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.
CRM and marketing automation differs in purpose, users, and uses. It is, however, not a choice between two systems since each plays an important role in your business – driving productivity and efficiency of your sales team and marketing team, and ensuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and sales efforts. Furthermore, the connectivity of each system is such that they can integrate with one another and share and access information.

If you’re not leveraging interactions across every marketing channel like social media, your website, or the content your leads are consuming, it’s as if you’re only listening to your leads 30% of the time. Have you ever been on the phone with a sales rep who doesn’t answer your questions and reads straight from a pre-generated script without taking your specific needs into account? Did you end up buying from that company?
Also known as a Call to Action page, a landing page is any page on a website where traffic is sent specifically to prompt a certain action. Landing pages help increase conversion rates through targeted promotion. You can market multiple products to audiences using highly customized landing pages with specifically targeted content. Many marketing automation systems have excellent landing page builders. Make sure you select a landing page builder that is flexible and easy to use.
Are you frustrated that you don't have enough control over your website and marketing? Foster Web Marketing has built the solution for you and it is called DSS (Dynamic Self-Syndication). DSS is inbound marketing software with CMS/CRM capabilities that allows you to take control of your marketing and get your business to the next level. DSS has everything you need to manage your marketing easily and effectively. Manage your website, clients, email marketing, client feedback, reviews, social media posting, lead tracking and follow-up campaigns in one easy to use tool! Stop taping solutions together and use one smarter tool. One of the most compelling features of DSS is the built-in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which gives you the power to manage your leads and contacts, build follow-up campaigns and email marketing blasts, and create and send email newsletters. No need to pay for separate tools or software! This is why DSS is not just a CMS like WordPress, but actually, a fully operational marketing software that will put you light years ahead of your competition!
When designed well, marketing automation solutions make your job easier. They perform the difficult, tiresome work that is a natural part of running a marketing campaign while drawing from various data sources. The software compiles information, such as the number of opened emails, abandoned e-commerce carts, and data from web forms, to help inform your marketing decisions. When you maximize the features that these solutions offer, they can truly improve your company's bottom line.

For e-commerce businesses, automations can increase sales exponentially. But with a variety of automation tools at your fingertips, it can be hard to know where to begin. We evaluated the data from 150,000 businesses that use Mailchimp and determined that although tools like abandoned cart, product follow-up, and category follow-up automations are the most effective for selling more stuff, there are others that work better for boosting customer loyalty or re-engaging customers. See what works for best for meeting a variety of customer needs.
A CRM is a software solution used by sales and service teams to cultivate deeper relationships with interested buyers and active customers. Used to house prospect and client data, the CRM system has a collection of information for each contact in your organization, information your teams can then leverage in their client meetings and communications.
For companies that can’t decide on how to kill all the birds with one stone, it’s good to know that most of marketing automation functionality can be supported within a CRM system too! For example, everything that falls into lead management (lead segmentation, personalized email marketing, lead nurturing, analytics) can be activated within CRM software through either in-built tools or customization, depending on how complex requirements are. I tell more on the benefits of this approach for SMEs here: https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/benefits-of-crm-software-for-smes
ONTRAPORT’s mission is to “support entrepreneurs in delivering their value to the world by removing the burden of technology.” It aims to do this by allowing companies to get a complete visualization of the customer journey. Knowing that many small businesses struggle to gain a clear understanding of how their marketing efforts are paying off, ONTRAPORT is built to help them see how customers respond to messages — via SMS, email, postcards, and landing pages — through data. This information, in turn, can be used to build compelling campaigns within the platform. 																		

A marketing automation app will take a bit more time to set up than the traditional CRM. You'll likely need to copy a bit of code from the tool after you've created your account, and embed it into your site or app. Once you've done that, though, the apps here will do the rest of the work for you, identifying your visitors and clients and automating most of the CRM heavy lifting you'd have to do in other apps.
Finding Friday specializes in CRM for the Travel and Leisure Industry. The company strives to connect travel and leisure companies with potential travelers and tourists. Their primary need was to integrate marketing automation tools so their clients to whom the solution was sold could run successful marketing campaigns, nurture leads along the sales cycle, and reach out to more customers in less time with little effort. MailChimp, Act-On and Insteller integrations were done with SugarCRM. You can read the complete process in our Finding Friday Case Study.
Marketing automation is the process of using software to complete repetitive marketing tasks designed to nurture sales leads, personalize marketing messages and content and in the process, save marketers’ time and effort. By automating many of these tasks, users can more effectively send the right message, to the right user at the right time, according to Chris Davis, director of education at ActiveCampaign, which provides marketing automation software. “Marketing automation is all about understanding your audience so you can adapt the way you communicate to them based on their unique buying journey,” said Karra Hendrix, product marketing manager at Act-On, a provider of marketing automation software. 
