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.
In most companies, marketing people don’t man the phones, they don’t qualify leads and they don’t really participate in the sales cycle.  Consequently, they aren’t measured on revenue the way the sales team is: their metrics are focused on the number and quality of respondents, including the total value of the pipeline (the “open” deals, not the closed ones).

First, let’s be clear about the distinction between sales and marketing roles: you wouldn’t believe how many companies scramble the definitions.  As a card-carrying marketing guy (yes, I made it to Sr. VP at publicly-traded companies), I maintain that the outbound part of marketing (the real users of marketing automation) needs to focus on getting the right message out to the right prospects.  People who respond with the right level of interest are handed off to sales for qualification, and people who don’t are kept in the system for cultivation and “re-marketing.” Outbound marketing is also involved in the care and feeding of existing customers, to cultivate loyalty and repeat business.

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).


It opens the door for irrelevant, spammy, automated messages. Understanding that a large database of leads is required for marketing automation to have any effect on their bottom line, many marketers end up buying lists of contacts to nurture with marketing automation. The consequences of list-buying are numerous, but most importantly this spammy tactic produces incredibly low ROI. Along with the cost of buying these lists, sending unsolicited emails to people who have never requested any information from you leads to low engagement and hurts your IP address reputation, lowering your email deliverability rates.
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.
Bpm’online has been named a Challenger in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation, 2018, 2017, 2016 and the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management, 2017, 2016; recognized in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, included into the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Intelligent Business Process Management Suites, 2017 and Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service, 2018.
The effective marketing automation system is actually a content management system in disguise, so it must explicitly manage its content assets through a lifecycle. As those assets are typically stored on the company’s website, the marketing automation system needs to be able to rapidly generate attractive registration and download pages. Since prospects’ behavior can’t be predicted in advance, marketing automation systems need to have workflow management features to facilitate “A/B split testing” that provides data to guide the refinement of web pages and campaign sequences for optimal results.
Marketo is a marketing automation platform that includes account-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, and marketing analytics, allowing business owners to drive engagement through multiple channels from one platform. Its goal is to help small businesses build long-lasting relationships with customers and create end-to-end engagement. Its cloud-based infrastructure can handle hundreds of millions of activities each day, meaning it can scale with its customers.
VBOUT is a powerful, affordable and simple to use, all-in-one marketing automation solution. The platform has an easy drag-and-drop landing pages and forms, visual customer journey builder, social media management and email marketing tools. In-depth native analytics and user tracking are provided, giving marketers full view of their contact's engagement and campaign performance. VBOUT provides agencies and partners with powerful tools to whitelabel the solution, build their own plans with their own marke-up, manage their accounts and shared assets from one account.

It's far less of a CRM and a marketing automation app than most of the apps on here, but it fills an important niche for businesses with more calls than clicks. You can take your sales calls in the web app, track info about each of the callers, and CallTrackingMetrics will let you know which page or ad the user saw when they called. There's even SMS automation so you can send text messages to potential customers, following up even when there's not an app for them to keep using.
The HubSpot dashboard enables teams to immediately sort the contracts won (or not) and maintain a clear view of their performance toward their goals. HubSpot’s CRM automatically tracks customer touchpoints across different channels and keeps a timeline of all calls, emails, and meetings involving specific customers. The platform also helps create personalized paths to purchase and compile data showcasing how every marketing campaign contributed to sales.
Aritic PinPoint, a fully integrated permission-based marketing automation platform, is more popular for its advanced automation and customer engagement features. It enables businesses to nurture anonymous and identified visitors based on their browsing activities. Following this, features like ad targeting and behavior tracking help to fill in the sales-marketing pipeline. Dynamic segmentation, multichannel marketing, advanced filters and tags, progressive profiling, SEO and analytics, and a huge list of integrations have helped Aritic PinPoint make a strong digital foothold despite strong competition.

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.
Because of the constant influx of marketing emails to their inboxes, buyers have begun to block out many  of these communications, whether through inbox filters or a subconscious disregard for irrelevant messages. Instead, these buyers are doing Google searches, and asking their friends for recommendations. They’re tapping the social media community for advice and browsing your website to see if your business offers a solution fit for their challenges. If you’re only communicating with these leads through email, you’re not only missing out on an opportunity to reach your leads via multiple channels during various parts of the decision process, you’re also ignoring a slew of behavioral data points they’re giving you about their needs and interests.

But marketing automation apps with CRMs go much further. They tie directly into your site or app, adding all of your users into the CRM as soon as they sign up. They'll then monitor your site stats, showing how people discover you, which parts of your site they've seen, and then point out the people you focus on in your marketing efforts. They'll even automatically email your users to make sure they don't forget about your product.


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/

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.  
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).
Customer Retention: Post conversion of leads, this software enables you to maintain 360-degree customer profiles with detailed demographic, firmographic and behavioral data for each customer. You can micro-segment your customer database to drive cross-sell and upsell campaigns which can help you boost customer retention, brand advocacy and ultimately, average revenue per customer.
Email marketing is a great first step toward developing solid communications with your customers and prospects. But once you have moved past one-off messages and have decided to create prolonged, personalized messages powered by customer data, it's time to try marketing automation. No tools better exemplify the simplicity, effectiveness, and scalability of marketing automation software than two of our three Editors' Choice tools: HubSpot and Pardot.
Lead Nurturing: Post generation of leads, this tool allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your leads’ behavior and preferences. They enable you to quantify lead conversion probability through lead scoring and automate lead nurturing through regular, customized, multi-channel communication with the lead. They also enable the passing of sales-ready ‘hot’ leads for follow up and conversion to the on-field sales teams.

Incentives can help you zight these external forces. Let’s go back to that example where you were shopping online but left your credit card in the kitchen. If you had a one-night-only 30% off coupon, would you have been more inclined to get up and walk to the other side of the house? If your shopping cart purchase was $20? Probably not. But if you were planning to spend $100 or more, the answer is likely to be a clear ‘you bet.’
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.
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.
Instead of focusing on contacts the focus shifts to accounts in enterprise marketing automation systems, from where Account-Based Marketing (ABM) comes. “Enterprise marketing automation is a solution that supports the entire customer lifecycle with tools for inbound and outbound strategies, and makes it easy to get data in and out of the platform,” Hendrix said. “With robust APIs to get data in, this allows for more robust workflows and strategies, and the ability to get data out is essential when it comes to integrating with business intelligence tools for fully customized reporting. Enterprise platforms are ones that have been proven to be scalable, as they support customers with databases of over 1 million records.”
Though it's not the easiest marketing initiative to execute on, marketing automation is certainly not impossible. Imagine you're trying to grow a plant. First you need fertile soil ripe for the growth of your plant. Next you need seeds themselves to care for, and last you need water and light in order to nurture those seeds into a lush, blooming plant.  It's not foolproof, but it's not impossible. In our story, effective marketing automation looks just like nurturing this plant does. At the end of the day, we hope we've nurtured our leads (the seedlings) well enough to produce actual paying customers (a lush, full-grown plant.)
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