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Marketing Automation Software

Marketing Automation School - Chapter 3

In this third chapter of Marketing Automation School, we’re going to move past some of the basics of marketing automation (be sure you’ve read What Is Marketing Automation? and What Is Marketing Automation Used For?), and start moving into the dense but exciting world of marketing automation software.

With the foundation we’ve laid in the previous two chapters, you probably understand the value of automating your marketing and are looking for a solution. If not, you may be looking at alternatives for an existing platform you use, or you’ve decided you don’t need a marketing automation solution—yet. But the way the future is trending, you know one day, you most definitely will.

Because of that knowledge, it’s important to start immersing yourself in the world of marketing automation software, and knowing the different types of automation that can help your business. In this chapter, we’ll talk about the major players in the marketing automation space, along with some key differences between them, and some important features to keep in mind on your search.

When we’re done, you may not be an expert, but you’ll be much better prepared to choose the tool that’s right for you, and start successfully growing your business with automation.

With that said, let’s dive into the world of marketing automation software.

6 Types of Marketing Automation Software Tools

To begin, it’s important to understand that all marketing automation platforms are not created equal. Some tools are perceived as better than others, while others are simply designed to accomplish significantly different tasks. The solution (or solutions) that will work best for you all depends on the type of marketing your particular business engages in, and the processes you wish to simplify.

Before we dive into marketing automation software features and the companies that provide them, let’s take a look at the six major categories of marketing automation software. These categories are:

  • Strategic Planning Tools
  • Social Media Automation Tools
  • External Marketing Automation Tools
  • Marketing Analytics Tools
  • Internal Marketing Automation Tools
  • Marketing Command Center Tools

Indeed, the marketing technology landscape is a crowded place. Scott Brinker, the Chief Marketing Technologist behind illustrates the industry’s vast array of companies in their yearly Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic:

A giant infographic showing logos of every company in the Marketing category landscape.

While not every one of the logos you see here is specifically a marketing automation company, they are all marketing technology companies, designed and built to solve problems and simplify business processes. It can be an overwhelming universe as it stands already, and it continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year.

As you engage in the content of this chapter, try to avoid feeling inundated by the number of tools, and instead start to evaluate how they relate to your business, and how they might apply to you specifically, as many of them simply won’t. When evaluating various marketing automation options, focus on the most important factors that your company needs.

Keep in mind considerations like:

  • The depth of functionality each tool provides.
  • The level of complexity each tool requires.
  • The learning curve for you and your team to master a new tool.
  • The growth trajectory of your company and the features you may need soon.
  • The support and training offered around each tool.
  • The return on investment you expect to see based on the cost of the tool and what it can accomplish for you.

Think about each of these factors as we dive a bit deeper into each of these types of automation tools mentioned above.

What would you most like to change about your current marketing automation software?

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1. Strategic Planning Tools

Because of the depth your marketing automation may eventually entail, your success will ultimately be determined by your planning. While these tools are not exactly automation tools in themselves, they are perfectly complementary to your marketing automation tools, and can help in your strategizing process. With any strategic planning tool, the most important thing to keep in mind is how well the tool can help you to visualize the marketing automation workflows and campaigns you want to create.

Don’t neglect the power and simplicity of pen and paper, or a whiteboard, as a tool for your planning. Although they are more difficult to edit, these physical tools are still a powerful way to map out your strategy.

But if you do prefer digital tools, consider a marketing automation software that has a fast, simple, visual workflow builder. Or, if you need to quickly mock up an idea you’re having, use a presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote. With diagram and flowchart icons, these are easy tools to use for simpler automation workflows. You can also use an online diagramming tool, like, LucidChart, or Google Draw.

All of these above options can help you better plan strategies for your marketing automation pursuits, and are easily shareable with coworkers.

2. Social Media Automation Tools

Since social media has become a notable strategy for many marketing teams and their goals, social media automation tools enter the minds of many marketers, when discussing marketing automation.

Some traditional marketing automation platforms (which we’ll discuss in more detail later) have social media elements to them, like tracking Facebook mentions of a business, Twitter mentions of a topic, Instagram hashtag uses, etc. In other circles, social media automation refers to the set of tools that assist in automating the posting, responding, and curating of social media content.

For those looking to schedule and automate more of their social media efforts, you may look to products like Meet Edgar, Buffer, Hootsuite, or SproutSocial.

