How to Choose a Marketing Automation Tool in 2020

If you’re new to marketing automation, choosing the right marketing automation tools for your business could be an overwhelming and intimidating process. Long gone are the days when your decision was limited to the top ten leading tools out there. Today, a 2019 report of the marketing automation landscape by Chief Marketing Technologist lists 7,040 live solutions.

This is how 7,000+ logos of marketing products look like when positioned in a single supergraphic:

For perspective, this infographic contained only 150 when the project was first born in 2011.

To help you navigate this extremely crowded landscape and design your marketing strategy, we put together this practical guide on selecting the right marketing automation software for your online business. Before we dive into the tips for evaluating different tools, let’s first explore what exactly marketing automation is and why it is essential for your business.

A Brief Introduction to Marketing Automation

Marketing automation makes processes that would have otherwise been performed manually much more efficient. It helps you deliver personalized messages across multiple channels (email, SMS, notifications, ads, social media, direct mail, etc.) in order to attract, convert and retain more customers with fewer resources and in a more scalable way.

The Importance of Implementing an Effective Marketing Automation Strategy

Some of the benefits of a well-implemented marketing automation strategy for your business include:

  • Reduced customer acquisition and staffing costs.
  • Better return on investment (ROI) — increase in revenue and average order size.
  • Time savings
  • Improved targeting of messaging.
  • Increase in qualified leads generated by the marketing campaigns.

Example Uses of Automation in Digital Marketing Campaigns

There are a myriad of ways that marketing automation enables you to be more effective and produce a higher ROI on your efforts.

  • Use cross-channel messages to target potential customers. Some people are more likely to engage with your brand on social media versus email. Marketing automation tools allow you to have an effective customer communication across different channels.
  • Run precise A/B test experiments. With marketing automation tools, you can easily measure which campaign yields the best result and double down on it.
  • Boost your email marketing engagement by sending follow-up emails to unengaged subscribers.
  • Increase customer lifetime value through up-sells and cross-sells with relevant products personalized for each recipient.
  • Revive old leads with re-engagement campaigns.
  • Streamline your sales processes and align marketing and sales team more effectively with the use of all-in-one marketing automation systems that provide you with access to marketing tools and CRM features.
  • Schedule social media posts and campaigns ahead of time

How to Select the Right Marketing Automation Tool

Marketing automation is so ubiquitous today that you’re probably using at least one marketing automation tool already without calling it like that. With so many tools available, it might be hard to decide what exactly do you need.

To help you with that process, we’ve put ten easy tips.

1. Start with your business model.

Your business model and processes are greatly going to impact your marketing automation needs. Do you run a B2C or B2B business? Is your business software as a service (SaaS), a mobile app, eCommerce, marketplace, or a service? What does your selling process look like — do you rely on a product-led, self-serve onboarding or you have a traditional high-touch sales model?

There isn’t a single perfect solution that caters to all types of businesses. By understanding your business model, your acquisition processes, and your customer persona, you can make more knowledgeable decisions when selecting your marketing automation toolset.

If you run a product or SaaS business, you could explore solutions like Intercom,, or ActiveCampaign.

If you have a prolonged, high-touch sales process, you would need a marketing automation platform that helps you qualify leads and stay on top of your contacts. HubSpot, Pardot, and Eloqua are powered by robust CRMs and sales features like outbound emails, lead management, and segmentation, and lead scoring.

On the other hand, if you run an online shop, you should look into platforms that are built with B2C eCommerce needs in mind. Drip, Klaviyo, and Exponea are just a few tools that fit that bill.

2. Identify the stage of your business that needs the most attention

Based on the business model and maturity of your company, you may experience challenges at different stages of your marketing funnel. Do you have difficulties attracting traffic to your website? Do you manage to convert that traffic to qualified leads and those leads to customers? What is your average customer lifetime value, and for how long do you retain your customers?

If you struggle with attracting eyeballs to your product or service, you might need to look into a search engine optimization (SEO) platform like Ahrefs or MOZ to help you increase your organic traffic. Maybe you’d want to boost your social media presence and engage better your loyal audience by scheduling regular posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and CoSchedule.

To convert that website traffic to leads, you could A/b test different landing pages and forms with a robust landing page builder tool like Leadpages or Unbounce.

To keep your brand top of mind, you might want to send weekly email campaigns with an email marketing tool like Mailchimp or GetResponse.

Lifecycle marketing automation and customer experience platforms like ActiveCampaign, Drip, and Autopilot allow you to nurture your leads into paying customers and increase your average revenue per user.

3. All-in-one Vs. best-of-breed marketing automation platforms

Marketing automation platforms come in two general forms: all-in-one suites or best-of-breed tools.

Which one you decide to go with depends on your personal preference, your marketing needs, and your budget.

All-in-one platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua or Sharspring have hundreds of features: CRM, content management system, landing page, and form builders, email marketing, visual automation builder, SEO tools, social media scheduling tools, and so on.

On the contrary, best-of-breed tools focus on providing the most robust and sophisticated solutions to a single feature or set of features. For example, Mailchimp helps you with email marketing, Buffer with social media, and Ahrefs with improving your search rankings.

There’s a third category of marketing automation products that help you orchestrate and automate tasks between other tools: Zapier, Autopilot, and are a few of them.

4. Consider your budget

Last but not least, you need to consider your monthly budget allowance for marketing automation software. Using the right set of tools is crucial, but what makes a good tool great is the marketer using it. That’s why you need to carefully decide how much you want to spend on these products.

Big platforms like HubSpot, Eloqua, and Market tend to get extremely expensive if you use their full set of features. Fortunately, most of them offer their suite as separate products, so you can subscribe only to the features that you need.

Best-in-class software products like Buffer, Leadpages, SEMrush, etc. are usually most cost-effective, but you might need to use a few of them to cover all of your marketing needs.

Marketing Automation Tools to Explore

In this section, we’re going to give you a top-level overview of some of the most popular marketing automation tools in each category.

All in one marketing automation platforms: HubSpot

HubSpot is one of the most widely used and robust marketing automation tools out there.

HubSpot breaks down its products into five main categories:

  • Free Tools & CRM
  • Marketing Hub
  • Sales Hub
  • Service Hub
  • HubSpot CMS

It takes time to master every single feature that HubSpot offers, but the ecosystem around this tool can help you get to grips more quickly.

Social media marketing: Buffer

Buffer is a user-friendly, streamlined social media management platform trusted by small and medium businesses, agencies, and individuals to help drive meaningful engagement and results on social media. With Buffer, you can schedule, publish, and collaborate on social media posts. They also offer analytics to help you track your social media efforts.

SEO: Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a suite of SEO tools that can help you in almost every aspect of growing your organic traffic from Google. Including competitor research (unveil your competitor’s keywords and backlinks), link building, keyword research, rank tracking, and content discovery.

eCommerce: Klaviyo

Klaviyo is an email marketing and marketing automation tool that makes personalized B2C eCommerce marketing a breeze through data-driven decision making. Klaviyo leverages your real-time customer data: purchases, orders, customer interactions, and so on to enable hyper-personalization in your email communication and other marketing channels.

What about you? What are your favorite marketing technology tools that you plan to use in 2020?

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