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In today’s fast-paced world, marketers prefer not to spend time on mundane repetitive tasks. They seek automation tools that can streamline marketing processes.
Marketing automation refers to the practice of using software tools to automate marketing workflows and tasks. Marketers expect to achieve it by:
Automating repetitive tasks such as email marketing
Scheduling and publishing social media posts
Tracking customer behavior and personalizing offerings
Measuring the effectiveness of marketing processes
Marketing automation software focuses on the long-term nurturing of prospects and customers using multiple marketing channels, such as emails, social media, and websites. It helps businesses improve customer engagement, convert prospects into paying customers, and retain existing customers for repeat business.
We’ve prepared this guide to help you select the right marketing automation tool for your business. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Marketing automation software is a software tool that automates and streamlines marketing processes and workflows to help businesses increase their overall productivity and efficiency. The solution allows end-to-end management of multifunctional marketing campaigns and includes features such as campaign designing, campaign tracking, content publishing, customer segmentation, reporting, and marketing analytics.
Marketing automation software is used by marketing professionals to automate repetitive campaign creation, distribution, and tracking tasks across email, social media, and other marketing avenues.
A marketing automation software solution can help you in many ways—reducing human errors in data analysis, automating redundant tasks, and making informed business decisions, among others.
Let’s discuss a few examples of how your business can benefit from deploying a marketing automation tool:
Improved efficiency: A marketing automation solution can automate repetitive manual tasks and free up your staff to do something more strategic and creative. The software automates tasks such as social posting, email marketing, and content publishing, allowing you to reduce staffing costs.
Unified project view: By investing in a marketing automation solution, you get a snapshot of all your marketing projects and campaigns in a single dashboard. The centralization of performance data saves you from the hassle of tracking each marketing campaign separately.
Increased conversion rate and revenue: Marketing automation software offers features such as list segmentation that help deliver quality and relevant content to your target audience. It increases the chances of conversion and hence, the overall revenue for your business.
Personalized campaigns: The tool’s behavior tracking functionality gives a detailed picture of customer behavior. It lets you track potential buyers’ paths through your website to help understand their interests and which stage they’re in the purchase lifecycle. This leads to automatic lead management (scoring and prioritizing) and allows you to create trigger-based personalized campaigns.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor around software benefits before you buy:
How is a marketing automation tool going to benefit my business?
How will the tool add additional value to my existing CRM and marketing processes?
Before selecting a marketing automation platform, evaluate your business needs and understand which features can help achieve your needs.
Here’s a list of the common features offered by most marketing automation software tools:
Lead management: Lead management in marketing automation software helps you capture, score, and nurture leads through the sales process—right from acquisition to conversion. You can segment the leads on various attributes, such as gender, age, and location, to create and send targeted communication.
Campaign management: Campaign management allows you to create, execute, and measure campaigns. You can create a sequence of marketing actions to complete specific marketing goals and monitor the real-time performance of the various stages of a campaign.
Email marketing: Email marketing lets you create and send automated emails to different customer segments. You can send emails based on trigger events such as when customers abandon their carts or click on discount links. You can also track the performance of your email marketing campaigns.
Social media marketing: Social media marketing helps you create, launch, manage, and execute social media campaigns on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can monitor social conversations to develop a marketing strategy and tweak it to target specific customer concerns.
Analytics: You can monitor conversion rates and track the profitability of your marketing efforts across channels. You can also track buyer behavior throughout the customer journey and modify your efforts for better ROI.
AB testing: AB testing allows you to test variations of your marketing campaigns and capture insights from each campaign version to optimize efforts and get the best results.
Channel management: The channel management feature allows you to coordinate your marketing efforts across different channels, including social media, email, website, and landing pages.
Visitor tracking: Visitor tracking lets you track website visitors in real time. It provides information such as the source of clicks and the pages your visitors are viewing.
Landing page creation: This feature helps you create landing pages using customized or prebuilt templates. It also lets you add elements such as a call-to-action button to increase the chances of lead conversion.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor about features before you buy:
Which features do you offer with your marketing automation platform?
Are there any special or additional features you provide in your software?
Marketing automation software is an umbrella term that includes several functions. Email marketing automation, customer relationship management (CRM) automation, and social media marketing automation are a few examples of processes marketing automation software can help you achieve.
