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Table of Contents
- What is marketing automation software?
- Best marketing automation software by company size
- Common marketing automation features
- Why choose marketing automation software over other software options
- Benefits and ROI of marketing automation
- Typical marketing automation user types
- Technology trends impacting marketing automation
- What you should look for in SMB and enterprise marketing automation software
- Getting buy-in for a marketing automation implementation
- Choosing the right marketing automation software
Marketing automation software is an advanced platform designed to help marketers capture leads, nurture them further down the funnel, and analyze lead behavior and campaign performance. No longer experimental technology, marketing automation tools are now an essential resource for B2C and B2B marketing and sales departments looking to grow their business.
Marketing automation (MA) software is often compared to customer relationship management (CRM) software as they have overlapping functionality. But CRMs currently function as the go-to platform for sales departments, whereas MA platforms are built to scale and accelerate marketing efforts while making each touch more personalized and focused.
Unfortunately, there are a great number of misconceptions about what exactly marketing automation software is and what it does. With so many different marketing automation tools on the market today, it’s important to have an understanding of what they offer, as well as how they differentiate themselves from one another. This guide is meant to clarify some of those differences.
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What is marketing automation software?
Marketing automation software is designed to help marketers capture leads, develop relationships, and move prospects through the sales funnel at scale. This includes several categories of functionality: email, social media, web marketing, multi-channel marketing, and analytics. Marketing automation is an out-of-the-box method for harnessing customer data from multiple sources and developing marketing strategies and tactics that work across different mediums.
While marketing automation does automate some processes, this software doesn’t turn your brand into a robot. Marketing automation lets you scale your efforts to build relationships with multiple prospects across several different channels and provide them with a consistent experience despite their differing interests or needs. And when you properly segment your audience, this technology actually allows you to build more meaningful relationships with your prospects by providing them with content that’s relevant to their interests.
Best marketing automation software by company size
Common marketing automation features
While CRM and MA software are inherently different, they do share some features. MA software is essentially more specialized, but can appear as a subset of CRM platforms in certain cases.
Regardless, common features do exist for marketing automation tools, and can be classified in the following ways.
1. Email marketing
Email is one of the oldest forms of digital communication, but remains extremely effective. Although consumers have grown somewhat jaded to email marketing due to marketers’ past and continued abuse of the medium, email remains one of the most effective means of communicating with your audience. This makes it an excellent starting place for marketing automation.
Email functionality is one of the core components of what marketing automation vendors offer, and every decent platform should include features that allow you to send emails en mass to segmented audiences. More advanced platforms will send triggered emails after prospects take certain actions, such as filling out a form or downloading a piece of content. Marketers can also use these tools to create, edit, and embed forms on their website that they can use for lead generation and email outreach.
Basic marketing automation email features
These features should come standard with most solutions. Use them as a checklist when doing a basic marketing automation software comparison.
- Segmentation and batch emails: All marketing automation vendors include platforms that allows users to send emails en mass to segmented groups of customers. Templates and a native email design are also common features. These functions make your marketing efforts more personal if you use them to send segmented and targeted emails.
- By segmenting your prospects and communicating with each group in a way that’s relevant to their interests, you build trust. And as a key benefit, one Mailchimp study found that segmented campaigns had a 14 percent higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns.
- Behavioral trigger emails: A behavioral trigger email sends designated content to prospects if they take an action on your site such as downloading content or completing a form. Follow up emails offer your audience reassurance by confirming that their action was noticed by your organization and that you are currently in the process of responding to their request. While most email marketing tools and MA platforms have the ability to trigger automatic emails, 43 percent of marketers don’t use these tools, which leaves a lot of room for newcomers to the tools to take advantage of their benefits.
- Forms: A form creator gives you the freedom to build and edit your own email marketing forms. The tool provides code that you embed on your website pages, and the information the user enters will show up in the marketing automation tool. This code lets you collect email addresses and other lead data from visitors in exchange for content, promotions, or an email newsletter.
- Mobile Optimization: Most people check email on their phone, so ensuring that your email content is readable and just as eye-catching on a phone as it is on desktop is essential. Most email and MA tools have made the switch to mobile optimization, letting you view an email in mobile and desktop view before sending.
Advanced email marketing features
These features offer users more advanced functions, and may not be found in every MA platform.
