Get to know your prospects and what they’re looking for. Learn who they are, what role they play (for B2B marketers), what their pain points are, and how you can help. A common technique is to set up a lead capture page (that is, a landing page). Lead capture pages often ask visitors for something in exchange for a reward. For example, a user may be asked to enter her email address, zip code, and job title in exchange for a downloadable e-book or white paper, an entry to a sweepstakes raffle, or a promotional coupon or discount code.

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. 
MailChimp allows you to send automated emails based on customer behavior and preferences. Although, MailChimp offers a free trial, but their autoresponder feature is only available in paid accounts. It allows you to create an autoresponder email easily, and you can set the event to trigger this autoresponder, also select the day and accurate time to send it to your subscribers.
Marketing automation software is typically priced one of two ways: by the number of contacts in your database or by the number of emails you send each month. For example, the the Growth Pardot plan costs $1,250 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM). This plan can be upgraded to two higher tiers, each of which offers additional features, plug-ins, and add-ons. However, all three Pardot plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.

HubSpot is a leading growth platform. Since 2006, HubSpot has been on a mission to make the world more inbound. Today, over 52,000 total customers in more than 100 countries use HubSpot’s award-winning software, services, and support to transform the way they attract, engage, and delight customers. Comprised of Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Service Hub, and a powerful free CRM, HubSpot gives companies the tools they need to Grow Better. HubSpot Marketing Hub has everything you need to run successful inbound marketing campaigns that make people interested in your business and happy to be your customer.
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.

The first autoresponders were created within mail transfer agents that found they could not deliver an e-mail to a given address. These create bounce messages such as "your e-mail could not be delivered because..." type responses. Today's autoresponders need to be careful to not generate e-mail backscatter, which can result in the autoresponses being considered E-mail spam.
Email Marketing Automation isn’t just for big companies. Constant Contact’s powerful, yet simple tools can help your organization develop more efficient and strategic email marketing, so you can save time while growing your business. Send a single welcome email, or an automated email series that nurtures leads. Build your list with ease, then send targeted messages to specific contacts. And get more value out of each email with action blocks that encourage subscribers to buy or donate. After all, the best results come from sending the right message to the right people at the right time—automatically.
We envision a future where online retailers truly understand their customers, resulting in the growth of their businesses’ profitably. Exponea Experience Cloud is our way of bringing this vision to life. Exponea’s very essence is an intelligent union of customer data management and analytics, while cracking the true Single Customer View. Through this, we have enabled marketers to understand their customers and immediately turn such insights into actionable campaigns, all within a single integrated solution. Built on top of cutting edge technology, Exponea empowers marketers to deliver truly personalized, in the moment experiences to their customers at scale through deeply embedded AI-powered capabilities, removing obstacles and leveraging intent to purchase both on your online store or outside of it. True to our vision, we work closely with our clients and mentor them all along the short path to success. We enable the fast transfer of know-how which often results in a change of mindset and is a catalyst for a rapid, profitable growth of emerging e-commerce leaders around the world.

