We were really impressed by the ExactTarget demo at Dreamforce (the company was recently acquired by salesforce.com). One thing that stood out to us about ExactTarget is the system’s ability to target communications over multiple channels. Most marketing automation tools focus on email, but ExactTarget goes beyond that and lets you target mobile app notifications, or even messages to the dashboard of a customer’s car (if, for example, you were a car manufacturer).

Ask a stimulating question. Ask your subscribers a question and invite them to reply to your email to answer. You could ask what they’re struggling with (related to your topic), how they found your site, or what challenges they’re facing right now. This information is also marketing gold for you — it gives you ideas for more autoresponders, blog posts, podcast episodes, and other content.


Ideally, email marketing should go hand-in-hand with social media. Adding social media "Like" or "Share" buttons to your marketing emails gives an additional way for customers to connect with your brand. Snippets of positive reviews from social media fans can be included in emails, and conversely, social media postings can be used to encourage fans to subscribe to your email newsletters.
The key to separating the best technology solutions from the lesser choices lies in properly understanding the modern customer, and what it demands. Eighty-eight percent of top marketers say a customer journey strategy is critical to the success of their overall marketing . So what do customers want? There is no one answer to that question, but perhaps more than anything else the modern customer is looking for a simplified and cohesive shopping experience. This is the type of “customer journey” that top marketers should be looking to provide.
As a growing business, you may also be looking for a CRM solution, and you'll find that the more advanced email marketing services have begun to crossover into CRM. It makes sense: Both types of software deal with managing and communicating with customers. A handful of these services are one-stop shops, either offering both email marketing and CRM out of the box or as add-on services.

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.

Iterable is the growth marketing platform that enables brands to create, execute and optimize campaigns to power world-class customer engagement across email, push, SMS, in-app and more with unparalleled data flexibility. An integrated, cross-channel solution—built for marketers, trusted by engineers, designed with intelligence. Lifecycle Marketing Made Simple Engage your customers at each touchpoint of their buying journey—from sign-up to check-out and beyond. Drive user activation, nurture, and reactivation with relevant cross-channel messaging. Warmer Welcomes Activate consumer attention and interest with stand-out content that makes an impactful first impression. Get new customers acquainted with your products and services with personalized welcome, trial and onboarding campaigns. Next-Gen Nurture Captivate customers to build rapport for the long term and strengthen their relationship with your brand. Stay top-of-mind with targeted sales, promotions, announcements and product updates across all the channels that matter most to your audience. Robust Re-Engagement Keep customers coming back for more by reactivating their interest to drive retention and loyalty. Deploy cart abandonment campaigns to complete more checkouts, then trigger post-purchase or renewal sequences when the time is right.


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.)
With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to create powerful automated marketing and sales processes. These intelligent processes “listen” and “learn” about the needs and interests of individual contacts. Then you can send more relevant, personalized messages at the moment they’ll have the most impact. You’ll have more customers, happier customers, and more loyal customers. MARKETING AUTOMATION: Our automation workflow builder is praised by G2Crowd users as the perfect balance of power and ease-of-use. With our drag-and-drop builder, you can easily create sophisticated follow up sequences that treat your contacts differently on the basis of who they are and what they’re interested in. This “intelligence-driven” follow up has proven to be more effective, and will keep your customer engagement high because you’re sending the most relevant, personalized messaging possible. SALES AUTOMATION: With an intuitive sales automation CRM tightly integrated with your marketing automation, you’ll be able to seamlessly transition leads back and forth between your marketing and sales processes without losing any data or missing a beat. Having your sales CRM and marketing automation under the same roof means that your sales process can benefit from the same automation features marketers use to send perfectly-timed messages. EMAIL MARKETING: We’ve been perfecting our email marketing solution since 2003. Today it is one of the most mature and fully-developed email marketing services on the market. Our professionally designed templates are fully mobile responsive and we offer time-saving tools like content blocks you can save and reuse across campaigns, message variables that allow you to update content once across all your campaigns, and conditional content, which allows you to change the content of an email based on who a contact is and what they’ve done. CROSS-CHANNEL MESSAGING FOR THE ENTIRE CUSTOMER LIFECYCLE: With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to deliver the perfect message at the perfect time because you’ll collect more insight about the customer at each stage of the buying process. With Attribution, you’ll know the source of a visitor and what marketing and advertising they’ve interacted with. With Goals, you’ll be able to define important events and then pivot in response to conversions. With Site Messaging, SMS, and email marketing, you’ll be able to reach your contacts exactly where they are — whether they’re out and about on their mobile, browsing your website, or going through their inbox. We offer a free, no-credit-card-needed, 14-day trial so you can experience ActiveCampaign first hand.
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.
would it be possible to add a feature where you can connect the auto-responder to a filter? E.g. if the filter detects a msg from my mother in law, it will always respond i am on vacation or otherwise unreachable. but if msg comes it from my collegues, i could respond with a different msg (like if you really really need to reach me call this number)
Just one subscriber and something to say, that’s it! Don’t wait to have a “large list”. Email Marketing has no limits in size, BIG or small. When it comes to using a tool like Benchmark, the last thing you want is to have to learn something new. That’s why Benchmark Email was created with familiar tools in mind. Here is how and what you will need to get started
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.

