So, despite spending most of their time actually making their products, tending to their herd of goats, and somehow managing to run an eight-child household (seriously, bravo), Jim and PJ also manage to operate highly successful email marketing campaigns that offer their customers genuine value while keeping things simple – all without a formal marketing department in sight.

It is not an easy task as there are several things that must be considered. Your choice of marketing automation tool will depend on the size and spread of your brand. While some platforms do a great job with emails, others excel in social media management and analytics. You will also have to take into account user-friendliness and the simplicity of the interface while handling the seemingly complex software.


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)
Hey Sonia – Admittedly, I don’t have an autoresponder. I do have a welcome message for folks, but not an ongoing drip-drip-drip autoresponder series like you mentioned. Although I think it’s a fantastic idea, I’m not sure how to best integrate it into the other emails they’re receiving from me (blog posts and/or monthly e-letter) without overwhelming them as others have mentioned. Any thoughts?
Thinking and acting in a customer-centric way and not falling in the trap of automating for the sake of it. Marketing automation is not a holy grail. The business goals and the customer are what it’s all about. Without a customer-centric culture, supported by management, marketing automation often results in sheer auomation with little added value.
Oracle Bronto is the premier cloud-based marketing platform for commerce. With an advanced marketing automation engine and solutions for browser and shopping cart abandonment, recommendations, post-purchase campaigns and powerful ecommerce integrations, the Bronto Marketing Platform helps marketers maximize engagement and drive revenue by automating targeted, personalized email and cross-channel marketing campaigns at scale. Bronto offers a full suite of enterprise features and an extensive array of partner integrations to help commerce marketers accomplish more, while saving time and resources. Over 1400 brands worldwide rely on Bronto, including a client roster of high-growth brands, including Rebecca Minkoff, Lucky Brand, Theory, Timex, Ashley Homestore and Christopher & Banks. For more information, visit bronto.com.
When you create a Mailchimp account, we automatically set you up with a no-cost Forever Free plan. This option allows you to experiment with our tools and figure out how to best use our platform. So if you’re just getting off the ground, this is one less cost you have to consider. You can remain on the Forever Free plan as long as you have 2,000 or fewer subscribers across all lists in your account.
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.
Quality Emailing Tool. Sending emails to the right people at the right time may be one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of digital marketing. Fortunately, ActiveCampaign has an email management tool that allows you to create personalized and strategically scheduled emails. Additionally, it can support live ecommerce data and videos to create more engaging content for your clients and leads.
Hello Sharon, thank you for this extensive article, liked it a lot!:) Could you please specify in more details the way you grouped these apps? It’s clear about email testing, list building, tracking and monitoring tools. But.. what is the difference between drip email tools, email newsletter apps and integrated marketing automation tools… All of them about automating your email marketing. Is it about different ways to automate it? Unfortunately, it is still not clear for me. Please help me get it right:)

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.

Furthermore, personalization features can improve the customer experience. And last but not least, professional marketing automation software and processes, involve offline and/or online interactions with customers whereby triggers and scenarios are included to direct prospects and customers to personal contact moments (e.g. being called by a customer service rep). Just like any other digital business and digital marketing process or software, the success of marketing automation implementations is not (just) a matter of technology or automation.

Zaius is a CRM & Marketing Automation platform built for ecommerce brands. By combining a single customer view, real-time, multi-channel marketing automation, and cross-channel attribution, Zaius empowers marketing teams to drive more repeat purchases and maximize customer lifetime revenue - without any IT support. It’s the first CRM built specifically for B2C marketers.


The most advanced email marketing services offer custom workflows where you can specify triggers based on actions (such as opening an email or making a purchase) or on inaction (such as ignoring emails). With these services, you can also set up a series of emails (such as tutorials) to be sent to segments of users, and you can pause or stop a campaign at any time. You can also move contacts into new segments once they have completed tutorials.
Proactive Lead Generation. When it comes to digital marketing, you must not only create eye-catching ads and other promotional materials; you must also create quality content to highlight your business’ presence on the internet. With TechValidate, you can collect data directly from your clients, collage the information, and publish the content on your site or on social media, boosting the chances of lead generation.
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.
At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
Before we go to that famed list, let us revisit the term automation. In simple terms, automation means finding a way of simplifying a task that needs repetition – which can not only save time and effort but also make the whole process less stressful.So what does marketing automation imply? Marketing is the process of selling products and/or services. So, marketing automation obviously means automating the process or actions involved in marketing.
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.

