The best way to overcome the limitation of time is by automating some of your processes — and marketing is one area ripe for automation. The key for small businesses is finding a tool that can automate many components of marketing at once, and these seven platforms take different approaches to automating marketing processes to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier.

Large enterprises have long found value in the technology, but marketing automation isn’t just for big companies. In fact, Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs) make up the largest growing segment in the space right now. And thousands of companies even smaller than that are using automation as well. Similarly, companies across all industries are using it. The early adopters were primarily in “business-to-business” (B2B) industries such as high-tech / software, manufacturing, and business services. But increasingly companies across all categories–including “business-to-consumer” (B2C) industries such as healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and retail–are adopting the software for its real-time, engagement-oriented approach to maintaining and extending customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.

Instead of relying on outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and aggressively pushing audiences into become leads, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally. By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is in a position to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.
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.
When the two functions combine, marketing and sales departments work as a single unit.  Marketing sells (creating visibility) on a large scale, while sales markets in a one-on-one fashion, using the information-sharing and persuasion tactics. With sales and marketing working so closely, there’s a clear value in getting the two divisions on the same page, and working in even more alignment. For small businesses, that’s particularly important as getting the best out of one single lead is crucial.
Higher Logic Marketing Automation Enterprise powered by Real Magnet is a leading marketing automation platform that helps businesses attract, engage and deliver better email, marketing, social and mobile campaigns. Higher Logic simplifies marketing automation with its intuitive design, seamless integration with leading CRMs and dedicated consultative team that ensures smarter engagement. Higher Logic's easy-to-use platform, intelligent productive analytics, and exceptional email deliverability helps the modern marketer navigate and succeed in a complex digital marketing landscape. We serve a wide breadth of customers including some of the largest associations, media companies and the most innovative technology companies, including the American Red Cross, Arnold & Porter, IBM, Kiplinger’s, MIT Technology Review, and Viacom.
Mailchimp’s marketing automation gives you the ability to create a single email—or an email series—that sends automatically based on predetermined triggers. We evaluated data from 150,000 businesses that use Mailchimp to compare single and multiple-email automations and to learn which yields better results. Our findings showed that if your goal is to sell more stuff, opting for an automation series can help increase impressions and result in more sales. But there are interesting outliers. Use our findings and test a single email against a full series for each automation to learn which one resonates with your customers and works best for your business.
This becomes important when a company's marketing operations rely on a survey, email, social media or chatbot app for inbound lead-generation efforts that plug into Marketo or Eloqua, which, in turn, allows those marketing processes to continue regardless of which CRM the company uses. In effect, they act as middleware connecting the thousands of niche marketing automation tools and large CRM systems, where a company's customer data resides.

Inbound Lead Generation: Modern SMB automation tools for marketing empower you to generate quality leads through inbound content marketing tactics. You can make your blogs or websites more interactive and create personalized landing pages with utmost ease. Customized web forms can help you implement progressive profiling that provides a non-intrusive way to capture lead or customer data in a seamless manner.
That doesn’t sound much like a CRM system, does it?  If the core of marketing automation is email blasting, the foundation of CRM is sales force automation (SFA). While both systems operate on leads, contacts and companies, they work in very different contexts.  The marketing automation user is almost entirely focused on leads.  In contrast, the SFA user sees leads as important only in the short term, as the successful sales rep will be working on deals (opportunities) and talking with contacts (leads that have been fully qualified and promoted or converted).  The SFA user is a very different animal than the typical marketing person, and too often there is actual animosity between the two teams.

Contact-focused CRMs are one of the best ways to maintain a personal touch with your customers and business contacts, since you'll have one place to keep track of everything about them. Hatchbuck gives you that same contact-focused interface combined with even more detail about each person related to your company. It has a bit more focus on the traditional ways you'd gather leads—especially via forms—than the other apps listed here, and instead of focusing on every possible visitor it's just focused on the important leads you import or that fill out your forms.
The situation at many large companies is much more chaotic.  I know of one technology company that had 84 different marketing systems along with dozens of CRM instances.  So the idea that CRM is going to take over the territory of marketing automation is a reach for the Fortune 500, particularly those companies that grew through acquisition.  For them, the key success factor is integration and database synchronization among their marketing automation and CRM systems.  No amount of “best of breed” features will make a difference if their data is an uncoordinated mess.
At Henry's House of Coffee in San Francisco, roasting great coffee is a family affair. In fact, co-owner Hrag Kalebjian learned the trade from his father Henry, who grew up making coffee to serve in his own father's bakery in Lebanon. Although the company now exists digitally with an e-commerce store, Hrag wanted to connect authentically with his customers. He discovered that Mailchimp's marketing automation made it possible not only to tell his story, but to really engage his customers. See how automation helps Henry's House of Coffee keep tradition alive. 																		

