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?
Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to automate and simplify client communication by managing complex omni-channel marketing strategies from a single tool. Marketing Automation assist greatly in areas like Lead Generation, Segmentation, Lead nurturing and lead scoring, Relationship marketing, Cross-sell and upsell, Retention, Marketing ROI measurement.
However, as email marketing developed as an effective means of direct communication, in the 1990s, users increasingly began referring to it as "spam", and began blocking out content from emails with filters and blocking programs. In order to effectively communicate a message through email, marketers had to develop a way of pushing content through to the end user, without being cut out by automatic filters and spam removing software.
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.
ActiveCampaign is a business marketing application designed for small companies. Used by over 100,000 people globally, this all-in-one software has all the tools you need to boost your business from marketing automation and sales CRM to smart emailing and data analysis. Should you encounter problems with their system, they also offer in-depth training and customer support. ActiveCampaign is available in four pricing plans ranging from $15 monthly to $279 monthly. They also offer yearly subscription options for your convenience.

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.
One of the first questions new (and even experienced) marketers often ask is: “What’s the best autoresponder service or email marketing tool?”  Autoresponders and email marketing tools are some of the most important parts of your business. You use it to follow-up with customers. To keep people coming back to your site. To build loyalty. To make sales. Yet the answer is often not so clear cut. Do you want the highest deliverability possible? Do you want to import offline contacts? Do you want to integrate your list management with a shopping cart? Do you want to spend $20 a month or $500 a month? The answer to these questions all yield very different answers. Here are the top 10 autoresponder tools on the market, along with who they’re for and what they’re capable of.
A Solution Dynamics product, Bremy offers internet-based, multi-channel publishing products and services. Offered via a variety of modules focused on different facets of digital publishing and marketing, such as email newsletters, video proofing, and database publishing, Bremy enables modern enterprises to configure a customized solution for boosting marketing efficiency.

In our email marketing software review roundup, we test the top email marketing tools available based on how easy it is to create emails, build subscriber lists, set auto-responders, and pull in other communication-based tools, such as social media management and web analytics software. To that end, we selected Campaigner and MailChimp as the best pure-play email marketing services. If you need a more complex tool that can build comprehensive workflows designed to automate the email marketing process, then we recommend HubSpot and Pardot, which are better served as marketing automation tools.
For example, if you set up an autoresponder with an interval of 24, and you receive an email from john@example.com at 8 am on Monday, the autoresponder will respond to his message immediately. If, however, john@example.com continues to email you throughout the day, the autoresponder will not send him another response for 24 hours after his initial email (in this case, 8 am Tuesday). If he emails you again after the 24-hour interval expires, he will receive an auto response.
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.

ClickDimensions is the only marketing automation solution natively built in Microsoft Dynamics 365. Our solution includes essential marketing tools like email marketing, campaign automation, web intelligence, surveys, web forms, social marketing and more to help Dynamics 365 users attract more leads, close more sales and more effectively engage customers.
How many auto-responder emails should be sent? It is possible that the answer to this question will be determined by the email marketing service provider that you choose. Some email marketing service providers will only allow you to send a maximum of ten auto responder in a sequence. This is typically done to reduce spam complaints and preserve the IP that the email marketing provider is using. Most studies have shown that the ideal number for an auto-responder program will be between 12 and 15 emails. Ten is often not quite enough to convert a user, but more than fifteen increases opt-outs and spam complaints as subscribers who haven't converted then begin to become frustrated. Ultimately, the number of emails that you should send should be based on your content, its engagement level and the amount of time needed to convey it.
For example, if you set up an autoresponder with an interval of 24 and you receive an email from user@example.com at 8:00 AM on Monday, the autoresponder immediately responds to the message. If, however, user@example.com continues to email you throughout the day, the autoresponder does not send another response for 24 hours after the initial email (in this case, 8:00 AM on Tuesday). If user@example.com emails you again after the 24-hour interval expires, the system sends them an autoresponse.
ReportGarden is a marketing automation software focusing on lead management and campaign reporting. Offering SEO audit, invoicing, and budgeting modules for digital marketing agencies, this platform comes in handy for those who are especially conscious about the accurate reporting of their progress. Easily accessed on desktops and internet browsers, ReportGarden offers four pricing plans that may be billed monthly or yearly depending on your preference. They also have a custom plan that starts at $65.
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.
Not only is InVision's newsletter a great mix of content, but I also love the nice balance between images and text, making it really easy to read and mobile-friendly -- which is especially important, because its newsletters are so long. (Below is just an excerpt, but you can read through the full email here.) We like the clever copy on the call-to-action (CTA) buttons, too.

