Marketing Automation Software Buyer's Guide
The Best Marketing Automation Software is All About Efficiently Augmenting Marketing and Sales Teams
By Michael Shearer, Marketing Automation 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 marketing automation and integrating it with existing CRM frameworks, you also have to choose the best tools to support marketing and sales growth. With so many different marketing automation solutions 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 marketing automation application and give you some tools and recommendations to help you in the digital marketing software selection process.
- The goal of automated marketing software is to streamline the marketing process directly into the sales process
- Marketing automation software converts prospects to customers by offering them highly personalized experiences and content
- This software organizes marketing and nurturing tasks as well as promotes sales and marketing collaboration, improved conversion rates, retention and ROI
- The most popular marketing automation 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 a marketing automation system. You should start by identifying the core requirements that your organization will utilize most heavily. Then, explore some advanced benefits of marketing automation — it might offer a competitive advantage in your field.
Marketing Automation Guide Quick Navigation
- Benefits of Marketing Automation
- Implementation Goals
- Basic Marketing Automation Features and Functionality
- Advanced Marketing Automation Functionality
- Before You Buy
- SelectHub's Marketing Automation Software Shortlist
- Final Word
Benefits of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation software offers multi-channel marketing abilities. It allows marketing teams to create targeted marketing campaigns, segment leads, collaborate with sales teams and generally improve their marketing automation strategy. Marketing automation is often confused for customer relationship management (CRM) software, but the two perform slightly different functions.
The goal of automated marketing solutions 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 marketing teams’ time and creative energy for other activities.
Marketing automation systems help convert prospects to customers by offering them highly personalized experiences and content. Leads are managed via generation, scoring, nurturing and segmenting to ensure marketing and sales 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.
Your goals for marketing automation platforms are likely to be unique, so it's imperative that your software includes the specific marketing automation benefits you need to reach them. By clearly defining your goals before you start looking at different marketing automation 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.
Create Better, more targeted marketing campaigns
|Creating better campaigns is easy with marketing automation software. The system gathers 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.|
Track leads to better nurture them
|Marketing automation tools track and segment leads to categorize them for the benefit of the marketing 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.|
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.|
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.|
The combination of all these factors means you’re likely to see improvement in sales, conversion, retention and ROI.
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 marketing 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 system 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 marketing campaigns is the core of these online marketing apps. Integrated marketing systems 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 marketing automation 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 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 marketing automation goals.
Advanced Marketing Automation Application Features to Consider
From our research with hundreds of software owners and managers, all looking for the best marketing automation software, 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 marketing automation tools buyers in 2018:
|Cloud-Based||Users want the flexibility, low cost and versatility of marketing cloud software applications|
|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 marketing automation 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||A useful marketing automation application 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 comparison report.
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, 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 systems 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 marketing automation implementation, so they ought to figure into your initial comparisons too. For instance, only 11 percent of respondents in 2015 said they thought marketing automation was 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 system that's ripe for fine-tuning.
Don't just settle for whichever software 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 marketing systems 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 software can provide solutions.
Marketing automation was a $1.8 billion industry in 2015. 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 marketing automation requirements template or similar tool to narrow things down and focus your search.
SelectHub’s List of Marketing Tools
Of course, no marketing automation comparison guide would be complete without an introduction to some of the most popular marketing automation companies on the market. While we can’t choose marketing automation services for you, we can give you a list of the most frequently chosen marketing automation vendors of the past year as detailed at the top of this page.
Questions to Ask Your Organization About Marketing Automation Software
- What are some short-term goals you hope to achieve with marketing automation software?
- What are some long-term goals you hope to achieve with marketing automation software?
- 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 marketing automation database?
- Do you anticipate growth in your organization? Can this solution scale with you?
Questions to Ask Your Marketing Automation Software Vendor
- 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 solution?
- Does this product offer mobile marketing automation capabilities?
- How long does implementation take?
- Is it easy to add additional users?
- Is employee training with the system 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?
- Get our marketing automation requirements gathering template
The Final Word
Marketing automation software is the ultimate solution for working smarter, not harder. It is designed to improve marketing campaign targeting and lead segmentation to empower marketing teams. This kind of software also promotes alignment between sales, marketing and management teams to improve efficiency and communication within your organization. Finally, marketing 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.