Marketing automation brings value and ROI to your numerous marketing efforts. The right marketing automation platform, combined with smart organizational and process alignment, makes it possible to connect the dots between that promotional email you sent last month, that webinar you hosted last year, and the revenue your CEO sees this week or can expect to see next quarter.
The HubSpot dashboard enables teams to immediately sort the contracts won (or not) and maintain a clear view of their performance toward their goals. HubSpot’s CRM automatically tracks customer touchpoints across different channels and keeps a timeline of all calls, emails, and meetings involving specific customers. The platform also helps create personalized paths to purchase and compile data showcasing how every marketing campaign contributed to sales.
It’s ineffective given the effort required to see meaningful results. When done correctly, effective marketing automation takes time, effort, and resources to implement and maintain for revenue growth. Even if your database is currently filled with top-notch, quality leads, how effective will your marketing automation be when you’ve either converted all those leads into customers, or when your database begins decaying at the rate of 23% / year (via unsubscribes, job turnover and a variety of other factors.) Even when they’ve invested the time and effort to master the art of “Amazon-like” marketing automation, without enough leads to work towards purchase many marketers end up unhappy with the ROI of their marketing automation investment.

Personalization. Without personalized messaging, you’ll miss out on a significant number of conversions. Leverage marketing automation’s tracking capabilities to tailor your conversations with your contacts. Personalization works: 88% of U.S. marketers reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalization — with more than half reporting a lift greater than 10%.
Marketing has evolved significantly over the years and has become more complex and perplexing than ever. Consumers are now using multiple media platforms to gather data and stay up-to-date, making life difficult for marketers. However, with marketing automation in CRM, a business can streamline and optimize a variety of marketing tasks. This will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales and marketing team by saving time on administrative tasks, delivering messages with the right content to the right audience, closing deals faster through increased automation and increasing revenue and profits.
Between CRM systems and marketing automation systems, it’s incredible how businesses can leverage technology to deliver huge improvements to their productivity, effectiveness, and bottom line. As a business manager, you have the opportunity to provide automated support for both sales and marketing operations. You can increase the number of leads you attract with a strong marketing automation system, then nurture them through to conversion via your CRM system. In addition, you'll also increase the effectiveness of personal relationships with your leads and customers. All of this results in more sales and higher profitability!
First, let’s be clear about the distinction between sales and marketing roles: you wouldn’t believe how many companies scramble the definitions.  As a card-carrying marketing guy (yes, I made it to Sr. VP at publicly-traded companies), I maintain that the outbound part of marketing (the real users of marketing automation) needs to focus on getting the right message out to the right prospects.  People who respond with the right level of interest are handed off to sales for qualification, and people who don’t are kept in the system for cultivation and “re-marketing.” Outbound marketing is also involved in the care and feeding of existing customers, to cultivate loyalty and repeat business.
366 Degrees is a marketing automation platform that allows small to medium businesses to communicate with leads across several channels and track their interaction with your content. With integration into the CRM platform of your choosing, you can keep your lead database up to date across your marketing and sales teams. 366 features smart content creation with pre-made HTML snippets that make creating emails and landing pages easy, no coding background needed! Then, track your leads' interactions with your content and automatically follow up with behaviorally cued automatic drip campaigns. 366 features integrations to Salesforce, Datanyze, Nimble, and now Vidyard for video marketing made easy. Drop video into emails, landing pages, or social posts and watch leads pour in.
When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation. Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database as leads and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there. Do you have all the existing leads needed to hit your revenue goals in your database already? Are you getting your fair share of the available market?
Personalization	As you build out your inbound marketing and marketing automation strategy, you will learn more about your leads. This learning process will empower your company to re-invest that data into refining your marketing strategy. Marketing automation software will help you streamline this process and build 1:1 connections with hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of users.

Marketing automation platforms allow companies to deliver promotions on, say, flash sales, to small segments of the customer universe based on targeted campaign objectives, or revenue goals for a particular territory or population. AI and analytics tools either can or soon will be able to create predictive models that can drive even more revenue with fewer customers contacted per campaign, depending on the tool and to which CRM platform it connects.
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