A while back, we were looking for a marketing automation tool ourselves. We researched, we talked to analysts, and we had deep dives with company reps. Since then, we’ve become very involved in the industry thanks to the complementary nature of analytics and marketing automation. We’ve even formed partnerships with several companies. Now finally, we present our top picks for marketing automation tools (in no particular order).
"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."
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.
Instead of relying on outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and aggressively pushing audiences into become leads, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally. By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is in a position to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.
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.
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. 

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).


Marketers can use marketing automation to drive pipeline by sourcing the hottest leads, creating customized campaigns (such as email campaigns) to target ideal buyers, and moving leads through the sales cycle to maximize the ROI of marketing programs. Marketers can execute on a digital marketing strategy without all the hassle of sending one-off emails or managing tasks manually. They can also provide sales teams with pre-approved, on-brand messages (such as email templates) that sales teams can customize for qualified leads.
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Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) over the weekend saw a record 50 percent increase year-over-year. As the online and offline retail experience continues to blend, retailers with physical stores drove 28 percent higher conversions online. Top sellers on Cyber Monday included the Nintendo Switch, Little Live Pets, Red Dead Redemption 2, LG TVs, drones (DJI, Air Hogs, Sky Viper), Dell laptops, FurReal Pets and Amazon Echo devices. Revenue from smartphones will hit $2.1 billion on Cyber Monday ($1.4 billion in 2017), making it the highest ever at 48.1 percent growth YoY, while smartphone traffic share grew 16 percent. Mobile overall represented 51.4 percent of site visits (43.6 percent smartphones, 7.8 percent tablets) and 34 percent of revenue (26.3 percent smartphones, 7.7 percent tablets), making it the first Cyber Monday where more than half of visits came from mobile.
The day before Thanksgiving generated $2.4 billion in U.S. online spending, which is a 31.8% increase over the comparable day last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe’s data is based on an analysis of more than 1 trillion visits to retail sites in one year trailing 12 months. Adobe Analytics measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.
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.’
Email marketing is a great first step toward developing solid communications with your customers and prospects. But once you have moved past one-off messages and have decided to create prolonged, personalized messages powered by customer data, it's time to try marketing automation. No tools better exemplify the simplicity, effectiveness, and scalability of marketing automation software than two of our three Editors' Choice tools: HubSpot and Pardot.
Propsect.io does one very specific part of marketing automation (finding cold leads and engaging them to become warm), but it does it very well. One particularly good feature about Prospect.io that’s not easy to find elsewhere is that the automation emails can be triggered directly from your mail server (e.g. G Suite or Microsoft Exchange) so your emails appear identical to if you had sent them manually.

Sailthru helps modern marketers at leading retail and media companies build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Sailthru personalizes individual customer experiences across digital communication channels—in email, on a brand’s website and in their mobile applications. Sailthru-powered 1:1 relationships with consumers help drive higher revenue, improve customer lifetime value and reduce churn.
The HubSpot dashboard enables teams to immediately sort the contracts won (or not) and maintain a clear view of their performance toward their goals. HubSpot’s CRM automatically tracks customer touchpoints across different channels and keeps a timeline of all calls, emails, and meetings involving specific customers. The platform also helps create personalized paths to purchase and compile data showcasing how every marketing campaign contributed to sales.
And of course the password. Keep your email account safe and remember that the length of a password determines its security strength as the time required to crack longer passwords increases exponentially. Therefore, your password should consist of at least 8 characters and contain both capital and lower case lettering, as well as numbers and special characters (e.g., "!", "&", "-".). We recommend you change your password from time to time in order to increase the security. Do not choose a password that is easy to guess, e.g. personal data such as: your initials, your date of birth, or the name of a family member or a pet.

Automation is a surefire way for small businesses to save time and money, and marketing is the perfect arena for doing so: Marketing automation maintains brand messaging while reaching thousands more people than a single person ever could. The key is simply determining which platform fits your company best so you can save even more time while building your bottom line.


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.

Henry Procter is credited with saying, “I know I waste half of my advertising dollars. I just wish that I knew which half.” This is precisely the question that this software answers. It assists firms in developing, executing and tracking campaigns. Media buying and planning applications help with planning advertising campaigns involving traditional and digital media. Managers use these systems to automate workflows, manage collateral, track prospect behavior and qualify leads before they are passed to sales.


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?
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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.


Delivra is a platform built on the knowledge that automated email open rates are 95 percent higher than regular email open rates. With that in mind, the company tries to maximize customer engagement by offering help with SMS and email drip campaigns; it also assists with direct mail and uses A/B testing and alerts when engagement or purchase “tendencies” have been spotted.
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.
“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.”

