The Best Marketing Automation Tools and Platforms in 2020By Ankur Pramod
For starters, manufacturers are confident of making significant progress towards putting people behind the wheels of autonomous cars. And if that’s not enough, there’s also talk about people getting the ability to control electronic devices through microchips implanted in their brains.
Alright. While the latter does seem a little too far-fetched, what you can be assured of, however, is that marketing automation will be one of the most viral concepts to grace businesses in 2020.
In fact, for some agencies and enterprises, marketing automation is already a hot topic.
Research conducted in 2019 states that, on average, 51% of companies make use of marketing automation tools for their business needs. Furthermore, for 75% of marketers, these tools are the most accepted form of marketing, as they use at least one type of automation tool to run their campaigns.
What Are Marketing Automation Tools?
A marketing automation tool is a software or a platform that allows agencies and local businesses to automate their marketing efforts through the use of technology.
Such a process, in addition to enabling businesses to be more efficient by helping them save time, cost, and resources, also helps them be more impactful and generate better results.
One of the functionalities, with such tools, is the possibility for users to create personalized campaigns. Not only does this improve the probability of businesses to close prospects, but it also empowers them to design and deploy strategies that would work across different mediums.
Key Marketing Automation Features
While different marketing automation tools can provide different features, the core reason for their existence remains the same — to make everyday routine tasks easier for companies.
Therefore, when it comes to designing and executing marketing campaigns, depending on the features that they most connect with, businesses can choose the desired tool for themselves.
Some of the key features that a good marketing automation tool must provide are:
For every business to sustain itself, it needs to generate leads and convert them into paying customers. Marketing automation tools play a vital role in that endeavour as they facilitate agencies and local businesses with lead generation, nurturing, and management capabilities.
Certain features can help in that aspect as they allow companies to get a foot in the door with potential customers. Taking the example of the Snapshot Report, companies can now use that feature to capture quality leads by generating digital audits about their potential customers.
In addition to having features that help agencies talk to prospects about their business strengths and weaknesses, marketing automation tools also have features that help companies track and understand a buyer’s journey, thereby incorporating an impeccable lead management process.
Another feature, which makes using a marketing automation tool worthwhile for agencies and local businesses, is the ability to customize and execute drip email campaigns for customers.
Research indicates that email marketing automation is widely popular among companies today, especially since it offers them the possibility to generate a 4,400% ROI on their campaigns. Therefore, even though it might be considered old-fashioned, email marketing is still an important feature to have in a marketing automation tool.
With email marketing automation, agencies have the option to create segmented workflows that help them target specific customers, or send triggered emails, which, as the name suggests, get triggered whenever the receiver performs a pre-set action like interact with content sent to them.
And finally, it’s crucial that marketing automation tools have a feature that provides companies with the possibility to track the success and failure of their marketing campaigns and strategies.
Whether its tracking the success of the messages sent out as part of a drip email campaign or analyzing the analytics behind lead generation campaigns, agencies and enterprises must understand what worked for them and what didn’t so that they can learn and evolve over time.
Almost all marketing automation tools today come equipped with data analytics and measurement functionalities that provide companies with value when it comes to analyzing customer data and devising data-driven plans for the future.
Best Marketing Automation Tools
Now that we have a brief understanding about some of the features that a marketing automation tool must possess, it’s time to understand how some of those platforms can benefit marketing agencies.
Here’s a list (organized alphabetically) of the best marketing automation tools in the market.
One of the reasons why ActiveCampaign is a very popular marketing automation tool, both for agencies as well as enterprises, is its cost-to-benefit value. The tool provides a perfect blend between accessing robust features and not spending an exorbitant amount for doing so.
In addition to possessing highly advanced features like the drag-and-drop workflow builder, the tool also provides users with valuable email marketing automation services like segmentation, content personalization, and responding to emails using the auto-responder functionality.
What Doesn’t Work:
When it comes to handling the tool itself, users, who aren’t too familiar with marketing automation software or are beginners in the area, can seem to run into integration issues.
Therefore, even though the price might be reasonable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the complexity of the ActiveCampaign platform might cause friction and pose problems for those users.
Due to its visual brilliance, the Autopilot marketing automation tool is one of the best platforms out there today for agencies and local businesses. The tool, which enables users to design stellar marketing campaigns, provides solutions that are visually appealing and easy-to-use.
Furthermore, along with the drag-and-drop functionality that makes tasks easier for users, Autopilot also has features like data analytics, capturing and managing leads, and mapping the buyer journey properly.
Lastly, Autopilot allows easy integration with a lot of third-party applications like Facebook, Google Ads, and Salesforce, which helps agencies sync their existing marketing campaigns.
What Doesn’t Work:
The Autopilot tool offers a limited number of pre-made automation templates, which can prove to be a roadblock for agencies and enterprises that wish to get their marketing automation campaigns off the ground almost instantly.
Probably the most popular marketing automation tool in the market today, HubSpot enjoys a huge market share in the SasS domain due to its ‘all-in-one’ automation solutions.
In addition to having automated drip email campaigns and effective lead management solutions at their disposal, marketers find optimum value in the tool due to its easy-to-use interface as well as its strong data analytics functionality that helps them measure campaign effectiveness.
The HubSpot tool boasts about having a solid CRM and also provides agencies with value through advanced features like search engine optimization (SEO), content management, email personalization, and autoresponder capabilities.