Below are the various types of marketing automation software for each function:
CRM software: CRM is a marketing automation solution category meant for marketers looking to collect, store, and retrieve customer data. This data can include customers’ purchase history, interaction notes, email addresses, social media profiles, locations, phone numbers, and other demographic details. A marketer can use CRM software to instantly access customers’ details, see their position in the sales funnel, and communicate with them in a personalized way using push notifications, emails, SMSes, etc.
Email marketing software: Email marketing is a stand-alone email automation tool that sends automated and targeted marketing emails to different customer segments. It offers customizable email templates that a marketer can use to personalize the subject line, body text, and call-to-action buttons.
Social media marketing software: A social media marketing automation platform is a fit for businesses that want to automate engagement with prospects on social media. The platform can help automate content scheduling, publishing, and cross-posting. It also lets you measure your social media efforts. By automating repetitive tasks, you have time to create dynamic content that the software can automatically share with audiences on multiple social media platforms. Social media marketing automation is mostly used for inbound marketing.
Marketing analytics software: Marketing analytics software is designed for businesses that want to access vital data points such as visitor behavior and activity across marketing channels. The solution lets you track campaigns run on multiple channels, such as email, social media, and websites. Data points such as delivery, open rate, click-through rate, and bounce rate can be used to develop digital marketing strategies to drive maximum returns.
Key question to ask a marketing automation vendor about software types before you buy:
Which components of marketing automation are available in your software?
Marketing automation software usage can be segmented by the type of industry and team:
Let’s understand the industry types first:
Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies: These are businesses that market and sell their products or services directly to consumers. Since they have a large number of prospects, huge volumes of data, and multiple channels for digital marketing, they need a sophisticated analytics and segmentation marketing automation platform to reach their target audiences.
Business-to-business (B2B) companies: These are businesses that market and sell their products or services directly to other businesses. They need B2B marketing automation systems that can help them in segmenting prospect data, personalizing campaigns for the businesses they’re targeting, fostering relationships with prospects, scoring and nurturing leads, and automating the sales force.
Now let’s go through the types of teams that can use marketing automation software:
Content teams: Marketing automation software can help content teams automate the content creation, scheduling, and publishing processes. Based on an analysis of the preferred time of leads consuming the data, the marketing automation system allows content marketing teams to automatically schedule posts for the most effective or preferred time of leads, driving more visibility and traffic to their content.
Marketing teams (e.g., email, social): If you have at least one person on your marketing team and plan to scale it in the future, you can use marketing automation tools. These tools can help marketers collect customer data and automate various marketing tasks, such as social posting, email marketing, lead management, lead nurturing, and digital advertising.
Sales teams: Marketing automation software can help sales teams create personalized strategies, improve conversions, and shorten the sales cycle. Sales teams can leverage marketing data to analyze customer behavior, identify qualified leads, identify preferred communication channels, identify relevant content to be shared, and establish better communication with customers. Sales teams can use the software to identify which leads have expressed interest in their products and reach out to them accordingly. The software can also assist in notifying sales teams about the best time and communication channel to reach out to particular leads.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor around the usership of the software before you buy:
Is your software fit for a B2B or B2C setup?
Can the software be used for teams other than marketing?
Marketing automation software is the answer to most of your marketing questions, but is it really an answer to all your marketing woes? Let’s check out some of the issues you may face when using a marketing automation system:
Lack of vision: One of the pitfalls of using marketing automation software is that marketers think it is the answer to all of their marketing woes. Well, it isn’t. While a marketing automation system can streamline functions, everything can fall apart if you have invested without an effective strategy or attainable long-term goals. Therefore, it’s important that before you decide to purchase a new solution or upgrade the existing one, take a step back, identify the gaps, set up a new game plan, and reassess your immediate needs.
Excessive automation: A common issue with using marketing automation software is excessive automation. When businesses have a preconceived notion that marketing automation software is a fix-it-all solution that can take all their worries away, they try to apply it to everything. However, marketing automation technology works better with human expertise and management. This means you need in-house experts to consistently monitor workflow automation to reflect new offerings from your business and measure their impact.
Training gaps: If you aren’t properly trained after purchasing software, you’ll spend more time setting up and troubleshooting your automated marketing campaigns than working on your actual needs. Also, you may spend hours completing tasks that the software can take on itself, wasting valuable time. This lack of understanding and expertise can lead to a general distrust in the software. Therefore, it’s vital for you to learn your software inside out.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor before you buy:
Which training and support resources are available to help buyers learn your software properly?
