Let’s understand why we need marketing automation tools, especially for small business owners.
So 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 analysis, organization, and collection.
Among the various marketing automation tools, Email alone 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 while using different marketing automation tools.
Considering the average 40-hour workweek, that’s a huge chunk of time to lose, particularly for small business owners with limited resources.
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 software. 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 software, including nine of the best marketing automation platforms to consider.
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 tools, , 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, marketing automation software 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 software promises many benefits. Your marketing team can save those 16+ hours of time when automation takes 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.
Your marketing team can save those 16+ hours of time when automation takes care of basic tasks.
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.
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 tools can assist in.
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.
Nurture customers with carefully crafted and well-timed drip email campaigns from EngageBay
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 the 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.
We’re about to share twelve of the best marketing automation tools on the market for 2022. 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 marketing automation 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.
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 nine marketing automation systems.
Whether you choose EngageBay, ActiveCampaign, Drip, GetReponse, HubSpot, ConvertKit, Infusionsoft, Mailchimp, or Sendinblue, know you’re making a great choice for your small business.
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:
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.
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.
For email marketing automation tools, ActiveCampaign is another solid option to explore. 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:
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.
Before you choose whether ActiveCampaign suits your small business’ marketing automation needs, check out these pros and cons.
SendX is an intuitive and affordable email marketing software, essentially created to solve the requirement of small business owners. Founded by Varun Jain, Agnibha Nath, and Mayank Agarwal in 2016, SendX offers unlimited emails at no additional cost, and has an extremely simple pricing structure.
If you go for SendX, here’s the list of features that will make you feel happy that you made the right choice.
Email templates: Inside SendX, there are over 50 free templates. Plus, SendX has one of the biggest email template collections on the web with 1500+ templates.
Send unlimited emails: You can send unlimited emails using SendX per day. Unlike a few other ESPs out there, SendX does not restrict the emails you can send per day in any way.
User-friendly Email Editor: The WYSIWYG email editor in SendX is a simple draft & drop email editor, and you do not need any HTML coding skills whatsoever to use it.
SendX’s pricing system is very simple and they charge you only based on your subscribers. It starts at $ 7.49 per month (billed annually) and it goes up depending on the size of your subscriber list.
Here’s a gist of its pros and cons to help you decide whether SendX is a great fit for your business or not.
The 14-day free trial of SendX provides access to all of the product features, and you will be able to make a well informed buying decision. You will know exactly what to expect, and SendX fulfils your expectations in this regard.
SendX does not offer advanced workflows. So if you are looking for a highly sophisticated workflow feature, as what some of the pricey tools offer you, you should probably not choose SendX.
Outfunnel is a marketing automation tool, yet it’s more integrated than most tools currently available. By connecting the email data to sales, marketing, and CRM, that data is actually used for more purposes than just emails.
Outfunnel is an automation system that collects data from email analytics and from CRM systems. It performs lead scoring based on this wider dataset, then displays and integrates the scores into CRM actions if desired.
It can handle many typical email marketing tasks:
Outfunnel is priced for several different levels of marketers. When you sign up, you can try any plan for 14 days without a credit card, completely free of charge. There’s a Starter plan at $19/mo, the Growth plan at $49/mo, and the Professional plan at $125/mo. All plans include live chat and email support.
The Starter plan allows you to send 1000 emails, sync with Mailchimp for 1000 events, and track 1000 visitors per month.
Moving up, the Growth plan raises the limits to 15k emails and Mailchimp events, plus 15k web visitors/mo.
The Professional plan raises your limits even more, to 50k across all 3 metrics, and includes telephone support.
Consider these things before moving forward with a purchase of an Outfunnel subscription:
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 marketing automation features can your small business marketing team use to automate through Drip? Here are some that will interest you:
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.
You should keep these pros and cons in mind if you’re seriously thinking about choosing Drip for your marketing automation.
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.
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.
Here are the pros and cons of choosing GetResponse for your marketing automation tool.
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:
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.
If you’re thinking of trying HubSpot, these pros and cons will make your decision easier.
HubSpot is very expensive, especially when you consider you don’t even get to use marketing automation unless you pay for the Professional plan.
An email provider founded in 2013 by Nathan Berry, ConvertKit caters its services towards online creators of all kinds. Today, ConvertKit’s presence has grown to the point where the company has employees in nearly 59 cities around the world.
