Marketing automation is just one of the many ways you can accelerate your business’ growth and maximize your productivity.
However, many marketing automation platforms seem to be quite similar, and their language can be a bit dense if you’re just learning the ropes to online marketing.
Today, let’s break down the best marketing automation platforms in 2021 and explain how your business can benefit from using one of these tools.
First up is Marketo: an automatic marketing platform that works for customer engagement across any channel (i.e. way that your product or service gets to a customer) you can imagine.
They’re owned by Adobe and, using that parent company’s resources, have become even more robust over the last half-decade.
This software is a fully-featured program that works for social media, digital advertising, account-based marketing, and anything else you might need.
More importantly, it provides a plethora of analytics tools to help you figure out what marketing strategies are best based on your company’s products and systems.
Email marketing, lead management, mobile marketing, and even revenue attribution measurement tools are all at your fingertips once you download this platform.
Pricing is fairly variable depending on your company’s size and needs, however, so be sure to contact them for a direct quote if you’re interested.
Omnisend is another quality choice, particularly if you’re looking for a free plan that offers basic email marketing.
However, you can also pick up the paid plan (which starts at $15 a month but which can get much higher for enterprise-level marketing solutions).
The great thing about Omnisend’s pricing is that everything is based on the number of contacts and features you want, so it’s fairly manageable for companies of any size.
All in all, it’s a comprehensive tool that allows “omnichannel” functionality; in a nutshell, it lets you add multiple channels to one automation workflow.
You can tie in various email, push notification, Facebook Messenger, SMS, and more functions in the same automated tasks.
This, in turn, makes marketing a truly immersive and comprehensive experience for all your customers.
The marketing platform is even sophisticated enough to send marketing messages via channels that customers opt for individually.
Additional tools like the ability to split automated pathways, a drag-and-drop website builder, and advanced targeting features make this a one-stop-shop for most automated marketing needs.
Check out HubSpot if you don’t mind spending a little cash and want arguably the best inbound marketing tool available for download today.
Most other marketing automation tools focus on outbound marketing (i.e. marketing directly to new customers), but Hubspot will help you shore up your relationships with existing customers or business partners.
This can be great if your business primarily operates within a relatively niche sector or industry where the odds of you getting new customers are always relatively slim.
Furthermore, Hubspot offers additional tools for special “Service and Sale” hubs.
These will allow your team members to work better together across your marketing campaigns, even if they’re in different departments or focus on different lead to generation or customer engagement channels.
There is a free version if you want to try out Hubspot to start, although its features and abilities are very limited compared to the paid versions.
Pardot is much pricier than most other marketing automation platforms, but it comes with a lot of value in exchange.
Specifically, it’s an ideal choice if your company primarily deals with B2B (business-to-business) marketing rather than B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing.
Anyone involved in marketing as a profession knows that marketing to other businesses requires a dramatically different focus than if you market toward regular consumers or customers.
To this end, Pardot comes with dedicated tools to support B2B marketing campaigns.
These include B2B analytics tools, account-based marketing solutions, and more. It’ll be able to help you maintain relationships with existing buyers and automatically maintain existing marketing pushes for their benefit.
Additionally, it comes with a big suite of products that you can use within your sales and marketing teams. In some cases, you might be able to leverage Pardot for even more effective B2B marketing pushes.
Mailchimp is somewhat limited, but it’s a great choice if you primarily need automatic email marketing rather than more versatile automated marketing tools.
So it’s a really great pick if you have a small business or mostly do your marketing through a newsletter or similar campaign.
Even better, Mailchimp is one of the original automatic email marketing platforms, developed some years ago.
They have lots of experience and have developed an easy to use email automation tool that even beginners to marketing will be able to handle.
Need to send out bulk emails to all your customers? Mailchimp can do it. Want to tailor specific email marketing campaigns for specific readers? It can do that, too.
It’s also fairly affordable, though it can get up into a few hundred dollars per month if you want even more features and want to send automated emails to tons of contacts.
Still, it’s a worthwhile choice for specific marketing automation.
ActiveCampaign is another broadscale marketing automation tool, with a particular emphasis on combining human efforts with digital automatic processes.
It’s a great solution if you understand that marketing automation and related software will never be able to fully handle a marketing push wholesale, and if you don’t want to replace your marketing team or manager altogether.
You can try it free, although you have to pay to access some features and bolster the number of contacts you’ll be able to automate services for. Prices range between around $10 to over $400.
For these prices, you’ll get a series of tools that can help empower your marketing team to do an even better job with their campaigns.
For instance, ActiveCampaign can send your marketers emails that notify them of new changes, putting the marketing ball in the humans’ courts.
