In its most basic form, marketing automation is a set of tools designed to streamline and simplify some of the most time-consuming responsibilities of the modern marketing and sales roles. From automating the lead qualification process to creating a hub for digital campaign creation, automation is all about simplifying a business world that is growing far too complex, much too quickly.

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.
Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to automate and simplify client communication by managing complex omni-channel marketing strategies from a single tool. Marketing Automation assist greatly in areas like Lead Generation, Segmentation, Lead nurturing and lead scoring, Relationship marketing, Cross-sell and upsell, Retention, Marketing ROI measurement.
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One review site that provides valuable insights is G2 Crowd. They score products and vendors based on ratings and reviews gathered from the user community, as well as data aggregated from online sources and social networks. They apply a unique, patent-pending algorithm to this data to calculate the customer satisfaction and market presence scores in real time.
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.)
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Constant Contact is for the small business owner who wants to quickly get started with organized email marketing and doesn’t anticipate needing any advanced functionality down the line. The tool is a great choice for you if you fit this description, but if you plan to expand your marketing automation efforts in the near future, this isn’t the tool for you.

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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.
Constant Contact is for the small business owner who wants to quickly get started with organized email marketing and doesn’t anticipate needing any advanced functionality down the line. The tool is a great choice for you if you fit this description, but if you plan to expand your marketing automation efforts in the near future, this isn’t the tool for you.

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.

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.
Meet Pardot: B2B marketing automation on the world's #1 CRM. Pardot empowers marketing and sales teams to work together to find and nurture leads, close more deals, and maximize return on investment. Pardot's lead management features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and ROI reporting to help marketing and sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and track marketing ROI. Track all prospect interactions on your site — from downloads to page views — then score prospects based on parameters you set. Put time back into your sales reps’ day with automated lead nurturing and real-time sales alerts, which allow reps to prioritize their time. Then, measure the true ROI of your marketing efforts with closed-loop reporting. Accelerate pipeline, drive revenue, and align marketing and sales with Pardot Marketing Automation. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yhEwPa
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.
Spending on smartphones, meanwhile, continues to climb at a rapid clip, as companies like Macy's and Target have poured money into improving their mobile apps. And as bricks-and-mortar retail traffic continues to fall, some retailers are now trying to find ways to use their apps to lure shoppers back to stores, where sales are typically more profitable. Walmart, as one example, has added store maps to its app ahead of the holidays, letting customers pinpoint exactly where an item is and plot out their trips before they arrive.

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Adestra is a leading global provider of First-Person Marketing email and lifecycle marketing solutions for global and growing brands alike. The company's industry leading email marketing and automation platform provides marketers with a powerful infrastructure that helps them communicate more effectively with their customers and subscribers by providing hyper-relevant context. This proprietary technology also allows for automated email messaging and incorporates enterprise-class native functionality, which reduces implementations. Along with a superior platform to execute marketing automation, Adestra was founded on the principle that marketing success takes more than technology, which is why customer service is at the heart of our business. Adestra is more than software as a service. Adestra is Software AND a Service®.

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.
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Meet Pardot: B2B marketing automation on the world's #1 CRM. Pardot empowers marketing and sales teams to work together to find and nurture leads, close more deals, and maximize return on investment. Pardot's lead management features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and ROI reporting to help marketing and sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and track marketing ROI. Track all prospect interactions on your site — from downloads to page views — then score prospects based on parameters you set. Put time back into your sales reps’ day with automated lead nurturing and real-time sales alerts, which allow reps to prioritize their time. Then, measure the true ROI of your marketing efforts with closed-loop reporting. Accelerate pipeline, drive revenue, and align marketing and sales with Pardot Marketing Automation. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yhEwPa
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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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.


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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.  
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.
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