Though it's not the easiest marketing initiative to execute on, marketing automation is certainly not impossible. Imagine you're trying to grow a plant. First you need fertile soil ripe for the growth of your plant. Next you need seeds themselves to care for, and last you need water and light in order to nurture those seeds into a lush, blooming plant.  It's not foolproof, but it's not impossible. In our story, effective marketing automation looks just like nurturing this plant does. At the end of the day, we hope we've nurtured our leads (the seedlings) well enough to produce actual paying customers (a lush, full-grown plant.)
Now, with a little more than a month to go before the end of 2018, retailers will try to keep the momentum going, both online and in stores. Though many companies are expecting strong fourth quarters, there's some concern the sales growth won't be sustainable into 2019, especially if the U.S. economy's strength starts to fade or consumers lose confidence.
If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.
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.
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.
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.
Large Versus Small Retailers: Large retailers ($1 billion or more in annual e-commerce revenue) saw 6 percent higher conversion rates on smartphones, a sign that investments in improving the mobile shopping experience are paying off. Smaller retailers, offering more specialized products, were better at getting shoppers to close sales via desktops with 7 percent higher conversions.
For companies that can’t decide on how to kill all the birds with one stone, it’s good to know that most of marketing automation functionality can be supported within a CRM system too! For example, everything that falls into lead management (lead segmentation, personalized email marketing, lead nurturing, analytics) can be activated within CRM software through either in-built tools or customization, depending on how complex requirements are. I tell more on the benefits of this approach for SMEs here: https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/benefits-of-crm-software-for-smes
Thanksgiving also saw $1 billion in online sales coming from mobile devices, Adobe says. Salesforce.com tracking found 54% of all digital orders on Thanksgiving were made from a mobile device, up from 47% a year ago. In addition, 68% of all digital traffic came from mobile devices, says Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce.
You can think of Eloqua as the Ferrari of marketing automation. It’s fully loaded, provides an exceptional level of service, and comes with a matching price tag. One of Eloqua’s key differentiators is the amount of time they spend teaching and helping their customers get the most out of the product. Like Marketo, Eloqua also has a great marketplace with plenty of integrations with third party services.
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Emarsys Marketing Platform is a Fully Integrated Marketing Platform, one platform, all the tools you need. Analyze, optimize, personalize. Use the Emarsys Marketing Platform to create a unified profile for each of your customers. Then, automate personalized messages across all channels, optimize for performance, and measure results - all from a single integrated platform. Move beyond segmentation to true one-to-one personalization. Anyone can collect data, but without the right tools to interpret and use it, it’s useless. The Emarsys Marketing Platform goes beyond data collection and segmentation to create unified profiles for every customer. Identify important audience segments and opportunities for repeat business you never knew existed. Then reach out to buyers through truly personalized 1-to-1 interactions with the right message at the right time across the right channel for each individual to drive optimal results. Other marketing platforms and point solutions pressure marketers to become more like data scientists and encourage the addition of more fragmented tools and technologies to their marketing tech stacks. But Emarsys is challenging this way of thinking. Why? Because regardless of your level of technical expertise or the number of point solutions you may have, human-driven personalization doesn’t scale. It never will. But Emarsys Artificial Intelligence Marketing does. It’s time to take a stand. Powered by AI, the Emarsys Marketing Platform leaves the data science to the machine. Our single, integrated platform delivers truly personalized interactions to your customers - at scale - all while allowing you, the marketer, to focus instead on what you really love: strategy, content, and creative.

Zaius is a CRM & Marketing Automation platform built for ecommerce brands. By combining a single customer view, real-time, multi-channel marketing automation, and cross-channel attribution, Zaius empowers marketing teams to drive more repeat purchases and maximize customer lifetime revenue - without any IT support. It’s the first CRM built specifically for B2C marketers.
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.

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.


