Marketing automation is the process of using software to complete repetitive marketing tasks designed to nurture sales leads, personalize marketing messages and content and in the process, save marketers’ time and effort. By automating many of these tasks, users can more effectively send the right message, to the right user at the right time, according to Chris Davis, director of education at ActiveCampaign, which provides marketing automation software. “Marketing automation is all about understanding your audience so you can adapt the way you communicate to them based on their unique buying journey,” said Karra Hendrix, product marketing manager at Act-On, a provider of marketing automation software. 

B2C systems tend to manage vast databases of customer data—often millions of records. These systems have sophisticated tools for analyzing and segmenting customers into different categories of buyers. Markets can then execute specific campaigns, or “treatments” for each segment. Campaigns are typically designed to elicit a direct response, such as returning to a website to make a purchase. Alternatively, campaigns may feed a target prospect list into a call center systems for telesales outreach. 
The brand’s goal is to scale with businesses as they expand so they can see true growth without the hiccup of finding other tools. And its marketing analytics tool spurs some of that growth by showing business owners the outcomes of their historical efforts and projecting how their future attempts will pan out. These insights, combined with ONTRAPORT’s Campaign Builder — which allows entrepreneurs to set goals and base their automation on achieving those goals — give small businesses the opportunity to customize.
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Social media capabilities – Some marketing automation tools integrate with Facebook and Twitter, enabling you to control social advertising or build social apps from within the service. Some also offer social media monitoring, to pull comments made on social media platforms into your CRM. These features are usually nice-to-haves, but it might be worth considering whether or not they would be useful for you or not.
Oracle Eloqua, part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, provides best-in-class lead management, campaign management, and sales tools that help marketers deliver the most connected and personalized experiences from first impression to customer advocacy. Eloqua's marketer-friendly platform enables organizations of any size to execute advanced marketing strategies, at scale, using the industry's richest dataset and adaptive technologies. Some of the top reasons customers choose Oracle Eloqua include: * Most Comprehensive Platform Built for B2B Marketers * Industry’s Richest Dataset * Marketer-friendly UI * Powerful Lead Management & Acceleration * Adaptive Campaign Management & Nurturing * Sophisticated Targeting & Segmentation * Broad 3rd Party Data Enrichment * Market-leading Extensibility & Integrations * Enterprise Scale Performance & Security

However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.

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. 																

