What do you spend your time on as a marketer? According to data from HubSpot, most marketers report having their days dominated by a series of routine tasks. They lose over 3.3 weekly hours towards data analyzation, organization, and collection. Email takes up another considerable chunk of time, almost 3.6 hours each week.
Marketers are also busy with landing page creation, dedicating a little over three weekly hours to the task. Social media posting and commenting hogs up about as much time in a week, while list management is the least time-consuming task, requiring under 2.7 hours a week.
Image courtesy of HubSpot
When you add it all together, that’s about 16 hours a week a marketer is spending on these tasks. Considering the average 40-hour workweek, that’s a huge chunk of time to lose.
Although this data is from 2016, you may find that your own small business’ marketing team falls into the same pitfalls. The above duties are those your marketers must do consistently, either daily or weekly. There seems to be no way to recoup back the lost time.
Actually, there is, and it’s known as marketing automation. If you’re not already using a marketing automation tool for your small business, that’s something you’ll want to change ASAP.
In this post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about marketing automation services, including five of the best marketing automation platforms to consider.
What Is Marketing Automation Software?
Before we can get any deeper into our marketing automation for small business recommendations, let’s start with a marketing automation definition.
Automation means to do something automatically. Using marketing automation, you allow a tool or software to take the basic tasks your marketing team does every day and automate them. Whether it’s data collecting and social media updating to even sending emails, follow-ups, and other communications, automation can take care of it all.
This does not necessarily mean that you hand over the reins to a piece of software and expect it to do everything. Automation can certainly pick up the slack, but you have to set the rules. You may create tags or input information into fields, such as when personalizing emails.
Even still, marketing automation promises many benefits. Your marketing team can save those 16+ hours of time when automation tasks care of basic tasks. This frees up their schedule to brainstorm great new marketing campaign ideas or an inventive way to keep your customers engaged.
What Are the Key Features and Functions of Marketing Automation?
The features found in marketing automation tools differ depending on the company and how much you pay. Some of the more common features and functions you can expect most marketing automation platforms to have are as follows.
Advertising and SEO
One reliable way to attract leads and new customers is to advertise. Whether you opt to use social media advertising or pay to get your ads on websites, advertising automation can make your ad goals easier to achieve.
SEO, which dictates where your website appears when visitors and leads search for it online, is another feature marketing automation can assist in.
Reporting and Analytics
How many people opened your emails? How many people clicked the links within the email? How much social and website traffic are you generating every week or month?
To answer those questions, you can use a marketing automation tool. Whether you need to study analytics on a single channel, such as web traffic, or even multi-channel analytics like online directories, traditional media, call metrics, direct mail, eCommerce, or social media, you can curate detailed data that indicates the direction of your campaigns.
Other metrics you can learn from the reporting and analytics included in many marketing automation platforms are ROI, conversion rates, and lead funnels. If your small business is obtaining success after success through the efforts of your marketing and sales team, then great! You’ve found what works and can keep making tweaks to it.
If your analytics are less than promising, then there’s no time like the present to improve upon your campaigns so they grab people better the next time.
Any company worth its salt today must have a robust social media presence. That goes for your small business as well. The jungle that is social media can be an incredibly time-consuming one to navigate, and it’s typically not the job of your sales team to hack through it.
Your marketers will enjoy much more spare time to work on converting customers and creating campaigns when utilizing social media automation. Direct message interfaces, social listening to cull trends, and scheduled social posting make it easy to maintain a social presence without dedicating excess time to the task.
Another crucial duty that your marketing team is responsible for is lead nurturing. By engaging and building that professional relationship with leads now, they could become loyal, buying customers later. Yet if your marketers have a large group of leads they’re nurturing at once, taking the time to email and follow up with each one leaves little room for anything else.
When you consider that not all these leads may even convert, that time might not even result in a profit. For a small business, that’s an awfully huge gamble to take.
Automated lead scoring will ensure that only prospective customers get the time and attention of your sales and marketing teams. Then, in segmenting the leads automatically, it’s far easier for your marketers to reach out to each segment for much higher engagement.
Among one of the biggest features of marketing automation by far is email marketing. Taking the time to craft just the right message to your audience that’s personalized and engaging is a gargantuan task, albeit a necessary one.
Your marketing team can now take advantage of mobile optimization for sending emails and follow-ups anywhere, automated form creation, behavioral trigger emails, batch emails, automated email sending, and segmented emails to make their lives easier.
Why Choose Marketing Automation Software Over Other Software Options?
Some of the above tasks seem like they could perhaps be achieved with customer relationship management software or CRM. Since you’re a small business owner and funds are tight, if you only have to choose between one type of software over another, why choose marketing automation?
Well, when pitting CRM and marketing automation tools, it’s ideally better if you use both. You can rely on automation to generate leads and nurture them, then CRM to organize your contacts, track interactions, and guide the lead to your sales team.
