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.
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).
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.
What's the difference between them? One-off communications versus prolonged, email-based interactions. For example, email marketing tools are excellent for one-off communications. You can use these tools for the one time you'd like to send someone an automated email response when they join a subscriber list, on their birthday, or when you promote a new product. But marketing automation tools are better suited for prolonged, email-based interactions. For example, you can use marketing automation tools whenever you want to guide someone from a subscriber list to a product purchase. Or you can send thank you emails or send new product promotions—all without having to lift a finger after the workflow is designed.

Loved reading this! Which of these would you recommend so that I could set myself reminders on certain clients so that I can follow up with them in the future? I feel like I am doing a lot of extra steps that I might not have to do if I was using an actual marketing software. I am in the very beginning stages of getting my business out there and I would like to follow up with potential clients down the road with an email… is this a possibility or should I just keep using my excel spreadsheet!?


My first thought was how easy Ontraport was to get started with compared to another marketing automation company I had just tried. Recurring payments were to set up. There was no initial training cost, and you could sign up as a customer directly from their website. On top of this, everything was split testable without needing a strange workaround.
dotdigital is a global leader in customer engagement technology and Engagement Cloud is its platform: the preferred choice for growing businesses and ambitious brands. The platform’s impressive features empower over 80,000 marketers across 150 countries to acquire, convert, and retain customers at scale. Users can connect with CRM and ecommerce systems, surface powerful data, and automate intelligent cross-channel messages that resonate with audiences. Established in 1999, dotdigital is a global company with over 350 employees, serving brands of all verticals and sizes. Our easy to use and powerful email solution enables SMBs, large enterprise and agencies to manage and grow their email strategy and more by making it easy to build your own marketing cloud, using our extensive app directory. A Magento Premier Technology, Shopify Plus and BigCommerce partner, dotdigital integrates seamlessly with many world-class ecommerce platforms and CRMs including Salesforce and MS Dynamics. Our recent acquisition of COMAPI cements our commitment to empowering marketers by providing customers with best-in-class omnichannel messaging capabilities such as SMS, live chat and social media integration. Start a free trial: https://www.dotdigital.com/trial/
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).
The question then, is this: how does a marketing manager look past those good marketing automation tools, and find the best marketing automation tools? As mentioned, it starts with knowing what the customer wants, but the next step is to know which features will give them that. With that in mind, here are some features to look for in an effective marketing automation tool.
The attention for and growth of the marketing automation market is driven by several evolutions in the ways people inform themselves and buy. The shift from selling to buying, along with the advent of several new digital channels, used by consumers and B2B buyers, keeps impacting the marketing automation industry and the adoption of marketing automation by organizations. However, the best is yet to come.
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.

eTrigue is a cloud-based marketing automation provider featuring easy-to-use campaign building and rapid time-to-value. eTrigue’s DemandCenter helps hundreds of organizations track and nurture prospects through inbound and outbound programs. DemandCenter tracks across email, web, mobile, and social. eTrigue DemandCenter’s integrated marketing suite is particularly attractive to medium and small organizations, as well as to divisions or groups within larger enterprises.. eTrigue makes it simple for small marketing teams to can manage all online marketing efforts from a single dashboard. Full integration with major CRM, Webcast systems and ad-reporting systems. Instant real-time lead alerts are included for sales.
When your marketing is automated, it’s easy to capture tons of data. Let your marketing automation platform take the next step and crunch the numbers for you, yielding insights and alerts to help you tweak active campaigns and more effectively plan new ones. If your marketing and CRM are integrated, it’s also a snap to tie ROI directly back to campaigns and other marketing activities using closed-loop reporting.
Molly K. McLaughlin is a New York-based writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering technology. She has tested and reviewed all sorts of software, mobile apps, and gadgets. Before launching her freelance business, she was an editor at PC Magazine, covering consumer electronics, followed by a stint at ConsumerSearch.com, a revie... See Full Bio
MailChimp 12,000 emails per month (daily limit of 2,000), for up to 2,000 subscribers. MailChimp’s autoresponder range is comprehensive. It includes basic autoresponders (welcome, date-based, RSS etc), as well as more advanced options (e.g. ecommerce, tag-based). The main drawback – their autoresponder editor isn’t the easiest to use. (Full review)

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?

Adestra is a leading global provider of First-Person Marketing email and lifecycle marketing solutions for global and growing brands alike. The company's industry leading email marketing and automation platform provides marketers with a powerful infrastructure that helps them communicate more effectively with their customers and subscribers by providing hyper-relevant context. This proprietary technology also allows for automated email messaging and incorporates enterprise-class native functionality, which reduces implementations. Along with a superior platform to execute marketing automation, Adestra was founded on the principle that marketing success takes more than technology, which is why customer service is at the heart of our business. Adestra is more than software as a service. Adestra is Software AND a Service®.
In addition to satisfying legal requirements, email service providers (ESPs) began to help customers establish and manage their own email marketing campaigns. The service providers supply email templates and general best practices, as well as methods for handling subscriptions and cancellations automatically. Some ESPs will provide insight and assistance with deliverability issues for major email providers. They also provide statistics pertaining to the number of messages received and opened, and whether the recipients clicked on any links within the messages.

Encompasses automation of internal marketing processes. These include budgeting and planning, workflow and approvals, the marketing calendar, internal collaboration, digital asset creation and management and essentially everything that supports the operational efficiency of the internal marketing function. Typically these systems require a CRM or COM administrator to set up a complex series of rules to trigger action items for internal sales and marketing professionals to manually process (designing files, sending letters, sending email campaigns). This type of system increases marketer's ability to deliver relevant content to relevant individuals at relevant times. Limitations may apply, based on the human resource capacity of an organisation and their level of commitment to the tasks as they are assigned.


Unlimited Lead Scoring. Are you looking for a software that can easily adapt to the needs of your growing business? ActiveCampaign supports an unlimited number of lead scores, so you can easily accommodate all your leads without having to upgrade the program. On top of that, the system lets you organize your leads according to your priorities or even automatically distribute them to your sales team.
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

Marketo is a flexible marketing automation platform trusted by over 2300 customers across the globe. Accessible on both desktop and mobile devices, the software provides a variety of features for B2B marketing, lead management, email campaigns, budgeting, and ROI optimization. The platform also allows for real-time personalization, so you may engage your target market proactively and effectively. As for pricing, Marketo is only available on a by-quote basis, so be sure to get in touch with their representative.
An auto responder is generally more similar in content to a newsletter than it is to a direct sales email, though it combines many of the elements of both. The content can vary wildly though based on your industry segment and what you've promised subscribers. The most common type of auto responder content will be tips or advice, but you can also do great things with recipes, serial fiction pieces, inspirational quotes and a variety of other topics. Essentially, you are looking for content that will engage users over a period of time while also providing a platform to encourage sales of your product or service or visits to your website.

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.
Every week, the folks at InVision send a roundup of their best blog content, their favorite design links from the week, and a new opportunity to win a free t-shirt. (Seriously. They give away a new design every week.) They also sometimes have fun survey questions where they crowdsource for their blog. This week's, for example, asked subscribers what they would do if the internet didn't exist.
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