Top 10 Marketing Automation Software Leaders(of 113 products) GET THE IN-DEPTH REPORT
Built by marketers, for marketers, Marketo provides the fastest path to mastering marketing. Marketo is the only solution built exclusively by marketers for marketers. With Marketo, marketing comes first — so you get solutions that deliver everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Introducing the full-featured marketing automation tool that’s easy to use. Pardot’s platform features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring and grading, social posting, and ROI reporting to help marketing and sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and demonstrate marketing accountability.
Established in 2008, Act-On is a comprehensive marketing automation tool designed to offer a complete suite of applications, including email marketing, website visitor tracking, lead management, social media management, reporting and analytics, as well as integrations with webinar and event planning.With Act-On's email marketing, businesses can segment their customers into a variety of categories, allowing marketers to focus on a particular target market within that email group. The software offers core website tracking feature, which gives complete visibility into the types of customers that are visiting their site as well as their activities and the time spent on different contents while they are on the website.Act-On offers tools to build and optimize campaigns, generate leads, score and prioritize prospects, among others. The solution is capable of integrating with almost any leading CRM available in the market. Act-On is ideal for small marketing teams needing a marketing automation tool with minimal IT involvement.
Salesfusion’s easy-to-use marketing automation platform helps marketers attract new opportunities, convert them into customers and nurture them into lifetime relationships. By streamlining the creation, execution and measurement of marketing activities, you can launch and manage campaigns with less manual effort and understand which tactics are the most effective.
Net-Results enables you to leverage all that your organization knows about a prospect, easily and quickly, to determine what to say next and how to say it. Net-Results is the world's first relevance platform, built from the ground up to help you leverage relevance at scale.
HubSpot all-in-one marketing software helps more than 8,000 companies in 56 countries attract leads and convert them into customers. A pioneer in inbound marketing, HubSpot aims to help its customers make marketing that people actually love.
eTrigue provides easy-to-use cloud-based marketing automation and analytics software designed for small marketing teams. eTrigue DemandCenter marketing automation gives SMB and divisional enterprise marketers a single platform to connect, manage, and execute marketing programs – across email, web, mobile, and social.
Bpm’online CRM is the most agile CRM platform for midsize and large enterprises to accelerate sales, marketing, service and operations. This platform helps to align data, processes, and teams enabling them to better connect with digital native customers and rapidly adapt. Bpm’online provides its customers with comprehensive full-fledge applications to accelerate marketing, sales and service that can be deployed as standalone products, or as a bundle on a single CRM platform.Bpm’online marketing: multichannel marketing platform to orchestrate customer journeys and accelerate lead-to-revenue.Bpm’online sales: sales automation software to accelerate the complete sales cycle — from lead to repeat sales.Bpm’online service: intelligent service management platform to accelerate service delivery and customer delight.
Sugar is the CRM for mavericks and innovative, forward-thinking change agents who dare to be different. It appeals to companies that question the status quo and view Sugar as the chance to find a better way to grow their business and help their employees do their jobs better. SugarCRM is the industry's leading company focused exclusively on customer relationship management, and FayeBSG is SugarCRM's #1 Worldwide Partner. Over 7,500 customers have chosen SugarCRM services as an alternative to lock-in based, proprietary customer relationship software. Going above and beyond basic CRM, Sugar will help you understand who your customers are and how your company is performing. Sugar enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most innovative and affordable customer relationship management solution on the market. By placing the individual at the center of its solution, SugarCRM is putting the “i” in CRM and empowering people at all levels of an organization to better understand and engage with customers. Based in Silicon Valley, SugarCRM is backed by Goldman Sachs, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, NEA, and Walden International. More than 1.5M individuals in over 120 countries rely on SugarCRM.
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 CRM 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.
Get an all-in-one CRM, sales and marketing tool that fits the needs of your business. LeadMaster CRM can work together with your sales team to deliver your ultimate objective – more sales for your business. Whenever your team has any interaction with a lead or a customer, they will have all the information that they need at their fingertips – past orders, contact information, proposal details, social information etc. LeadMaster makes your sales team more efficient than ever before.
