If your business is mainly conducted on the Internet, marketing is necessary in order to be known about you. To be more efficient, you can use automation programs.
Why Use Marketing Automation
Automation includes all methods that allow you to automate actions in order to develop a network and engagement faster, especially in social networks.
These automated actions should facilitate marketing by adapting to user behavior. For example, it can be sending a confirmation email to a newsletter. In this case, the email will be sent automatically, and your new subscriber will be sure that he is well registered – both sides benefit!
Criteria for choosing a marketing automation tool
There are so many marketing automation tools out there that it’s not always easy to make your choice. It is recommended to pay attention to such criteria as :
Functionality: this is the main criterion, which is very important! Make sure that the tool you are testing offers many features compared to the subscription you have chosen.
Price: You may be surprised by the subscription price! If you are interested in the program, but its subscription is expensive, take the time to test it. Most of them offer test versions for 15 days or 1 month. This is the perfect solution to secure your investment.
Ease of use: If you have to spend too much time to understand how the program works, it may be interesting to compare other tools that can be much more adapted to your level and your use.
Integration: You will use several programs between sending emails, managing outlook files, and programming on social networks. Some programs can be synchronized to save you even more time!
Your needs: It won’t be appropriate to have expensive software with lots of features if you only need a few items. So take the time to determine what you really want to automate!
At the same time, the list of marketing automation platforms continues to grow, new tools appear every year, which makes finding the right platform even more difficult than ever.
Despite the endless variety of marketing automation services, we will focus on four that stood out after reviewing more than 100+ tools for marketing and email automation.
Unlike other comparisons of marketing automation tools, our recommendations are based on a comprehensive study that examined more than 100+ marketing automation products and conducted a survey of more than 10,000 marketers for their feedback on a marketing automation service provider. We also shared our personal experience of using these platforms where possible.
But first about the main thing. With such a wide variety of services, what should you pay attention to when comparing software vendors?
What to consider when comparing Marketing Automation software
Before we move on to discussing the pros and cons or comparing prices, it is important to know what you should pay attention to.
We know several friends who signed up for marketing automation software, but after a month realized that it was not compatible with their CRM. Ouch.
It is also very easy to get burned on a sliding scale of prices and unexpected additional costs.
Ultimately, it’s worth doing the research. Below are some important considerations and questions to keep in mind when comparing marketing automation software.
Let’s start with the factors preventing the transaction. These are the first things you should pay attention to when comparing marketing automation software vendors.
Pricing – Most marketing automation tools have a sliding price scale with additional training costs and additional modules. If you’re not careful, they can become ridiculously expensive very quickly. I would recommend weighing your options for 3-5 years ahead.
Usability – Marketing automation is inherently complex. Therefore, usability is extremely important, as it determines how much benefit your team will derive from the tool. The less intuitive the software is, the more you will pay for training and the more headaches your team will experience.
Integration with existing software is very important, but sometimes overlooked. Some marketing automation tools allow integration with only a small number of third-party applications/CRM systems.
Now let’s look at the preferences. Some of them may be crucial for you, but mostly they are related to what functions the software provides.
CRM / Sales Capabilities – Some marketing automation tools have a built-in CRM system with lead scoring and advanced labeling capabilities. Others don’t have a built-in CRM, as they assume you connect the software to an existing CRM.
Email Capabilities – Although all marketing automation tools support email marketing to some extent, some of them are better than others. Do you need drip campaigns? A/B testing of subject lines? Demographic segmentation?
Content Capabilities – Do you need to create landing pages, webinars, or other forms of content to send to your contacts? Although most marketing automation tools allow you to do this, some of them are easier to use and more extensive than others.
E-commerce opportunities – Do you sell goods over the Internet? Some marketing automation tools, such as Rejoiner and Omnisend, integrate directly into your ecommerce platform.
Social Media Capabilities – Some marketing automation tools integrate with Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to manage social advertising or create social applications within the service. Some of them also offer social media monitoring, allowing you to transmit comments made on social media platforms to your CRM. These features are usually nice additions, but it’s worth considering whether they will be useful to you or not.
Training and setup is another point to consider: how long will it take your company to implement marketing automation software, and how much will it cost? This issue is not particularly well covered on the websites of software vendors, so be sure to ask.
Pros and Cons of Marketing Automation Software Vendors
In this section, we will briefly describe the main pros and cons of each of the marketing automation software providers.
ActiveCampaign is used by more than 90,000 small businesses and is one of the best marketing automation platforms. They were also the first to create a visual automation sequence designer.
In 2016, we at Digital Expert decided to transfer all our businesses to ActiveCampaign. You can imagine how important automation plays in a team of six people managing nine enterprises, so when considering marketing automation tools, our bar was quite high.
But ActiveCampaign has lived up to expectations – and even more.
Thanks to intuitive clarity, our team can create complex automation sequences with little or no support or training. Predictable mailing, predictable content, and automated split tests allow us to optimize our automation sequences using machine learning.
The impressive thing is that ActiveCampaign’s prices make it one of the most affordable marketing automation tools on the market. And unlike tools like HubSpot, which start cheap and become obscenely expensive, ActiveCampaign remains affordable as you grow.