As you can see from the example above, emails following the model contain a succinct headline that highlights the key message of the campaign, as well as supporting information and visuals to help convince readers about the benefits of clicking-through. The reader is then presented with a prominent call to action button that makes it crystal clear what to do next.
Most marketing automation software is sold as a platform — an integrated suite of tools with a feature set. The automation tools, and the specific capabilities of each tool, of course vary from platform to platform. That said, you can expect most marketing automation platforms to have tools and features to assist or automate the management of the following:
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.
Historically, it has been difficult to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns because target markets cannot be adequately defined. Email marketing carries the benefit of allowing marketers to identify returns on investment and measure and improve efficiency.[citation needed] Email marketing allows marketers to see feedback from users in real time, and to monitor how effective their campaign is in achieving market penetration, revealing a communication channel's scope. At the same time, however, it also means that the more personal nature of certain advertising methods, such as television advertisements, cannot be captured.
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.
iContact Pro provides marketing automation software and services for marketing teams to drive quantifiable results. The iContact Pro platform integrates email marketing, landing pages, social media management and robust analytics in a simple but comprehensive cloud-based solution that helps customers outsmart the competition and grow their business. ***ICONTACT PRO INCLUDES***: BUSINESS-CLASS EMAIL: Creating effective email campaigns is easy with 650+ professional templates and top class deliverability. SEGMENTATION AND TARGETING: Target your leads based on who they are and how they interact with you. LANDING PAGES: Create great looking, mobile responsive landing pages in minutes. Drive, track, and measure action on email, social, and your website. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION: Nurture customers with the right content, at the right time, by creating custom experiences using the most intuitive workflows in the industry. LEAD SCORING: Customize scoring criteria and the software automatically qualifies your leads so you can engage with confidence and increase your marketing efficiency. CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT: Create, track, and measure your integrated marketing campaigns, from Tweets to email with powerful and easy-to-understand analytics. SALESFORCE INTEGRATION: Sync contacts and leads directly between your Salesforce.com and iContact Pro accounts, so you can quickly and effectively close your newly qualified and ready leads. SOCIAL CRM: Track and record every engagement with your prospects across email, social media, landing pages, news releases, and website visits. ***ICONTACT PRO BENEFITS*** DO MORE Nowadays, a marketer’s life is full of long hours, distractions, and beeping devices — it’s time for you to work smarter, not harder. iContact Pro was created to help companies engineer more calculated ways to send personalized communications to customers. No advanced degrees required. LIBERATE YOUR IDEAS Automation is not rocket science. But with most big enterprise solutions, getting started with marketing automation might feel a lot like planning a complicated rocket launch. iContact Pro was built to work fast for any size team, so when you say “yes” to marketing automation, you say “no” to complicated implementation. Simply login, pick an activity, and take off! TARGET YOUR MESSAGE Email marketing is at the heart of any results-driven strategy. iContact Pro is your virtual segmenting machine, helping you create individual CRM profiles to provide subscribers with the most relatable experiences for them — no matter how they engage with you. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS Bringing in more leads doesn’t always mean more revenue; prospects demand a higher quality experience from you. iContact Pro helps you nurture relationships throughout the entire customer lifecycle in a way that feels personal, but is in fact highly automated. Reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right message. ENGAGE YOUR NETWORK Get more mileage from existing content. Turn social fans into subscribers by including links to your own landing pages and invite people to download valuable content in exchange for their email address. Flexible, built-in tools allow you to schedule a calendar of social activity in advance or join in on trending conversations as they happen. CAPTURE MORE LEADS Everything you need is now easier to do. From designing professional landing pages and email templates, to setting up intuitive workflow triggers based on customer actions, our interactive tools make it easy to cross marketing tasks off your to-do list. MAKE DATA ACTIONABLE Great results come from consistently testing and drilling down into your performance data to make campaign tweaks on-the-fly. Engagement reports let you count up and compare the success of your social posts, landing pages, and emails. Ask us how you can integrate data from other tools with your dashboard for convenient, one-screen viewing. KEEP MOVING FORWARD We’re not doing our job if questions block your way to making things happen on your terms. We work hard to take the guesswork out of success. You can count on our experts and software to flatten learning curves along the way so you can just get up and get going.
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?
Companies considering the use of an email marketing program must make sure that their program does not violate spam laws such as the United States' Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM),[10] the European Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, or their Internet service provider's acceptable use policy.
Hopefully with our list of top 20 marketing automation software solutions for small business and comprehensive marketing automation software 2019 comparison, you were able to find the right platform to help you with your campaigns. If you are still undecided about investing in a program, be sure to check out our guidelines on choosing a marketing platform.
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.
We founded Blueshift to address problems we encountered first-hand as marketing & machine learning leaders. Our team previously founded Groupon Goods (Mertado), and were early team at WalmartLabs (Kosmix). As marketers ourselves, we noticed that it’s becoming increasingly harder communicate with customers on a 1:1 basis in the era of the perpetually connected customer. Using patented technology, Blueshift’s AI enables consumer marketers at leading consumer brands to launch 1:1 engagement on every channel. ● Visual campaigns & Journeys: Build multi-touch campaigns with a simple visual interface; include advanced testing, content recommendations & filters with just a few clicks. ● Behavioral Segmentation at scale: Segments that update dynamically based on a real-time stream of customer interactions ● Predictive Segmentation: Machine learning based scores for user affinities and propensities ● Product & content recommendations: Build multiple recommendation schemes for merchandising products, categories and content ● Full-funnel measurement with attribution: go beyond opens & clicks, and track custom conversion goals with customizable attribution. ● Cross-channel orchestration: Orchestrate cross-channel campaigns between email, mobile app notifications, SMS, website, Facebook retargeting and more. ● Testing & Optimization: Leverage advanced testing capabilities, including a-b tests, as well as measurement against holdout groups. ● Best-in-class deliverability: Scalable deliverability infrastructure and services.

The success of a marketing automation implementation does not – primarily – depend on the selected marketing automation software either and – again – certainly is not about just “automating”. If the automated workflows, interactions, offers, content, analytics, etc. don’t take the human and targeted/personalized/personal dimension into account marketing automation implementations lack important success factors.
When a subscriber is sorted into a segment, it can trigger an automation to send to them. Each person’s interactions with your email campaigns or your website can trigger a sequence of follow-up emails based on their interests, allowing you to hone your message to your targeted audience. For example, if someone visits your pricing page, you know they’re probably further down your sales funnel and will want to follow-up appropriately. Or if they went to a specific product page or clicked on a link for that product, you can send additional information about the product, testimonials and more.
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.
Unsubscribe rate. Unsubscribes are always going to happen no matter what, and that’s usually OK because those people probably would never have bought from you anyway. However, a high unsubscribe rate can indicate that you are losing potential customers. Check the following: Why did people subscribe to your list in the first place, and are you delivering on that promise? Is the content of your autoresponder highly relevant to the segment it is being sent to? Are you sending too many sales emails with too little value emails? (Recommended reading: 5 Reasons Why People Unsubscribe from Your Email List.)
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