SharpSpring is an all-in-one marketing platform for small and medium-sized businesses. Providing you with features such as custom deal stages, point-and-click editors, call tracking, email analytics, and lead management automation, this software solution can smoothly combine your marketing and sales operations. To purchase SharpSpring, get in touch with the vendor to request a quote.
Formerly known as SilverPop, IBM Digital Marketing is one of the pioneers in marketing automation. It was created in 1999 to cater to the needs of online businesses, and now it is also providing software solutions for B2B companies. Engineered with simplicity in mind, this no-fuss platform only offers top-of-the line lead management, digital marketing, analytics, and journey design tools. For pricing, IBM Digital Marketing is available by-quote, so feel free to speak with their representatives for inquiries.
Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social clicks, viewing a pricing page or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges and how to guide them down the funnel. The most effective marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels, but uses those various channels to send their marketing messages as well. That means the success of your campaign relies less on the email, and fully utilizes the various channels that influence a buyer’s decision.
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.
A call to action (CTA) is a word or phrase that encourages readers and subscribers to do something specific. Examples of calls to action include “subscribe”, “shop now”, “get the free ebook”. You use CTAs on email signup forms, landing pages, in email newsletters, and more. When someone does what you want as a result of your call to action, that’s called a conversion. In email marketing, a conversion often means following a link in a email newsletter to visit another resource.
Don’t expect marketing automation software to craft dazzling copy and eye-catching visuals to bring those campaigns to life for you: Human creativity and a little elbow grease still carry the day. What you should expect from a good set of automation marketing tools is the ability to manage individual campaigns, cross-channel campaigns, and personalized 1-to-1 customer journeys based on those campaigns.
Superior Lead Management. Reach customers at the right time by using their lead management tool. Using Pardot, you can send emails based on triggers such as time, interactions, and other custom parameters. You may also re-engage dormant leads, identify the hottest leads before your competitors get to them, and create dynamic lead category lists for better targeting.
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.
First of all, you get unlimited user accounts with custom user permissions. You can also send an unlimited number of emails and you get your own custom mail server domain as part of the package. Another interesting feature is ActiveCampaign’s automated social data gathering, which collects social details from all of your contacts and allows you to use this for list segmentation – so you can contact all LinkedIn users under 30 in your area, for example.
And that leads us right into understanding service pricing and packaging. The email marketing services we reviewed range from about $5 per month to as much as $20 per month for a range of features. Many email marketing plans include unlimited email sends each month and bill you based on the number of subscribers. If you have a small list, then look for a company that offers a free plan, a low-cost plan for several hundred subscribers, or even a pay-as-you-go plan. On the flip side, many of these services also offer high-volume plans with up to 100,000 or more contacts. Sometimes this requires a custom plan that has to be arranged directly with a sales rep. If you're willing to commit, then look for the companies that offer discounts if you pay yearly rather than monthly. A few offer also money-back guarantees.
Whether you already have a list of subscribers or are starting from scratch, email marketing services can help. All of the services we cover let you add contacts manually using copy and paste or by uploading CSV or Microsoft Excel files. Some integrate with third-party software enabling you to import Gmail and other webmail contacts, Salesforce.com and other customer relationship management (CRM) data, or other software where you might have contacts stored. Depending on the size and location of your list, third-party integration could be key. Verify whether you can export contacts as well (and how easy it is to do so) should you leave the service. Managing users who unsubscribe should also be easy so you're not accidentally contacting anyone who has opted out of your newsletters.

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.
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.

We also love how consistent the design of Uber's emails is with its brand. Like its app, website, social media photos, and other parts of the visual branding, the emails are represented by bright colors and geometric patterns. All of its communications and marketing assets tell the brand's story -- and brand consistency is one tactic Uber's nailed in order to gain brand loyalty.
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