Which factor is most important to you when selecting marketing automation software?

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3. External Marketing Tools

Next, let’s talk about your external marketing automation tools. These are tools that will help you execute your strategy in communicating with your prospects and clients, and delivering your content, products, and services.

The most important automation tool in your business toolbox will be your email marketing automation software provider.

This is also the type of marketing automation software we focus on throughout the vast majority of this course, including in this chapter, and it’s a key feature in the Ecommerce CRM category spearheaded by Drip.

For some people, this is also where they expect to exhaust most of their marketing technology budget. Others will discover that there are marketing automation tools that get big results at a smaller price.

Often, marketers will divide these external marketing tools into two sub-categories: Customer Relationship Management software, and Email Service Providers.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vs. Email Service Provider (ESP)

The primary difference between a CRM and an ESP is the amount of data you gather in your marketing efforts, and how (or if) that data is stored. Most solutions that identify as either of these two types, allow you to collect leads and communicate with them via automated email.

However, CRMs include the ability to collect more details and data, as well as manually add details to contact records, for more information on a particular contact. You can also score your leads and incorporate sales team processes - so CRMs are often seen as more powerful marketing software platforms. Example CRM providers include Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua, or Pardot.

On the other hand ESPs are generally pure play email communication tools, with few features beyond the creation and sending of emails to a group of people. Example email service providers include AWeber, MailChimp, or ConvertKit.

Which marketing automation features are most important to your business?

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4. Marketing Analytics Tools

Measuring your results will be a critical part of your success with marketing automation. With solid analytics in place, you’ll be able to quantify your results so you can make data-driven decisions instead of relying on your own hunches or other team members’ untested advice.

The good news is most marketing automation tools include analytics for the core features of those platforms. These types of tools typically include some kind of tracking code for you to include on all of your relevant webpages and marketing assets, so that your automation can be triggered off of your visitors’ website activity.

If you’re looking for analytics that go beyond what a typical marketing automation solution can provide, there are multi-channel analytics dashboards like:

Not only do these dashboards keep track of your data, they also often provide visualizations of your data to help you digest your numbers even better.

5. Internal Marketing Automation Tools

Internal automation tools are essential to streamlining your company’s processes between members of your marketing team. They help to standardize the way we get things done, and help to prevent tasks and communications from falling through the cracks. Generally, internal automation tools are used for things like personal productivity, project management, and customer support.

Your own productivity and follow-through can be streamlined with personal automation tools, like Boomerang for Gmail, Wunderlist, or If This Then That.

Routing customer support tickets to different members of your customer support team can be done with rules and macros inside help desk software solutions like HelpScout and ZenDesk.

In the project management space, you and your company might benefit from automation solutions like Trello, Asana, or JIRA. These types of tools help you plan out your projects, identify who on your team does what, and keeps everyone updated with due dates or status updates.

6. Marketing Command Center Tools

The final category under the broad banner of types of marketing automation software is a marketing command center. In this new category, the primary aim of these types of tools is to allow diverse and separate marketing tools to talk to each other and share data, in order to create a more efficient and fuller picture of your marketing stack.

Using APIs to pass information back and forth, these types of tools are aware when particular events happen in one or more of the platforms you connect, and an automation rule can be triggered inside another platform, causing it to perform an action.

For a marketing command center of your own, you’ll want to check out a product like Center, which allows you to combine information from your video hosting tools, your webinar platform, your social media accounts, your email service providers, your marketing automation tools, and more.

Unlike attempts at creating an all-in-one marketing hub that locks users into their proprietary systems, Center serves as the brain for all the other marketing tools you already use.

As you look over all the types of marketing automation tools that exist, always remember to choose your automation tools based on the specific needs, skills, and resources of your company. Lastly, never overlook the importance of a clear strategy before you implement any of them, as it can be easy to drown in tools that promise to solve all of your problems, unless you have an exact vision of how those tools will do that for you.

6 Essential Marketing Automation Software Features

As we stated above, there are many types of tools that fall under the very broad banner of automating parts of your marketing. Here in this course however, we’re focusing specifically on external marketing automation tools, and even more specifically the tools that track your website activity, automate your marketing communications, nurture your leads, and convert more contacts into customers.

In Chapter 1 of Marketing Automation School, we answered the question, “What is marketing automation?” Inside that chapter, we covered the main features that most marketing automation software companies provide. As a fast refresher, while we talk about the world of marketing automation software itself, here are those features again, in short:

  1. Email and Lead Capture – Whether through landing pages or opt-in forms, native or integrated, your marketing automation software must have an inroad for you to generate new leads and introduce them to your marketing ecosystem.

