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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Use of two-dimensional barcodes. Two-dimensional (2D) bar codes are seen more and more often on print ads, bill boards, bus stop benches and even as tattoos. Customers can use smart phones as code readers to get information about a product or service immediately on their mobile browser. Current solutions can use 2D bar codes with third-party solutions, but new versions will have built in support.
The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers. In our plant analogy, it's sort of like using artificial chemicals or enhancers to make your plant grow faster. Sure, it seems like a good, quick fix--but it doesn't set you up for future, long-term success.  
Lead Liaison is a cloud-based sales and marketing automation solution that helps businesses accelerate sales by attracting, converting, closing and retaining more prospects. Filling a void in the small pool of marketing automation providers that focus on marketing-centric functionality, Lead Liaison gives equal focus to sales support with solutions such as a hot-lead dashboard, Buy Signals and a live ticker alert of businesses on the customer’s website. Lead Liaison blends ease-of-use, a flexible business model, deep external integration, marketing across social, web, mobile, email and offline channels and powerful functionality, all specifically tailored for small to mid-sized businesses, into a single platform, called Revenue Generation Software®. Lead Liaison offers clients the highest value per dollar of any industry provider. Additionally, Lead Liaison provides content creation services leveraged for communication vehicles such as press releases, blog posts, emails, and posts on social media platforms. Founded in 2013, Lead Liaison is headquartered in Allen, Texas, near Dallas, and employs 19 people. For more information, visit www.leadliaison.com or call 1-800-89-LEADS (895-3237).
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.
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.
NGDATA® helps brands in data-rich industries, such as financial services, telecom, media and entertainment, utilities and hospitality, to capitalize on emerging opportunities in their customer data and to drive profitable customer experiences by supercharging analytics and campaign efficiency. The company’s Intelligent Customer Data Platform (CDP) puts people at the center of every business via Customer DNA, which continuously learns from customer behavior and context in real-time. NGDATA partners with companies around the world to drive digital transformations. NGDATA is headquartered in Gent, Belgium and has offices in the United States, Europe & Asia-Pacific.
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.
HubSpot is all about inbound marketing, and it offers a free CRM that helps businesses organize and track customers — as HubSpot says, its CRM “automates the tasks salespeople hate.” The platform tracks interactions automatically, and it compiles data about deals on a single dashboard so the entire journey is visible. Beyond its CRM, the brand offers blogging, landing pages, email, lead management, analytics, web, social media, SEO, ads, and integration with Salesforce.

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Salesfusion is dedicated to helping companies build a large revenue funnel for marketing and sales by creating customized digital conversations that are seamlessly transitioned between departments. Marketing and sales teams participate in and measure these digital conversations to deliver more lead-to-revenue results by communicating with the right leads at the right time with the right message. 																

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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.
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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.)
The goal of the platform is to spark new relationships and rekindle old ones — Autopilot has found that two times as many leads are generated by businesses that maintain contact every two to four weeks. By capturing data from a small business’s website or app, the platform can integrate with other systems to fuel personalization and segment customers. It then monitors the performance of each journey and delivers insights into how messages are converting so entrepreneurs can adjust instantly.
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SharpSpring is a comprehensive marketing automation platform with robust features, functionality and performance. SharpSpring is one of the most flexible platforms on the market, offering powerful, behavior-based email marketing, native or 3rd party CRM integration, dynamic forms, landing page and blog builders, social media management, universal CMS compatibility, and integration with hundreds of applications. SharpSpring is usually less than 1/3 the cost of the competition, is the easiest company to work with and the easiest platform to use. Marketing agencies should inquire about SharpSpring's special partner program.
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Marketing automation: HubSpot says that marketing automation is crucial to the ‘closing’ stage of marketing. We disagree. We think that marketing automation is more than just email and it spans the entire marketing lifecycle. It is, however, crucial to your company’s ability to close deals. You need to move customers through your sales conversion funnel – this process will be continuous and require some degree of nurturing, guiding, and even hand-holding. Marketing automation can help your company take the lead in guiding prospects through the sales conversion funnel.
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