If you had your eye on business intelligence software, this is another good investment, but not at the exclusion of marketing automation. Your marketing team especially needs a solution formulated for them.
Instead of debating whether you should buy marketing automation software over a second type of software, it’s better to come up with a budget to eventually afford both. Your small business will be better off for it.
How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Platform for Your Small Business
We’re about to share five of the best marketing automation tools on the market for 2020. All will seem quite tempting at points, which makes deciding on only one a challenge. We encourage you to read this section now and then come back to it after you finish the article so you can begin narrowing down your options for the top marketing automation tool.
You may be a small business now, but someday, you’ll evolve to a medium-sized or even a large, Fortune 500 company. When those days arrive, will your marketing automation be able to scale up with you or will you be stuck only able to support 50 employees when you now have 500?
Those are very important questions you’ll have to think about before you sign a contract on any automation software.
Your marketing team is in the middle of a huge project when the automation platform goes down. If you call someone for support, will you be put on hold for the next 40 minutes? Will it be 12 hours before you get a response to your email?
Make sure you look into how well-supported the software is. Outages and failures should be minimal and, if they occur, the platform should be up and running again quickly. It also shouldn’t be impossible to get a hold of support so they can answer your questions as they arise, not hours or days after the fact.
Your budget is stretched incredibly thin as a small business. It’s possible to find some free marketing automation software, and if not, then inexpensive plans are the next best thing. Do keep in mind that the costs to keep using the software may increase as your number of contacts or employees grow.
If you’re at the point where you’re ready to invest in a marketing automation tool, then surely you know what features you’ll need out of the software. Make sure you read the fine print on any software pricing plan to ensure you get the features you want for what you’re paying.
The Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools for 2020
You know why you need SMB marketing automation and even what to look for in automation software. You’re still seeking the best platform for your small business.
We recommend any of these five marketing automation systems. Whether you choose EngageBay, ActiveCampaign, Drip, GetReponse, or HubSpot, know you’re making a great choice for your small business.
What Is It?
The first marketing automation platform we recommend is EngageBay. Created in 2017 by Sreedhar Ambati, the founder of EngageBay strove to create an alternative to HubSpot that was within the budget of startups and small businesses.
Considered an all-in-one platform, EngageBay includes CRM, sales, and marketing services.
Within EngageBay’s Marketing Bay are all the marketing features you need, including automation. Here are the features you can use as part of the marketing automation software:
- Web forms and behavior tracking: To engage your customers so they’re more receptive to your marketing efforts, web forms can build and nurture the developing relationship. You customize the forms, choose when they pop up, and select the behaviors that dictate them. You can also use behavior tracking through EngageBay to get a better grasp on who your audience is.
- Prospects tracking: EngageBay’s prospects tracker will fill you in when your customers do all sorts of important things. From opening emails, clicking email links, or even checking out with a purchase, you’re at the forefront so your marketing team can act right away.
- Email personalization: Create the most personalized communications for your customers yet with email personalization services. Using such data as customer interests, location, and company can increase open and click-through rates.
- Customer segmentation: The people that comprise your small business audience are not all the same. Get to know them for their likes and interests and then segment them by that or other criteria, such as age, location, gender, or income with EngageBay’s customer segmentation feature.
- Predictive lead scoring: Your small business wants to work with only the most qualified leads. Using predictive lead scoring, you can ensure those leads who are more willing to buy are the only ones who enter the sales and marketing funnel.
- Drip email campaigns: Email automation in the form of drip campaigns allow your marketers to reach out to leads and customers alike, building your small business so it can continue experiencing growth.
- Workflow builder: The average marketing team handles a lot of tasks, as we explained in the intro. With EngageBay’s visual workflow builder, you can oversee all tasks your marketing and sales teams are currently tackling. The builder uses a simple drag and drop functionality for creating workflows in minutes.
- Automated services: No matter what you want to automate with EngageBay, you can. This includes live chat and support, CRM, landing pages, marketing campaigns, lead scoring, social media, text marketing, and email marketing.
Like several of its other services, EngageBay offers its marketing automation for free. If you decide you’d like to use more of EngageBay’s services, you can add the All-in-One starting at $8.99 a month, the CRM & Sales Bay starting at $7.79 a month, or the Marketing Bay starting at $7.79 a month.
You can select from four plans. The Free plan has 1,000 branded emails a month and 1,000 contacts. For $8.99, the Basic plan gives you 10,000 branded emails and 15,000 contacts every month. You also get features like a social suite, integrations, SMS marketing, and email templates.
The Growth plan for $29.99 a month gives you 25,000 branded emails and 50,000 contacts. You also add on call records, proposals, custom domains, site messages, and marketing automation. When your small business grows even further, you might be interested in the Pro plan at $47.99 a month. You get more advanced marketing automation as well as custom reporting, proposal analytics, and web analytics. You also have unlimited contacts to work with.