The world’s #1 CRM solution gives your sales teams the power to close deals like never before with an array of cloud-based tools that increase productivity, keep pipeline filled with solid leads, and score more wins. No software. No hardware. No speed limits.
NetSuite Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the only cloud solution that delivers a real-time 360-degree view of your customer. NetSuite CRM provides a seamless flow of information across the entire customer lifecycle from lead through to opportunity, sales order, fulfillment, renewal, upsell, cross-sell, and support.In addition to traditional CRM capabilities like SFA, customer support and marketing automation, NetSuite CRM delivers quotes, order management, commissions, sales forecasting and integrated Ecommerce capabilities.
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 CRM 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.
Sugar CRM Innovation,Flexibility,Value Sugar CRM is the first world publisher of open source commercial solutions of customer relationship management. It allows companies to develop and easily integrate their client process while maintaining and developing even more profitable customer relationships.SalesforceSales, Service Marketing, Succes Completely web-based and integrated, with over 87,000 success stories, salesforce has a strong presence everywhere.Microsoft Dynamics CRMDrive sales productivity and deliver amazing customer experiencesMicrosoft Dynamics business solutions energize and empower customer engagement with real-time information and collaboration. As the world grows smaller and more complicated, technology plays an important role and enables individuals to drive their vision while also helping organizations to manage their end-to-end business processes.Oracle Sales Cloud Sell More Anytime-Anywhere-Any Device “Mobile first” is a great way to define this very powerful system which integrates extraordinarily well with Microsoft Outlook, as well as the Eloqua marketing automation tool, acquired by Oracle in 2013.Act-OnMarketing Simplified – Revenue Multiplied.Act-On is a software-as-a-service, cloud-based marketing automation solution. Its platform is purpose-built to give small and medium-sized marketing teams all the value of marketing automation – without the complexity big enterprise systems impose.
Deliver customer advocacy and engagement across the enterpriseInfor and Marketo are changing the game to deliver broad, seamless digital engagement solutions to power the Engagement Economy. The strategic partnership brings together the best of innovation, experience, industry expertise, and beautiful design to supercharge your customer experience strategy.
Shape's cloud-based software helps you grow and manage your company with tools designed to manage online marketing and promotions, capture leads from online sources, organize sales pipelines, connect with customers. and automate everyday tasks. Shape’s features are tailor-made to solve your unique industry challenges with verticals in legal, real estate, mortgage, insurance, education, hvac, and construction. Looking for something one of a kind? Get a custom solution that works for you – we specialize in tailor-made and white label systems.Explore Shape's collaboration tools that facilitate project information sharing within and across departments and user roles. Create order with a centralized repository to store all of your prospects, accounts, contacts, documents, photos, billing and transactions, and eSignature agreements in one place.With a full suite of all-inclusive pre-built tools at your disposal you can focus on scaling your business without adding to your workload. Keep track of the department-specific performance indicators and explore business-relevant trends with Shape's customizable dashboard. Additional features include call scripting, drip campaign automation, task scheduling, reporting, and integration with Outlook and Gmail. Shape is available on a per user per month subscription with no annual contracts and offers customer support via an online knowledge-base, phone, and email.
Kloudville’s go-to-market strategy is to help run any business of any size with a complete and comprehensive set of Business Applications (Business 360 Apps) that offers full operational management capabilities. Kloudville Business 360 Apps provides an Omni-channel, Enterprise grade, Digital commerce platform that brings together all key facets of e-CRM, e-commerce and ERP functions under a SaaS platform (“the Kloudville platform”). The Kloudville Platform is scalable (as the growth demands), secure and maintenance-free. Kloudville’s cloud-based business- process-centric environment supports any business context operations engaged in buying and selling of goods and services.
With FunnelMaker you have hundreds of built in capabilities, so you don’t have to waste time pushing and pulling data back and forth between systems. It eliminates the ongoing expense of bolt on solutions most businesses need to complete their sales and marketing processes, like email marketing, drip campaigns, text broadcasting, e-commerce, video tracking and automation, web analytics, workflow and so much more. Our research shares that 82% of businesses report that the notes logged in any CRM are of poor quality and in many cases completely missing. This is typically because CRM users are burdened with an amazing amount of process requirements. FunnelMaker addresses this dilemma by logging everything for our users and thus delivering like no other system the vital notes that most business owners are missing. FunnelMaker automatically logs every inbound and outbound call, every inbound and outbound email, every click, forward and read for email broadcasts and logs all website and landing page traffic.
