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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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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Marketing automation plugs into a company's CRM system, which, typically, has its own native marketing automation cloud service (such as Salesforce Pardot and Oracle Eloqua). Eloqua will work with other CRM platforms that compete with Oracle's, and Marketo, an independent marketing automation platform, will work with Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and other CRM systems. HubSpot also is a popular marketing automation platform that has its own CRM backbone. 																

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To help entrepreneurs determine how successful their efforts have been, the brand delivers weekly reports and customized engagement scoring; it also spotlights the outcome of A/B tests. Delivra’s Drag & Drop Editor and Image Editor can lend a helping hand to less-than-artistic entrepreneurs who need to design and package their messaging. And for small businesses wanting to tie their marketing efforts directly to their e-commerce stores, Delivra integrates with multiple systems to enable small businesses to segment shoppers and re-engage them.
The massive sales figures point to the solid growth of e-commerce, with more customers each year spending more online, threatening traditional retailers' networks of stores. The records also validate expectations this holiday shopping season would become one of the strongest in years, thanks to low unemployment, high consumer confidence and a robust economy.
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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?
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.
ThriveHive is marketing platform that empowers small business owners to grow their businesses through better marketing. The platform includes all of the essential online marketing tools and guidance necessary to get small business owners online and to succeed with marketing. ThriveHive is guided marketing for small business. Features Include: Better Website (optional) - Professionally built or DIY Customized Marketing Plan - Plans that work for small businesses Marketing Platform- All of your marketing in one place Contact Manager - Manage leads & customers Email - Send & track emails & newsletters Blog & Social Media - Create blog & social media posts Insight Emails - Marketing & lead notifications Marketing Coach - One-on-one expert marketing help Managed Advertising - Google AdWords & More
B2B enterprise buyer. These buyers work for firms that market to other businesses, and engage in longer sales cycles. They are primarily seeking capabilities that help them nurture relationships with prospects. Lead nurturing, lead scoring, sales force automation (SFA) and sales coordination and enablement tools are all critical for optimal performance.
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.
Adobe leverages Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, to identify retail insights from trillions of data points that flow through Adobe Analytics and Magento Commerce Cloud, part of Adobe Experience Cloud. Adobe Analytics analyzes one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 55 million SKUs and 80 of the largest 100 U.S. web retailers* – more than any other technology company.
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Pretty much everything that Hubspot offers can be found elsewhere at a much lower cost. And yes, while it is true that Hubspot does offer a free version of their software, this doesn’t include any of their marketing automation features. If you’re looking to use Hubspot for marketing automation, you’ll need to cough up at least $800/month (paid annually), plus an additional $3,000 in onboarding fees. In other words, if your marketing automation budget is below $12,600/year, you may want to move on to our next suggestion.
As every small business owner knows, wearing a lot of hats is how you keep your company in the black. The problem, of course, is that any business owner only has 24 hours in a day. Cramming business development, customer service, marketing, production, financials, and everything else on one to-do list is a recipe for disaster (and a complete lack of sleep).
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It opens the door for irrelevant, spammy, automated messages. Understanding that a large database of leads is required for marketing automation to have any effect on their bottom line, many marketers end up buying lists of contacts to nurture with marketing automation. The consequences of list-buying are numerous, but most importantly this spammy tactic produces incredibly low ROI. Along with the cost of buying these lists, sending unsolicited emails to people who have never requested any information from you leads to low engagement and hurts your IP address reputation, lowering your email deliverability rates.
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Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social clicks, viewing a pricing page or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges and how to guide them down the funnel. The most effective marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels, but uses those various channels to send their marketing messages as well. That means the success of your campaign relies less on the email, and fully utilizes the various channels that influence a buyer’s decision.
HubSpot is a leading growth platform. Since 2006, HubSpot has been on a mission to make the world more inbound. Today, over 52,000 total customers in more than 100 countries use HubSpot’s award-winning software, services, and support to transform the way they attract, engage, and delight customers. Comprised of Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Service Hub, and a powerful free CRM, HubSpot gives companies the tools they need to Grow Better. HubSpot Marketing Hub has everything you need to run successful inbound marketing campaigns that make people interested in your business and happy to be your customer.
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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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


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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.

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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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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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.
“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.”
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.
Lululemon Athletica Inc. (No. 90) faced a barrage of angry comments on Facebook late Thanksgiving evening, in which shoppers complained about the site being down or items disappearing from their shopping carts. It responded to multiple complaints and wrote, “Our team is working with all their might on sorting out this issue.” Lululemon.com is back up and running now.
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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.
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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Marketing automation software is typically priced one of two ways: by the number of contacts in your database or by the number of emails you send each month. For example, the the Growth Pardot plan costs $1,250 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM). This plan can be upgraded to two higher tiers, each of which offers additional features, plug-ins, and add-ons. However, all three Pardot plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.
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.
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Use marketing automation to trigger messaging automatically based on a central hub of your customer data. That’s because your customer should see the same brand identity from all of your teams. With marketing automation, your business can better bring together marketing, sales, and customer service to create one seamless customer experience across your brand. 
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.
“As in past years, we expected that Cyber Monday deals would entice early shoppers kicking off one of the largest online shopping weeks of the year,” the analysts at MasterCard said. “Our initial early numbers are showing that overall online retail sales this morning are in line with the season expectations and will likely set new records for this individual day.”
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Infusionsoft has found that its automation platform saves users about 28 hours per month when it’s integrated with users’ other systems. That platform automates lead capture and follow-ups based on user activity and collects data about customers to enable personalization. Its analytics reports shine a light on what’s working, what’s not, and what the current ROI is for any campaign.
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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
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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.
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.
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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.
Walmart doesn't say what percentage of its total sales are coming from its websites, but it said during the latest quarter digital sales grew by 43 percent. Walmart expects to finish the year with e-commerce sales growth of 40 percent. Some of that growth can be attributed to the retailer's recent string of acquisitions of smaller online brands, including Jet.com, Bonobos, Modcloth and Moosejaw. Investors still want to see these deals pay off, however, and to see Walmart keep the momentum going.
Adobe estimates that the “three golden hours of retail”, between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern, brought in $1.7 billion, “roughly $300 million more compared to an average full day in the year.” The idea here is that shoppers catch final Cyber Monday deals right before bed or after work on the west coast. Subsequent conversion rates peak above 7.3 percent for the season (almost 2.5 times higher compared to the rest of the year).
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Userfox is another new player in the marketing automation space, and they were actually just acquired by AdRoll. We’re hoping the combined power of the AdRoll and userfox teams means exciting things for the future of their product. And we know the userfox team has some amazing talent, because one of their co-founders previously worked with us here at Woopra.

Because of the constant influx of marketing emails to their inboxes, buyers have begun to block out many  of these communications, whether through inbox filters or a subconscious disregard for irrelevant messages. Instead, these buyers are doing Google searches, and asking their friends for recommendations. They’re tapping the social media community for advice and browsing your website to see if your business offers a solution fit for their challenges. If you’re only communicating with these leads through email, you’re not only missing out on an opportunity to reach your leads via multiple channels during various parts of the decision process, you’re also ignoring a slew of behavioral data points they’re giving you about their needs and interests.

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.
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.
Pica9 is a local marketing automation platform offering brand resource management, web-to-print, email, social, landing pages, and more with its comprehensive CampaignDrive™ platform. Pica9 empowers local marketers to streamline marketing efficiency and enhance results from a single, intuitive interface to manage a multitude of marketing functions.
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.
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