This post was first released in July of 2019 but has since been updated for 2020
Different marketing automation platforms are designed for different types of businesses.
This being said, it’s critical that your business research the different marketing automation options 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 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.
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
Here’s the hard part: which platform is best?
Different marketing automation platforms are designed for different types of businesses and it’s critical that your business researches the various marketing automation options—HubSpot, Act-On, Active Campaign, MailChimp, Marketo, etc., etc., etc., 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: Marketo, Active Campaign, Salesforce/Pardot, and more. But, we’re going to dive into the pros and cons before making a decision.
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.
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.
Why we love it:
- Marketo has been around for a while and was recently acquired by Adobe and incorporated into their enterprise marketing cloud.
- With the Adobe integration, if you use Adobe Analytics for data measurement and Adobe Target for experimentation and personalization, this is the way to go. Adobe Analytics has arguably the most robust reporting features on the web – and linking that to your marketing automation efforts will give you extensive customization options.
The tool is geared towards enterprise customers -- it's very comprehensive but also pricey and requires advanced skills.
Want help tackling marketing automation for your business? We've got your back. Contact us today.