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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?
My first thought was how easy Ontraport was to get started with compared to another marketing automation company I had just tried. Recurring payments were to set up. There was no initial training cost, and you could sign up as a customer directly from their website. On top of this, everything was split testable without needing a strange workaround.
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I do find that Ontraport seems to have great pricing overall (and yes, a lot less functions you need to get a plugin or workaround for – I wonder when you have a platform you pay a lot for and then there is a big side industry of people doing training and also developing plug ins – I think if you pay for a product that product should really keep developing and adding those plugins ‘in product’ and I can see that Landon and his team are continuing to refine and add functionality that is requested, so I can’t fault their customer service).
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.
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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. 
B2B marketing organizations tend to rely on enterprise marketing automation systems that enable them to generate interest in the product or service by nurturing a relationship with the business customer, according to SelectHub. Smaller businesses that market mainly to consumers focus on marketing automation systems that help them engage the customer with the brand and the product rather than nurturing relationships.

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.
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.

"Strategically, we continue to support management's long-term strategy to continue investments in growth geographies (China & India) and growth opportunities of the new world of retailing (i.e., Flipkart)," Bugatch wrote at the time. "However, management's strategy comes at a price and will continue to impact operating income and earnings growth in the near-term."


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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.
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.
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.

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.


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Even with the early sales figures, costs, including investing in digital, and comparable results are still hurting retail stocks. Heading into the weekend, retailer shares were hit hard, with Target shares down 16.6% for the week, Kohl’s Corp. KSS, +3.45%   stock down 12.8%, off-price retailer TJX Cos. TJX, +0.39%   tumbling 12.6% for the period, and Costco Wholesale Corp. COST, -0.59%   down 4.3%.

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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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.
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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