What is email marketing? Basically the use of email to promote products and/or services. But a better email marketing definition is the use of email to develop relationships with potential customers and/or clients. Email marketing is one segment of internet marketing, which encompasses online marketing via websites, social media, blogs, etc. It is essentially the same as direct mail except that instead of sending mail through the postal service, messages are sent electronically via email.
Furthermore, personalization features can improve the customer experience. And last but not least, professional marketing automation software and processes, involve offline and/or online interactions with customers whereby triggers and scenarios are included to direct prospects and customers to personal contact moments (e.g. being called by a customer service rep). Just like any other digital business and digital marketing process or software, the success of marketing automation implementations is not (just) a matter of technology or automation.
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.

Thinking and acting in a customer-centric way and not falling in the trap of automating for the sake of it. Marketing automation is not a holy grail. The business goals and the customer are what it’s all about. Without a customer-centric culture, supported by management, marketing automation often results in sheer auomation with little added value.
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 primary purpose of a transactional email is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it. But, due to their high open rates (51.3% compared to 36.6% for email newsletters), transactional emails are an opportunity to introduce or extend the email relationship with customers or subscribers; to anticipate and answer questions; or to cross-sell or up-sell products or services.[4]
Infusionsoft is the only drag-and-drop tool we tested, which is a nifty feature for marketers who may wish to work on touchscreens or don't have time to deal with lengthy drop-down menus. It also provides unique tag removal that automatically pulls contacts from campaigns if they perform a certain action. For example, if contacts don't open three emails in a row, then you can set the tool to remove all such contacts from the workflow. This way, you're not sending messages into a vacuum. The tool also gives you the most useful real-time alert dashboard of any that we tested in this class. It lets you see every contact interaction with anyone in your database. So, if you sent an email to someone a week ago but they just opened it this second, then you'll see their name pop up at the top of your dashboard. From this tab, you can send a follow-up email or adjust the contact's standing within the specific workflow.

Proactive Lead Generation. When it comes to digital marketing, you must not only create eye-catching ads and other promotional materials; you must also create quality content to highlight your business’ presence on the internet. With TechValidate, you can collect data directly from your clients, collage the information, and publish the content on your site or on social media, boosting the chances of lead generation.
SharpSpring is a comprehensive marketing automation platform with robust features, functionality and performance. SharpSpring is one of the most flexible platforms on the market, offering powerful, behavior-based email marketing, native or 3rd party CRM integration, dynamic forms, landing page and blog builders, social media management, universal CMS compatibility, and integration with hundreds of applications. SharpSpring is usually less than 1/3 the cost of the competition, is the easiest company to work with and the easiest platform to use. Marketing agencies should inquire about SharpSpring's special partner program.
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.
This article is informative, but it does not offer distinguishing features between the services covered (other than mailchimp is free). You seemed to go to great lengths to say good things about each – although I’m sure each services has positive aspects. I would have benefited much more from a rating of some sort of the various features of each service, or at least the pros & cons of each.
There are plenty of benefits to be had when you utilize marketing programs; you can improve message targeting, get better leads, and increase conversion. A study by HigherLogic found that most businesses use marketing automation mainly to leverage the technology with their primary business goals. These basic goals include enhancing their overall business efficiency, advance event turnouts, and increase membership. 
Email marketing is a simple and proven strategy to promote your business. It attracts new customers and helps maintain close relationships with loyal customers. There's a long list of email marketing services available today and most operate at relatively low prices, with packages to fit every business size and need. It's just a matter of determining which features and tools you need and how much you're willing to spend.

Promote up-sells/cross-sells. You can even set up an autoresponder sequence for someone after they purchase and get repeat customers. Depending on the products you sell, you could offer an upsell, or cross-sell related products. For example, if someone buys a digital camera, you can offer to add a lens, a tripod, and other accessories to their order before it ships. Or, if you sell products that people buy frequently (like food or disposable items, like diapers), you can automatically send them offers for new items when you know they’re about due for another order.
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