1. Pricing – While SendinBlue is one of the most affordable email marketing tools currently available, you’ll need to be on their $49/month plan or above to access unlimited automation workflows. While not a major issue, this tends to rule out SendinBlue for me when recommending a marketing automation tool to a small business that’s new to automation. After all, ActiveCampaign starts at $9!

Optimizely is an online marketing platform focusing on website development. Having served more than 6000 companies, they optimize and streamline digital experiences for businesses and customers alike. The software offers behavioral audience targeting and analytics tools to help you take out the digital guesswork and create smarter business decisions based on hard facts. It is also backed with an enterprise-grade security system to keep your data protected. For pricing, they offer three quote-based subscription packages based on your business’ needs.

All these evolutions also don’t mean that organizations will be passive respondents to customer signals and digital footprints. Wake-up call number two: sales is not dead despite what Gartner predicts. It all depends and it remains essential to close the loop between marketing and sales. Yet, it is also time to close the loop with other divisions and with the customers and their networks themselves.


Email marketing is a simple and proven strategy to promote your business. It attracts new customers and helps maintain close relationships with loyal customers. There's a long list of email marketing services available today and most operate at relatively low prices, with packages to fit every business size and need. It's just a matter of determining which features and tools you need and how much you're willing to spend.
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.
Has a focus on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom of the funnel. Prospects are scored, based on their activities, and receive targeted content and messaging, thus nurturing them from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and is really the marriage of email marketing technology coupled with a structured sales process.
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)
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.
3. Sending limits – My biggest pet peeve with SendinBlue is the limits they impose on how many emails you can send. Unlike most marketing automation tools that limit the number of contacts you have, SendinBlue limits the number of emails you can send. While it appears to be a monthly limit, it’s actually a daily limit (the monthly limit is divided by 30). This has caused us several issues when going over our quota has meant emails end up being put on hold until the next day.
would it be possible to add a feature where you can connect the auto-responder to a filter? E.g. if the filter detects a msg from my mother in law, it will always respond i am on vacation or otherwise unreachable. but if msg comes it from my collegues, i could respond with a different msg (like if you really really need to reach me call this number)
Salesfusion is dedicated to helping companies build a large revenue funnel for marketing and sales by creating customized digital conversations that are seamlessly transitioned between departments. Marketing and sales teams participate in and measure these digital conversations to deliver more lead-to-revenue results by communicating with the right leads at the right time with the right message.
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.
Advanced personalization, testing, segmentation and optimization features whereby insights from among others CRM and interactions across several channels, enable a more personal and more optimized customer experience and better marketing results. Potential features include A/B testing, Multi Variate Testing (MVT), dynamic content personalization, dynamic landing pages, etc.
The latest version of IBM Campaign brings many innovations to the sophisticated marketing team enabling you to work smarter and faster, and to keep your customers more engaged and loyal than ever. Marketers use IBM Campaign to maximize revenue and responses via personalized and optimized campaigns and offers. Increase results with powerful segmentation against the largest data sources and provide the right offers to the right contacts at the right time in the right channel. Boost ROI by optimizing contact communications and marketing spend. Choose to deploy fully to the cloud or on premise. Improve engagement and ROI: Easily integrate with the rest of your marketing ecosystem to seamlessly execute personalized, offline and digital campaigns to take your customers on targeted journeys. Work smarter and faster: With AI-powered Watson Assistant available with IBM Campaign, work smarter and drive to insights more quickly than ever. Save time, make better decisions and drive customer engagement. Optimize ownership for your enterprise: Choose the deployment and ownership approach that works best for your organization. Deploy on premise or via subscription and fully to the cloud — managed and hosted.