- Dynamic Personalization: Personalization of marketing emails has come a long way since we first started making different lists for different types of customers. Using dynamic personalization, marketing automation tools can pull pretty much any type of customer information from your CRM or contact list to build a tailored email. These tools use dynamic tagging to select, match, and include content in the email. Marketing teams often use dynamic personalization to send mass emails while still keeping a personalized feel for the email.
- Split Testing: Synonymous with A/B testing, this email tool lets you run different versions of the same email campaign to a test audience, analyze which version of your email has a better engagement rate, and even automatically send the best performer to the rest of your list. Teams often use split testing to find the best subject line, content, design, send time, or to test pretty much any element of the email you can change.
2. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurture is a feature offered by some of the best marketing automation software tools. It helps companies track, segment, and communicate with leads in order to convert them from a prospect to a paying customer. Here are the basic and advanced lead nurture functions found in marketing automation programs.
Basic lead nurturing features
- Lead Database: Similar to a CRM database, a marketing automation lead database offers an in-depth perspective on prospect behavior. It tracks common data such as customer behavior on your website, engagement with your email campaigns, shares and likes on social media, and conversations with marketing, sales, and customer service. A lead database may also communicate with the company’s CRM and will share the lead score with relevant integrations.
- Drip Campaigns: The main form of nurturing new leads toward a sale, drip campaigns send content to prospects to build trust in your organization, expand brand awareness, and offer right-time content. Set up a drip campaign by choosing the content pieces that move leads through the funnel, and the drip campaign will send that content to the lead based on time, lead actions, or other triggers.
- The best drip campaigns are set up as a logical progression from one action to the next. Did your prospect download a content asset from your website? The next step in the drip campaign is to follow up with an offer regarding that type of product, or with even more content about that same technology.
- The most common drip campaigns run through email, but many of today’s marketing automation tools can also incorporate social media and other channels.
- Task and Alert Automation: Most SaaS products include task automation, alerts, and notifications as standard features. These tools cut down on the manual processes and amount of memory juggling that goes into paying personalized attention to leads. As automation becomes more commonplace, it becomes more widely used, helping teams complete more tasks in less time.
Advanced lead nurturing features
- Segmentation: Quality segmentation that takes into account demographic information, professional details, and online behavior helps marketers deliver relevant content to each individual prospect. This feature relies heavily on lead score functionality. While list segmentation can still happen the old fashioned way via spreadsheet, lead segmentation tools will streamline the process and pull lead reports based on nearly any standard or custom information field or tag.
- Lead Scoring: Lead scoring is a method of ranking prospective customers by their potential to convert into a lead. Each user’s score determines the type of communication they receive from the organization, the frequency of that communication, and the department from which that communication originates. Lead scoring often combines demographic information alongside behavioral information, such as website activity, past purchases, and social media actions.
- Lead scoring plays a huge part in determining the way organizations interact with prospects. Advanced lead scoring features take into account recent behavior and adjust scores accordingly. A high lead score often indicates buying intention, which can help your sales team determine what type of offer to make.
3. Social media
While certain standalone applications like Hootsuite and Buffer could be considered marketing automation, larger platforms will include many of the same message-scheduling features found in these standalone platforms. MA software often features social analytics tools that allow you to track what your audience posts across social platforms, as well as who shares your content and with whom they share it.
Additional social capabilities of this technology include creating polls, sweepstakes, and referral programs using a tool built into the MA software. Event-triggered capabilities also let you prompt prospects to share content at precisely the right time while they engage with your content.
- Posting and scheduling: Marketing automation tools that include social media management should primarily work to help teams post to all of their social media accounts from a single interface. These tools often have scheduling features where teams can set up posts weeks and months in advance, and scheduling posts can save teams up to 6 hours per week by one estimation. Social post scheduling is particularly useful for marketing teams with defined social media strategies and the content depth to repost evergreen content several times a month to capture new readers.
- Social listening: Social media marketing isn’t just about posting into the void and hoping that you’ll catch a prospect with your amazing content (although that’s part of it). Social media marketing works best when it’s a conversation between you and potential or current customers. Social listening tools scour social media sites looking for mentions of your brand, product, service, or designated keywords, so you can stay up to date on the conversation.
