Marketing automation is the use of software to automate marketing processes such as customer segmentation, customer data integration, and campaign management. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would have otherwise been performed manually much more efficient, and makes new processes possible. Marketing automation is an integral component of customer relationship management.

When you start your day at work, you likely open a half-dozen apps and websites and spend quite a bit of time just figuring out what needs done and finding the info to do it. Not anymore with Infusionsoft. It's watching your site, tracking info about your potential customers and what they've seen, and at the same time is keeping up with what you need to do. Then, in a nifty "My Day" view, it'll show you everything you need to be doing—including your tasks, communications with contacts, and calendar appointments—along with info about the customers related to your tasks right in the same overview.
In addition to an organic integration with Salesforce, Pardot offers one of the cleanest user interfaces (UIs) and one of the largest variety of prebuilt templates on the market. But its best features are designed to improve your workflows once they've been created. For example, you can pretest the process of an automated program to see how it reacts. This is essentially a fire drill automation campaign to ensure your complex branching doesn't lead to a dead end or a duplicate email. Pardot also lets you schedule social media campaigns and post in real time to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter simultaneously. If you really want to manage your marketing program from within one solution, then Pardot also offers a search marketing tool that plugs into Bing, Google, and Yahoo. You can check search engine rankings, monthly volumes, and ranking difficulties as well as run competitor analysis and monitor your paid search campaigns. No other tool we reviewed offers search marketing functionality.
You can have the world’s savviest marketing plan in place and customers still don’t always click on something the first time they see it. Whether they encounter your ads on Facebook, Instagram, or another channel, they may not make a purchase until they've seen what you've got through multiple avenues. That's where Google remarketing ads come into play. Google remarketing ads help you reach people who have expressed interest in your products—wherever they go online—and bring them back to your store when they’re ready to buy. Using these best practices and Mailchimp's powerful reporting tools, you can run retargeting ads that pay off.
Sugar can eliminate silos between your marketing and sales teams. As a marketer, you can define lead management and routing processes that work the way you do. Create rules to determine if leads should be routed to business development teams, directly to sales reps, or sent back for additional nurturing by marketing. Integrate Sugar to your existing marketing automation tools to tackle scoring, automation programs and drip campaigns with two-way data synchronization.

Marketing automation is all about low-cost, effective communication with prospects, which means email and social-media communications.  Every marketing automation system starts with basic email blasting and adds tons of features designed to facilitate beautiful, effective mail sequences on an industrial scale.  In order to improve email effectiveness, the marketing automation system includes templates for the mails and campaign designers to provide a clear, consistent path for the customer as their level of interest and information evolves. The customer journey from awareness through interest to desire and finally to action is explicitly mapped, with content and calls to action tuned for each branch in that journey. 
However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.
Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don't have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a "Welcome" or a "Thank you for making a purchase" message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off the workflow to conserve your email output.

ActiveDEMAND is a flexible marketing platform for digital marketing agencies and marketers. ActiveDEMAND packages range from the full-featured call tracking application for the small business marketer to the powerful Marketing Agency Portal designed for digital marketing agencies with multi-client management needs. Engage and track prospects using the integrated, comprehensive call tracking module, do more with built-in email templates, landing pages and social media. Convert leads and prospects into customers using automated marketing to manage nurture campaigns, auto-replies and more. Retain customers and grow your repeat businesses with powerful newsletters, special promotions and more.
Want one app to handle every part of your marketing in one place? GreenRope has enough features to do just that. It's a marketing automation tool that can send drip emails or SMS messages, with automation workflows to send messages after contacts visit specific pages or reply to GreenRope's built-in surveys and courses that you can customize for your own marketing.
We currently have three Editors' Choice picks for marketing automation solutions here at PCMag. One of them, Campaigner, impressed us with its intuitive UI and its wealth of online resources. Another Editors' Choice, the aforementioned Pardot, excelled due to its built-in search and social marketing functionality. Lastly, the aforementioned HubSpot had an impressive set of prebuilt workflows that also got our top nod. While all of these are fantastic solutions, they are all quite different, and it's definitely worth taking the time to research the best solution for your needs. This, of course, also applies even to the other products that did not get an Editors' Choice designation.
However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.

Marketing automation plugs into a company's CRM system, which, typically, has its own native marketing automation cloud service (such as Salesforce Pardot and Oracle Eloqua). Eloqua will work with other CRM platforms that compete with Oracle's, and Marketo, an independent marketing automation platform, will work with Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and other CRM systems. HubSpot also is a popular marketing automation platform that has its own CRM backbone.
×