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?
Mailchimp offers a forever free plan which allows you to send 12,000 emails for up to 2,000 subscribers. This plan is fairly limited because you don’t features like send-time optimization, advanced segmentation, multi-variate testing, etc. You are also required to display their branding in your email. Last but not least, support is restricted to email only, and you may find it not as helpful.
There are many quality marketing automation software solutions available for businesses but the ones we have covered above are among the most popular of them all. Comparing marketing automation tools is not an easy thing to do because almost every one of them has that one feature that becomes their USP. What we have summarized above are the best for all types of companies in terms of sizes and the sectors they operate in.
As of 25th May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect, [4] this has had a large impact on the way marketing teams and organisations can manage their consumer data. Any organisation using marketing automation tracking is required to ask consent of from the consumer as well as provide transparency on how the data will be processed.
The best email copywriting starts with the subject line, which has to make new subscribers want to open your email. Follow that with an appealing headline so they’ll keep reading. Constant Contact’s research suggests that email copy should be short, around 200 words. It’s also wise to avoid being promotional in all your emails. Instead, offer value to your subscribers. The most important part is the call to action which helps improve your email open rate by leading recipients from the email to your landing pages or blog post.
Marketing emails need to be personalized to the reader and filled with interesting graphics. Few people want to read emails that are addressed "Dear Sir/Madam" -- as opposed to their first or last name -- and even fewer people want to read an email that simply gives them a wall of text. Visuals help your recipients quickly understand what the point of the email is.

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.
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.)
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.
Constant Contacts is an email marketing service, created to strengthen email marketing practices of small businesses, associations, nonprofits organizations, etc. It offers WYSIWYG editor to create an email campaign, secure contacts list management, social stats reporting tools, images/texts import feature, real-time tracking of your email campaign, etc.
All-in-One Marketing System. As mentioned earlier, HubSpot marketing has all the necessary marketing automation features you need to launch your campaign. It lets you generate more traffic, convert leads, and track your marketing funnel without having to spend on other software to back it up. You may, however, choose from their available integrations to further enhance its performance.
I think this is the trickiest part of email – it’s like a tangled web that you really have to think through in terms of timing, delivery and most importantly, content! I know with your Internet Marketing for Smart People list, you promote the series at the sign-up. If you’re offering a cookie (i.e. ebook) for sign-ups, does it muddy the water too much to talk about the series as well?
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.
If you’re not leveraging interactions across every marketing channel like social media, your website, or the content your leads are consuming, it’s as if you’re only listening to your leads 30% of the time. Have you ever been on the phone with a sales rep who doesn’t answer your questions and reads straight from a pre-generated script without taking your specific needs into account? Did you end up buying from that company?
Sailthru helps modern marketers at leading retail and media companies build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Sailthru personalizes individual customer experiences across digital communication channels—in email, on a brand’s website and in their mobile applications. Sailthru-powered 1:1 relationships with consumers help drive higher revenue, improve customer lifetime value and reduce churn.
If things go as planned, your email autoresponder series will build trust with your prospects. Your messages will make regular appearances in their inboxes. And, you’ll be sharing useful lessons and progressively gaining mindshare. If your content is well received, you’ll essentially be training the reader to open your emails, visit your website, and ideally, do business with you.
B2C systems tend to manage vast databases of customer data—often millions of records. These systems have sophisticated tools for analyzing and segmenting customers into different categories of buyers. Markets can then execute specific campaigns, or “treatments” for each segment. Campaigns are typically designed to elicit a direct response, such as returning to a website to make a purchase. Alternatively, campaigns may feed a target prospect list into a call center systems for telesales outreach. 
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.
If you’re not leveraging interactions across every marketing channel like social media, your website, or the content your leads are consuming, it’s as if you’re only listening to your leads 30% of the time. Have you ever been on the phone with a sales rep who doesn’t answer your questions and reads straight from a pre-generated script without taking your specific needs into account? Did you end up buying from that company?
One product sheet does not fit all. Draft copy, design emails and social media posts, and craft customized assets, all within your marketing automation platform. Content management systems also handle tagging and organizing of assets for repurposing across multiple formats and locations, so that you only need to upload an image or an asset once, and it runs everywhere. A content management system within your marketing automation platform also makes updating assets a breeze: Replacing the existing file with an updated one ensures that images and assets will be up to date across all campaigns, no matter how old or recent, so that links and images don’t render broken.