- Social interactions through messaging: To follow up on all of those new possible customers you find through your social listening tools, social media marketing automation tools will also provide an interface for you to send direct messages. These features help you to engage with new social media contacts, facilitate fast damage control (should you ever need it), and provide customer service directly to leads and prospects as well as current customers.
4. Analytics and reporting
The greatest benefit of automating your marketing efforts—after scaling personalized marketing to larger audiences—is getting in-depth analytics. Most marketing automation tools look a lot like business intelligence software with dashboards that display the company’s most important marketing KPIs in easy-to-understand visualizations.
- Website analytics: Most companies analyze their website traffic through Google Analytics (because it’s free and powerful) or another on-site analytics tool. Make sure that your marketing automation software can integrate with your website analytics tool, so you can see all of your website traffic information in a single place. Integrated website analytics tools will let you see the full scope of your marketing efforts and how your campaigns affect your website traffic, conversions, and ultimately the ROI of your marketing efforts.
- Advanced website analytics features will help marketers understand the impact of keyword targeting, SEO changes to website content, and may possibly include individual website rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Multi-channel analytics: Your website isn’t the only marketing channel that must connect with your marketing automation software. While most marketing automation platforms provide analysis for email and content marketing, you will want to analyze all your campaigns in a single platform. When researching a marketing automation tool, check to make sure you can connect to data from these sources:
- PPC and retargeting campaigns for search and display ads
- Social media
- Ecommerce platforms
- Direct mail
- Call metrics
- Traditional media (TV, radio, billboards)
- Online directories (Yelp, Yext, YP.com)
- Lead funnels: Marketing automation and analytics have turned marketing from an art into a science. Marketers now rely on detailed open, click, and engagement metrics to understand how customers interact with their content all throughout the sales funnel. This has come a long way since the days of using gut feeling to know when a lead should be passed to sales.
- By aggregating data from across your marketing efforts, you can get a clearer picture of your funnels and the success of your campaigns. That includes providing insight into:
- Which types of content nurtures or closes leads
- Which types of content hold your leads back from buying or progressing down your funnel
- Where leads fall out of the funnel most quickly
- When your team should act quickly on hot leads to close the deal
- Most marketing automation tools will provide visual dashboards of aggregated lead data and funnel visualizations to help your team better understand your lead funnels and find the bottlenecks.
- By aggregating data from across your marketing efforts, you can get a clearer picture of your funnels and the success of your campaigns. That includes providing insight into:
- Conversion rates & ROI: One of the most concrete metrics available for marketers to report on the success of their campaigns is the measurement of conversions and return on investment (ROI). Modern marketing automation tools allow marketers to track their spend, attribute revenue, analyze conversion rates for individual assets and channels, and report these figures to C-levels and stakeholders.
5. SEO, paid media, and digital advertising
Mostly found in enterprise marketing automation tools, SEO, paid media, and digital advertising features help marketers run their paid campaigns from the centralized marketing tool where most other marketing campaigns live. SMBs may find that managing these campaigns in free or best of breed tools is sufficient, but it doesn’t hurt to have all that data consolidated in a single interface for analytics.
- Personalized customer targeting: Companies who do not work to make their marketing more personalized to the individual wants and needs of consumers will find themselves left in the proverbial dust of their competitors. Marketers find increasing success with personalization through retargeting campaigns, detailed audience targeting for ads, and multi-channel nurture campaigns that make use of all the places where customers spend their time. Teams that run these types of campaigns in a marketing automation tool can draw upon multi-channel data for specific customers and leads to build their targeting and segments.
- Account-based marketing: Although the buzz about account based marketing (ABM) has died down a bit since its height in 2016, many companies still use this marketing technique to increase revenue and ROI. ABM tools in marketing automation software help companies run multi-channel engagement campaigns that target specific companies.
- Organic and paid search: Understanding how your website stacks up against your competitors and placing your site where you’ll get the most clicks on the search engine results pages (SERPs) is a full-time job. Gathering your website analytics, ad campaign metrics, and digital display targeting into a single interface can both make that job simpler and give your team maximum insight into campaign success.
- Custom website landing pages and lead capture forms: Paid search and display media rely on an agreement between keywords, the ad, and the landing page. Most marketing automation tools will provide you with customized landing page builders and lead capture forms that teams can customize to fit your online ads to drive lead captures and provide immediate value to customers.