Infusionsoft is the only drag-and-drop tool we tested, which is a nifty feature for marketers who may wish to work on touchscreens or don't have time to deal with lengthy drop-down menus. It also provides unique tag removal that automatically pulls contacts from campaigns if they perform a certain action. For example, if contacts don't open three emails in a row, then you can set the tool to remove all such contacts from the workflow. This way, you're not sending messages into a vacuum. The tool also gives you the most useful real-time alert dashboard of any that we tested in this class. It lets you see every contact interaction with anyone in your database. So, if you sent an email to someone a week ago but they just opened it this second, then you'll see their name pop up at the top of your dashboard. From this tab, you can send a follow-up email or adjust the contact's standing within the specific workflow.
Marketo is great for companies who are going to make use of the tool’s many features that go beyond basic marketing automation. It’s not the most expensive tool, but it’s certainly not the cheapest either. If you’re not going to use the advanced functionality of the system, you can get similar results with one of the less expensive tools. However, if you want to start with the basics and move into the more advanced functionality in the near future, it could be a good idea to start with a tool like Marketo so that you don’t have to switch over all your data and campaigns down the line. We also like that Marketo has a very large and active knowledge base, which is a great resource for new users.
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Marketo is great for companies who are going to make use of the tool’s many features that go beyond basic marketing automation. It’s not the most expensive tool, but it’s certainly not the cheapest either. If you’re not going to use the advanced functionality of the system, you can get similar results with one of the less expensive tools. However, if you want to start with the basics and move into the more advanced functionality in the near future, it could be a good idea to start with a tool like Marketo so that you don’t have to switch over all your data and campaigns down the line. We also like that Marketo has a very large and active knowledge base, which is a great resource for new users.

But online shopping wasn’t free of technical issues. When Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, went down on Prime Day, it cost the e-commerce giant an Internet Retailer-estimated $72.6 million. Walmart Inc., No. 3 in the Top 1000, faced similar troubles when its Black Friday deals went live on Walmart.com at 10 p.m. EST on Nov. 22. Shoppers complained about slow-loading pages and then reported error messages on DownDetector.com. “Due to extremely high demand for our Black Friday deals last night, our site experienced some delays shortly after our event began online. Many customers were still able to check out smoothly, and we were able to quickly fix the issue,” a spokesman for Walmart says.


It’s ineffective given the effort required to see meaningful results. When done correctly, effective marketing automation takes time, effort, and resources to implement and maintain for revenue growth. Even if your database is currently filled with top-notch, quality leads, how effective will your marketing automation be when you’ve either converted all those leads into customers, or when your database begins decaying at the rate of 23% / year (via unsubscribes, job turnover and a variety of other factors.) Even when they’ve invested the time and effort to master the art of “Amazon-like” marketing automation, without enough leads to work towards purchase many marketers end up unhappy with the ROI of their marketing automation investment.
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.
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.
Large enterprises have long found value in the technology, but marketing automation isn’t just for big companies. In fact, Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs) make up the largest growing segment in the space right now. And thousands of companies even smaller than that are using automation as well. Similarly, companies across all industries are using it. The early adopters were primarily in “business-to-business” (B2B) industries such as high-tech / software, manufacturing, and business services. But increasingly companies across all categories–including “business-to-consumer” (B2C) industries such as healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and retail–are adopting the software for its real-time, engagement-oriented approach to maintaining and extending customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.
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.
Email: A lead completes your form, follows up, redeems your offers, and still doesn’t convert. What do you do? You send an automated email, that’s what. You can customize your marketing automation software to end personalized messages based on user triggers. Think of this approach like a logic puzzle. If users take actions x, y, and z on your site, your marketing automation software will deploy message “q.” This process is something known as sequencing – which we’ll get to later. 																