Autoresponders were built for you to send a single email based on a contact's action. Mailchimp's newer marketing automation feature offers many more options, including the ability to schedule multiple emails based on many trigger activities. Although we strongly recommend you take advantage of this powerful tool, you can continue to use legacy autoresponders in your account.

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.
Seamless Integrations. Flexibility is key when it comes to marketing. So, it is best to choose a platform that can seamlessly integrate with software solutions you are currently using or applications you are thinking about using in the future. This way, you minimize the disruption to your business operations and avoid having to implement a new software each time your company’s needs change.
You can integrate your external data with this automation software. Campaigner can select specific customer addresses and manage email communication efficiently. It can also integrate email messaging with leading social media sites to boost the chances of success of any email campaign. Campaigner can also track activities such as specific purchases to create shopping data and create an effective email campaign to be sent to the user.
OutboundEngine helps businesses grow by making online marketing simple and easy for everyone. We create beautiful, high-impact marketing campaigns, deliver them automatically and track engagement to show who’s ready to have a conversation. Our platform strengthens relationships with customers, partners and prospects to uncover more opportunities with less work.
Promotional emails are one of the most economical ways for any business to connect with customers. Research shows a message is five times more likely to be seen through email than on social media like Facebook or Twitter. That’s why musicians use email marketing software to share their performance schedule with their fans, non-profits use it to get donations and photographers use it to promote their portrait services. It just works.
Email automation and multichannel marketing. eSputnik makes campaign sending hassle-free through its marketing automation capabilities. Simply map your customer’s journey and utilize a drag-and-drop workflow editor to implement your processes and utilize multichannel campaigns to ensure maximum client reach and engagement. Because the platform takes into account client behavior, users will no longer have to worry about mundane tasks such as sending of product recommendations and price reduction notices.

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.

The best email copywriting starts with the subject line, which has to make new subscribers want to open your email. Follow that with an appealing headline so they’ll keep reading. Constant Contact’s research suggests that email copy should be short, around 200 words. It’s also wise to avoid being promotional in all your emails. Instead, offer value to your subscribers. The most important part is the call to action which helps improve your email open rate by leading recipients from the email to your landing pages or blog post.
Pardot is a marketing automation and lead management platform created by Salesforce for B2B companies. Cloud-hosted and accessible on desktop and mobile devices, this software combines the power of multiple features in one interface. Among the tools included in Pardot are for email marketing, lead nurturing, and sales intelligence. To start incorporating Pardot in your business operations, you may choose from their three annual payment plans that cost from $1000 to $3000 per month.
Many marketers have been seduced by social media advertising, perceiving it to be not only “cooler,” but also more effective than email marketing. There’s no denying that social media gets a lot more media attention than email marketing. However, claims that email marketing is no longer effective are simply not true (check out these email marketing stats that prove it). Any marketer worth their salt will tell you that email remains a cornerstone of their campaigns.
Selligent Marketing Cloud is a marketing automation platform that enables B2C brands to engage consumers across all critical channels. Built for the relationship marketer, Selligent Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud built on single code base, featuring artificial intelligence and a Customer Data Platform with a universal consumer profile at the core of every action. More than 700 brands across retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services rely on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s proven platform. With 10 offices across the United States and Europe and more than 50 agency partners and resellers, Selligent Marketing Cloud serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service.
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).
Make sales on autopilot. Creating a sales funnel out of an email autoresponder sequence is a widely adopted strategy used by information marketers, but it can also be used by software companies, eCommerce businesses, and service providers. For example, it could consist of a series of educational videos, a sales video, and follow-ups to sell your information products. Or, you could create a sequence of free educational emails, and then invite leads to a live or recorded webinar where you make an offer. For eCommerce businesses, your sales sequence could include promo offers for products your subscriber has just viewed on your website.
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