Why choose marketing automation software over other software options
Marketing automation software is often confused with other tools because of its multiple capabilities: marketing automation can combine the power of email service providers, social media automation, workflow automation, project management, customer relationship management (CRM), and even data visualization software, all in one centralized location. This can make marketing automation tools extremely powerful and useful for companies, but the combination of all these tools can mean heightened complexity that might scare away many users. So how does marketing automation differ from these other tools?
CRM vs marketing automation
While both marketing automation tools and CRM software help teams understand the movement of prospects along the sales and marketing funnels, the two tools have different focuses. Marketing automation tools help marketing tools nurture and capture leads across many channels and ready those leads for hand-off to sales. CRM, on the other hand, often picks up where marketing automation leaves off, storing and analyzing the historic data on a lead’s interactions with the company to facilitate the sales process. Most companies use a CRM that connects to a marketing automation tool to manage different parts of the lead-to-advocate funnel.
Email marketing vs. marketing automation
The difference between email marketing and marketing automation tools is a matter of scope. Most marketing automation systems include email marketing tools and combine them with the connected power of all of the other marketing automation features like customer analytics, automated workflows, and lead scoring. While email marketing will stop at the email campaign, a marketing automation tool can track a prospective customer across multiple channels and campaigns.
Social media automation vs. marketing automation
Most leading marketing automation solutions will include social media automation and monitoring tools, which means you can cancel your subscription to that best-of-breed social scheduling tool. A marketing automation tool will provide context to social media interactions by tracking potential customers to your website and will combine social media data with other touches like email campaigns, phone calls, or even events to better understand the effectiveness of your total campaigns.
Workflow automation vs marketing automation
While both these tools provide hands-off attention to repetitive tasks, workflow automation software has a different specialization. Marketing automation tools will automate important manual tasks in a nurture campaign like sending drip email campaigns, reminding agents to call prospects, or automatically publishing social media posts. Workflow automation tools like Zapier may include some marketing connections in their triggers and actions, but they often won’t give you the analytics and deep customer insight into campaign effectiveness that you’ll find in a marketing automation tool.
Project management vs marketing automation
Project management and marketing automation tools should be used in conjunction with one another. Marketing automation tools will help you implement a marketing strategy, but are not great at visualizing all the tasks necessary to implement a marketing campaign. A project management tool, on the other hand, can help your team lay out the step-by-step design of your campaign, pull the assets together in a centralized location, and collaborate on the desired outcome of that campaign. Once you’ve planned your campaign, build it out in the marketing automation tool where you can set it to run and then analyze your results.
BI vs marketing automation
Business intelligence and marketing automation software have some overlapping use cases when it comes to visualizing data and making it ready for analysis. However, the analytics in a marketing automation software will be focused only on marketing-specific behaviors. A good business intelligence software will allow you to consolidate all of your data from across your company’s tools to gain deeper insights into the effects they have on one another. For best results, marketing teams should use their marketing automation software to dive deep into marketing-specific analytics, but then export their data to the BI tool to better understand how marketing affects the company’s overall effectiveness.
Benefits and ROI of marketing automation
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Automation takes repetitive manual tasks out of human hands and makes computers responsible for them. Computers complete triggered actions efficiently: they can send a set email in response to a form fill, alert a team member to a change in a lead status, or send social posts at a scheduled time. While your team will still need to do a little planning to set up automations, you’ll save time (and your concentration) later by not needing to complete tasks individually as they arise.
Big Data’s usefulness as a business tool has made companies hungry for more data that they can use to better understand their customers, funnels, operations, and financials. Marketing automation systems produce granular, customer-focused data that can help your teams segment their customers, build better nurture campaigns, and close more sales. All of this new data can be analyzed right in the marketing automation tool, or it can be fed into a business intelligence (BI) tool to view its impact on the company’s overall ROI.
Analytics and reporting
The best marketing automation software includes analytics and reporting features that track and illuminate your campaigns. Using these features can help your team build better campaigns with more personalization and better customer targeting. While BI software brings together data from all across the company, marketing automation analytics focuses on marketing and sales campaigns.