In full, ActiveCampaign provides you with email marketing tools, contact management tools, segmentation functionality, CRM tools, pipeline management, lead scoring (to optimize your marketing focuses), and even customer messaging tools for instantaneous responses.
All in all, it has more features than we can fit into a small paragraph; check out the site for a full rundown of what it can offer.
#7 Constant Contact
Constant Contact is another phenomenal email marketing automation tool, and it’s also designed for small businesses from the ground up.
Available features include automatic trigger campaigns (any marketing campaign that’s based on a particular event or as a follow-up to a certain activity), the ability to collect new emails automatically, and even follow a message functionality.
Basically, Constant Contact allows you to remain in constant contact with your fans, customers, and business partners, all without lifting a finger yourself.
Furthermore, it features an intuitive and simplistic user interface that doesn’t clutter your screen with tons of ads, additional tools, and the like.
They’re also quite affordable, also Mailchimp’s cheapest offering is a little more affordable by a smidge.
Still, it’s a good alternative if you want a more dedicated email marketing tool at your fingertips since Mailchimp is looking to expand to a more full-blown marketing automation platform in the near future.
Check out Hootsuite if you want an automated marketing platform if you want to take your social media management off your hands and set it on autopilot.
It’s an extremely comprehensive tool, with prices ranging between $30 and over $600 per month based on how many social profiles you want to wrangle and how many users you need to work with.
It features a plethora of useful tools and functions, including the ability to schedule content posts (even of different types), and the ability to curate your social media posting from a preapproved content library.
This is a great way to get your marketing team’s efforts on a rigorous schedule; you can come up with content a week or a month before and have everything posted at the perfect time without additional labor.
You’ll even be able to do things like monitor conversations about your brand, product, or industry across social media channels and platforms.
Using Hootsuite, you’ll be able to make the most of your social media marketing efforts and truly make your brand stand out with consistency and quality content posting.
# 9 Mention
Mention is another social media marketing automation tool, though it focuses even more heavily on “social listening” than Hootsuite.
It comes with a free version (though this is somewhat limited) and goes over $600 per month in costs depending on how much scale you need.
In brief, the aptly-named Mention will let you track various mentions of your product, company, or even people associated with your brand across all digital media systems and platforms.
Even more importantly, you’ll be able to monitor your mentions after or during a marketing push or campaign.
In this way, you’ll be able to accurately determine how your campaigns affect how people see your brand across the Internet.
Mention is even more effective since it monitors how you’re mention across the web in general, not just through social media.
You’ll be able to track competitors, industry trends, and other valuable SEO data as well. When used in conjunction with a skilled marketing team or SEO expert, Mention can really do a lot for your marketing or overall brand image.
What Is a Marketing Automation Tool and Why Do You Need One?
Any marketing automation platform or tool is a piece of software designed to help business marketing teams or individual marketers improve their marketing efforts.
That’s right; there’s something of an industry misconception that marketing automation tools can fully automate your marketing process.
Some people think marketing automation tools can take care of all their marketing for them.
This isn’t the right way to look at things. Instead, marketing automation software is a great way to supercharge your marketing campaigns or bolster your current strategies.
They can help improve your marketing where there already is some, but it can neither create a marketing strategy from scratch nor can it necessarily salvage a bad marketing idea.
Specifically, marketing automation software can:
- help you capture leads
- develop those leads or existing relationships
- move various customer prospects through your sales funnels
- improve your marketing efforts in scale
- automate routine or time-consuming tasks
- help spread your marketing through multiple channels
- help you schedule content or marketing deployment (i.e. content posting on social media)
Put another way, marketing automation can’t turn your brand into a robotic system that essentially runs itself.
You still need a marketing team (or at least a marketing manager depending on your organization’s size).
They will oversee the software and come up with all the final decisions, along with the overall concepts for your marketing efforts.
Then you can use marketing automation software to scale your efforts across channels, capture more leads than before, and free up time for your creatives to use their marketing energy more productively.
What Should Good Marketing Automation Software Have?
That depends on marketing software in question. There are two broad types: holistic or versatile marketing automation software or focused/niche marketing automation software.
Let’s focus on the latter first. Niche or focused marketing automation software is a lot like Mailchimp, which we looked at above.
These types of software solutions are designed for those who need specific help with one aspect of their marketing campaigns.
In the Mailchimp example, that software is explicitly designed for automating your email marketing and making things easier in that sphere. It can’t really help you with other aspects of your marketing department.
On the flip side, software like Marketo provides widescale marketing automation assistance across all channels and sectors of your marketing department.
It can help you with email automation, lead generation, and so on. It even provides analytical tools.
