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Marketing automation and customer relationship management systems are two different platforms. But they undeniably work together. CRMs manage customer data. Although you can have a CRM without marketing automation, marketing automation cannot exist without a CRM, according to Davis. The CRM serves as the central database for marketing automation. It’s where all the information is stored for each contact along their customer journey, he added. “It also allows multiple people, across multiple departments within your organization to remain synced up with the current state of the contact to ensure consistency in communicating,” Davis said.
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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.

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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.
Meet Pardot: B2B marketing automation on the world's #1 CRM. Pardot empowers marketing and sales teams to work together to find and nurture leads, close more deals, and maximize return on investment. Pardot's lead management features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and ROI reporting to help marketing and sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and track marketing ROI. Track all prospect interactions on your site — from downloads to page views — then score prospects based on parameters you set. Put time back into your sales reps’ day with automated lead nurturing and real-time sales alerts, which allow reps to prioritize their time. Then, measure the true ROI of your marketing efforts with closed-loop reporting. Accelerate pipeline, drive revenue, and align marketing and sales with Pardot Marketing Automation. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yhEwPa

Now take the example of a much smaller company. The company’s 20 sales reps might have an on-demand sales force automation system, and the company might have one marketing rep who manually collects, scores and transfers leads. But as the leads grow or become more complex due to multiple products or sales regions, the marketer will need an automation platform from which to plan programs and execute campaigns. Again, the marketing automation system is the tool for the job.


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One review site that provides valuable insights is G2 Crowd. They score products and vendors based on ratings and reviews gathered from the user community, as well as data aggregated from online sources and social networks. They apply a unique, patent-pending algorithm to this data to calculate the customer satisfaction and market presence scores in real time.
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Gap Inc.’s  (No. 20) online reserve system has been disabled or limited today in some locations, likely due to the higher store traffic, making it harder to keep track of accurate inventory levels. On normal business days, consumers shopping online can find an item in their preferred size and see if it is available in a store near them to reserve and pick up.


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.
Instead, the company is focused on nurturing brand-to-audience relationships. The idea resonates with HubSpot’s thought leadership that we presented earlier. Content is a marketing pillar. It’s trustworthy, value-driven, and compelling. Coupled with marketing automation software, content can amplify the success of your relationship-building efforts.
Through Leadformly (a lead gen tool we own) we work with a lot of Salesforce/MC users looking to integrate our lead forms into their CRM/automation environment, and the complexity is much greater compared to more intuitively-designed tools such as ActiveCampaign, Hubspot etc. However, having all of the data in the Salesforce environment does have a reporting/tracking advantage – but nothing that can’t be achieved using other tools connected via tools like Zapier.

While Amazon's reported sales growth each quarter includes that taken in from its other businesses, such as Amazon Web Services, the company is expected to capture nearly 5 percent of total U.S. retail sales by the end of this year, according to eMarketer. The data marketing firm has predicted Amazon will end 2018 capturing about 48 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales, or $252 billion, compared with 43.1 percent in 2017.
Businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) firms have longer sales cycles and engage in more relationship building activities. Businesses that sell to consumers (B2C) rely more on brand and high-volume direct outreach efforts. This overview aims to improve understanding of how marketing software applications work and provide an update on trends every buyer should know.
"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."
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. Platform features include: • Best-in-class email engine • One-click integration to leading web conferencing and CRM solutions • Tools for website visitor tracking • Lead scoring and lead nurturing • Automated programs; trigger & drip campaigns • Social media listening, prospecting & publishing • Design tools for web forms, landing pages and emails • Inbound tools for advanced SEO, Google AdWord tracking, and blog integration • Act-On Anywhere - a business productivity tool • Account- and contact-based marketing capabilities
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.
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“Despite some of the best deals coming earlier in the holiday season, the Cyber Monday brand has great staying power. Many shoppers have waited on certain purchases, with three hours tonight expected to bring in as much revenue as an average full day. While certain discounts have remained since Black Friday, out-of-stock rates are starting to peak up and shoppers looking for the hottest products should not wait much longer,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights.
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.
HubSpot is all about inbound marketing, and it offers a free CRM that helps businesses organize and track customers — as HubSpot says, its CRM “automates the tasks salespeople hate.” The platform tracks interactions automatically, and it compiles data about deals on a single dashboard so the entire journey is visible. Beyond its CRM, the brand offers blogging, landing pages, email, lead management, analytics, web, social media, SEO, ads, and integration with Salesforce.

Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don't have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a "Welcome" or a "Thank you for making a purchase" message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off the workflow to conserve your email output.
“Converting mobile traffic to sales has long been a thorn in the side of retailers, but investments in making the experience faster and easier have paid off,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights. “Cyber Monday shoppers relied heavily on their mobile devices, resulting in an unprecedented 55.6 percent year-over-year increase from smartphones alone. Additionally, Buy Online Pick Up Instore saw a record 65% increase, signaling that retailers are increasingly fulfilling consumer expectations for integrated cross-channel experiences.”
"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."
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.
iContact Pro provides marketing automation software and services for marketing teams to drive quantifiable results. The iContact Pro platform integrates email marketing, landing pages, social media management and robust analytics in a simple but comprehensive cloud-based solution that helps customers outsmart the competition and grow their business. ***ICONTACT PRO INCLUDES***: BUSINESS-CLASS EMAIL: Creating effective email campaigns is easy with 650+ professional templates and top class deliverability. SEGMENTATION AND TARGETING: Target your leads based on who they are and how they interact with you. LANDING PAGES: Create great looking, mobile responsive landing pages in minutes. Drive, track, and measure action on email, social, and your website. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION: Nurture customers with the right content, at the right time, by creating custom experiences using the most intuitive workflows in the industry. LEAD SCORING: Customize scoring criteria and the software automatically qualifies your leads so you can engage with confidence and increase your marketing efficiency. CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT: Create, track, and measure your integrated marketing campaigns, from Tweets to email with powerful and easy-to-understand analytics. SALESFORCE INTEGRATION: Sync contacts and leads directly between your Salesforce.com and iContact Pro accounts, so you can quickly and effectively close your newly qualified and ready leads. SOCIAL CRM: Track and record every engagement with your prospects across email, social media, landing pages, news releases, and website visits. ***ICONTACT PRO BENEFITS*** DO MORE Nowadays, a marketer’s life is full of long hours, distractions, and beeping devices — it’s time for you to work smarter, not harder. iContact Pro was created to help companies engineer more calculated ways to send personalized communications to customers. No advanced degrees required. LIBERATE YOUR IDEAS Automation is not rocket science. But with most big enterprise solutions, getting started with marketing automation might feel a lot like planning a complicated rocket launch. iContact Pro was built to work fast for any size team, so when you say “yes” to marketing automation, you say “no” to complicated implementation. Simply login, pick an activity, and take off! TARGET YOUR MESSAGE Email marketing is at the heart of any results-driven strategy. iContact Pro is your virtual segmenting machine, helping you create individual CRM profiles to provide subscribers with the most relatable experiences for them — no matter how they engage with you. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS Bringing in more leads doesn’t always mean more revenue; prospects demand a higher quality experience from you. iContact Pro helps you nurture relationships throughout the entire customer lifecycle in a way that feels personal, but is in fact highly automated. Reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right message. ENGAGE YOUR NETWORK Get more mileage from existing content. Turn social fans into subscribers by including links to your own landing pages and invite people to download valuable content in exchange for their email address. Flexible, built-in tools allow you to schedule a calendar of social activity in advance or join in on trending conversations as they happen. CAPTURE MORE LEADS Everything you need is now easier to do. From designing professional landing pages and email templates, to setting up intuitive workflow triggers based on customer actions, our interactive tools make it easy to cross marketing tasks off your to-do list. MAKE DATA ACTIONABLE Great results come from consistently testing and drilling down into your performance data to make campaign tweaks on-the-fly. Engagement reports let you count up and compare the success of your social posts, landing pages, and emails. Ask us how you can integrate data from other tools with your dashboard for convenient, one-screen viewing. KEEP MOVING FORWARD We’re not doing our job if questions block your way to making things happen on your terms. We work hard to take the guesswork out of success. You can count on our experts and software to flatten learning curves along the way so you can just get up and get going.
We were really impressed by the ExactTarget demo at Dreamforce (the company was recently acquired by salesforce.com). One thing that stood out to us about ExactTarget is the system’s ability to target communications over multiple channels. Most marketing automation tools focus on email, but ExactTarget goes beyond that and lets you target mobile app notifications, or even messages to the dashboard of a customer’s car (if, for example, you were a car manufacturer).
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. 
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We’ve identified a range of leading marketing automation tools offering robust features and capabilities to simplify many otherwise time-consuming marketing activities. While the following tools and apps aren’t listed in any particular order, this list represents 57 tools worth taking a look at if you’re seeking ways to streamline one or more marketing functions.
That’s true, Vittal says, but many of the large CRM vendors don’t provide the type of flexibility and capability for efforts like lead management to the marketing organization as they do to the sales organization. The marketing capabilities delivered within CRM applications tend of focus entirely around campaign setup and profiling. They fail to support marketing professionals in creating landing pages, implementing sophisticated nurture campaigns, tracking online visitor behavior, scoring prospects by implicit and explicit actions and automatically transferring prospects to sales staff when they are sales-ready.
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.
As far as I’m concerned, Hubspot doesn’t offer enough to justify its enterprise price tag. While Pardot isn’t much cheaper at this level, it does have the added benefit of integrating directly into Salesforce and Marketing Cloud – while I’ve never been a fan of these tools myself, they do tend to be popular in larger businesses, giving Pardot an edge here.
Though foot traffic at some malls and stores was down over the holiday weekend, more and more shoppers have been turning to the internet to hunt for deals, and overall holiday sales are still expected to be up in 2018. Consumer confidence remains high, while unemployment is low in the U.S., giving many people the ability to spend more this year than last.
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