ConvertKit’s array of marketing automation features make it a valuable option to consider for your small business or startup. Here’s a closer look at those features:
ConvertKit’s Free plan starts at $0 a month. This option is for small businesses with an audience that’s just developing. You get up to 1,000 subscribers as well as features like:
The Creator plan starts at $29 a month for 1,000 subscribers and costs $119 a month for up to 10,000 subscribers. You can add as many as 900,000 subscribers or more for custom pricing.
The third ConvertKit plan, Creator Pro, starts at $59 a month for 1,000 subscribers and $807 a month for 95,000 subscribers. You can also add up to 900,000 subscribers with this plan. The features include:
Before you commit to ConvertKit, consider these pros and cons.
Next on our list is Infusionsoft, which is today referred to as Keap. This company was founded in 2001 by Eric and Scott Martineau with Clate Mask, who is now the company’s CEO. A few years after being founded, in 2004, Keap introduced its automated sales lead scripts, expanding its services into SaaS.
Keap’s features encompass areas such as CRM, sales, invoicing, and marketing. We’ll stick within the latter camp. Here are Keap’s marketing automation features:
With three plans to choose from, Keap gives its customers options.
Your first choice is the Keap Grow plan for new businesses and startups. This plan starts at $79 a month for one user and 500 contacts. Here are the automation features included with the Keap Grow plan:
The Keap Pro plan is for service businesses that have been around the block. This option starts at $149 a month for one user and 500 contacts. You get the above automation features plus:
The Infusionsoft plan is Keap’s top option, starting at $199 a month for one user and 500 contacts. Everything above is included as well as:
To add more contacts, it’s $30 a month for 1,000 contacts, $130 a month for 5,000 contacts, $200 a month for 10,000 contacts, $300 a month for 25,000 contacts, and $350 a month for 50,000 contacts.
Let’s wrap up this section by going over the pros and cons of Keap.
Keap’s plans may look cheap, but remember, you’re only paying for one user and 500 contacts at the advertised prices. If you want more than that, prepare to add hundreds of dollars extra to your monthly bill.
You probably know Mailchimp mostly for its email services; it’s in the name, after all. Established back in 2001, Mailchimp started through the collective efforts of Dan Kurzius, Mark Armstrong, and Ben Chestnut.
Are you ready to learn about Mailchimp’s automation options? Here’s the full list of features.
Mailchimp’s Free plan is always $0 a month. You gain access to one audience and these automation features:
The Essentials plan, which Mailchimp says is for companies prioritizing email, adds three audiences for $9.99 a month to start. Besides the above, here are the automation features included:
The Standard plan, Mailchimp’s own recommendation, starts at $14.99 a month. Your last option is the Premium plan, which starts at $299 a month. With this plan, you gain access to all Mailchimp automation features, including branching points and multiple starting points.
Think carefully on these pros and cons of using Mailchimp as your marketing automation tool of choice in 2020.
Last but certainly not least, we have Sendinblue, a cloud-based marketing company created in 2007. The company’s founders, Kapil Sharma and Armand Thiberge, have added SMS marketing, retargeting, landing pages, CRM, automation, and email marketing to Sendinblue’s list of services in the years since it started.
Here’s how you can automate your small business or startup with Sendinblue:
Sendinblue has a Free plan as well, just as most of the other automation services we’ve discussed. Their Lite plan starts at $25, the Premium plan starts at $65 a month, and the Enterprise plan is custom-priced.
You’re capped at marketing automation workflows for 2,000 contacts with the Lite plan, but the Premium plan removes that restriction. You get the most marketing automation features as part of the Enterprise plan as well as advanced reporting.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of using Sendinblue now.
Unlike other tools in this list, FluentCRM is a WordPress plugin that offers email marketing automation and CRM features. It’s an affordable option that can significantly cut down email marketing costs for small businesses, LMSs, and Membership sites.
As a result, this amazing plugin has become the go-to solution for over twenty thousand businesses despite being launched only in 2020.
FluentCRM primarily focuses on providing affordable marketing automation features within WordPress. Along with that, you’ll also get some much-needed CRM features. Here’s a quick overview of FluentCRM’s features:
Since FluentCRM is a self-hosted plugin, it offers a free version with limited features. For all features and integrations, you can buy the plugin for a yearly fee based on how many websites you have. There’s no contact limit, so you don’t have to worry over the “success-tax!”
FluentCRM is a great choice for websites that are running on WordPress. However, it’s good to know the pros and cons of using this tool. Check them out before making your call.
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 12 amazing picks that suit all sorts of budgets.
With marketing automation, your small business is ready to grow!