A while back, we were looking for a marketing automation tool ourselves. We researched, we talked to analysts, and we had deep dives with company reps. Since then, we’ve become very involved in the industry thanks to the complementary nature of analytics and marketing automation. We’ve even formed partnerships with several companies. Now finally, we present our top picks for marketing automation tools (in no particular order).
Marketing is a different world from the one that existed a few decades ago — more than that, it is different from the way it was even a few years ago. Modern technology has changed so much about the way that people go about everyday tasks that it now permeates everything that they do. As a result, when trying to reach people through sales and marketing, it should come as no surprise that technology is an integral tool to use.
The multichannel view offered by ActiveCampaign gets glimpses of a small business’s website while looking at users’ email and mobile devices. Its campaign builder helps entrepreneurs design marketing collateral, and the platform consolidates customer data so these insights can impact the email, SMS, and CRM options ActiveCampaign offers. This data also allows business owners to create segments.

In 2002 the European Union (EU) introduced the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications. Article 13 of the Directive prohibits the use of personal email addresses for marketing purposes. The Directive establishes the opt-in regime, where unsolicited emails may be sent only with prior agreement of the recipient; this does not apply to business email addresses.


LeadSquared looks interesting – although I can’t quite figure out what differentiates it from other small business marketing automation software. Out of interest, what separates B2C vs. B2B marketing automation from a software vendor’s point of view? I.e. what’s different about the software that gears it towards B2C companies opposed to if you were targeting B2B clients?

SendInBlue 9,000 emails per month (daily limit of 300) for an unlimited number of subscribers. You can have a maximum of 2,000 subscribers in your automated campaigns at any time. A good range of advanced autoresponders is offered on the free plan, including welcome, anniversary, page visits and ecommerce (such as product purchase or abandoned cart). You also get an allowance for free transactional emails. SMS can also be added for an extra cost. (Full review)
The best email marketing automation tools depend on your budget and email campaign goals. Here are some to consider. MailChimp offers a free plan for up to 2000 subscribers, so it’s a popular email marketing service to start with. Alternatives to MailChimp include Constant Contact and Aweber. If you need to include more features, try an email marketing software such as Hubspot or Infusionsoft, which many larger and small businesses use. Whichever you choose, you can easily hire an email campaign marketer to help you set up your personalized email address and create an email newsletter template.
366 Degrees is a marketing automation platform that allows small to medium businesses to communicate with leads across several channels and track their interaction with your content. With integration into the CRM platform of your choosing, you can keep your lead database up to date across your marketing and sales teams. 366 features smart content creation with pre-made HTML snippets that make creating emails and landing pages easy, no coding background needed! Then, track your leads' interactions with your content and automatically follow up with behaviorally cued automatic drip campaigns. 366 features integrations to Salesforce, Datanyze, Nimble, and now Vidyard for video marketing made easy. Drop video into emails, landing pages, or social posts and watch leads pour in.
Thanks Donna – I agree. There’s so much scope for integration with marketing automation software that it would literally take a team of thousands to build all of the plugins and functionality in a short time frame. Ontraport / Infusionsoft are very similar to Salesforce in a way, by using the developer community to build the functionality around their product (which adds value to both Ontraport and their products & services).
ConvertKit has been incredibly useful to me. I can use it to create complex automations and branching message sequences to deliver the exact right message to the right people. And I can do that without spending an entire weekend trying to figure out how it works. Trust me, if I can figure it out, literally anyone can. ConvertKit is a terrific tool, even if your list is still small. And it will grow as you do. — Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer, Copyblogger