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.
Top marketing automation tools go hand in hand with a software solution that works for company-wide automation. A CRM platform that can be used by everybody from the top down, in order to create that seamless omnichannel experience that customers are looking for. However, this just scratches the surface of the kinds of features that a marketing manager should be looking for when deciding which marketing automation tools to implement.
Delivra is an email marketing software platform that has helped organizations execute effective marketing campaigns for more than 15 years. Known for its industry expertise and unrivaled customer service, Delivra helps businesses engage in meaningful conversations with customers that produce tangible results. Delivra empowers organizations to achieve business goals through a suite of professional services, including strategic campaign consulting, email design, content strategy and more. Delivra has implemented dynamic marketing solutions for more than 1000 companies representing varying industries. Delivra makes it easy to build and send impactful email marketing campaigns, offering an easy-to-use drag and drop editor to customize content. The software’s marketing automation capabilities also allow users to strategically plot out an entire email series, determining which mailings are sent based on a variety of subscriber actions, inactions or time. For companies with an e-commerce component, Delivra’s Commerce Package enables email marketing tactics specific to customer re-engagement, cart recovery, automation, and customer retention. Online merchants get all the powerful features of the Delivra platform in addition to custom integrations designed for e-commerce. Delivra works with a wide variety of CRM’s, e-commerce platforms, and web analytics tools so all marketing data is available in one place. The software either plugs right into the technology a company is already using, or Delivra builds out a custom integration to ensure that it does.
While marketing automation often looks at generating demand and new revenues by a “right time, right message, right touchpoint” approach, as we know it in content marketing and content management as well, it’s essential to also look at engagement with existing customers of course. After all, the total customer life cycle and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are essential. In this regarding marketing automation platforms are evolving and also facing competition from new vendors focussing more on customer engagement and experiences across the customer life cycle. Several vendors in the content management space have also been evolving from systems of records to systems of engagement. Marketing automation is part of an increasingly broader ecosystem and context where the customer and customer lifetime value are key. An introduction to the customer life cyle and models to calculate the customer lifetime value (CLV).
If rounds of split testing, segmentation, and resends still result in low engagement scores for some of your subscribers then don’t be afraid to clean your list. Review subscriber data regularly to monitor activity and engagement ratings. Remove or further segment those who aren’t engaging in order to improve the overall open rates of your primary subscriber segments.
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?
If you’re managing a list in the hundreds, thousands or low tens of thousands and you only collect leads through the internet, then there’s no better service than Aweber. Aweber doesn’t really allow you to add leads from offline sources. However, for online lists, Aweber sports the best deliverability ratings on the market. If you’re primarily using online opt-in forms, use Aweber. Your emails will get delivered, opened and clicked on.
Infusionsoft is a web-based marketing automation platform trusted by freelancers and small businesses worldwide. Serving 23,000 users in different countries, it provides a wide variety of options for marketing automation, CRM, and sales. Whether you need to process payments, track orders, publish content, or handle your referral program, it can do it all. The onboarding cost for Infusionsoft is $299. From there, they offer pricing plans according to the features you need and the number of people who will be using the software.
HubSpot is all about inbound marketing, and it offers a free CRM that helps businesses organize and track customers — as HubSpot says, its CRM “automates the tasks salespeople hate.” The platform tracks interactions automatically, and it compiles data about deals on a single dashboard so the entire journey is visible. Beyond its CRM, the brand offers blogging, landing pages, email, lead management, analytics, web, social media, SEO, ads, and integration with Salesforce.

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.