Despite its technical glitches, Walmart’s in-store traffic, however, was “steady all night long,” ringing up “hundreds of thousands of transactions,” while many shoppers took advantage of its new app features, such as the Black Friday store maps and Check Out With Me, says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S., in a blog post.
Incentives can help you zight these external forces. Let’s go back to that example where you were shopping online but left your credit card in the kitchen. If you had a one-night-only 30% off coupon, would you have been more inclined to get up and walk to the other side of the house? If your shopping cart purchase was $20? Probably not. But if you were planning to spend $100 or more, the answer is likely to be a clear ‘you bet.’
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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.
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.
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.
That means we should treat them like a real person, not a fragmented self across different tools like email, social media, etc. If we can leverage all the marketing tools, channels and behavioral data possible to paint a complete picture of a person, we can nurture them based on their unique challenges and interests, not based solely on the emails they open or click through.
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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. 
In addition to an organic integration with Salesforce, Pardot offers one of the cleanest user interfaces (UIs) and one of the largest variety of prebuilt templates on the market. But its best features are designed to improve your workflows once they've been created. For example, you can pretest the process of an automated program to see how it reacts. This is essentially a fire drill automation campaign to ensure your complex branching doesn't lead to a dead end or a duplicate email. Pardot also lets you schedule social media campaigns and post in real time to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter simultaneously. If you really want to manage your marketing program from within one solution, then Pardot also offers a search marketing tool that plugs into Bing, Google, and Yahoo. You can check search engine rankings, monthly volumes, and ranking difficulties as well as run competitor analysis and monitor your paid search campaigns. No other tool we reviewed offers search marketing functionality.
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.
Autopilot is simple and visual customer journey software. We help you capture and convert new leads, connect with customers, and create loyal repeat buyers. LAUNCH IN MINUTES Autopilot’s visual canvas for creating customers journeys is inspired by drawing campaigns on a whiteboard. Whether you need to follow up with new contacts, qualify and assign leads to sales, or onboard customers, you can automate your marketing simply by dragging and connecting shapes together in just a few minutes. INTEGRATE POPULAR TOOLS Connect Autopilot with tools like Salesforce, Facebook, Segment, Slack, Typeform, Twilio, and Zapier. Or plug in your own using our API. By centralizing your data, you can create a personalized experience based on interests and behavior. Instantly trigger automated journeys to assign leads in Salesforce, follow up after LiveChat conversations, or add customers to a Facebook Custom Audience. CREATE MULTI-CHANNEL EXPERIENCES Create a better experience for you customers by sending targeted emails, in-app messages, SMS, and postcards at the right time in their journey. Allow subscribers to opt-in by texting a keyword to a number. Notify active customers of a new product feature when they log in to your app. Celebrate milestones or offer a special discount by sending a postcard as easily as automating an email. TRACK AND OPTIMIZE PERFORMANCE Set a goal for every journey to get insight into which messages convert and how journeys are trending. Track your performance in real-time, run A/B test experiments, and quickly optimize based on results. Autopilot has helped the Equality Campaign in Australia win the YES vote on gay marriage. It’s helped Microsoft communicate with and onboard new developers. It’s helped Patreon connect and educate creators to give them new revenue streams. And it’s helped hundreds of startups tell their story and grow their businesses. Are you ready to launch your next customer journey? We offer a 30-day free trial so you can try it out, no credit card required.

Marketo is a marketing automation platform that includes account-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, and marketing analytics, allowing business owners to drive engagement through multiple channels from one platform. Its goal is to help small businesses build long-lasting relationships with customers and create end-to-end engagement. Its cloud-based infrastructure can handle hundreds of millions of activities each day, meaning it can scale with its customers.


Marketing automation focuses on the lead acquisition and demand generation activities within a marketing group, as opposed to the sales activities, where CRM systems as a whole tend to focus. Simply put, these tools automate marketing processes — everything from strategic planning and campaign design to customer segmentation, lead generation, nurture campaigns, prospect scoring, and closed loop analytics.
1. Pricing – While SendinBlue is one of the most affordable email marketing tools currently available, you’ll need to be on their $49/month plan or above to access unlimited automation workflows. While not a major issue, this tends to rule out SendinBlue for me when recommending a marketing automation tool to a small business that’s new to automation. After all, ActiveCampaign starts at $9!
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