The huge advantage of email over social media is that prospects and customers are more likely to see an email than social media. Just posting something doesn't mean that everyone you want to see your message will see it. Your post might not even show up in your targets' social media streams. However, an email will sit in the inbox until it's read (or deleted). 
Before doing a comparative analysis of the advantages and disadvantages and the pros and cons, or the pricing comparisons, it’s important to know what to look out for. It is common to come across complaints about automation tools being incompatible with CRM and performance issues reported one month down the line. That can be painful. Companies that do not carry out a detailed research and miss out the fine print can end up burning their fingers by the sliding scale pricing structures and unexpected additional costs.
Thanks Marcus for the comparisons, but I am somewhat confused by this post. It says 2018 in title, but yet comments are from 2014-17. I’m assuming it was originally written earlier and you’ve updated. I’d be curious what edits were made; how your opinions may have changed; who are the new top contenders for 2018. With all the growth in the marketing automation space in past 3 years, it couldn’t be simply updating the title. Also curious if a company is already tied to Salesforce for CRM does that necessarily lift Marketing Cloud as the premier choice?
I recently had my MailChimp account suspended. One of my sites is in the ‘make money online’ space. It’s a completely legitimate website, but apparently if your emails contain keywords they don’t like, they will suspend you. I would not recommend using them. Contacting support I just get form responses that are completely unhelpful. There’s no phone support- just account termination. Really bad experience. Luckily, this is a very new site- but imagine if you have thousands of emails and they just shut you down without ANY recourse.

Pica9 is a local marketing automation platform offering brand resource management, web-to-print, email, social, landing pages, and more with its comprehensive CampaignDrive™ platform. Pica9 empowers local marketers to streamline marketing efficiency and enhance results from a single, intuitive interface to manage a multitude of marketing functions.
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.
I have to say I’m so insanely jaded by autoresponders since I’ve been in the web marketing business that I snub the thought of using them personally…but isn’t that the temptation we can so easily fall into…especially since we forget that most people are UNDER exposed to them and see them for the fresh content, authority-inducing mechanism they are.
ActiveCampaign offers email marketing service with third-party integration and auto-responses of various types.  ActiveCampaign can create and send out emails for different activities and purposes. The software is also designed to track website activities and events and provide real time analytics based on the results. ActiveCampaign is also useful for garnering customer data in an organized manner.

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
The goal of the platform is to spark new relationships and rekindle old ones — Autopilot has found that two times as many leads are generated by businesses that maintain contact every two to four weeks. By capturing data from a small business’s website or app, the platform can integrate with other systems to fuel personalization and segment customers. It then monitors the performance of each journey and delivers insights into how messages are converting so entrepreneurs can adjust instantly.
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.
A hot prospect just signed up for your newsletter? Great! Now create a new lead for them in your CRM. Let the software guide them into the appropriate drip or nurture campaign, send a welcome message, and track engagement. While you’re at it, let the software also gather behavioral data and alert your sales team when the prospect is active on your channels. Marketing automation platforms that integrate with CRM do the grunt work for you.

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).

BuzzFeed – The popular news and entertainment website earns revenue by selling advertisements on their site, so the key objective of their marketing team is to drive more traffic. With that in mind, BuzzFeed sends regular email newsletters containing links to stories on their website with the goal of increasing the number of visits they get each month and increasing the amount of revenue they generate.


Klaviyo is a modern marketing platform that lets ecommerce brands build an unlimited number of high-value customer relationships. Unlike other software, Klaviyo does not force you to trade off between ease of use and powerful functionality—and that means merchants can take advantage of the most impactful email and Facebook strategies without slowing down. That’s why over 10,000 innovative ecommerce brands like Brooklinen, Bonobos, and Outdoor Voices power their marketing with Klaviyo.
Where they should improve: Unfortunately, this ease of use doesn’t apply to the autoresponder editor. You can’t view autoresponders in a workflow, and they’re not very flexible (you can’t send autoresponders to send after an hour, for example, and you can’t set sending time ranges). Historically, Benchmark haven’t performed so great in our deliverability tests, either.
Netcore Smartech is a leading cloud-hosted campaign management and marketing automation program focusing on business growth. It aims to help users deliver unparalleled customer experiences through its customer journey mapping, cross-channel automation, funnel analytics, and messaging tools. The Netcore Smartech platform is offered through a quote-based payment system. For estimates, contact the vendor.
I have had to use autoresponders but I remark that I have not been adding a lot of messages to the sequences. I guess it is something that could help the subscriber have more trust in you and not forget about you. on the other hand i have been receiving mails from a marketer who does not send a lot of messages and I think that it could make the messages sent to me valuable.
Rob, you don’t say who ‘booted’ you from using it. A significant GDPR factor is non-profits having to consent/re-consent those on established email lists and experiencing significant proportions of lists being lost because people miss the notifications or are too busy to fill in yet more forms. However, I have found a few using a ‘one-touch’ re-subscription button that takes immediate effect, without the recipient having to do anything else. It would appear that the re-subscription rate is higher, the easier it is to activate. On enquiry, I was told that they were using mail chimp for this.
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.
With that said, we still use SendinBlue to this day and consider it to be a good, stable, and relatively simple marketing automation tool. Being a French company, SendinBlue was one of the first marketing automation companies to declare GDPR compliance, and their history in transactional email has meant that they’ve been able to offer many marketing automation features that are difficult to find elsewhere, such as SMS messaging and real-time deliverability reporting.

Perhaps it should go without saying, but usability is also a very important factor in choosing a marketing automation platform. It should be intuitive enough that it does not require days or weeks to get the hang of, and require little or no advanced knowledge. Furthermore it is important to check user interface on every screen size, to make sure that it is easy to use across all mobile devices and platforms.


As far as I’m concerned, Hubspot doesn’t offer enough to justify its enterprise price tag. While Pardot isn’t much cheaper at this level, it does have the added benefit of integrating directly into Salesforce and Marketing Cloud – while I’ve never been a fan of these tools myself, they do tend to be popular in larger businesses, giving Pardot an edge here.
Been a while so I thought you might want to update this popular list. These tools you mention are great and Ive used many of them and will now try the rest. 🙂 When its time to update this list and article Id suggest you consider these newer tools: Email Personalisation = Altaire.com/Tech – Email Data = Competitor.Email & Edatasource.com – GDPR RePermission = Decco-Engine.com – Rich Email Content = Polymerse.com. Thanks again for a great list!

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.


When designed well, marketing automation solutions make your job easier. They perform the difficult, tiresome work that is a natural part of running a marketing campaign while drawing from various data sources. The software compiles information, such as the number of opened emails, abandoned e-commerce carts, and data from web forms, to help inform your marketing decisions. When you maximize the features that these solutions offer, they can truly improve your company's bottom line.
When people talk about email marketing, lots of them forget to mention transactional emails. These are the automated emails you get in your inbox after taking a certain action on a website. This could be anything from filling out a form, to purchasing a product, to updating you on the progress of your order. Often, these are plain text emails that marketers set and forget.
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