The last thing worth noting about ActiveCampaign is that they are constantly releasing new features to stay in the lead. Over the past year, ActiveCampaign has released predictive content, attribution, site posts, and more. Another recent feature that, in our opinion, saves a lot of time is the ability to import and share automation “recipes” in a couple of clicks to create sequences created by the ActiveCampaign community.
To be honest, I can’t think of anything negative to say about ActiveCampaign without being too picky. The worst part of ActiveCampaign is probably their reporting, although it’s still better than most automation service providers.
Sendinblue was first highly regarded as an outsider in the world of transactional email tools before they started making waves with their marketing automation product.
Of course, the visual designer of marketing automation Sendinblue may not be as attractive as ActiveCampaign, but it is no less powerful. In fact, the Sendinblue automation constructor is so free from “bells” and “whistles” that its use is refreshing after using some tools that require contacting support or reading documentation only to perform basic tasks.
So, what are the main advantages?
1. Pricing – Sendinblue is one of the most affordable email marketing tools and offers marketing automation for free if you have less than 2,000 contacts. Although most companies that need marketing automation have more contacts, their prices are still reasonable and based mainly on email volumes.
2. Deliverability – Using Sendinblue for one of our enterprises, I can vouch for the fact that Sendinblue’s deliverability rates are very good, and according to recent research they are among the highest in the industry.
The main drawback we encountered when using Sendinblue is the sending limits. Although this is most likely the downside of the fact that Sendinblue has such a good deliverability score, Sendinblue limits the number of emails you can send. Although it seems like it’s a monthly limit, it’s actually a daily limit (the monthly limit is divided by 30). Because of this, we had problems several times when exceeding the quota led to letters being postponed until the next day.
Nevertheless, we use Sendinblue to this day and consider it a good, stable and relatively simple marketing automation tool. As a French company, Sendinblue was one of the first marketing automation companies to declare GDPR compliance, and their history in the field of transactional email means that they were able to offer many marketing automation features that are difficult to find elsewhere, such as SMS mailings and real-time deliverability reports.
Let’s admit it, HubSpot is over-advertised.
Almost everything that HubSpot offers can be found elsewhere at a much lower price. And yes, although HubSpot does offer a free version of its software, it does not include any of the marketing automation features. If you want to use HubSpot for marketing automation, you will have to shell out at least $800 per month (paid annually), plus another $3,000 as an implementation fee. In other words, if your budget for marketing automation does not exceed $12,600 per year, you’d better move on to the next offer.
But we can’t deny that their software is really intuitive and easy to master, which can be of great importance for non-technical small businesses. Analytics is incredibly good, which makes it easy for business owners to understand what works and what doesn’t.
We can see how many small businesses will be impressed by their offer, but it would be remiss not to mention the fact that HubSpot prices may become more expensive as they grow.
HubSpot charges a connection fee of $3,000 – $6,000 for professional and corporate customers (these are the only tariff plans that include marketing automation), in addition to the typical monthly costs of $800 – $2,500.
If we were in their place, we would take this money and spend it on ActiveCampaign, which is a more advanced marketing automation platform. With the remaining money, you can purchase a professional subscription to good SEO software, for example, SEMrush or Deepcrawl, and get trained in Google Analytics.
We may be missing something, but based on the demonstration of their software, it seems too expensive, but for many small businesses it does exactly what it should – it allows them to grow faster.
Omnisend, founded in 2014, is a relatively new tool in the marketing automation scene, but this has not prevented it from becoming the leading marketing automation tool for e-commerce companies.
While their platform is far from the best in design, they have a number of innovative features, including integration with Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, to help ecommerce marketers automate their marketing across multiple channels.
Since Omnisend only works with e-commerce companies, all Omnisend email templates are designed to solve specific tasks facing e-commerce marketers, from reducing the number of shopping carts left to stimulating product reviews.
But the main reason Omnisend is the undisputed marketing automation tool for e-commerce businesses is that it is natively integrated with your e-commerce platform.
Whether you use Shopify, Magento, or any other major platform, Omnisend will connect to it so that you can launch campaigns based on your customers’ behavior and view reports on how your marketing automation affects sales.
Apart from the mediocre appearance of the platform, the only drawback of Omnisend is the cost.
To get access to the features that make Omnisend interesting, you will need a PRO account, the cost of which starts at $199 per month for 10,000 contacts. Unlike HubSpot, Omnisend prices remain quite reasonable as they grow, but nevertheless, it’s not cheap.
No marketing automation tool is definitely the best. We have summarized which options, in my opinion, are best suited for companies of different sizes and industries.
For small businesses
For small businesses, the best marketing automation software in 99% of cases is likely to be ActiveCampaign. This is especially true if you need a universal sales and marketing platform that includes CRM.
Finally, if you are engaged in e-commerce, then Omnisend will surpass all of the above options.
For medium-sized businesses
For medium-sized businesses, the best marketing automation software is likely to be ActiveCampaign or HubSpot.
As already mentioned, HubSpot requires quite a significant investment, so I would suggest that this is a good option for agencies or B2B service companies, where the costs are likely to be offset by attracting one or two additional customers per year.
If you are engaged in e-commerce, then Omnisend is a much better option than the two above.
For corporate enterprises
For large companies, most likely, you will need the convenience of delivery, security, support and training to become more important aspects.
ActiveCampaign is one of the few exceptions. Their corporate plan includes all the boring but necessary features – from dedicated IP addresses and SLA to SSO and account management that you would expect from a corporate client.