Both types of marketing automation software can be useful, but you should pick one that you’ll use the most for your business. Now let’s look at the actual features.
Most marketing automation platforms will include email marketing tools to some extent.
Even the basic platforms should include tools that will let you send emails to massive audiences, or let you scale down email campaigns to more segmented audiences based on your data.
Other platforms might let you send “triggered” emails that are set to send after specific events or after something a potential lead does on your website (like if they download a brochure).
Many marketing automation tools will also help you nurture leads.
In layman’s terms, these features will help you track and communicate with various leads (i.e. potential customers/users) and help convert them into an actual paying customer or user.
Since this is half the job of marketing, marketing software that has lead nurturing functions is quite valuable indeed.
Many of them will feature the databases and analytics tools to show you how people are using your site or engaging with your marketing materials, and even include some alerts or notifications.
More advanced marketing automation platforms will include segmentation tools (functions that help you segment your users into different demographic groups for easier analysis and marketing) or lead scoring.
This last possible tool can help you figure out where you should focus your marketing efforts the most for the most likely chance of a significant return.
Social Media Tools
There’s no doubt that social media is a huge part of marketing for any business, not just those who primarily exist online.
Some focused marketing automation platforms like Hootsuite focus exclusively on social media tools to the exclusion of other features.
Regardless, most marketing automation platforms will include basic functions, like the ability to automate or schedule content posting across social media channels.
Nothing saves time for your marketing team more than posting content they’ve already created at a designated time.
However, more advanced social media tools will let you create polls, referral programs, sweepstakes or other contests, and more.
All of these can help drive lead generation or customer engagement across social media, taking advantage of the inherent connectivity that social media facilitates.
Like with many triggered tools, lots of marketing automation platforms will let you post to social media based on events triggered by your site’s users.
Some tools let you automate social interactions between potential leads or customers.
Plenty of others, like Mention, can help your social media data collection by monitoring how you or your brand are mentioned across social media or the Internet at large.
Furthermore, great marketing automation platforms should include at least some analytics tools at a bare minimum.
Analytics tools help you gather and understand the data automatically scooped up from your site and from any connected databases (like Google Analytics).
All of this data can be used by you or your team to further refine your marketing efforts for greater success.
More advanced marketing automation software will provide you with multichannel analytics – in other words, this software can help you understand how your marketing works across multiple channels at the same time.
However, if you want to prioritize automating your data analytics, make sure that a marketing automation tool you’re considering can connect to data from all your channels or sources.
Some of the best marketing automation tools will also have SEO or other optimization tools included within their suites.
Examples of such tools include:
- paid and organic search analytics, showing you how your website works against direct competitors and indicating where you’ll get clicks most commonly
- personalized targeting, which are tools that will let you target specific customers most likely to enjoy your product or service through SEO tips or advice
- custom lead capture forms, designed with SEO optimization in mind for consistent lead conversion
As SEO optimization can be quite taxing on your marketing team in terms of time, these tools can be great additions to your software suite.
Can Marketing Automation Really Help Your Business?
Absolutely! In fact, we can’t think of a single business that can’t benefit from marketing automation platforms in at least one way or another.
Larger businesses, in particular, can benefit the most from marketing automation simply because they’re likely to have more marketing later in general, demanding bigger marketing teams and more man-hours to accomplish all their tasks.
Still, even smaller online businesses can benefit from marketing automation software.
This may be even more true compared to big businesses when you consider how much time you can save with several of the automated tools described above.
For instance, if you alone run your marketing for your collection of small websites, you might save yourself several hours a day just by automating email and content posting across your social media channels.
This makes marketing automation software a great pick for any business in any industry.
This all being said, don’t expect marketing automation to fully turn around your business or your marketing results.
All your marketing campaigns have to originate from wise decisions or marketing strategies to be worthwhile.
Automated marketing software scales or automates existing marketing efforts; it doesn’t automatically generate new marketing inertia that you can take advantage of.
Should You Combine Marketing Automation Software with Other Software?
We certainly think so. For instance, you can combine marketing automation software with project management or workflow automation software (and in some cases find full suites that include tools from each type).
Each type of software serves a distinct purpose.
Project management software helps you maximize your productivity and efficiency while workflow automation can help free up time by automating meaningless or rote tasks.
You can imagine how well these types of software will combine with good marketing automation platforms.
However, remember to keep your overall budget in mind. Some marketing automation tools are quite pricy, especially if you need enterprise-level solutions.
In the end, the best marketing automation platform will be one that works perfectly for your needs and is scaled for your current marketing efforts.
Consider each of the choices above and don’t hesitate to try many of them – most are offered for free, at least on a trial basis.