InfusionSoft is the tool of choice for serious marketers. If you run a six figure online business or have a list larger 50,000 subscribers, this may be the tool for you. InfusionSoft combines your shopping cart with email marketing, so you can do complex things like segregate your buyers from your subscribers or mail specific sequences to specific people. You can also send physical postcards from InfusionSoft. InfusionSoft isn’t cheap. The monthly subscription is in the hundreds, and there’s a four figure setup fee. It’s geared towards companies that are already successful and need powerful solutions, rather than startups.
Automation also provides opportunities for personalization. Each interaction with an email or your website can trigger a follow-up based on those activities. What’s more personalized than a user experience specifically tailored to an individual’s interests? It will make your subscribers feel like you’re completely attuned to their needs and that you care about what’s important to them.

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.

AdRoll is a high-performance digital marketing software focusing on retargeting. Founded in 2007, it is packed with features for segmentation, cross-device reach, predictive buying, and social targeting. These tools are what allows the software to collect, analyze, and act on customer data with just a few clicks of a button. AdRoll offers four monthly pricing plans for new businesses, emerging businesses, evolving businesses, and expanding businesses ranging from $300 to $10,000.
If you have written a custom script using our contact_add() or contact_edit() API functions, and you find that your new contacts are not receiving instant auto responders, a common problem is that the API function’s variables are not set correctly. Double-check your script, and make sure that the “instantresponders” variable is set to 1 (NOTE: This would not work with Free plans). Also, make sure that the “noresponders” variable is not set, or is set to 0.
The latest version of IBM Campaign brings many innovations to the sophisticated marketing team enabling you to work smarter and faster, and to keep your customers more engaged and loyal than ever. Marketers use IBM Campaign to maximize revenue and responses via personalized and optimized campaigns and offers. Increase results with powerful segmentation against the largest data sources and provide the right offers to the right contacts at the right time in the right channel. Boost ROI by optimizing contact communications and marketing spend. Choose to deploy fully to the cloud or on premise. Improve engagement and ROI: Easily integrate with the rest of your marketing ecosystem to seamlessly execute personalized, offline and digital campaigns to take your customers on targeted journeys. Work smarter and faster: With AI-powered Watson Assistant available with IBM Campaign, work smarter and drive to insights more quickly than ever. Save time, make better decisions and drive customer engagement. Optimize ownership for your enterprise: Choose the deployment and ownership approach that works best for your organization. Deploy on premise or via subscription and fully to the cloud — managed and hosted.
How should you balance useful content with solicitations for sales or offers? One of the greatest risks of an auto-responder program is having users become frustrated with hard-sales attempts and subsequently marking your email as spam, opting-out, or simply not opening future emails. All of the aforementioned activities can lower your quality score with email service providers and make it harder for your email sends to get into the inbox. Therefore, it's very important that your auto-responders actually contain useful information. While it's acceptable to include a sales offer along with useful information in each email, it is not advisable for you to make a sales-only email any more frequently than every fifth email in the series in order to protect your email sender reputation.
Userfox works primarily with tech companies, so if you’re in the industry, you’ll be in good company. Like Customer.io, userfox has a lightweight interface and is designed to trigger emails based on events (rather than just pageviews), so if that’s important to you, userfox is a great choice. You might also consider userfox if you’re already using AdRoll, as the acquisition likely means a tight integration between the two products in the future.
Take the email below from Paperless Post, for example. I love the header of this email: It provides a clear CTA that includes a sense of urgency. Then, the subheader asks a question that forces recipients to think to themselves, "Wait, when is Mother's Day again? Did I buy Mom a card?" Below this copy, the simple grid design is both easy to scan and quite visually appealing. Each card picture is a CTA in and of itself -- click on any one of them, and you'll be taken to a purchase page.
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