Emails are the principal communication channels with potential leads. With an automation tool, you can test your email content, create beautiful email templates that match your product specifications, preview your emails across platforms and devices and do advanced email reporting. Marketing automation in CRM incorporates email marketing functionality and then expands on it by customizing content interactions through logic workflows e.g. you can send a happy birthday message to a loyal customer and offer him a discount or send a thank you message when someone makes a purchase. This can make the difference between a happy customer and a lost prospect.

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.


Marketing automation: HubSpot says that marketing automation is crucial to the ‘closing’ stage of marketing. We disagree. We think that marketing automation is more than just email and it spans the entire marketing lifecycle. It is, however, crucial to your company’s ability to close deals. You need to move customers through your sales conversion funnel – this process will be continuous and require some degree of nurturing, guiding, and even hand-holding. Marketing automation can help your company take the lead in guiding prospects through the sales conversion funnel.

dotdigital (formerly dotmailer) is a global leader in customer engagement technology and Engagement Cloud is its platform: the preferred choice for growing businesses and ambitious brands. The platform’s impressive features empower over 80,000 marketers across 150 countries to acquire, convert, and retain customers at scale. Users can connect with CRM and ecommerce systems, surface powerful data, and automate intelligent cross-channel messages that resonate with audiences. Established in 1999, dotdigital is a global company with over 350 employees, serving brands of all verticals and sizes. Our easy to use and powerful email solution enables SMBs, large enterprise and agencies to manage and grow their email strategy and more by making it easy to build your own marketing cloud, using our extensive app directory. A Magento Premier Technology, Shopify Plus and BigCommerce partner, dotdigital integrates seamlessly with many world-class ecommerce platforms and CRMs including Salesforce and MS Dynamics. Our recent acquisition of COMAPI cements our commitment to empowering marketers by providing customers with best-in-class omnichannel messaging capabilities such as SMS, live chat and social media integration. Start a free trial: https://www.dotdigital.com/trial/

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.


Marketing automation creates relevant content and messaging at scale across many channels. Send email messages with dynamic content that personalizes far beyond sticking a customer’s first name in the subject line. Integrate mobile messaging with your email and social campaigns through SMS/MMS, push notifications, and group messaging. Generate digital ads that appear for the right person at the right time. Plus, recommend the right products on your website for each individual user — automatically.
Even the simplest CRM system will use a dozen database tables to manage these processes, and some of the tables are quite wide (it’s not at all unusual to have 200 columns for the Account table) and tables may have several children.  The tables, however, hold standard data types (almost never a BLOb), and documents that might be attached (pointed to from tables) are static files and not part of a document management system.  However, CRM systems typically have several integration points with other parts of the corporate infrastructure (such as contract management, electronic signature, shipping/distribution and accounting systems).
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
When customers leave something in their cart, reminding them to come back for it is only polite. And it's not just about manners, it also yields real results for businesses—we’ve found that our average user earns enough money from their abandoned cart automation to pay for their Mailchimp account. Abandoned cart messaging lets you do more than nudge customers to return and buy the original item they were eyeing, you can also recommend similar items they might like using their purchase history and behavior on your site. Learn how to give shoppers the personalized attention they deserve and increase your bottom line.

Oracle Bronto is the premier cloud-based marketing platform for commerce. With an advanced marketing automation engine and solutions for browser and shopping cart abandonment, recommendations, post-purchase campaigns and powerful ecommerce integrations, the Bronto Marketing Platform helps marketers maximize engagement and drive revenue by automating targeted, personalized email and cross-channel marketing campaigns at scale. Bronto offers a full suite of enterprise features and an extensive array of partner integrations to help commerce marketers accomplish more, while saving time and resources. Over 1400 brands worldwide rely on Bronto, including a client roster of high-growth brands, including Rebecca Minkoff, Lucky Brand, Theory, Timex, Ashley Homestore and Christopher & Banks. For more information, visit bronto.com.


However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.
Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don't have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a "Welcome" or a "Thank you for making a purchase" message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off the workflow to conserve your email output.
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.
At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
A sale isn’t the end of a brand-to-consumer relationship. It’s the beginning. And it’s probably the customer acquisition channel that you’re ignoring. Delight is what helps marketers navigate the art of upselling. Marketing automation, social media, and emotion-driven calls to action are crucial to this stage of marketing. This idea holds true for consumer and B2B marketers alike.
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.
If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.
Salesforce.com subsumes marketing automation under its CRM umbrella.  Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud has been constructed largely from acquired companies and now includes sentiment monitoring, advertising, customer “journey management”, email blasting, campaign management and several other features that are typically used only by the marketing department.  Since only some of these are typical “marketing automation” features, we need to sort things out a bit.
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.
On the lower end of the pricing spectrum, you'll find products such as Infusionsoft, which costs $379 per month for five users, 50,000 contacts, and unlimited emails per month. The Complete package also includes Infusionsoft's four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation) at no extra charge. SendinBlue and Zoho Campaigns both offer free plans for anyone who is unwilling to spend even a dime for marketing workflows. Both tools scale upward for added capacity and complexity, and each offers pay-as-you-go plans for companies just dipping their toes into email marketing and marketing automation.

