Marketing automation has been fueling marketing departments for quite a few years, but with advancements in artificial intelligence and other technologies, automation tools are leaping forward. Marketing automation platforms can be especially important for small businesses in the same way that they are important for bigger businesses, freeing up valuable resources and eliminating smaller more mundane tasks. But what degree of marketing automation does a small business need?
In this article, we’ll walk you through what makes a good marketing automation platform, the level of automation you need, complete CRM tool options (Marketo, Hubspot), and lighter options (Active Campaign, HootSuite).
What Makes a Good Marketing Automation Platform?
With the marketing automation industry almost tripling in size in 2019, there are quite a lot of names to choose from. For this article, we’ve chosen the top 4 options for marketing automation products, Marketo, Hubspot, Active Campaign and Hootsuite.
Although marketing automation and CRM are often used together, they aren’t quite the same thing. One of the main differences between these two software types is who they target: CRM software is more sales-focused, while marketing automation software is marketing-focused.
So, in practice marketing automation is the part that gets the lead to the ready phase, while the CRM is what really closes the sale (demonstrated in this funnel):
The features will vary slightly by product, but we have compiled a list of what features of each product/service are generally useful to small businesses (each will be elaborated under the specific section).
The bottom-line is it’s always going to come down to your bottom-line. Some of the options here can offer the same types of services for less money, it just depends on the level of training employees have in the product, or how much time they are expected to spend using it.
Some of the interfaces can be a bit trickier to use or not offer exactly what you are looking for. Most of these options are pretty intuitive and require very little training.
Reveal how to move beyond the descriptive and diagnostic analytics to prescriptive and augmented analytics that will ultimately transform how users interact with data and act on the insights. Each product offers different ways of reading and using your analytics, that we will elaborate on later.
The biggest thing is going to be looking at if your marketing automation service is actually compatible with your CRM. This is extremely important, yet sometimes overlooked. Some of the marketing automation tools on offer only allow integration with a small number of third-party apps / CRM systems, so this could be a huge problem if not taken into consideration from the start.
So, if you already have a CRM make sure the marketing automation product you are interested in can integrate with it. Hubspot for instance can integrate with many tools but costs more monthly. Active Campaigns is less expensive but doesn’t have as many integration possibilities (however, it should be fine for most small businesses).
What to Look for in a Marketing Automation Product?
Marketing automation is one of those things where it really pays off if you do your research. It can be hard to settle on one option, especially with all the different offerings and packages. The last thing you want to do is get tied into a contract with an option that doesn’t work for you.
Here are some things to look for:
Most of the marketing automation tools we have listed have a built-in CRM system with lead scoring and more advanced tagging capabilities. Others have no CRM, as they expect you to connect the software with your existing CRM.
While all marketing automation tools enable email marketing in some capacity, some are better than others. What kinds of campaigns are you sending and consider what functionality you really are going to use.
What kinds of content does your audience need? Do you need landing pages, video content, or other forms of content to send out to your contacts list? While most marketing automation tools offer this, some are easier to use and more in-depth features than others.
Social Media Capabilities
Some marketing automation tools integrate with Facebook and Twitter, enabling you to control social advertising or build social apps from within the service. These features are nice, but it depends on whether or not they would be useful for you or not.
Training & Set-Up
Another consideration is how long will it take your company to implement and optimize the marketing automation software. This is not particularly well advertised on any of the software provider’s websites, so be sure to ask them for clarification.
The All-in-One Options
Marketo and Hubspot have a lot of overlaps in their features, but they aren’t the same. Marketo, an Adobe product, primarily makes marketing automation tools for enterprise and B2B clients, while HubSpot is more consumer-focused. These different audiences are reflected in how each system is built and the pricing.
Marketo has broken the system down into five modules:
- Lead management
- Email marketing
- Consumer marketing
- Customer base marketing
- Mobile marketing
The catch is these modules can be purchased either separately, bundled, or purchased together and integrated into your platform. This lets you create a custom solution for your business.
Marketo’s also offers modules that are priced in tiers according to business scale:
- Basic (for small businesses)
Hubspot is a great tool for CRM. It offers an intuitive interface, reliable hosting, and in-depth/actionable analytics. The main downside here is the price. The free trial option offers none of the marketing automation features, and the regular subscription can cost around $800 or more a month, plus onboarding fees of another $3,000 or more depending on the size of the business. That being said, for a non-technical type business this could be an option if you don’t want to do it all by yourself.
HubSpot offers a number of pre-built integrations with other popular business apps to allow for further customization. Similar to Marketo, their core product is priced in five tiers according to scale:
In many cases HubSpot is the better option for smaller businesses. The entry level packages offer more features and are significantly cheaper than similar offerings from Marketo.
Less Expensive Options
ActiveCampaign is by far one of the best options for almost any business. They offer a range of pricing and quite a few valuable features. Their interface is very intuitive and reliable, never experiencing any bugs or posting issues. Their customer support is also very attentive and helpful, if on the rare occasion you actually need something fixed, they’ll gladly walk you through it.
Going back to pricing, on the base side of things the subscription costs $9 a month but will increase as your contact list grows (still marginally so don’t worry). ActiveCampaigns was actually one of the first to bring in pricing under the $100 range, which forced other companies to adjust their pricing, a pretty cool move for the industry as a whole.
It also requires very little training to work effectively in ActiveCampaigns, which is a benefit compared to many of the other marketing automation options.
Hootsuite is specifically a social media marketing platform. It is designed to let users view all their social media activity in one location. Hootsuite is a great option for a business that advertise and sell a lot on social media platforms and online.
It allows you to post content to more than one social media account at once, breaking the dashboard down into “streams.” Hootsuite automatically generates analytics to help track the success of your campaigns. It can be integrated with most CRM systems, so it is quite compatible.
Price ranges from $29/month-$599+/month, depending on the number of users and social media profiles. 30-day free trial for Professional and Team pricing tiers (but make sure you cancel if you don’t like it, as they will automatically charge your card if you don’t cancel after the free trial.)
In closing, although I won’t say that one tool is necessarily better than the rest, they each have features that can benefit businesses differently. What I always coach our clients on is to look at how much marketing spend they really have to work with. For example, the average professional services company is often only able to budget approximately 6% of revenue for marketing. So if you are just getting ready to scale, you might not be ready to spend your dollars on automation… yet. That’s ok. Just plan for your growth and access the technology when you need it.