Best for email marketing automations
Email is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. All of the tools on this list involve email marketing in one form or another, but ActiveCampaign specializes in that.
This is a great option if you want to improve your email marketing strategy. It's also a very affordable tool that includes tons of automation features for leads anywhere in your funnel.
With that in mind, they also offer omnichannel automation, including instant messaging and SMS, live chat, and Facebook.
So you're not limited to just automating email marketing with ActiveCampaign.
Their most popular features include cables at every point in the funnel, including:
- Engage – automation cards, site tracking, and subscription forms
- Nurture – list segmentation, dynamic / predictive content and event tracking
- Convert – Contact and lead scoring, splitting actions and winning probabilities
- Support – predictive sending, SMS, A / B split testing and e-commerce
You can also set up many types of email, such as: B. Autoresponders, targeted or triggered emails, broadcasts, scheduled emails, and automated funnels.
You can design these emails using their intuitive drag and drop designer, or start with one of 25+ pre-made design templates for mobile devices.
Whether you're just starting out or looking to scale and optimize your email marketing strategy, ActiveCampaign is an excellent choice. They provide everything you need to capture, nurture, and close leads on a large scale.
ActiveCampaign offers four plans, each of which is priced at:
- Lite – $ 9 per month with up to three users
- Plus – $ 49 per month with up to 25 users
- Professional – $ 129 per month with up to 50 users
- Enterprise – $ 229 per month with unlimited users
Each level contains advanced features. Prices are based on the size of your list and start with up to 500 contacts.
So keep in mind that as your list grows, you will have to pay more than the prices above.
# 4 – Acoustic Review – The Best Multi-Channel Marketing Automation Software for Business
Acoustic offers a range of marketing automation products for centralized, cross-platform, multi-channel marketing. From personalization and email campaigns to web content management and experience management, they have something for everyone.
Acoustic Campaign is the marketing automation tool that includes mobile apps, push notifications, SMS, group chats, social media, ads, emails, print campaigns and more.
You can also combine this with Acoustic Personalization and Acoustic Analytics for a powerful combination of campaign management, data, and using that data to deliver the right message at the right time.
Acoustic Campaign gives you access to powerful features including:
- Campaign builder via drag & drop
- Action, logic, and AI recommended triggers
- Seamless mobile and digital channel campaigns
- Lead management and scoring
- Shared A / B tests
- Customer journey mapping
- Planning and budgeting
- One-to-one ads and target groups of the same type
- Advanced personalization
- Reporting and analysis
There is also a community forum where you can publicly ask questions. They also offer an online academy full of instructional videos and training to help you get the most out of your custom automation package.
Note: Acoustic is designed for medium to large volume campaigns with lots of moving parts. It is therefore perfect for companies that manage complex campaigns across numerous channels.
But it's overkill for a lot of companies and anyone running single-channel campaigns.
Prices are not available online and you will need to schedule a consultation to find out more. So keep in mind that you can't sign up and get started right away.
# 5 – Hubspot Review – The best software for sales, customer service, and marketing automation
If you're looking for an easy way to automate your sales, customer service, and marketing processes, the Hubspot Growth Suite is a great and affordable solution.
And the best part about it? Hubspot goes beyond automating your business processes. It also helps to integrate and optimize different departments in one central location, thereby optimizing the workflow of your entire company.
This means teams don't have to jump from software to software to get the information they need, and you can automate the data transfer process from one team to the next.
However, their marketing automation features are powerful on their own and offer features such as:
- Blog post and SEO planning
- Ad tracking and management
- Social media management
- AI-powered live chat
- Email Marketing
- Forms and landing pages
- Reporting on sales allocation
- Visual Workflow Builder
- Account-based marketing
- A / B split test
- Forward-looking lead scoring
Hubspot offers basic functionality like email, landing pages, forms and live chat functions for unlimited users absolutely free of charge. So you can try it out without spending a dime.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a free demo to see all the advanced features in action.
The Growth Suite (sales, marketing, CRM, and customer service) starts at $ 50 per month for two users and up to 1,000 contacts, making it extremely affordable for most businesses.
But you also have plans for larger and more complex campaigns, including:
- Professional – $ 1,275 per month for advanced features
- Enterprise – $ 4,200 per month for all features
Every 1,000 contacts after your first 1,000 costs $ 16.67 per month. And you can add more users to your sales and service hubs for $ 8.33 per user / month.
If you're a current member or alumni of Hubspot's approved incubator, accelerator, or venture capital partner with a Series A funding round, receive up to 90% off your first year.
# 6 – Act-On Review – The Best Marketing Automation Software for Marketing Agencies
As a marketing agency, you run marketing campaigns for multiple clients (if not hundreds of them) at the same time. Hence, you need marketing automation software that allows you to manage everything, including your own marketing campaigns, in one place.
And Act-On offers the perfect solution.
The scalable software offers unique functions for subordinate and superordinate campaigns, so that you can easily manage and manage all your customer accounts with a single Act-On login.
Plus, you can fully brand and customize everything to deliver custom reports to customers with just a few clicks.
With Act-On you can learn more about your customers' audiences in order to personalize and customize their message. Not only does this make life easier, but it also means your team can work less to get better results.
When you sign up, you'll get access to powerful marketing features including:
- Automated engagement programs
- Website and landing page tracking
- Customer / prospect rating
- Behavior and Demographic Segmentation
- Ready-made email, form and landing page templates
- Interactive reporting dashboards
In addition, you can create custom real-time analytics dashboards for internal and external use so you and your customers always know what's going on.
In addition, you can use this information to improve customer ROI, build better technology stacks, and optimize entire marketing campaigns for your customers. From collecting and nurturing leads to transmitting contact information to sales, you're in good hands.
Sign up for a free demo to learn more and get started today!
Wrap things up
Freshmarketer is my top recommendation for most businesses. It's designed for small to medium-sized businesses interested in automating their marketing processes to grow their business and save time.
Plus, it's affordable, easy to use, and full of powerful automation features.
However, it's not the perfect solution for everyone. So don't forget to use the criteria we talked about in finding the best marketing automation software for you and your team.
What are your favorite marketing automation tools?