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!
Main Sales Drivers: On Cyber Monday, direct website traffic ranked highest for driving revenue at 25.3 percent share of sales (down 1.2 percent YoY), followed by paid search at 25.1 percent (up 7.4 percent YoY), natural search at 18.8 percent (down 2.8 percent) and email at 24.2 percent (up 0.5 percent). Similar to past years, social media continued to have minimal impact on online sales at a 1.1 percent share.
AI powered Business Growth Platform that offers a unique and in-depth integration with Salesforce, SugarCRM and SuiteCRM. INBOX25 unleashes and connects every digital engagement channel to build a truly data-driven marketing and sales program. The platform enables the deployment of a wide range of digital tools to Attract, Capture, Nurture & Analyze a firm's marketing database throughout the entire lifecycle; from prospect to brand loyalist. Delivering personalized customer experiences through complex and robust automated journeys has never been easier.
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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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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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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From there, marketing automation does all the work: streamling segmentation and targeting processes to determine the right audiences, quickly and at scale. Tailoring messaging to each customer automatically based on their profile. Creating relevant and personalized messaging across email, mobile, social, web experiences, and beyond with a few simple clicks. Delivering personalized experiences for your customers, whether you have 100 or 100 million, efficiently and effectively.
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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?
Let’s take a few examples. A global software technology company, for example, has hundreds or thousands of sales reps who need to have visibility to their key accounts and contacts within those key accounts. They manage the contact database and contact strategy with a sales force automation tool, which focuses on improving the productivity of the sales organization. But what about the marketing arm of that company? The job of the marketing department is to generate, nurture, evaluate and follow up on leads, which they then pass off to the sales force automation system when the leads become sales-ready. The system that’s responsible for generating, nurturing, classifying and scoring those leads would be the marketing automation system, and it’s owned and run by the marketing department.
How complicated and how deep your campaigns run is determined by which vendor you choose. For example, HubSpot and Pardot both offer unlimited email and unlimited sequencing options. This means you can create a workflow with multiple branches for each stage of the sequence, and you can create an unlimited number of sequences (not that you would). Conversely, Zoho Campaigns is mostly designed for users who want to follow customary workflows that guide users on basic sequences. As a result, Zoho Campaigns doesn't offer unlimited sequencing or branching. This tool is perfectly suitable for marketers who just want to make an offer after a welcome email or for marketers who want to wish people a happy birthday once a year.
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).
Customer.io is great for two kinds of uses: 1. Companies that are looking to get started with marketing automation and appreciate a lightweight UI (i.e. not your typical enterprise software) and 2. Companies that are looking for some more advanced functionality that requires flexibility and customization, and are willing to devote the developer resources to implement it. We happen to fall into the second category, which is why we chose Customer.io for our marketing automation needs at Woopra.
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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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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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Once you have visitors on your website, the next step is to convert them. At the very least, you should start collecting their email addresses. Once you start building an organic email list, you can start reaching out to your customers and prospects so that you can re-engage them through your content: ebooks, whitepapers, and tip sheets. Here are the most important components of conversion optimization: 																

CRM and Marketing Automation Software will rather be the same in meaning when it would ever come something that will overall attain good gains to any enterprise; absolutely inevitable tools. Technically defining, CRM will be like more concentrated on information and followups performed concerning the customers. Whereas, marketing automation tool will go with measuring company’s well-organized hierarchy to manage promotional activities – to escalate its progress; nicely detailed facts, appreciate!
We envision a future where online retailers truly understand their customers, resulting in the growth of their businesses’ profitably. Exponea Experience Cloud is our way of bringing this vision to life. Exponea’s very essence is an intelligent union of customer data management and analytics, while cracking the true Single Customer View. Through this, we have enabled marketers to understand their customers and immediately turn such insights into actionable campaigns, all within a single integrated solution. Built on top of cutting edge technology, Exponea empowers marketers to deliver truly personalized, in the moment experiences to their customers at scale through deeply embedded AI-powered capabilities, removing obstacles and leveraging intent to purchase both on your online store or outside of it. True to our vision, we work closely with our clients and mentor them all along the short path to success. We enable the fast transfer of know-how which often results in a change of mindset and is a catalyst for a rapid, profitable growth of emerging e-commerce leaders around the world.
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eTrigue is a cloud-based marketing automation provider featuring easy-to-use campaign building and rapid time-to-value. eTrigue’s DemandCenter helps hundreds of organizations track and nurture prospects through inbound and outbound programs. DemandCenter tracks across email, web, mobile, and social. eTrigue DemandCenter’s integrated marketing suite is particularly attractive to medium and small organizations, as well as to divisions or groups within larger enterprises.. eTrigue makes it simple for small marketing teams to can manage all online marketing efforts from a single dashboard. Full integration with major CRM, Webcast systems and ad-reporting systems. Instant real-time lead alerts are included for sales.
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. 
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.

VBOUT is a powerful, affordable and simple to use, all-in-one marketing automation solution. The platform has an easy drag-and-drop landing pages and forms, visual customer journey builder, social media management and email marketing tools. In-depth native analytics and user tracking are provided, giving marketers full view of their contact's engagement and campaign performance. VBOUT provides agencies and partners with powerful tools to whitelabel the solution, build their own plans with their own marke-up, manage their accounts and shared assets from one account.

Iterable is the growth marketing platform that enables brands to create, execute and optimize campaigns to power world-class customer engagement across email, push, SMS, in-app and more with unparalleled data flexibility. An integrated, cross-channel solution—built for marketers, trusted by engineers, designed with intelligence. Lifecycle Marketing Made Simple Engage your customers at each touchpoint of their buying journey—from sign-up to check-out and beyond. Drive user activation, nurture, and reactivation with relevant cross-channel messaging. Warmer Welcomes Activate consumer attention and interest with stand-out content that makes an impactful first impression. Get new customers acquainted with your products and services with personalized welcome, trial and onboarding campaigns. Next-Gen Nurture Captivate customers to build rapport for the long term and strengthen their relationship with your brand. Stay top-of-mind with targeted sales, promotions, announcements and product updates across all the channels that matter most to your audience. Robust Re-Engagement Keep customers coming back for more by reactivating their interest to drive retention and loyalty. Deploy cart abandonment campaigns to complete more checkouts, then trigger post-purchase or renewal sequences when the time is right.
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.

As efficient as automation is, it can't be the only marketing strategy. The worst thing a business can do is automate all of its marketing. “By over-automating your marketing, you end up managing a customer journey instead of optimizing it. Each business is different, but good marketing automation happens when a business is thoughtful about the personal relationships with its customers,” he said.
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.
“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.”
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.
So why doesn’t every company use one? For one thing, it’s a relatively new application type. For another, most of the companies in this space are relative start-ups, very small and some are struggling to survive. But Vittal believes it’s a big enough need that these tools, either alone or after being swallowed up by larger CRM vendors, will become an integral part of the CRM landscape.
This becomes important when a company's marketing operations rely on a survey, email, social media or chatbot app for inbound lead-generation efforts that plug into Marketo or Eloqua, which, in turn, allows those marketing processes to continue regardless of which CRM the company uses. In effect, they act as middleware connecting the thousands of niche marketing automation tools and large CRM systems, where a company's customer data resides.
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