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.
He is the owner of jeffbullas.com. Forbes calls him a top influencer of Chief Marketing Officers and the world's top social marketing talent. Entrepreneur lists him among 50 online marketing influencers to watch. Inc.com has him on the list of 20 digital marketing experts to follow on Twitter. Oanalytica named him #1 Global Content Marketing Influencer. BizHUMM ranks him as the world's #1 business blogger. Learn More
LeadSquared is a lead to revenue platform and it takes care of the lead capture to revenue cycle for several segments of B2C businesses like training providers, health and wellness, travel and tour agencies, etc. Most of the marketing automation softwares out there, are made to address needs of B2B firms and integrate with CRM. This combo is costly and becomes too complex for a typical user in a B2C setup. For such category of firms in B2C which are marketing-led, our solution can obviate the need of a CRM altogether and provide them with the best in class marketing technology.
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LeadSquared looks interesting – although I can’t quite figure out what differentiates it from other small business marketing automation software. Out of interest, what separates B2C vs. B2B marketing automation from a software vendor’s point of view? I.e. what’s different about the software that gears it towards B2C companies opposed to if you were targeting B2B clients?
At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon – that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
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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.
Omnisend - Email Marketing & Automation for Ecommerce provides the omnichannel approach for sales-driven marketers that have outgrown the generic email marketing platforms. Join more than 40,000 merchants that have trusted their e-commerce marketing automation to Omnisend. Our platform provides a complete solution for connecting your ecommerce business with potential and existing customers across multiple customer journey touchpoints. Try a more personalized omnichannel touch with your customers by email, SMS, Facebook messenger or automatically synchronizing audiences for Google, Facebook and Instagram platforms for better customers’ experience and higher conversions. Omnisend works with all e-commerce platforms including Shopify, Bigcommerce, Magento, WooCommerce and others. Drive sales at scale Email marketing automation is all about sending anticipated, contextualized and relevant messages at the right time. Capitalize on pre-built automation templates that you need to set up only once. Then sit and watch your sales growing on autopilot with Welcome emails, Cart Abandonemnt, Order updates, Customer Re-activation and Order Follow-up. Design state-of-the-art newsletters in minutes Skip the tedious and time-consuming newsletter setup process. Our drag-and-drop Content Editor is intuitive and gives you all the tools you need to enjoy great results at the speed of light. Improve your performance with beautiful email templates, the one-click Product Picker, the interactive CTR boosters and unique Discount Coupons. Choose how to grow your email list Choose how to turn your visitors into subscribers with a wide variety of signup forms. Omnisend’s forms are mobile-friendly and fully customizable. Grow your list with non-intrusive Signup boxes, welcome and exit intent Popups, the fun Wheel of Fortune, and customizable landing pages. Ready to convert your visitors into repeat customers? Try out Omnisend’s ecommerce marketing automation—every new user starts with a 14-day, obligation-free trial. After 14 days, you choose whether to keep using one of our paid plans - Standard or Pro - or continue with our Free plan, which includes 15,000 emails per month (up to 2,000 emails per day). Majority of our customers value Omnisend as a great alternative for their ecommerce businesses compared to Mailchimp, Klaviyo, Active Campaign and others. Omnisend gives you stellar support and helpful advice anytime you need it. We’re available 24/7 for all.
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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Marketing automation creates relevant content and messaging at scale across many channels. Send email messages with dynamic content that personalizes far beyond sticking a customer’s first name in the subject line. Integrate mobile messaging with your email and social campaigns through SMS/MMS, push notifications, and group messaging. Generate digital ads that appear for the right person at the right time. Plus, recommend the right products on your website for each individual user — automatically.

Sailthru helps modern marketers at leading retail and media companies build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Sailthru personalizes individual customer experiences across digital communication channels—in email, on a brand’s website and in their mobile applications. Sailthru-powered 1:1 relationships with consumers help drive higher revenue, improve customer lifetime value and reduce churn.
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.
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What you’ll learn is that abuse reports are the norm rather than the exception—it’s normal to have 1 for every few thousand emails that you send. Some consumers are sensitive to email marketing (due to years and years of abuse), and others aren’t always familiar with the opt-out process. It’s a genuine mistake — people sometimes confuse “abuse reports” with opt-out forms.
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.

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Let’s think with our shopper brains for a moment. You’re shopping online, add some items to your shopping cart, and go to check out. As you enter your billing address, you realize that you left your credit card in the kitchen. It’s midnight and you’re exhausted. You decide to put off your purchase until tomorrow. Then you totally forget. You’ve contributed to the phenomenon that online merchants call “shopping cart abandonment.”
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