Centralized marketing tool
It’s the dream: one marketing software to rule them all! Marketing automation software can come close to this dream, centralizing control over email, CMS, content marketing, contact forms and downloads, social media, and even direct mail and more traditional channels. This is, of course, depending on the size (and price) of the product, so check feature lists carefully before you buy to make sure you don’t pay for features you won’t use.
ROI, to put it simply, is gain from investment minus your cost of investment divided by the cost of investment. Your cost of investment should include how much you spend on the software per month or year plus what you spend on training and implementation. You can find your gain from investment number by looking at overall revenue, revenue per opportunity, or cost of opportunity. However you calculate your ROI for marketing automation software, look for the software to make your team more efficient, bring in more marketing qualified leads, and target the right customers at the right time. All of these improvements should increase your overall revenue.
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Typical marketing automation user types
- CMO, Marketing Manager, Marketing Director: Decision-makers in the marketing team use marketing automation software primarily as a source of data for understanding how the team’s initiatives make an impact on overall revenue and where strategy changes could provide continued success.
- Content manager, specialist: Content creators and managers use marketing automation systems as a means of publishing and promoting content to the right customers and prospects at the right time.
- Social Media Manager or specialist: Social media managers and specialists use marketing automation tools to schedule posts to social media channels and monitor those channels for mentions and direct messages.
- Email marketer: Email marketers use marketing automation software to set up, test, run, and automate email marketing campaigns to targeted customer lists.
- Lead generation or demand generation manager or specialist: Lead and demand generation professionals use marketing automation to run email, PPC, and social campaigns as well as more traditional media campaigns that reach broad or targeted audiences. They can also refine the marketing funnel for those leads through detailed data and analytics.
Technology trends impacting marketing automation
Marketing automation systems often integrate new technologies—to the benefit of both the marketers who run campaigns and the individuals the marketing targets. The overall trends in MA software technology adoption have made communication with individual prospects and leads more personalized on a large scale.
Integrated behavior-based workflows
This trend has been used across technology areas including CRM, field service management, project management, supply chain management, and marketing automation tools to speed work handoffs automatically across different users and from one part of a project to another. Based on a series of triggers and actions, behavior-based workflows watch for a user or client behavior (the trigger) and reacts to that trigger with a specific automatic action.
Within marketing automation tools, behavior-based workflows can automatically track customers down the sales funnel based on the emails they open, the links they click on, the pieces of content they download, and the interactions they have with messaging systems or sales reps. The company defines what each of the triggers is within the marketing automation tool and sets a follow-up action to keep the customer engaged with the company’s content.
The payoff of behavior-based workflows is clear: rather than your marketers following up with every single lead who interacts with the brand, the team can specify the content those leads receive based on their interactions with your site. While the workflow automatically pushes relevant content to the customer based on how the company defines the actions, the marketing automation tool also collects feedback on how the workflow performs. By looking at where customers continue to interact with content or fall out of the funnel, a company can improve their own workflows and streamline their sales funnels to optimize their growth.
AI & machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are the trends that everyone loves to talk about, especially for business technology tools, because they sound super sophisticated. What AI and machine learning really do is apply algorithms to the thousands (or millions, or billions, depending on what kind of data you’re collecting) of data points your technology collects. These algorithms can then improve how your company uses all of that data. These are some of the ways that AI and machine learning can bring insight and use to your data:
- Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics tools in marketing automation study how humans behave when they encounter your brand, website, content, emails, or social media. The tools then use that information to predict which kinds of customers will probably take actions on your site. By better understanding what customers want from you at any stage in your sales funnel, the tools can serve those types of customers the right content to bring them to buying stage.
- Chatbots: While they sound like something out of The Jetsons, chatbots are really another algorithm hidden behind a friendly interface: a messaging app. Chatbots use natural language processing and analytics to understand user requests. They can be used for all sorts of purposes like customer service, product recommendations, and providing the right content to a customer based on their needs. And it’s not just a passing fad. More companies are using chatbots to interact with customers at all stages of the sales and marketing funnel. In the first half of 2018, companies invested over $58 million in chatbot technology, and that number is expected to rise in the coming years.
- Voice assistants: NPR and Edison Research reported in Spring 2019 that 21 percent of American adults (51.3 million people) use smart speakers, and nearly 70 percent of those owners use their smart speaker daily. These tools use AI algorithms to understand natural language and parse websites and search results to answer user questions, order products, and provide support.
