This post was released prior but has since been updated for 2023.
Different marketing automation tools are designed for different types of businesses.
This being said, it’s critical that your business research the different marketing automation platforms before determining which one is the best fit.
Keep in mind that you should be searching for a solution that:
- Has the targeting attributes your marketing strategies need
- Gives you the analytics that prove your ROI
Also, consider: CRM integrations, import/export features of customer data, and the ability to implement your own customizations.
Not even sure where to start? The G2 Crowd Quadrant—which we’ll get into more soon—is an industry standard for software rankings and can be helpful to analyze before deciding which platforms to evaluate.
Criteria to consider when comparing platforms
Remember marketing automation is about software.
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 team - from automating the lead qualification process, to creating full digital campaigns.
Good automation tools also help you identify your audience, create the right content and assets, and trigger actions based on behavior and scheduled workflows.
Once your campaign rolls out, you can focus on analyzing and optimizing your plan as results start coming in.
The overall goal here is to save time and resources, driving revenue and ROI, while you focus on growing your business.
G2 Crowd Qualifications
According to G2 Crowd, to qualify for inclusion in the Marketing Automation category, a product must:
- Automate two or more of the following: email, social media, SMS, and digital ads
- Provide advanced email marketing capabilities including A/B testing, spam filter testing, scheduling, segmentation and detailed performance reporting
- Act as a central marketing database for marketing information and interactions
- Allow dynamic segmentation of marketing campaign targets
- Contact targets across multiple channels after specific actions, triggers or periods of time
- Perform lead management to include lead nurturing and lead scoring
- Generate forms and landing pages to collect prospect information
- Provide analytics and reports that track the entire lifecycle of a campaign including ties to revenue and/or campaign ROI
Evaluating the 5 Best Marketing Automation Tools
Here’s the hard part: Which marketing automation platform is best?
Different marketing automation platforms are designed for different types of businesses. It’s critical that your business researches the various marketing automation options to figure out which one is the best fit.
HubSpot is by far the leader according to G2 Crowd, and myself. With years of experience, I’ve used all the platforms we’re going to discuss and HubSpot is by far my favorite. But, runners up include: Active Campaign, Salesforce/Pardot, and more.
Before making a decision, let’s first dive into the pros and cons of the 5 Best Marketing Automation Tools: HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Mail Chimp, SharpSpring, and Pardot.
Why we love it:
- HubSpot is your full marketing suite. It includes sales software, marketing software, and support software, which all integrate automatically with HubSpot's free CRM.
- The marketing automation functionality is one of the most powerful tools in terms of features.
- The combination effect of having all of your data and growth activity in one place really allows for creative automations that would be difficult or impossible if you used separate tools.
- The tools are straightforward, easy to navigate, and make setup through optimization extremely easy.
- Also, these guys coined the term “Inbound” so expect a plethora of educational resources and exceptional support.
I have none. I even stooped as low as Googling to find an ounce of negativity on this platform and came up empty handed.
Why we love it:
- ActiveCampaign is an integrated email marketing, marketing automation, and small business CRM.
- Has a powerful and flexible marketing automation functionality – and, tons of pre-set automations to work from.
- Great option for smaller e-commerce businesses that need robust email capabilities but not as many integrations or website functions.
- Their deliverability is rated as one of the top on the market, as well.
This isn't a good tool for beginners, or those with low technical skills. It takes a bit more time and effort to learn.
3. Mail Chimp All-in-One Marketing Platform
Why we love it:
- This automated marketing and email platform will let you trigger emails, based on the customer’s behavior on your website.
- Mail Chimp’s Premium Customer Journey feature can trigger automatic updates to your CRM.
- Their integrated social tools allow you to publish organically to Facebook and Instagram as well as manage ads, while easily creating landing pages that correspond.
MailChimp is great for automated emails and social advertising but is fairly limited for other marketing functionalities.
Why we love it:
- SharpSpring is one of the most flexible platforms on the market. It integrates with hundreds of applications, excels at behavior-based email marketing, and has abilities for dynamic forms, landing pages, blog builders, and social media management.
- It's usually about “1/3 the cost of the competition” – though it's still a growing platform and has some limitations and less support/education than others.
- Great for small businesses looking to get started.
Since this is still a growing platform with limited support, it will take some time self-teach and recquires a lot more self-setup than other platforms.
Why we love it:
- If you’re already heavily using Salesforce, Pardot may be a good choice for you.
- If you’re a highly technically marketer (think HTML/CSS knowledge, analytics integrations experience, and familiarity to Salesforce itself) there are a ton of powerful features, from CRM integration to email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and a valuable ROI reporting functionality to make sure your campaigns are working.
- You can track all interactions on your website and build predictive lead scoring based on the parameters you set. All of this helps improve marketing efficiency and remove wasted time and effort from your sales team.
It's important to note: Pardot is a powerful enterprise but it less user-friendly and may not be affordable for smaller businesses, or entrepreneurs.
TKG can help you grow.
Want help tackling marketing automation tools and the strategy to use them for your business? We've got your back. Contact us today.