All prices are per user.
Pros and Cons
If you’re thinking of using EngageBay as your marketing automation tool, that’s a great choice. Here are some pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
- EngageBay offers most of its marketing automation services for free. When you combine that with their free CRM, a small business like yours can get started with a lot of valuable software at no cost to you.
- EngageBay’s other plans are quite affordable, suiting small businesses.
- As an all-in-one suite, you can pay for sales and marketing software in one with EngageBay!
- EngageBay only integrates with Sendgrid, Mandrill, Xero, Postmark, Zapier, and Mandrill right now, which may be somewhat inconvenient. More integrations are on the way.
What Is It?
For email marketing automation tools, ActiveCampaign is another solid option to explore. Based in Chicago, Illinois, ActiveCampaign was founded by Jason VandeBoom in 2003. Their cloud software services are made for smaller and mid-sized businesses.
Your marketing team can automate their daily tasks in different ways using ActiveCampaign. Here’s an overview of their features:
- Single-view automations: See all automation tasks on your marketer’s plate in a single view. This lets you and other marketers make instant tweaks to the system without interrupting someone else’s workflow.
- Audience segmentation: Like with EngageBay, ActiveCampaign also lets you segment your small business audience to better understand them. Your marketing team can personalize the communications that go out to each segment for greater personalization and a higher engagement rate as well.
- Easy automation: To get started using ActiveCampaign’s automation services, it takes just a few clicks. They too use a drag-and-drop workflow builder to establish what gets automated.
ActiveCampaign has four pricing plans, but their costs differ depending on your contacts. For 500 contacts, you’d pay $9 a month for the Lite plan, $49 per month for the Plus plan, $129 a month for the Professional Plan, and $229 a month for the Enterprise plan.
At 5,000 contacts, the prices increase thusly: $69 a month for the Lite plan, $135 a month for the Plus plan, $199 a month for the Professional plan, and $359 a month for the Enterprise plan.
Should your small business eventually accumulate 25,000 contacts, the Lite plan is now $179 a month, the Plus plan $319 a month, and the Professional plan $479 a month. If you were interested in the Enterprise plan, it’d have custom pricing.
Pros and Cons
Before you choose whether ActiveCampaign suits your small business’ marketing automation needs, check out these pros and cons.
- ActiveCampaign’s marketing automation services are quite comprehensive.
- You’d also pay for services like machine learning, SMS and messaging, CRM, sales, and email marketing with your monthly subscription.
- You can get some marketing automation features for the Lite plan so your small business doesn’t have to spend too much.
- That ActiveCampaign price creeps their packages as you add more contacts means you can keep expecting to pay more and more as your small business grows.
What Is It?
Our third recommended marketing automation tool is Drip. The company got its start through Rob Walling, an investor, podcaster, author, entrepreneur, and Drip’s founder. Drip specializes in marketing eCommerce CRM, but they offer marketing automation as well.
What kinds of features can your small business marketing team use to automate through Drip? Here are some that will interest you:
- Personalization: To make discounts and coupons more effective, it helps to personalize communications. Drip lets you automate this feature so more of your audience opens your company’s emails.
- Customizable workflows: As you’d come to expect in marketing automation software, Drip lets you customize and adjust your workflows liberally. In doing so, you can ensure your marketing team reaches customers at the moments it matters most.
- Audience segmentation: You can also find audience segmentation as a part of Drip’s marketing automation software. With built-in features like Custom Fields, Events, and Tags, your small business never has to wonder who’s shopping when and what they’re doing. You can then take that information and use it to segment your customers.
Drip says you can use their services for free to begin with. Then, as you add 2,000 active accounts, a Drip subscription costs $49 a month. For 8,000 contacts, it’s $184 a month, for 20,000 people, it’s $308 a month, and for 100,000, it’s $1,300 a month. Once you surpass 160,000 contacts, the pricing plans are custom.
Pros and Cons
You should keep these pros and cons in mind if you’re seriously thinking about choosing Drip for your marketing automation.
- You can take advantage of a 14-day free trial to use all of Drip’s features before you commit.
- Drip even offers an in-house expert to guide you through the software during your demo.
- Drip has partnered with such companies as Yakima, Pit Viper, and Silhouette.
- Drip offers pricing like ActiveCampaign’s, with more contacts costing you more money. If you don’t particularly like that cost model, then you might not feel inclined to use Drip either.
What Is It?
If you’re still looking for an automation tool for your small business in 2020, GetResponse should also be on your radar. As an email marketing platform, GetResponse was founded by Simon Grabowski, its CEO. Today, the company has grown to include customers in more than 183 countries.
