If you’re the owner of a small business or you head up the marketing department of a large company, at some point, you’re going to have to answer a few basic questions:
- What is your marketing strategy?
- What is your marketing plan?
- Who do you need to execute this plan?
- Which marketing automation tools will you use to make this plan as efficient as possible?
In this post, we’re going to focus on question number four.
All-in-one marketing automation tools
When it comes to all-in-one marketing automation tools, business size doesn’t necessarily matter, but your budget might. Although each software comes with tiered pricing to entice you to buy, as your business grows, so does the price. That is definitely something to consider before putting all of your eggs (or in this case, contacts) into one basket.
The benefit of an all-in-one marketing automation tool is that you can use it for most of your inbound marketing needs: contact database, landing pages, email marketing campaigns, scheduling social media, hosting and publishing your blog, analyzing data, and integrating with your sales team.
Here are three all-in-one marketing automation tools you might want to consider:
Full disclosure: we’re a HubSpot Partner, so of course this is one we always strongly recommend. HubSpot was founded in 2006 for small business owners who want to execute a powerful marketing plan, but don’t have the coding skills or employee bandwidth to cobble together a bunch of integrated platforms to pull it off.
Where it shines: HubSpot’s ease of use, extensive training opportunities, and user-friendly interface are the big attractions. It’s also a fully-functioning Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system integrating marketing and sales so everyone is using the same data to follow a contact through the entire buyer’s journey. This makes for a cohesive system that keeps all users on the same page when analyzing the sales funnel to see where things are working well and where they might be breaking down. You can also automate most of your day-to-day marketing through the platform with ease.
Pricing: Theoretically, you can start using HubSpot for free, but in order to take advantage of all of the tools mentioned above, you might want to consider the Professional plan for $800/month.
Marketo was also founded in 2006 and is ideal for medium-to-large-sized companies. It was specifically designed as a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) but integrates well with Salesforce, one of the most popular CRMs in the world.
Where it shines: Because Marketo was built for mid-to-large-sized companies, its ability to scale across multiple business lines and locations is appealing. They also have an active marketing community called The Marketing Nation® where you can pose questions and get information from other Marketo users when you’re looking for a certain functionality.
Pricing: Unfortunately, they don’t list pricing on their website, so you have to contact the company’s sales team to get that information. You can see what’s offered in each tier, so if you know what you need, you know which tier you should be inquiring about.
Pardot is also ideal for medium-to-large-sized companies, and since it was acquired by Salesforce in 2013, it integrates seamlessly with that platform.
Where it shines: Pardot offers the full breadth of marketing automation tools that a mid-to-large-sized business might need and is easy to use despite its complexity, even for novices. Its ability to customize tools and workflows is another feature users commonly appreciate.
Pricing: Pardot is on the pricier side. Their Standard package starts at $1,000/month, but you won’t have nearly the full range of marketing automation tools they offer. For that, you’ll most likely want to step up to the Pro package for $2,000/month.
The bottom line
As you review each of these options, make sure they do what you need them to do, integrate with your existing platforms, provide cohesive information for your marketing and sales teams, and will still be affordable as your business grows. The whole point of marketing automation software, after all, is to help grow your business and solve your business challenges.
Å la carte marketing automation tools
If you’re a startup or small business with a limited staff and budget, you can still execute a robust marketing plan. It just might take a little more thought and precision, and careful budgeting for the tools you can afford. Here are a few tools you should consider to get things started:
Landing page builders
If you want to capture leads, you’ll need to create content offers, which most often live behind landing pages where you can ask for prospects’ contact information.
Unbounce: Unbounce is an extremely powerful landing page builder, albeit a little overwhelming for novices. It integrates with WordPress, has a dynamic text replacement option for PPC campaigns that automatically swaps out select keywords on your landing pages to match up with keywords searched for by the prospect, and offers a lot of flexibility. Pricing starts at $79/month for the Essential Plan, which might be enough to get you up and running and growing your list.
Leadpages: Leadpages offers a lot of great templates and differentiates itself by offering two landing page editors, one for novices and one for the advanced user. It also offers the ability to create a popup window on any page of your site, not just on landing pages, which is a nice option. They offer a 14-day free trial and fairly affordable pricing starting at $25/month.
Instapage: Instapage offers drag-and-drop functionality like Unbounce and Leadpages, but it allows you to drag and drop and layer items anywhere on the page giving you some design flexibility. The caveat is that you’re limited to only one font for all of your text, which means if you want to change the color of multiple paragraphs of text all at once, you can’t. Like Leadpages, a 14-day free trial is available and then prices start at $69/month.
Email marketing platforms
Once you capture those leads with your landing pages, you’re going to want to send them some emails.
MailChimp: Mailchimp’s free entry-level pricing and minimal cost to upgrade as you get more contacts are one of its best selling points. You can send 12,000 emails/month to up to 2,000 contacts for free. Many startups and small businesses will be able to stay on that plan for a while before upgrading to a paid plan, which starts at $10/month. They also have a wide variety of templates, and customization is available, but a bit limited for advanced users.
Constant Contact: Constant Contact is ideal for any size business and you can use it free for 60 days before committing to a plan. Although it offers a few more features than MailChimp, it also costs a little more, and the service is not as readily customizable as MailChimp. Like MailChimp, pricing is based on list size, so the smaller your list the lower the price. For a list of 0-500, that equates to $20/month for one user and $45/month for up to 10 users.
AWeber: AWeber offers much of the same functionality as both MailChimp and Constant Contact, but the number of templates you get to choose from is worthy of note. Aweber offers over 700, while MailChimp has 90, and Constant Contact has “dozens.” AWeber also has a reputation for very strong support, which is great for new users. Pricing is fairly straightforward. There are five plans available, all with the same features, starting at $19/month.
Social media scheduling tools
Unless you want to go into each social media platform individually to send a post, you’ll need some sort of social media marketing automation tool that makes scheduling and sending social media a snap. While native publishing does is sometimes favored in a platform (lookin’ at you, Zuckerberg), social media scheduling through third-party tools still has its advantages.
Hootsuite: Hootsuite has been in the social media scheduling game for a while. Its clean dashboard allows you to monitor several metrics at once, making it attractive and easy to use. The platform provides basic analytics, but to get a more in-depth look, it will cost you more. You can use it for free, but you’ll be limited to one user, three social profiles, and 30 scheduled messages, which is unlikely to be enough even for one person departments. For more features, you can get a 30-day free trial and then pricing starts at $29/month.
Sprout Social: Sprout Social offers a pretty robust set of features with an intuitive and attractive interface, but all of this comes at a cost. They offer a 30-day free trial for all of their plans but have a steep starting price of $99 per user per month. You’ll want to take advantage of the trial and see if all the bells and whistles are worth the extra cost.
Buffer: Buffer is the most simplistic of these three platforms, making it easy to navigate and schedule your social media posts. It has a browser extension so you can easily add content to your queue while you’re cruising the internet, which is a very handy feature. You can use the tool for free, but you’re limited to one user, three social profiles, and 10 scheduled messages per month per profile. Seven-day free trials are available for their paid plans, which start at $15/month.
Moral of the story
No matter what size business you have, you need to have some sort of marketing plan in place if you want to grow. These automated tools will not do the heavy lifting for you—that is, develop a strategy for your marketing team and/or marketing partner—but they will help make your marketing plan a little easier to execute so you can focus on serving your customers and growing your business.
Of course, if you need help getting any of these platforms set up, or you’re looking to talk about a recommendation, you can contact us!