There's also the marketing broadcast tools you'd expect to email all of your contacts, but there's also ways to send voice messages, faxes, or even print out paper letters with your contacts' personalized info to send out by mail. And if you're not already selling products directly from your site, you can use Infusionsoft's eCommerce tools to build your own store and track the purchases and pages viewed right in your CRM. It's everything you'd need to identify your customers' needs, customize marketing to them, actually sell your real products, and make sure you're staying on top of everything you need to do at the same time. 																		

Oracle Bronto is the premier cloud-based marketing platform for commerce. With an advanced marketing automation engine and solutions for browser and shopping cart abandonment, recommendations, post-purchase campaigns and powerful ecommerce integrations, the Bronto Marketing Platform helps marketers maximize engagement and drive revenue by automating targeted, personalized email and cross-channel marketing campaigns at scale. Bronto offers a full suite of enterprise features and an extensive array of partner integrations to help commerce marketers accomplish more, while saving time and resources. Over 1400 brands worldwide rely on Bronto, including a client roster of high-growth brands, including Rebecca Minkoff, Lucky Brand, Theory, Timex, Ashley Homestore and Christopher & Banks. For more information, visit bronto.com.
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.
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.

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.
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).
Let’s cite an example. Your marketing team puts up landing pages in your business website, brings in clicks, and captures leads interacting with your content. These leads are commencing contact but how much they are interested has yet to be determined, so your team engages with by providing relevant info. Leads are then scored depending on the actions or responses they take. These contacts become MQLs up to the point they are ready to be transferred to marketing.
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.
HubSpot heavily relies on list building to help you manage your workflows. The tool lets you shrink (or grow) your lists in the same way you would narrow down products on Amazon or eBay, a feature which is incredibly straightforward and fast. When you add a URL to a contact record, HubSpot will automatically pull in demographic information, such as the contact's company location and number of employees. You can email a contact directly from the Contact Record, and you can make a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) call if you have turned on this paid feature of HubSpot Sales. This integration lets you log and save call information within each contact record so there is a transparent history of which marketers and sales professionals interacted with contacts. You can also schedule interactions with contacts. You won't find these features on the other platforms we reviewed.
A sale isn’t the end of a brand-to-consumer relationship. It’s the beginning. And it’s probably the customer acquisition channel that you’re ignoring. Delight is what helps marketers navigate the art of upselling. Marketing automation, social media, and emotion-driven calls to action are crucial to this stage of marketing. This idea holds true for consumer and B2B marketers alike.
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.
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.
It's the smarts of an analytics app, tied to a rich customer database that'll help you personalize your marketing while at the same time automating tediousness activities away. They're best aimed at web- and app-centric companies, and when they're tied in with all of the other apps your team uses, they're a powerful tool to help market your products. They're not for every business, but if you need a better way to identify potential customers and automate the sales process, they might be for you.
These are just some of the amazing features you'll find when using marketing automation software. As a result, it's important for you to determine your most needed features before making a purchase decision. None of the tools we tested are bad. In fact, each of them will provide you with more power than your standard email marketing platform will. However, some are better than others, some are more expensive, and some do a better job letting you customize your workflows to suit your specific needs.
If you run a small business, you probably wear a lot of different hats. Often there's little time to think about drawing traffic to your site, growing your following, or selling your stuff—even if it is vital to your success. Marketing automation is software that handles these tasks for you. Instead of creating a one-off campaign every time you need to talk to your customers—via emails or your social media channels—you can set up automations, and never have to worry about customers slipping through the cracks. Learn the basics of marketing automation. Learn the basics of marketing automation. 																		

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.
These are just some of the amazing features you'll find when using marketing automation software. As a result, it's important for you to determine your most needed features before making a purchase decision. None of the tools we tested are bad. In fact, each of them will provide you with more power than your standard email marketing platform will. However, some are better than others, some are more expensive, and some do a better job letting you customize your workflows to suit your specific needs.
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.
Marketo, an Adobe company, offers the leading Engagement Platform that empowers marketers to build brand value, grow revenue, and prove impact. Consistently recognized as the industry’s innovation pioneer, Marketo is the trusted platform for thousands of CMOs thanks to its scalability, reliability, and openness. To learn more about the Marketo Engagement Platform, LaunchPoint® partner ecosystem, and the vast community that is the Marketing Nation®, visit www.marketo.com.
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