GetResponse offers solutions in areas like autoresponders, conversion funnels, landing pages, webinars, and email marketing. For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on their marketing automation features.
- Email sequence automation: GetResponse’s email sequence automation helps increase your open and click-through rates. Your marketing team will also save so much time.
- Lead scoring: Sift through leads to separate the qualified prospects from the uninterested ones with lead scoring from GetResponse.
- Customized workflow templates: If your small business has its own unique workflow, use the customized workflow templates to visualize and share workflows with all parts of your company.
- Recommended product automation: GetResponse’s recommended products feature helps you acquire and retain customers. This is all automated so your small business can work more efficiently.
- Visitor and customer tracking: Track your customers, and your website visitors and leads as well. Whether you use a marketing automation workflow or send an automated sequence of emails to best gauge interest, you’ll learn a lot about your audience.
- Email personalization: Besides its email automation, you can use GetResponse to customize your emails for better nurturing and engagement. Features like tags and assignments make personalization easier.
Let’s take a look at GetResponse’s pricing. They offer four plans over three billing periods. If you bill annually, you can save 18 percent. By billing on a 24-month basis, you can shave 30 percent off your overall costs.
The Basic plan for 1,000 contacts costs $15 a month. This includes e-product selling, Facebook ads, lead funnels, a single monthly sales funnel, automation templates, landing pages, autoresponders, and email marketing.
GetReponse calls the Plus plan its most popular. At 1,000 contacts, this plan is $49 per month. Besides the above features, you also get five monthly webinar funnels, five sales funnels, contact tagging and scoring, webinars for 100 attendees, and five automation builder workflows.
One step up from that is the Professional plan, which costs $99 a month for 1,000 contacts. This includes such features as on-demand webinars, unlimited webinar funnels, unlimited sales funnels, webinars for 300 attendees, paid webinars, and automation builders.
The Enterprise plan is the most costly, with custom pricing for 100,000 people on your list. You also get the most features, among them email campaign consulting, webinars for 500 people, single sign-on, deliverability consulting, your own dedicated IP address, an account manager, and transactional emails.
Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of choosing GetResponse for your marketing automation tool.
- You can sample a 30-day free trial of any pricing plan to choose the one that’s the best match for your small business’s needs.
- You’re not solely paying for marketing automation with a GetResponse subscription, but an array of other services as well.
- GetReponse’s annual or 24-month billing options give you an opportunity to save money, which is useful for small businesses.
- If your list size grows to 5,000 contacts, then the price of a monthly GetResponse subscription might be a little costly for small businesses.
What Is It?
Last but certainly not least, we have to talk about HubSpot. This major marketing and sales software company was founded in 2006 by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. Their service includes sales and inbound marketing options.
Focusing on HubSpot’s marketing automation, which is within their Marketing Hub, here are the features:
- Lead segmentation: HubSpot refers to it as partitioning, but you can still segment your leads using this marketing automation tool.
- Lead management: Track interactions with leads over the short-term and long-term so your sales and marketing team can plan the best approach to convert.
- Email automation: HubSpot’s marketing automation revolves around email and is designed to enhance your outreach, content, and engagement with your customers.
Depending on the service you’re interested in from HubSpot, prices may vary. For the Marketing Hub, you have your pick among three pricing plans. The first of these, the Starter, gives you 1,000 contacts for $50 a month or $600 a year. By switching to annual payments, you can save 20 percent. The included features under this plan are ad retargeting, email marketing, list segmentation, contract website activity, forms, conversational bots, live chat, ad management, and landing pages. You can also use HubSpot’s CRM, which is free.
The Professional plan costs $800 per month or $9,600 a year and also includes 1,000 contacts. You get the above features as well as filtered analytics, custom reporting, video hosting, CTAs, A/B testing, social media, and marketing automation.
HubSpot’s most costly plan, Enterprise, is $3,200 a month, which is $38,400 a year. Your features include everything above as well as smart reporting, web traffic analyses, list segmentation, a contact attribution report builder, custom event triggers, multi-touch revenue attribution, adaptive testing, and calculated properties. Other features are social permissions, hierarchical teams, and partitioning.
Pros and Cons
If you’re thinking of trying HubSpot, these pros and cons will make your decision easier.
- HubSpot is the cream of the crop in marketing software, even though their services far outprice everybody else’s.
- The Marketing Hub is quite comprehensive, giving you many of the services your small business should need for success.
- HubSpot offers bundles that may make some of its services more affordable.
HubSpot is very expensive, especially when you consider you don’t even get to use marketing automation unless you pay for the Professional plan.
Automation in marketing can save your company lots of time, thus giving your marketers more leeway to focus on engaging current customers and nurturing new ones. If you’re not sure which marketing automation software is best, we shared five amazing picks that suit all sorts of budgets.
With marketing automation, your small business is ready to grow!