Userfox works primarily with tech companies, so if you’re in the industry, you’ll be in good company. Like Customer.io, userfox has a lightweight interface and is designed to trigger emails based on events (rather than just pageviews), so if that’s important to you, userfox is a great choice. You might also consider userfox if you’re already using AdRoll, as the acquisition likely means a tight integration between the two products in the future.
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?
"The impressive sales acceleration reported by both Walmart and Target in the most recent quarter implies both company's expanding omni-channel initiatives are resonating with shoppers," Bank of America analyst Robert Ohmes wrote. "This growth has outpaced that of other brick and mortar retailers as well as online players like Amazon, and has been supported by the rapid expansion of buy-online, pick-up in store options at both retailers."
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When designed well, marketing automation solutions make your job easier. They perform the difficult, tiresome work that is a natural part of running a marketing campaign while drawing from various data sources. The software compiles information, such as the number of opened emails, abandoned e-commerce carts, and data from web forms, to help inform your marketing decisions. When you maximize the features that these solutions offer, they can truly improve your company's bottom line.
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Marketo, an Adobe company, offers the leading Engagement Platform that empowers marketers to build brand value, grow revenue, and prove impact. Consistently recognized as the industry’s innovation pioneer, Marketo is the trusted platform for thousands of CMOs thanks to its scalability, reliability, and openness. To learn more about the Marketo Engagement Platform, LaunchPoint® partner ecosystem, and the vast community that is the Marketing Nation®, visit www.marketo.com.
According to Hendrix, there are two types of "bad" marketing automation: People who use a marketing automation platform ineffectively, and platforms that label themselves as “marketing automation” even when that’s not the case. “True marketing automation allows you to track each touchpoint that a person has with your brand, take that in and adapt your messaging accordingly. It should enable you to not only automate processes, but anticipate your buyers' needs and accelerate their buying journey. Marketers need a solid marketing automation strategy, rather than just automating the same tasks they’ve been doing all along," Hendrix said.
All in one Sales Execution and Marketing Automation Platform. Map your entire business process in hours not months. Designed to help you sell faster. With LeadSquared’s Marketing Automation tool you can:  Push your leads down the conversion path by sending the right message at the right time using automation.  Run high-performing email marketing campaigns with dozens of ready-to-use email templates to choose from.  Follow every movement of your lead with website tracking and prioritize them based on lead score and lead quality.  Create responsive landing pages in no time with numerous templates to choose from.  Organize and segment your leads on various factors to run targeted email and drip campaigns.  Integrate seamlessly with apps you love. Key LeadSquared Solutions are: 1) Lead Nurturing: Make your leads travel faster down the sales tunnel by using: a) Autoresponders: Ensure that the leads are greeted with relevant emails and SMS’ as they arrive. b) Drip Marketing: Send your prospects exactly what they need and when they need it. c) Email Marketing: Build and send beautiful emails that perform great on all devices. d) Lead and Website Tracking: Track all your lead activities and nurture them based on their actions on your website. e) List Segmentation: Segment leads based on their profiles and interests to nurture them accordingly. f) Content Library: Store your nurturing emails as templates to reuse them easily. 2) Lead Management System: Map your entire lead management process from capture till conversion with LeadSquared’s feature rich and hassle-free lead management system which include: a) Lead Capture Automation: You can ensure that no leads slip through the cracks and seamlessly capture leads from all your sources. (PPC, Social Media, Website, phone and more.) b) Email Integration: Sync your email inbox with LeadSquared to capture all prospect conversations. c) Lead Qualification: Use lead quality and activity scoring to identify and chase the best leads first. d) Lead Distribution: Assign leads to relevant sales people automatically, based on any rules you set. e) Tasks and Reminders: Automatically set tasks for your sales people based on lead actions. f) Source Tracking: Identify the lead generation sources working best for you. 3) Sales Management: It includes everything you need to manage your inside and field sales teams. a) Sales Tracking: Track everything - your salespeople, their performance and revenue. b) Sales Alert: Notify salespeople whenever their leads take an important action. c) Sales Automation: Leave repetitive yet important tasks to sales automation. 4) Marketing Analytics: Use our analytics to run data-driven campaigns and get better at marketing every single day. a) Drip Analytics: Get performance reports for each step of your drip marketing campaigns. b) Email Analytics: Analyze and improve each aspect of your email marketing campaign. c) Landing page: Get conversion analytics for each landing page and web form. d) Lead Funnel: Find where the leads are at each step of your marketing funnel. e) List Engagement: Find how engaged a list is by looking at its engagement index.
Amazon, which is expected to capture nearly half of the U.S. e-commerce market by year's end, said it had a "record-breaking" holiday weekend for sales. It said Cyber Monday marked the biggest shopping day in its history, based on the number of items sold, though it didn't provide specific sales numbers beyond that. The company said shoppers bought more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items from Amazon Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
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The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers. In our plant analogy, it's sort of like using artificial chemicals or enhancers to make your plant grow faster. Sure, it seems like a good, quick fix--but it doesn't set you up for future, long-term success.  
Social media capabilities – Some marketing automation tools integrate with Facebook and Twitter, enabling you to control social advertising or build social apps from within the service. Some also offer social media monitoring, to pull comments made on social media platforms into your CRM. These features are usually nice-to-haves, but it might be worth considering whether or not they would be useful for you or not.
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Eventually, your company’s marketing program will get so big that you can’t — possibly — manage everything via Outlook, Word, and Excel spreadsheets. You could always hire a team of marketing specialists, but eventually, you’re going to start wasting cash on redundant tasks like emailing new customers, setting up social media-to-email programs, and emailing your users every time you post blog content.
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