What Doesn’t Work:
Due to the multiple features that it provides to users, HubSpot can come across as an expensive marketing automation platform for agencies and businesses that are just starting out. Along with high monthly subscription fees, the onboarding fees for users are quite high too.
If you’re a small agency looking for worthy marketing automation solutions, then Keap is the perfect tool for you. Ranking number 3 on the top 50 products for small businesses in 2019, Keap is a solid automation tool that ensures that your business never misses a lead again.
Furthermore, the tool also provides the option to design and execute email campaigns while allowing convenient integration with third-party applications like Gmail, WordPress, and Outlook.
What Doesn’t Work:
Due to the tool primarily focusing its attention on small businesses, Keap misses out on incorporating a lot of complex marketing automation workflows. In addition to that, some users claim that Keap fails to live up to its promise of providing an email deliverability rate of 98%.
Lastly, while the platform is an ideal option for small businesses, it asks its users to undergo ‘expert coaching’ when they sign up and, therefore, pay an onboarding fee upfront.
Marketo is a tool best known for providing businesses with a blend of simple and complex marketing automation features. Some of the features include lead generation and nurturing, email automation, standard marketing analytics, and sophisticated landing page builders.
Due to this capability, the tool is very popular among both agencies as well as enterprises. Furthermore, users of Marketo can also enjoy the functionality to integrate their Salesforce campaigns with the tool’s interface and design customized emails for potential customers.
What Doesn’t Work:
When compared to some of its competitors, Marketo loses out because it does not have an in-house CRM. In addition to that, the tool can come across as being a little too pricey for users, especially considering that it lacks some advanced social media automation functionalities.
Finally, even though Marketo does offer companies with value through its landing page builder, the feature itself can be a little complicated to play around with and get the best out of.
Being another one of the ‘all-in-one’ marketing automation tools, Ontraport, in addition to providing value to agencies and small businesses by allowing them to automate their email campaigns, is one of the few tools that offers SMS automation campaigns as well.
The tool provides access to a range of pre-made templates, which come in handy for designing automated marketing campaigns, and also enjoys an upper hand over its competitors when it comes to analyzing data since users don’t need to be experts to understand its metrics.
Ontraport is especially useful for capturing and nurturing leads due to its functionality of targeting visitors who interacted, in some form or the other, with content. This can be either through a website visit or clicking on a piece of content sent to them.
What Doesn’t Work:
For a tool that offers so many features to its users, Ontraport drops the ball by not having proper social media integration capabilities. While the free trial option on its most popular package is a great way to attract potential customers, the fact that the tool doesn’t have a proper visual sales channel could pose to be a problem as well.
With Pardot, the possibilities seem endless. Due to the robust nature of this marketing automation tool, users get access to a wide variety of features like lead generation and management, email marketing, data analytics, email segmentation, and workflow design.
There is also the functionality where users can exploit the integration capabilities that the tool has with various platforms like Salesforce and SugarCRM. In addition to that, Pardot also provides value to its users through a customized dashboard that helps design state-of-the-art marketing campaigns.
Lastly, the tool does a very good job of letting agencies and enterprises understand the ROI from their campaigns by playing around with an easy-to-understand and convenient interface.
What Doesn’t Work:
One of the initial roadblocks or points of friction for users, who are aiming to get on board the Pardot bandwagon, is the price of the tool — something that can be considered really expensive for a small agency or a startup company.
Furthermore, the tool itself has certain features that can be a little challenging to understand and implement for companies, thereby making the tool predominantly focussed towards enterprises.
The Sendinblue marketing automation tool provides users with optimum value since it caters to both ends of the spectrum — beginners looking for simple automation workflows and experts looking for a more advanced set of workflows.
The tool helps businesses optimize their automation process by offering multiple features like email marketing, SMS marketing, email segmentation, and a solid CRM to build relationships.
Furthermore, Sendinblue is also a valuable asset for companies looking to convert casual visitors into permanent customers by using its retargeting feature and creating landing pages.
What Doesn’t Work:
Unlike some of its competitors, Sendinblue imposes a daily limit on the number of emails users can send to their customers (or potential customers) using its email marketing functionality.
The tool also misses out on providing third-party integrations, which can lead to being an adoption barrier for users. In addition to that, the automation workflow builder does lack a few essential triggers that some agencies and businesses consider important.
Vendasta’s marketing automation tool helps agencies and enterprises target interested prospects and helps convert them into paying customers by striking when the iron is hot.
The features that make this tool one of the most valuable in the market today are the award-winning Snapshot Report, the ready-to-use drip email campaigns, and the revolutionary hot lead notifications functionality, which lets users know the perfect time to contact prospects.
Furthermore, the Vendasta tool is an end-to-end, white-label platform that allows companies to use the software under their own brands, thereby helping them boost business and drive sales.
What Doesn’t Work:
Even though Vendasta, an end-to-end platform that allows users to fulfill their sales and marketing automation needs in one place, offers customer acquisition, product adoption, and product upselling features, it still lacks certain vital elements like the visual drag-and-drop email builder and email segmentation.
Marketing automation has a promising future. According to recent research, companies that use marketing automation tools can be assured of enjoying a 17.27% higher click-through rate (CTR) with custom automation workflows. Hence, no wonder more and more businesses are now getting on board the automation bandwagon.
However, with regard to the best marketing automation tool present in the market, there isn’t any specific one that can be categorized as being the best since every platform has its pros and cons. To solve that conundrum, agencies must outline their needs and requirements, and accordingly choose the tool that best resonates with them.