The website behavior tracking feature of our marketing automation platform enables you to not only keep track of everything your website visitors do on your site and how long they stay there, but it also automatically sends all that information to a proper lead’s profile, so that you can have a clear view of your leads and make better decisions when trying to convert them.
Long gone are the days of importing a list of “leads” from a trade show and assigning the contacts as “leads” for sales. Marketing’s job is to not only attract attention (brand awareness) but their role has evolved to further qualifying leads that engage with the brand before passing along to the sales team. A simple model marketing can follow to qualify leads is identifying B.A.N.T. criteria.
The hope is to re-engage and push them further down the sales funnel, closer to making the final purchase. Any indication of renewed interest from a previously cold lead will immediately populate within an integrated CRM, alerting the sales team the moment it occurs. This type of automation provides real-time information that allows sales and marketing teams to efficiently retarget potential customers.
Automating your customer discovery can be scary, and a big commitment. If that's how you're feeling, Intercom might be the perfect choice since it lets you try it out for free and still gathers your real customer data. Then, if that gets you itching for more, it's just an upgrade away. Plus, since you can take care of support in the same app, you'll have your CRM, marketing, and support all under one roof, giving you the communication tools you need to actually make a difference with your users.
OutboundEngine helps businesses grow by making online marketing simple and easy for everyone. We create beautiful, high-impact marketing campaigns, deliver them automatically and track engagement to show who’s ready to have a conversation. Our platform strengthens relationships with customers, partners and prospects to uncover more opportunities with less work.
With Sugar Marketing, your team can optimize their marketing spend by running targeted and personalized campaigns that deliver the right message ahead of competition. Marketers can stay connected and top of mind with your prospects and customers with simple, effective campaign management in Sugar. Build multi-channel, multi-touch campaigns with Sugar’s intuitive Campaign Wizards, and track every action and conversion across email, text, in-person events, or even via social media.
Total Expert is a fintech software pioneer of the first modern, enterprise-level Marketing Operating System (MOS) that enables lending and financial services firms to create customers for life by blending human relationships with digital simplicity. We power marketing and revenue growth for 10% of $2 trillion per year U.S. mortgage industry, and ensure banks and lenders stay ahead of how consumers expect to communicate, shop, and manage their financial lives in the digital/social era. For more information, visit totalexpert.com. 																		

According to Hendrix, there are two types of "bad" marketing automation: People who use a marketing automation platform ineffectively, and platforms that label themselves as “marketing automation” even when that’s not the case. “True marketing automation allows you to track each touchpoint that a person has with your brand, take that in and adapt your messaging accordingly. It should enable you to not only automate processes, but anticipate your buyers' needs and accelerate their buying journey. Marketers need a solid marketing automation strategy, rather than just automating the same tasks they’ve been doing all along," Hendrix said.
Marketing automation systems generate huge amounts of not-very-well-structured data and analyze click streams in response to campaigns. In companies with large lead counts, the reporting engines have to handle tens of millions of rows – but the tables are very narrow (typically, less than 10 columns) so report outputs don’t involve a ton of query logic…just a ton of raw data.
Salesfusion is dedicated to helping companies build a large revenue funnel for marketing and sales by creating customized digital conversations that are seamlessly transitioned between departments. Marketing and sales teams participate in and measure these digital conversations to deliver more lead-to-revenue results by communicating with the right leads at the right time with the right message.
He is the co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
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 platforms are used by marketers while CRM programs are utilized by sales people. Both offer automation, analytics and reporting features to streamline daily tasks and provide users with important metrics and insights on the progress, efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns as well as sales activities and efforts. As said earlier, they may handle the same customer information but employ it for different activities and operations.