Does your marketing automation solution fit well with my marketing technology stack?
How is your tool aligned with my business goals?
The latest market trends highlight developments that are gaining traction in a particular sector or industry; they can influence your decision about choosing a software vendor.
Below are some latest marketing automation software trends that you should be aware of:
Social media automation is gaining traction. The pace at which people consume social media has increased manifolds over the years. This gives you an opportunity to engage with leads and promote your brand in the best of ways. For instance, with a marketing automation solution, you can create content for social media and schedule publishing in advance for a specific date and time. The software helps save your time and lets you focus your energy on more important tasks that need actual human intervention.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to see wider adoption. Personalization is one of the best things that marketers can achieve using marketing automation software, and AI can help drive personalization to another level in the marketing automation space. Marketers can use AI-enabled marketing automation tools to access valuable insights on customer behavior. These insights can be used to personalize campaigns to appeal to buyers' needs. AI technology in marketing automation software can also track visitor behavior on your website, including their browsing history and click pattern. You can use this information to provide personalized deals to website visitors.
Chatbots are witnessing increased adoption in the marketing automation space. Thanks to technologies such as natural language processing (NLP), chatbots have become smarter and can even mimic human speech, interacting with customers and prospects in a more personalized way. Chatbots can recognize customers’ needs and help marketers offer real-time deals and discounts. They analyze customers’ needs based on their browsing history, product searches, downloads, and purchase history. Further, chatbots can automatically answer customer queries in real time. For instance, when first-time visitors come to your website, chatbots can provide discounts to them so that they are more likely to make a purchase or convert.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor about their roadmap before you buy:
What components of a marketing stack are available in your software?
Have you adopted technologies such as AI yet?
What new technologies are you planning to adopt in the future?
Generally, pricing for marketing automation software varies based on the number of contacts or emails. While many vendors offer free marketing automation software options, most products on the market are priced on a “per month” basis and can be broken down into three pricing tiers based on their starting price:
$8 - $10
$10 - $20
This list summarizes pricing for the base plans of most products. An enterprise or premium product that is priced higher may include additional features such as advanced link tracking, smart segmentation, automatic email optimization, premium support, and chatbots.
*The pricing included is for the entry-level/lowest-priced offering that was found on vendor websites on July 16, 2021. These ranges correspond to the 25th, 75th, and 100th percentile of the pricing information gathered from vendor websites of sample products and exclude freemium plans.
Key questions to ask a marketing automation vendor around pricing before you buy:
What is the pricing model of your product?
In addition to the subscription fee, what other costs are associated if I decide to purchase?
Do you offer a free plan, free trial, and demo?
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) usually only consist of a handful of full-time employees. Using marketing automation software makes it easier for these professionals to streamline tasks and automate marketing workflows while delivering more productive campaigns that generate higher ROI.
For an SMB, marketing automation software is a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re a new business still in its infancy. For you, the software can be a key resource in generating brand awareness, leads, engagement, and eventually revenue.
Marketing automation tools will allow your teams to make the most out of their time, freeing them for creative and innovative solutions instead of mundane tasks.
The primary purpose of marketing automation software for SMBs is:
To nurture leads and then convert leads into customers - Lead generation
To develop lasting customer relationships - CRM
To automate tedious marketing tasks - Marketing automation
To personalize email marketing - Email marketing
To post content and engage with customers on social media - Social media marketing
To measure results and ROI - Marketing analytics
By streamlining and automating these marketing functions, the software gives SMBs more time to focus on the creative aspects of their marketing approach and skyrocket their productivity. Marketing automation tools can ultimately optimize your team’s time, allowing for a more effective business marketing strategy.
How do you develop a marketing automation strategy?
To make the most out of your marketing automation software, it is best to create a marketing automation strategy that describes how your software will address your marketing goals.
Start by identifying the points in a buyers' journey where you could use marketing automation such as integrating a customer relationship management (CRM) system with marketing automation platforms to organize contacts, segment leads in order to personalize their experience, or follow leads after they show interest in your offerings.
Using marketing automation platforms helps your team to stay in sync with priority tasks. Your sales team will also get notified when leads are hot and show particular interest in your product.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.