Automated social media marketing
Sharing content to social media regularly and with the most impact is a full-time job, especially if you do it right. But automated social media marketing tools take a lot of the pressure off of social media managers by scheduling posts out in advance, providing a way for teams to reschedule evergreen content to attract new readers, and providing a platform for understanding social media analytics like mentions and replies.
Automated social media marketing tools can either be included in a larger marketing automation platform or are sold as best-of-breed tools.
Lifecycle marketing works on the premise that marketing doesn’t stop at the sale, but rather throughout the lifecycle of the customer. Companies that engage in lifecycle marketing attract, engage, sell, support, and turn their customers into product advocates, who in turn can help attract new customers into the marketing and sales funnel. Marketing automation tools with lifecycle marketing features will go beyond the initial sales funnel and help you build customer advocates through referral programs, automated product recommendations, and other engagement tools.
Integrations for extra features
The software as a service (SaaS) and cloud hosting movements have made significant changes in the ways that companies purchase software over the past 10-15 years. Companies that used to purchase an on-premises license for each user now prefer monthly or annual subscription models.
And more and more companies are using a Frankenstein’s Monster of integrated best of breed programs and apps—an average of 121 cloud apps per marketing department—that communicate via API to manage their marketing. This doesn’t discount the need for a good marketing automation software that can manage data inputs from best of breed marketing tools.
Broader adoption trends
Marketing automation is now common for most marketing teams: 75 percent of marketing leaders use some form of marketing automation software according to the Social Media Today State of Marketing Automation 2019 Survey (gated). This aligns with the overall adoption rates of technology to enhance human work across marketing.
Whether companies have already implemented marketing technology or hope to deepen their usage of front-running trends like AI and machine learning within more targeted areas of their marketing, the tide has turned toward adoption and full integration of marketing technology within the team.
With the growth in adoption rates, scalable features, and increased personalization, those companies who fail to implement marketing automation will undoubtedly have trouble keeping up with the competition.
What you should look for in SMB and enterprise marketing automation software
Marketing automation software for SMB companies
Small and midsize businesses have to choose tech tools that work as hard as they do and don’t have a lot of extra features that no one uses. Plan your decision carefully by choosing a marketing automation vendor that offers several features packages depending on your company’s list size or channel needs. You don’t want to get stuck paying for 1,000 direct mail campaigns if you’re only going to use your marketing automation software for social media and email campaigns.
Marketing automation software for enterprise corporations
Enterprise corporations aren’t any less concerned about paying for features they won’t use, but they often have a little more flexibility due to higher revenue—especially when it comes to giving their marketing departments options to run different types of campaigns. Enterprise companies should take into account the marketing needs of all divisions of the company before purchasing to make sure that no one division purchases a best of breed tool that doesn’t integrate with the analytics and reporting of the marketing automation tool.
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Getting buy-in for a marketing automation implementation
Garnering c-level buy-in to purchase a sweeping set of tools can be difficult, especially for comprehensive and potentially expensive tools like marketing automation software. It’s important to stress that marketing automation will help your marketing team get more done (because more is automated) and personalize your marketing message on a grand scale. These two metrics should contribute significantly to increased revenue from the marketing department.
Marketing director or manager
Middle management often tracks employee productivity, and marketing automation tools help marketing teams scale quickly from manual campaigns to automated personalization. By giving marketers a platform to personalize their marketing communications and target broad groups of customers via automation, the marketing team has more time to shift their focus from trying to run all the individual campaigns they need to improve the performance of each of those campaigns.
Individual contributors (ICs) on the marketing team—whether content writers, social media specialists, paid media analysts, or designers—will use your new marketing automation software every day. Invest in training these individuals to use the tools regularly and efficiently. Take the time to outline to your ICs the benefits of the marketing automation tool that you choose, and how it compares with the rest of the products out there. You may also want to survey each of the ICs to better understand which features they use most, so you can purchase those features.
Choosing the right marketing automation software
Selecting the best marketing automation software for your team can be difficult. The right integrations, the best A/B testing functions, the strength of reporting — there’s a lot to consider and a lot of boxes to check.
You can use the Product Selection Tool at the top of the page to receive customized recommendations for marketing automation tools based on features, integrations, company size, and more. Have questions? Call one of our in-house Technology Advisors for a free, unbiased consultation.