If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.
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.
When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation. Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database as leads and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there. Do you have all the existing leads needed to hit your revenue goals in your database already? Are you getting your fair share of the available market?
Meet Pardot: B2B marketing automation on the world's #1 CRM. Pardot empowers marketing and sales teams to work together to find and nurture leads, close more deals, and maximize return on investment. Pardot's lead management features CRM integration, email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and ROI reporting to help marketing and sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, shorten sales cycles, and track marketing ROI. Track all prospect interactions on your site — from downloads to page views — then score prospects based on parameters you set. Put time back into your sales reps’ day with automated lead nurturing and real-time sales alerts, which allow reps to prioritize their time. Then, measure the true ROI of your marketing efforts with closed-loop reporting. Accelerate pipeline, drive revenue, and align marketing and sales with Pardot Marketing Automation. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1yhEwPa
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.
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.
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was passed by Congress as a direct response to the growing number of complaints over spam emails.[citation needed] Congress determined that the US government was showing an increased interest in the regulation of commercial electronic mail nationally, that those who send commercial emails should not mislead recipients over the source or content of them, and that all recipients of such emails have a right to decline them. The act authorizes a US $16,000 penalty per violation for spamming each individual recipient.[19] However, it does not ban spam emailing outright, but imposes laws on using deceptive marketing methods through headings which are "materially false or misleading". In addition there are conditions which email marketers must meet in terms of their format, their content and labeling. As a result, many commercial email marketers within the United States utilize a service or special software to ensure compliance with the act. A variety of older systems exist that do not ensure compliance with the act. To comply with the act's regulation of commercial email, services also typically require users to authenticate their return address and include a valid physical address, provide a one-click unsubscribe feature, and prohibit importing lists of purchased addresses that may not have given valid permission.[citation needed]
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.
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).
Build your audience and manage your contact groups. Install our opt-in widget on your website to capture email addresses and automatically sync to contact lists in your account. Upload your own contact lists as either a CSV, TXT or XLS files. Our system will seamlessly integrate into your CRM acting as your second pair of eyes, filtering out unsubscribes and possible errors.
Top marketing automation tools go hand in hand with a software solution that works for company-wide automation. A CRM platform that can be used by everybody from the top down, in order to create that seamless omnichannel experience that customers are looking for. However, this just scratches the surface of the kinds of features that a marketing manager should be looking for when deciding which marketing automation tools to implement.
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.
Why not resurrect old posts? You can bet your readers, especially new subscribers, haven’t read everything you’ve published. Consider scouring your blog for posts that remain valuable. You might batch together several that cover a single category to make it easy to create a topical and thematic series. Or, you might have written a series of posts in the past that could be ideal for an autoresponder series.
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.
Lead Liaison is a cloud-based sales and marketing automation solution that helps businesses accelerate sales by attracting, converting, closing and retaining more prospects. Filling a void in the small pool of marketing automation providers that focus on marketing-centric functionality, Lead Liaison gives equal focus to sales support with solutions such as a hot-lead dashboard, Buy Signals and a live ticker alert of businesses on the customer’s website. Lead Liaison blends ease-of-use, a flexible business model, deep external integration, marketing across social, web, mobile, email and offline channels and powerful functionality, all specifically tailored for small to mid-sized businesses, into a single platform, called Revenue Generation Software®. Lead Liaison offers clients the highest value per dollar of any industry provider. Additionally, Lead Liaison provides content creation services leveraged for communication vehicles such as press releases, blog posts, emails, and posts on social media platforms. Founded in 2013, Lead Liaison is headquartered in Allen, Texas, near Dallas, and employs 19 people. For more information, visit www.leadliaison.com or call 1-800-89-LEADS (895-3237).
In case of doubt: the customer is expected to be more in control than today. Gartner, for instance, predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of the relationship with a company without even talking to a human. Whether this will happen or not: fact is that the marketing industry and marketing automation continue to evolve and move towards an even more people-centric model, responding to digital signals and customer interactions, rather than heralding a campaign approach. We’ve been moving to a more buyer-driven buying reality for years now and it’s a channel-agnostic phenomenon.

HubSpot is all about inbound marketing, and it offers a free CRM that helps businesses organize and track customers — as HubSpot says, its CRM “automates the tasks salespeople hate.” The platform tracks interactions automatically, and it compiles data about deals on a single dashboard so the entire journey is visible. Beyond its CRM, the brand offers blogging, landing pages, email, lead management, analytics, web, social media, SEO, ads, and integration with Salesforce.


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.
A lead magnet (a.k.a. an optin bribe) is something amazing that you give away for free in exchange for an email address. This doesn’t have to cost you anything to create; most lead magnets are digital materials like PDFs, MP3 audio files, or videos that you can create yourself at minimal or no cost. It can be absolutely anything you want, so long as it provides value to your visitors for free.
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