If you have to get one initially, go for a CRM but make sure that you can immediately set up a marketing automation system once your situation calls for it. A good CRM foundation is HubSpot CRM; not only because it is 100% free, but it is highly scalable to match your growing needs. Getting started with it is easy when you sign up for a HubSpot CRM free app here.
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.

It's an all-in-one app that combines your content creation and social media sharing tools with the analytics data to help that content perform well. Then, it also has a detailed CRM that shows info about your site visitors, marketing automation tools to reach out to your visitors and turn them into customers, and the new Sidekick tool to give you a combined place to email and contact everyone.
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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. 
Delivra is a platform built on the knowledge that automated email open rates are 95 percent higher than regular email open rates. With that in mind, the company tries to maximize customer engagement by offering help with SMS and email drip campaigns; it also assists with direct mail and uses A/B testing and alerts when engagement or purchase “tendencies” have been spotted.
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.
Selligent Marketing Cloud is a marketing automation platform that enables B2C brands to engage consumers across all critical channels. Built for the relationship marketer, Selligent Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud built on single code base, featuring artificial intelligence and a Customer Data Platform with a universal consumer profile at the core of every action. More than 700 brands across retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services rely on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s proven platform. With 10 offices across the United States and Europe and more than 50 agency partners and resellers, Selligent Marketing Cloud serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service.
As every small business owner knows, wearing a lot of hats is how you keep your company in the black. The problem, of course, is that any business owner only has 24 hours in a day. Cramming business development, customer service, marketing, production, financials, and everything else on one to-do list is a recipe for disaster (and a complete lack of sleep).
Marketing’s core objective is to feed the pipeline for sales. At the end of the day, the sales team is marketing’s number one client. Marketing’s role in the lead nurturing process has grown over the last decade to align with the lengthening sales prospecting process. Most B2B purchases—especially technology purchases—span multiple departments, which means there are multiple stakeholders involved in any buying decision. According to CEB, 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each purchase, this is 40% larger than it was 2 years ago.
As every small business owner knows, wearing a lot of hats is how you keep your company in the black. The problem, of course, is that any business owner only has 24 hours in a day. Cramming business development, customer service, marketing, production, financials, and everything else on one to-do list is a recipe for disaster (and a complete lack of sleep).
Once marketing has qualified a lead based on B.A.N.T., the sales team’s core objective is to close deals and increase revenue. Both sales and marketing processes follow a funnel-like approach to nurturing leads and opportunities, but each solution is customized to track and serve a different type of contact based on their stage of the buyer journey. Similarly, CRM is designed to help the sales organization forecast the deals they plan to close each month or quarter.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The emfluence Marketing Platform was built for marketers, by marketers. We believe that usability is as important as functionality. That’s why we’ve focused the emfluence Marketing Platform’s features around what’s really important: helping digital marketers like you accomplish your goals every day. Whether you’re launching your own digital campaigns, managing a brand across a network of franchises, or creating campaigns for your book of business, you can leverage the emfluence Marketing Platform for: • Email Automation • Email Marketing • Drag & Drop Email Builders • Social Media Management • Surveys • Landing Pages • Form Builders • Automated Reporting • Website Tracking • Light Boxes and Modals • Variable Content Blocks Why do we spend so much time focusing on how you use our platform? Because we’re marketers, too, and we know that digital marketing isn’t just about sending emails and posting pictures to your favorite social media channel. It’s complex recipe of strategy, timing, response, and engagement. We believe with the right tool, you’ll be unstoppable.

Spammy email marketing. Marketing automation is not meant to be used as a tool to spam your contacts. Not only is spamming a poor sending practice, it also acts as a detriment to your marketing efforts in general. Marketing automation is most successful when you’re using it to send personalized, relevant content to your contacts, not disruptive, spammy
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.
Marketing automation is designed to help generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to be handed over to sales. Meanwhile, CRM’s goal is to convert MQLs to sales qualified leads (SQLs) and ultimately to sales. MQL basically pertains to engaged leads while SQL refers to vetted prospects. Although the respective goals are different as you can see where one ends and the other begins in the sales funnel, marketing automation and CRM have complimentary roles in the effort to transform leads into customers.
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.
Marketing automation lets you implement a digital marketing strategy without having to manually press “send” on each and every email, message, campaign, or post you create. Good automation tools help you identify your audience, design the right content, and automatically trigger actions based on schedules and customer behavior. Once your campaign rolls out, you can focus on other tasks, then analyze and tweak your marketing plan as results start coming in. An automated marketing strategy can save time and resources, driving revenue and ROI while you focus on growing your business.
Marketing automation is a software solution used primarily by marketing teams to measure and strengthen marketing’s impact on funnel activity and pipeline development. Marketing automation exists for the primary goal of automating marketing-focused actions and tasks. Many marketing departments are challenged with complex manual processes to execute campaigns and repetitive tasks such as email marketing, social media distribution, and other website actions that can hinder marketing’s performance as programs scale.
If you are running a larger business, chances are you already have a sizeable database of contacts. A marketing automation platform can connect with your CRM to streamline your data and eliminate any cold contacts from your email marketing process. Similarly, if you’re already managing multiple campaigns and websites, automation software can provide you with powerful data on which landing pages are converting the most, which emails and posts are working best, and which content is getting the most downloads. Automated segmentation is also a helpful tool to ensure that you’re sending relevant content to your leads, especially if you provide different services or operate in different countries.
Want a marketing automation CRM that'll keep you on your toes? Then you'll love Agile CRM's real-time notifications based on your contacts' behavior. You can get notifications when they've opened your email, clicked a link, or are just browsing your site. Then, you can make sure they remember you, too, with in-app notifications and even automated SMS drip campaigns.

Instead of being a separate app with just a code snippet you'll add to your site, Inbound Now lives inside your WordPress install, capturing leads and automating marketing right from the place you manage the rest of your site. It's got free tools to create landing pages, A/B test them, and identify your site visitors, then there's paid extensions that'll add social media and email integration, lead importing, and more.
Instead of being a separate app with just a code snippet you'll add to your site, Inbound Now lives inside your WordPress install, capturing leads and automating marketing right from the place you manage the rest of your site. It's got free tools to create landing pages, A/B test them, and identify your site visitors, then there's paid extensions that'll add social media and email integration, lead importing, and more.
Selligent Marketing Cloud is a marketing automation platform that enables B2C brands to engage consumers across all critical channels. Built for the relationship marketer, Selligent Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud built on single code base, featuring artificial intelligence and a Customer Data Platform with a universal consumer profile at the core of every action. More than 700 brands across retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services rely on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s proven platform. With 10 offices across the United States and Europe and more than 50 agency partners and resellers, Selligent Marketing Cloud serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service.

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.
If you're running a brick-and-mortar business—say, a hotel, restaurant, or store, or even an in-person service company like a law firm or repair team—website visitors might not be your most important lead source. You'll likely have far more people calling your business to check about your opening hours, current prices, and more. CallTrackingMetrics is designed exactly for that.
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.
The next part of the process is triggered once the sales team takes over, continues engaging with the leads, and vets for their level of interest as well as capability to purchase. When leads have been assessed as viable prospects, they now become SQLs. In this specific journey from MQL to SQL as well as the overall process that cover the stages from lead to customer, the features and capabilities of marketing automation and CRM come into play.
If your marketing collateral is being created and stored in disparate systems in an unorganized fashion, your customer facing teams will struggle to achieve consistency in multi-channel communication. Ideally, all your marketing content needs to be mapped to the stages of the buyer’s purchase process. Also, it needs to be stored on a single platform accessible across the organization.
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