With Sugar’s marketing CRM software, marketers have the ability to qualify leads before passing them off to sales teams. Sugar will track and expose multichannel, multicampaign touches across each lead to give your teams clear visibility into what marketing efforts, interests and activities have caught their attention. These can be used to segment, score and track lead qualification metrics to help uncover who is truly ready to be handed off to sales versus who requires more nurturing.
iContact Pro provides marketing automation software and services for marketing teams to drive quantifiable results. The iContact Pro platform integrates email marketing, landing pages, social media management and robust analytics in a simple but comprehensive cloud-based solution that helps customers outsmart the competition and grow their business. ***ICONTACT PRO INCLUDES***: BUSINESS-CLASS EMAIL: Creating effective email campaigns is easy with 650+ professional templates and top class deliverability. SEGMENTATION AND TARGETING: Target your leads based on who they are and how they interact with you. LANDING PAGES: Create great looking, mobile responsive landing pages in minutes. Drive, track, and measure action on email, social, and your website. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION: Nurture customers with the right content, at the right time, by creating custom experiences using the most intuitive workflows in the industry. LEAD SCORING: Customize scoring criteria and the software automatically qualifies your leads so you can engage with confidence and increase your marketing efficiency. CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT: Create, track, and measure your integrated marketing campaigns, from Tweets to email with powerful and easy-to-understand analytics. SALESFORCE INTEGRATION: Sync contacts and leads directly between your Salesforce.com and iContact Pro accounts, so you can quickly and effectively close your newly qualified and ready leads. SOCIAL CRM: Track and record every engagement with your prospects across email, social media, landing pages, news releases, and website visits. ***ICONTACT PRO BENEFITS*** DO MORE Nowadays, a marketer’s life is full of long hours, distractions, and beeping devices — it’s time for you to work smarter, not harder. iContact Pro was created to help companies engineer more calculated ways to send personalized communications to customers. No advanced degrees required. LIBERATE YOUR IDEAS Automation is not rocket science. But with most big enterprise solutions, getting started with marketing automation might feel a lot like planning a complicated rocket launch. iContact Pro was built to work fast for any size team, so when you say “yes” to marketing automation, you say “no” to complicated implementation. Simply login, pick an activity, and take off! TARGET YOUR MESSAGE Email marketing is at the heart of any results-driven strategy. iContact Pro is your virtual segmenting machine, helping you create individual CRM profiles to provide subscribers with the most relatable experiences for them — no matter how they engage with you. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS Bringing in more leads doesn’t always mean more revenue; prospects demand a higher quality experience from you. iContact Pro helps you nurture relationships throughout the entire customer lifecycle in a way that feels personal, but is in fact highly automated. Reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right message. ENGAGE YOUR NETWORK Get more mileage from existing content. Turn social fans into subscribers by including links to your own landing pages and invite people to download valuable content in exchange for their email address. Flexible, built-in tools allow you to schedule a calendar of social activity in advance or join in on trending conversations as they happen. CAPTURE MORE LEADS Everything you need is now easier to do. From designing professional landing pages and email templates, to setting up intuitive workflow triggers based on customer actions, our interactive tools make it easy to cross marketing tasks off your to-do list. MAKE DATA ACTIONABLE Great results come from consistently testing and drilling down into your performance data to make campaign tweaks on-the-fly. Engagement reports let you count up and compare the success of your social posts, landing pages, and emails. Ask us how you can integrate data from other tools with your dashboard for convenient, one-screen viewing. KEEP MOVING FORWARD We’re not doing our job if questions block your way to making things happen on your terms. We work hard to take the guesswork out of success. You can count on our experts and software to flatten learning curves along the way so you can just get up and get going.
Single Platform Availability: Though you may be looking at only a marketing automation module for your current requirements, it is possible that you may, in future, choose to automate other customer-facing functions such as Sales and Service. It is recommended to opt for a solution that provides all these functions through a single platform. This will greatly reduce integration complexities and empower you with a comprehensive view of interactions across the customer lifecycle, in future.
ONTRAPORT’s mission is to “support entrepreneurs in delivering their value to the world by removing the burden of technology.” It aims to do this by allowing companies to get a complete visualization of the customer journey. Knowing that many small businesses struggle to gain a clear understanding of how their marketing efforts are paying off, ONTRAPORT is built to help them see how customers respond to messages — via SMS, email, postcards, and landing pages — through data. This information, in turn, can be used to build compelling campaigns within the platform.
The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier to manage and execute. One primary difference with CRM is that Marketing Automation systems can track behavioral and demographic data for marketing engaged prospects to automate nurture programs that encourage certain buyer actions. Marketing automation is best utilized for nurturing leads and prospects with content to advance their stage in the buyer journey.
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.
Market Segmentation: Based on tracking information, the system can automatically assign the lead to a marketing segment. It then interacts with people in that segment using very personalized communication. The system can also track results of the interaction to produce analytics that rate the success of the process and how likely individual leads would be to convert into customers.
Through integration, you can have a unified approach to data management as all the contact, communication and other informational data is saved under one single platform. The data is organized, easy to view and edit, and faster to analyze. Also, a centralized data system means that new data is easy to input and organize, and tracking and reporting of data becomes efficient.
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