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Marketing Automation Platforms in 2021 (cheap and expensive)

The primary purpose of a marketing automation platform is to make a company more efficient in its marketing efforts. And ultimately, to make them more money. Marketing automation software usually focuses on automating social media, email marketing, mobile engagement, lead management, and analytics – all essential components for a successful marketing strategy.

Today’s blog compares some of the most popular and some of the most beloved marketing automation platforms (MAP) out there.

When choosing a tool, do keep in mind that switching later down the line is difficult. Migrating your data and training your team might prove to have too much friction to justify the move. All the while you might be leaving money on the table. Do think the decision through, and if you can afford it, think about the problems that you are likely to face in the future once these are resolved and once your business grows. Choose accordingly.

Table of Contents

  1. What is marketing automation?
  2. Why you do (or do not) need a marketing automation platform
  3. Marketo
  4. Eloqua
  5. Pardot
  6. HubSpot
  7. Act-On
  8. Autopilot
  9. In Conclusion

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is defined as the use of software to automate repetitive tasks such as sending emails, analyzing data, and lead management. This can be set up to work with several different platforms including Salesforce and LinkedIn, and if you are savvy enough, you can get them to work with virtually any piece of software that has an API.

The goal of marketing automation platforms is to save marketers time and money by automating many daily tasks.

Why you do (or do not) need a marketing automation platform

Automating your marketing can save you precious time and allow you to reach a far greater number of people than you might be able to on your own. Once you have figured out what works, they allow you to put your campaigns on autopilot, all the while winning more business (hopefully!)

Additionally, some of the most effective marketing tactics include personalization, both in content and in timing. And these can only really be done through Marketing Automation Platforms (unless you enjoy pain). They can help you address your clients by name and use other relevant information, deliver targeted content, and choose various triggers before performing an action. These can be on an individual level, such as sending a whitepaper if a user has opened a link with a fairly technical article. Or alternatively, to send them an easier-to-digest video if they opened the email but clicked on no link.

Read about drip campaigns and their various use cases and ways to monetize them by following the links.

However, while they are great at execution and automation, sadly, marketing automation solutions cannot eliminate the creative aspect. If they could, that just resets the baseline for where creativity counts. And then, once again, the most creative marketing wins the day.

Automating your marketing would not serve you well if you do not have at least one person in-house that specializes and solely focuses on marketing. If you are still starting your business, it is more likely that such a tool will not solve the problems you are facing now.

Moreover, unless you have a marketing strategy in place and have found what works, there is little point in trying to automate it. It is not there to begin with. Your efforts and money would be better finding what works and defining a strategy first. 

Finally, these tools can be pricey. Easily costing upwards of thousands of dollars a month. Although, there are tools such as HubSpot that offer free plans with paid plans starting as low as $50/month. Be prepared to pay a steep price if you want better tools and have a larger database/contact list. If done correctly, the tools should be paying for themselves.

Marketo

One of the most recommended tools on the – forgive the pun – market, Marketo offers very high levels of customization. Better suited for the enterprise level, both because of its feature set and price point, Marketo is widely recommended and considered a very solid choice.

One of the things that differentiates Marketo is its integration marketplace LaunchPoint. By easily integrating with many other pieces of software, your team can save valuable time and spend their efforts on higher-value tasks.

Moreover, their large knowledge base has proven to be a great resource for users.

On the other hand, Marketo is quite complex and unless you require the deep customization it offers, you can likely find other, cheaper tools that will fulfill your needs, such as HubSpot, a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Pricing starts at $1,195/month.

Eloqua

On the very high-end, Eloqua is another solid choice for enterprise customers. What sets it apart is its huge number of built-in integrations with third-party software. As mentioned above, integrating various software could save your team major time and money.

Another unique selling point is Eloqua’s great tutorials, which we found to be more in-depth and useful than most. This alone could be worth the price tag if getting up and running as quickly as possible, or training a large number of people is important to you.

Moreover, it is one of the only all-in-one marketing automation tools out there that focuses on the B2B market.

However, it is one of the priciest tools there is. If the only reason you are going with Eloqua is that it can be integrated with the software you are already using, you could save a huge amount of money. You do not need the tools to have built-in integration, as you can either code it yourself or hire someone else to do it. Most software tools have an API. And an easy way of verifying if a tool has one is to just google the tool’s name + API, or find if any third-party software integrates with it. This way, you can save the huge ongoing monthly cost while getting the same functionality.

Pardot

Tailored to B2B, it offers analytics and account-based marketing solutions.

Due to its various features, it is good for both sales and marketing teams and helps them work together. The synergies that come from having both teams working together can be huge. You can read more about the Benefits of Integrating Marketing Automation and CRM systems here.

However, its interface has received harsh criticism, with some users reportedly leaving the platform altogether due to their frustration with it.

HubSpot

A jack of all trades but master of none, HubSpot has much more mass-market appeal than any of the tools mentioned earlier. It consolidates various tools into a single platform and can be a great tool to get started with as it does a little bit of everything.

It even has its own CRM. Integrating both your marketing automation and your CRM can be hugely beneficial to both sales and marketing teams.

It focuses primarily on the ‘top of the funnel’, working especially well for SEO, content, and AdWords. However, it falls short on other aspects, such as lead nurturing.

Unfortunately, if your business continues to grow it is likely that a different tool would serve your needs better. Having to change your software of choice can create discontent amongst your team, have a learning curve, and be a lengthy endeavor.

HubSpot offers a free tier, with paid plans starting at $50/month, but rising all the way to the $3,000/month mark and beyond.

Act-On

What sets Act-On apart is the fact that you get access to all of its features regardless of how much you pay. Pricing is tied to the number of active contacts in your database or content list. It also integrates with the CRM of your choosing rather easily.

Designed for enterprise customers, Act-On offers great reporting tools, lead scoring, and easy to set-up automated email campaigns. It also comes with a wide array of responsive email templates, a must-have, in our opinion.

The biggest benefit is how well it can connect your sales and marketing teams through its CRM integration. Read about the benefits of integrating marketing automation and CRM systems.

It is important to note that some users have expressed a strong dislike of the interface. We would recommend going through their interactive tour or seeing its interface through tutorials first if you have a chance. 

Pricing starts at $900/month and can go above $2,000, depending on the number of contacts in your database.

Autopilot

Finally, we take a look at Autopilot. It is great for small teams and is focused primarily on lead nurturing.

Its main benefits are how simple it is to use – including a very clean drag and drop interface – and it’s price. It offers a free trial and is much more affordable than other options. Pricing starts at $49/month and only goes up to $249 for their platinum plan. Unless you have more than 10,000 contacts in your database, in which case you will need to request a quote.

Another huge benefit is the number of integrations it has available, out-of-the-box. You can connect with Salesforce, Segment, Twilio, and more. These help your systems stay up-to-date everywhere and save your team massive amounts of time.

In conclusion

As a business owner, automating processes that have been proved to work can be a great way of saving time, money, and staying ahead of the competition. And in marketing, a lot of processes can be automated.

When choosing a MAP, it is important to keep in mind that it is not only about solving immediate needs. Instead, look several steps ahead and choose a tool that will grow as you grow, and help you solve the problems you will face then.

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