In this age of A.I. and machine learning, marketing automation is no longer a luxury for big multinational companies, but a necessity for any business.
Marketing automation—as the name suggests— can automate marketing processes that are tedious, repetitive, and labor-heavy, so that your marketing team can put their effort on those that actually matter. To start a marketing automation process, a marketing automation tool is necessary, and here we will discuss the best available options on the market.
Let us begin by discussing important factors and considerations you should have before deciding on a marketing automation platform.
Important Factors When Choosing Marketing Automation Software
Before we actually look at the product options and comparisons, it’s important to understand what to look for in automation software, based on your needs and goals.
A marketing automation software is more often than not, a long-term investment, where you are often tied to a lengthy subscription contract. So, choosing the wrong one might cause all sorts of hindrances.
This is why it’s important to research your options before committing to one software, and below are the important considerations when comparing all these different options:
Most marketing automation software are now priced as SaaS (Software as a Service), commonly involving a subscription-based pricing model. The thing is, these subscription fees might seem very affordable at first glance, but will often include hidden costs like extra features, add-ons, and compulsory training fee. So, they can be deceptively expensive in the long run.
Make a thorough calculation (or ask their sales team) for what you’ll need to spend in a 3 to 5 year basis. This will help you judge the pricing aspect more clearly.
Features VS Ease of Use
Marketing automation is a very complex process by nature and can involve many different marketing channels. It’s important to choose the right marketing automation software with the right features according to your needs. It’s also important that with all the advanced features, the software is easy to use and reliable. Training costs can be very high in the long-run, so it’s wise to choose a product that is easily understood by everyone on your team. Make the full use of the free-trial period to check this aspect.
The marketing automation tool is often just one software among many others in our current marketing ecosystem. You might already have an agency CRM software in place, or a social media marketing software. It’s important to pick a software that can integrate well with your existing system, so check their compatibility with what you already have in place.
Some automation software also offers a built-in CRM system, so if you can migrate your old CRM to this new one, it might lower the overall cost.
Email Marketing Capabilities
One of the core functions of marketing automation is email automation, and most marketing automation software offers some degree of email marketing automation. Figure out your needs in email marketing, and check whether the software provides the features you need.
Content Marketing Features
Again, figure out your content needs and check for the available features. For example, you might need a software offering a landing page creation feature.
Social Media Features and Integrations
You might want a marketing automation tool that offers integration to your main social media platforms. Some software will also offer social media analytics and monitoring features.
If your core business model is online sales, you might want an automation software that offers useful ecommerce features like a product database, affiliate program monitoring, and so on.
Training and Set Up
Some software is relatively easy to set up and won’t require any training. Some others will require a mandatory training fee and might take some time before it can be fully implemented. Usually, this information is not discussed upfront, so you might want to ask the software providers directly.
Top 5 Best Marketing Automation Tools in 2021
Pardot is a marketing automation software delivered by Salesforce—one of the most prominent CRM systems around.
It is, admittedly, one of the more expensive options with a base cost of $1,000 monthly. However, it is also one of the most intuitive options out there, so it’s pretty easy to use for its basic features. On the other hand, it’s also pretty deep in its advanced features and has a steep learning curve.
One of the most complete options out there with a plethora of useful features, and even a marketing beginner can use it immediately.
Pros: Intuitive, graphic-based interface. Easy to set up and use immediately while also offering depth of advanced features.
Cons: One of the most expensive options out there, and the basic option ($1,000/month) will lock you out of useful features like A/B testing and social media integrations.
One of the most affordable options available, starting at just $9/month without any mandatory training fees or other hidden costs. You will need to pay extra as you grow your contact list or when you need more features. But most of us will get our needs covered with just under $100 monthly.
Very intuitive and user-friendly, and also very stable, so it’s fairly easy to teach the software to a novice marketer. Excellent support, and over the years, the product has improved continuously with frequent updates and new features introductions.
ActiveCampaign features a very intuitive dashbooard with a very useful visual campaign builder, but since it offers a lot of features, the dashboard can be cluttered. Still, ActiveCampaign’s very responsive customer support can easily tackle any confusions.
Pros: very affordable solution offering most of the important features. No hidden costs, very easy to learn, and excellent customer service. Very rich set of features even on its basic package.
Cons: the dashboard can be cluttered with all the different features displayed. A relatively short free-trial compared to other options, and no phone support available at the moment. However, the online support, s mentioned, is one of the best available.
SendinBlue used to be a popular email marketing tool back in the days, and has since expanded into a full-fledged marketing automation tool since 2015.
Due to its history, SendinBlue is especially strong in its email marketing features, like many different autoresponder options and transactional email features.
One of the biggest downsides is that the interface is a bit obsolete compared to other options, but it’s fairly intuitive with a very easy to use automation builder.
One of the more affordable options out there with a usable free version (up to 300 emails per day) and the basic (lite) version costs just $25/month. However, most of us will need the $66/month package that unlocks the marketing automation features.
Relatively simple interface, and also very reliable in general. Yet, the fact that it limits the number of emails with each package tier might be a hindrance.
Pros: relatively affordable, very useful email marketing features with useful design templates. Easy to use with many different templates.
Cons: email sending limits with each package tier, which your number of emails are limited daily, not monthly. Obsolete interface, and relatively difficult setup.
HubSpot is probably one of the most popular options out there, mainly due to its blog’s popularity as a relevant digital marketing source and strong inbound presence.
However, HubSpot—the marketing automation software— is often overhyped and is relatively expensive. If you only need features without the brand, there are definitely other more affordable options available, including ActiveCampaign discussed above.
HubSpot’s basic package will cost you $800/month and around $3,000 of extra fees. Yet, HubSpot does provide one of the most intuitive, easy to use interface and probably the best analytics features compared to its competitors.
As we can expect from such a big brand, HubSpot’s customer service is top-notch, one of the best out there. HubSpot is the choice if you want the prestige, a very reliable software, and very responsive customer service.
By being a HubSpot user, you’ll also get other extra benefits like their useful content and free lessons from the famed HubSpot academy.
Pros: intuitive and easy to use, one of the best interfaces available in the market with a lot of useful templates.. Very strong customer service support and useful advanced features not available anywhere else.
Cons: very expensive option overall, the free-trial will require a credit card.
A relatively unknown marketing automation software compared to others in this list, but actually is a very good overall option.
Very intuitive sign-up process and very easy to set-up, and no mandatory training costs required. Built with a minimalistic approach, so the reporting dashboard is just a list of marketing metrics without any graphical layout. This can be a good thing for those that dislike cluttered look of other marketing automation tools.
Very intuitive automation sequence builder, and can integrate with various popular platforms like Google Adwords and WordPress, among others.
Another unique feature of OntraPort is the SMS automation features, which can be useful for small local businesses.
Not the most affordable option out there, but is relatively inexpensive. The pricing package doesn’t increase significantly as your database grows,which can be a good thing for growing businesses.
Pros: modern, minimalist user interface which can appeal to those who like simplicity. Very easy to set up, reliable, and rich in core automation features. Several unique features like SMS and postcard-sending automations.
Cons: limited analytics and reporting features compared to other options due to the lack of visual layout. Moderate pricing, there are more affordable options on this list.