Great post and clarification. Personally I use http://www.myconversionbrain.com as it’s cheap and designed for small business owners like myself. It’s not so much of a crm but more of a marketing automation tool and lead tracking which helps my marketing efforts. The problem I find with most marketing automation systems is that its way too expensive for small business owners.
The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers. In our plant analogy, it's sort of like using artificial chemicals or enhancers to make your plant grow faster. Sure, it seems like a good, quick fix--but it doesn't set you up for future, long-term success.  
Infusionsoft has found that its automation platform saves users about 28 hours per month when it’s integrated with users’ other systems. That platform automates lead capture and follow-ups based on user activity and collects data about customers to enable personalization. Its analytics reports shine a light on what’s working, what’s not, and what the current ROI is for any campaign.
Functional Fitment: Standalone MA software cannot be effective without a comprehensive marketing strategy in place. It is important to document the marketing processes that are expected to be automated by using the application and then choose the solution accordingly. Also, it is essential to measure the improvement in marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) post-implementation. Hence a solution that provides inbuilt reports and customer analytics is preferable.

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.

Marketing automation can eat up a significant portion of your clients’ budgets, leaving less room for your agency’s retainer. (Psst...SharpSpring’s agency pricing model is as little as 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of others.) You’ll want a platform built around the needs of agencies to help you create higher-value relationships, generate monthly recurring revenue, and prove your ROI. Look for a provider that lets you reinforce your brand by rebranding the platform interface, domain, login screen and notifications. The vendor should treat you like a partner, including sending you new business referrals.
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 and sales roles. From automating the lead qualification process to creating a hub for digital campaign creation, automation is all about simplifying a business world that is growing far too complex, much too quickly.
Understand what’s working and how you can improve your marketing strategy over time with real-time metrics covering opens, clicks, and comparative stats per campaign. Individual campaign results automatically push to Act! contact records for a detailed interaction history. Perform A/B tests to pinpoint your most impactful subject lines and content to continually improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. 																		

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.

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.


Sales is all about speed. How long does it take you to respond to a customer? Was your conversation efficient while still being educational? Most importantly, did you get there before the other guy? Choosing a CRM to match the lighting speed of your sales team can bog you down in lots of calls and meetings. So we did the research for you to find the top 20 most user-friendly CRM software products. Stop shopping and start selling!
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.
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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