  2. Lead Nurturing via Email Marketing – The sending of personalized, customized email sequences is often one of the main ways businesses nurture their leads. Your marketing automation must have a high deliverability rate, a quality email creation tool, and workflows that send these message based on the triggers you determine.

  3. List Management – Segmentation and communication with very specific groups of people, as well as the addition and subtraction of leads to or from segments is an essential feature of effective marketing automation software. Tagging leads and contacts with specific information falls into this category.

  4. Web Analytics – It’s no longer just important - it’s essential - to know what a person is doing on your website, and then be able to use that information to market to that person through your marketing automation tool. Someone who downloads two free ebooks and visits your pricing page is much more likely to buy than someone who only reads your blog once a month. That’s why web analytics are another essential feature of quality marketing automation tools.

  5. Lead Scoring – When you have lots of leads, how do you know which ones you should be talking to the most? One more key feature of marketing automation software tools is lead scoring - assigning a number from 1-100, relaying how ready a person is to make a purchase .

  6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – Having a full profile of your leads is an essential component to good marketing. Your marketing automation tool should be capturing information about your contacts and storing it for you, to allow you to sort and use that information over time to develop better relationships with your prospects and speak to them on a one-to-one basis.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how expensive is your marketing automation software?

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Marketing Automation Software Companies

As we mentioned previously, the marketing software space is crowded. Again, each of the below companies should provide most, if not all, of the features mentioned above. The differences, however, fall back on the important factors that we spoke about at the beginning of this chapter.

As a refresher, each of the below companies will differ significantly based on some or all of the following characteristics:

  • The depth of functionality each tool provides.
  • The level of complexity each tool provides.
  • The learning curve for you and your team to learn the new tool.
  • The growth trajectory of your company and the features you may need soon.
  • The support and training offered around each tool.
  • The return on investment you expect to see based on the cost of the tool and what it can accomplish for you.

At Drip, we won’t speak for any of these companies, and can’t provide exact specifics of their products, but we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge their existence in this marketing automation software conversation. That being said, follow along as we do a quick overview of some of the main players in the marketing automation software category.

  • Marketo

    Founded in 2008 and based in San Mateo, CA, Marketo is considered one of the heavyweight players in the marketing automation space. Marketo offers a wide swath of various subscription based marketing software options, which they refer to separately as Products and Solutions, all at varying price points.

  • Eloqua

    Part of software giant Oracle’s Marketing Cloud, Eloqua is a marketing automation software that also often comes up in the category of “giants” or “heavyweights” when it comes to these types of automation tools. Generally used by high volume clients, with high touch implementation, and often at a high cost, Eloqua is most often found in large corporate environments.

  • Adobe Campaign

    A product inside of Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Campaign (formerly Neolane, and purchased by Adobe in 2013 for $600 million dollars) touts itself as a cross-channel marketing automation solution, for tagging, segmentation, and personalized communication. Having been purchased in 2013, Adobe Campaign is still one of the newer players in the large, corporate solution category.

  • HubSpot

    A product of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), HubSpot was founded in 2006 and is still based in Massachusetts (Cambridge) to this day. HubSpot is another of the giants in this category, with more of a Sales CRM bent to their product than some of the others on this list.

  • Pardot

    A self-proclaimed B2B marketing automation platform, Pardot is a part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and for this reason, most popular with companies that have a need for Salesforce as their CRM. Formerly, Pardot was purchased by ExactTarget, all of which was then purchased in 2013 by Salesforce for $2.3 billion, to be marketed heavily to their existing CRM client base.

  • Infusionsoft

    Based in Chandler, AZ, Infusionsoft was founded all the way back in 2001. They self-describe as an email marketing platform designed for companies with fewer than 25 employees. With plans that start at $199/month, and a required onboarding program that costs a minimum of $999, Infusionsoft costs, at a minimum, over $3,000 for the first year, making it one of the more costly options in this field, and therefore also in the heavyweight category.

  • ActiveCampaign

    Based in Chicago, IL, ActiveCampaign self-identifies as an “all-in-one marketing solution” providing marketing automation, email marketing, and sales and CRM capabilities, in one subscription-based platform.

