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.
Sailthru helps modern marketers at leading retail and media companies build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Sailthru personalizes individual customer experiences across digital communication channels—in email, on a brand’s website and in their mobile applications. Sailthru-powered 1:1 relationships with consumers help drive higher revenue, improve customer lifetime value and reduce churn.
To help entrepreneurs determine how successful their efforts have been, the brand delivers weekly reports and customized engagement scoring; it also spotlights the outcome of A/B tests. Delivra’s Drag & Drop Editor and Image Editor can lend a helping hand to less-than-artistic entrepreneurs who need to design and package their messaging. And for small businesses wanting to tie their marketing efforts directly to their e-commerce stores, Delivra integrates with multiple systems to enable small businesses to segment shoppers and re-engage them.
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.
David Taber is the author of the Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success," now in its second edition, and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel and India. Taber has more than 25 years of experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.
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.
Your customer list is getting too big to manage manually. Are you lucky enough to have thousands of contacts on your email list? That’s great! But how are you handling all those emails? You need marketing automation software to make sure each contact goes through the right stages of your marketing funnel to nurture them into a good lead for your sales team.
Marketing automation helps you stay connected with your audience (and find more people just like them), so you can eliminate repetitive tasks and focus on other parts of your business. Target people based on behavior, preferences, and previous sales—and use this intel to do things like welcome new subscribers, reach out to people who abandon their online shopping carts, and win back lapsed customers—automatically.
Artificial intelligence (AI) applications such as chatbots can help automate the delivery of that information or direct potential customers to webpages, online documents or forms that help create sales or gauge a potential customer's current or future interest in purchasing a company's goods or services. Marketing automation tools can also administer customer satisfaction and product usage surveys and then collect, measure and segment the response data.
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 addition, a CRM system that can be shared between sales and customer service brings new opportunities. The salesperson will be aware of customer service issues that arise with a customer, and the customer service staff can quickly determine the actions taken by a salesperson to contact a customer or resolve an issue. If customer service handles a problem they can easily inform the sales team by updating the details in the CRM.

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