The emfluence Marketing Platform is so intuitive, you'll swear it was built just for you. The emfluence Marketing Platform routinely earns marks from its users as one of the quickest to learn and most user-responsive marketing automation platforms on the market today, with support requests averaging a close time that’s five times faster than the industry average.Featuring drag-and-drop email editors and automated campaign builders, simple social media scheduling, manageable landing pages and forms, analytics reporting, website tracking, surveys, and modals, the emfluence Marketing Platform offers digital marketing tools for B2B and B2C clients alike. Users range from banking and financial clients to ecommerce companies, marketing agencies, CRM partners, manufacturers, higher education institutions, and more.The emfluence Marketing Platform integrates with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zapier, WordPress, Return Path, Google Analytics, YEXT, Email on Acid, among others, and it has an open API for custom integrations.The emfluence Marketing Platform has been supporting digital marketers around the globe since 2003. emfluence also offers digital marketing consulting services designed to help customers with email strategy, marketing automation management, or CRM and marketing automation platform integration.
The platform is built to facilitate real-time marketing for an agile marketer, where personalization, targeting and messaging is delivered on real-time. To keep it insightful and effective, the platform uses the unified customer profile module, which aggregates all customer information, thus addressing the challenge of customer data available in various marketing silos.
With IINBOX25, you can build contact forms, surveys, registration forms, quote forms, subscription forms - really, whatever you can imagine, and keep your sales and marketing efforts in-sync with our native SugarCRM integration.
ThriveHive helps small business owners realize their dreams through Guided Marketing; a data-driven approach to small business marketing. ThriveHive’s Guided Marketing solution includes a search-optimized website, marketing software platform, a customized marketing plan, real-time analytics, and expert guidance.
AdvocateHub helps B2B marketers capture customer enthusiasm and use it to turbocharge marketing and sales efforts.-AdvocateHub offers a refreshing, new approach to referral automation based on a simple, rewarding experience for advocates, driving higher engagement, more high-quality leads and shorter sales cycles. AdvocateHub proactively suggests referral names from your advocates’ social networks, which they can submit with just a few clicks.
Eloqua is now the centerpiece of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. Our innovative marketing automation solutions help modern marketers target the right buyers, easily execute campaigns, get the best leads to sales and deliver the highest return on your marketing investment.
ActiveDEMAND is an integrated marketing platform. What exactly does that mean? It means ActiveDEMAND enables marketers, agencies and businesses so supercharge their marketing efforts through streamlined campaign management, campaign recipes and attribution reporting while integrating with many other business, sales and marketing applications.
Autopilot is software for multi-channel marketing. Autopilot's universal tracking code lets you capture leads and data from any website, blog, or app - no need to rebuild landing pages and content. Organize and target your marketing using lists, smart segments, and folders. Connect to Salesforce CRM to sync data and create workflows for sales.
Lead Liaison provides easy to use, cloud-based sales and marketing automation software. We help companies build better relationships with prospects, customers and partners, be more efficient with sales and marketing operations and grow revenue, faster.
You want to nurture your marketing leads to sales-readiness. But how do you streamline your efforts when every lead is different? With HubSpot’s interconnected tools, you can use real-time marketing data to provide relevant, contextual marketing experiences to every contact in your database.
CommuniGator can help deliver outstanding results and ROI for your business. Our comprehensive platform is completely unique in that it can assist with you digital activites, whether it be email marketing, social automation, event management or marketing automation.
Simple, yet elegantly intelligent, Hatchbuck automates your sales and marketing efforts overnight. Turn emails into conversations, website visitors into handshakes, and customers into raving fans with all-in-one sales marketing software. It's time to grow.
With ONTRAPORT, all your business tools, data and customer information is in one system and everything works together seamlessly. You’ll create better customer experiences, increase sales and you can automate everything, saving a ton of time. Plus, you’ve always got one team to call when you have a question or need support.
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