  • Drip

    Originally founded in Fresno, CA, Drip was co-created by founders Rob Walling and Derrick Reimer. In 2016, Drip was acquired by landing page software company Leadpages, and the team moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. At Drip, we’re proud to be the most cost-effective way to use marketing automation to grow your business. With the first free marketing automation plan for companies up to 100 contacts, Drip may just be the first email marketing tool to make marketing automation accessible to the masses.

What Is The Best Marketing Automation Software?

For the vast majority of businesses, an Email Service Provider (ESP) is no longer enough, but a true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is just too much. Most business don’t have a need for giants like Marketo, Eloqua, or Infusionsoft (nor can they afford the high prices and long contracts).

But ESPs like AWeber or Mailchimp simply don’t have the robust tracking and automation qualities that make them more effective and better choices for legitimate, growing businesses.

That’s why the best marketing automation software on the market is Drip. Of course that probably sounds biased coming from us, but here’s why:

Drip splits the difference between being a CRM and an ESP, giving you unparalleled flexibility.

Here’s a few other reasons why Drip is the best marketing automation software available.

  • Setup - One of the biggest differences between Drip and other competitors is that Drip is much easier to setup. The vast majority of our customers easily get started with Drip without any training at all. Support and education are of course available, but the intuitive user interface and setup steps make it easy for any individual to get started, on their own, in just a few hours, instead of spending weeks and thousands of dollars on consulting fees. Users describe Drip as different because of its simplicity—even calling it “fun to use.” The visual workflow builder lets you build powerful automations, but it’s intuitive enough that you won’t need to hire a consultant to build an email sequence.

  • Price - Drip's free trial lets you import contacts, build funnels, use our visual workflow builder, and see the incredible UI for yourself. There are no annual contracts or fees to get started. Drip's $49/month plan meets the majority of users’ needs. And when it’s time to level up, the next tier is $99. We do everything in our power to get you set up and going, so you can receive a huge ROI from Drip. On the other hand, Marketo starts at $1,000/month, and most users quickly hit the $1,800 plan. Infusionsoft starts at $200/month and moves up quickly to $300, with required paid onboarding. HubSpot’s pricing is similar.

  • Features - We say Drip is lightweight marketing automation software because it is easier to use and less costly than its heavyweight marketing automation counterparts, yet doesn’t cut corners with our feature set. When it comes to segmentation, tagging, web analytics, email sending, visual workflows, triggers, A/B testing, and more, Drip excels at each of these fields without bogging you down with features you don’t need or costs you can’t manage.

Traditional ESPs are designed to send static email newsletters to various lists, and have extremely limited (or quote clunk and bolted on) automation features such as the ability to tag people, segment them by actions they’ve taken, and automatically move them between campaigns. Traditional CRMs on the other hand, are designed for big corporations with huge marketing budgets, long-term contracts, and the need for hundreds of available integrations.

Drip is truly neither of the above, making it a lightweight marketing automation software solution in a league of it’s own. Click here for a deeper look at Drip’s features, and to open a 100% free account today.

In Conclusion

No one would argue that the world of marketing automation software can be overwhelming. Just head back to that massive infographic of marketing technology company logos we referenced earlier. But with everything we’ve covered in this chapter, we hope your vision is somewhat clearer, when it comes to seeing and understanding the available marketing automation software in the market.

Of course, when you end up making a selection (whether it’s the first time, or you’re making a change) we want that software to be Drip. We stand behind the funnels, automation workflows, visual builder, tagging, analytics, and user experience of Drip. We believe Drip will have a massive impact on your business, and get you the fastest ROI. We believe in the direction our software is headed, and we want you to be a part of it.

But with all of that said, we know that Drip may not be right for everyone, and we encourage you to again consider all of the factors that are most important to your business. As we proceed in Marketing Automation School, we’ll be moving into the exciting world of marketing automation workflows, where a set of cues and decisions come together to meet a specific business need. We’ll look at real world examples of people who’ve grown their business with automated workflows that you can recreate in Drip, or whichever marketing automation software you decide is best for you.

Thank you for joining us, and we’ll see you in Chapter 4!

Join the Future of Marketing Automation

Drip is the fastest growing marketing automation software in the world. Thousands of marketers and business owners use Drip to trigger millions of automated marketing actions every year—and tens of thousands of new automations happen every day. People around the world are discovering that Drip is truly the future of marketing automation; for the many and not the few. Join us today and find out why.