Instead of relying on outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and aggressively pushing audiences into become leads, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally. By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is in a position to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.
What exactly is a marketing automation tool? Is it the “go-to” tool for lead management, or will your Customer Relationship Management software suite suffice? If you have a CRM system, do you need an additional marketing application for lead generation? If you are strapped for cash, is this type of tool a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘need to have’? And how exactly does “marketing automation” fit within the notion of an integrated CRM solution anyway?
Let’s take a few examples. A global software technology company, for example, has hundreds or thousands of sales reps who need to have visibility to their key accounts and contacts within those key accounts. They manage the contact database and contact strategy with a sales force automation tool, which focuses on improving the productivity of the sales organization. But what about the marketing arm of that company? The job of the marketing department is to generate, nurture, evaluate and follow up on leads, which they then pass off to the sales force automation system when the leads become sales-ready. The system that’s responsible for generating, nurturing, classifying and scoring those leads would be the marketing automation system, and it’s owned and run by the marketing department.
The best way to overcome the limitation of time is by automating some of your processes — and marketing is one area ripe for automation. The key for small businesses is finding a tool that can automate many components of marketing at once, and these seven platforms take different approaches to automating marketing processes to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier.
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At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
Marketing automation is a very active segment of the CRM software market. Not only are new vendors entering the market, but existing market leaders are constantly innovating and delivering new product updates. Today, the majority of solutions can be split into business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) solutions. The two groupings are very different and so are their functional needs.
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366 Degrees is a marketing automation platform that allows small to medium businesses to communicate with leads across several channels and track their interaction with your content. With integration into the CRM platform of your choosing, you can keep your lead database up to date across your marketing and sales teams. 366 features smart content creation with pre-made HTML snippets that make creating emails and landing pages easy, no coding background needed! Then, track your leads' interactions with your content and automatically follow up with behaviorally cued automatic drip campaigns. 366 features integrations to Salesforce, Datanyze, Nimble, and now Vidyard for video marketing made easy. Drop video into emails, landing pages, or social posts and watch leads pour in.

Has a focus on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom of the funnel. Prospects are scored, based on their activities, and receive targeted content and messaging, thus nurturing them from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and is really the marriage of email marketing technology coupled with a structured sales process.

Software as a Service (SaaS). In the MA market, SaaS is less of a trend than it is the dominant model for deploying software. Buyers will find that the majority of solutions—with the exception of some high-end B2C solutions—are delivered through the online marketing software model where the system is hosted by the software vendor and accessed over the Internet by user. A benefit of Web-based email marketing software is increased accessibility. They can be accessed on multiple devices and from any operating system, whether you're a Mac or PC. Interested in learning more about email marketing software? Check out our catalogue and buyers' guide specific to this category here.
Once you have visitors on your website, the next step is to convert them. At the very least, you should start collecting their email addresses. Once you start building an organic email list, you can start reaching out to your customers and prospects so that you can re-engage them through your content: ebooks, whitepapers, and tip sheets. Here are the most important components of conversion optimization:
We currently have three Editors' Choice picks for marketing automation solutions here at PCMag. One of them, Campaigner, impressed us with its intuitive UI and its wealth of online resources. Another Editors' Choice, the aforementioned Pardot, excelled due to its built-in search and social marketing functionality. Lastly, the aforementioned HubSpot had an impressive set of prebuilt workflows that also got our top nod. While all of these are fantastic solutions, they are all quite different, and it's definitely worth taking the time to research the best solution for your needs. This, of course, also applies even to the other products that did not get an Editors' Choice designation.
B2C companies, however, probably have the most to gain from marketing automation technologies, as they can reach larger segments of their customers with personalized messages than they could afford to without it. In the past, B2C brands may have sent the same email to all of their customers in regular intervals, which, at best, got a marginal return and, at worst, turned off otherwise loyal customers with off-topic communications.
Target said third-quarter digital sales climbed 49 percent, the best since the company started breaking out that metric. It said digital now accounts for 6 percent of its total sales, up from 4.2 percent a year ago, with stores making up the rest. It hasn't offered an outlook for e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter but said it expects profit margins will continue to be under pressure during the holidays, thanks to heightened supply-chain expenses.
SSENSE: Lastly, a big designer sale. The sale section at this Canadian luxury e-comm site is marked down up to 60% off. You’ll have to pick through to find the good stuff — and things that aren’t still a wild amount of money — but if you’ve got the time, it’s worth clicking around. And hey, there’s no shame in sorting by price: low to high — there are lots of tees, underwear sets, and cute socks priced under $50.

Thanks Marcus for the comparisons, but I am somewhat confused by this post. It says 2018 in title, but yet comments are from 2014-17. I’m assuming it was originally written earlier and you’ve updated. I’d be curious what edits were made; how your opinions may have changed; who are the new top contenders for 2018. With all the growth in the marketing automation space in past 3 years, it couldn’t be simply updating the title. Also curious if a company is already tied to Salesforce for CRM does that necessarily lift Marketing Cloud as the premier choice?


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