Written by Michael Keenan

April 8, 2021

Running a thriving online business takes substantial effort. You need empathy, drive, and grit. You need to know your customers and ensure you’re attuned to their needs. Your ability to bounce back from challenging situations and lead your team to success is critical. 

While that’s a lot of responsibility to shoulder, the good news is that there’s help available in the form of marketing automation software.

Though customer acquisition and retention duties like client relationship management and lead generation will always necessitate a human element, there are now some tasks you (fortunately) don’t need to perform manually. 

A good marketing automation software can help you increase revenue and improve marketing efficiency by automating repetitive tasks like qualifying leads, sending monthly client reports, and even executing your ad targeting. 

There are several free and paid marketing automation technologies that can help improve results and give you more time to focus on your clients. This guide will walk you through finding the best marketing automation software and how to choose one.

Table of contents:

  1. Why use marketing automation software
  2. Types of marketing automation software
  3. How to choose a marketing automation solution
  4. Top marketing automation software picks
  5. Building your business toolkit with automation

Why use marketing automation software

Automation is critical for your business’s success. When you’re first starting out, you can get away with manually completing tasks like scheduling meetings and reporting. But as you grow and manage more client accounts, you’ll want to focus more on your clients and spend less time on mundane duties. This is where marketing automation tools can help with some of the heavy lifting. 

Marketing software can help automate the following key tasks for your business:

Capture website leads

Wouldn’t it be great if you had live help 24/7 available on your site to help answer visitors’ questions and capture their contact information? You can achieve this with a chatbot. 

With a chatbot on your website, you’ll be able to provide answers to visitors’ queries without human help. You can program a chatbot to collect contact information for sales teams, help people find a product, create interactive experiences (think quizzes and games) for potential customers, and more. 

Qualify leads

Once someone engages with your chatbot, you can send them through an automated lead nurturing flow that will work out where they are in the buying process. If a customer is ready to buy, they can complete the sale inside your chatbot. If they aren’t, you can trigger the software to send the person through a lead nurture flow. 

Create lead nurture and drip campaigns

Drip campaigns help you provide meaningful ongoing interactions with customers to encourage conversions. Marketing automation software enables you to send pre-written texts, emails, and Messenger conversations to deliver value to a prospect over time. 

Even better, you can send custom messages to different customer segments to strengthen your connection with them and time tailored messages to be sent based on individual actions. 

Recover abandoned carts

Shopping cart abandonment is when visitors leave a checkout experience without buying anything. It’s a common problem for online eCommerce businesses. Abandoned cart statistics range depending on the products you sell, your website setup, and industry, but the average rate is about 69.80%.

Implementing abandoned cart recovery tactics is easy with marketing automation software. When a shopper leaves a cart behind, you can use email or SMS to send a follow-up message. If the recipient purchases some or all of the items in their cart, you just added to your top line without any effort on your part!   

Optimize advertising campaigns

Advertising automation software has become so advanced that it can help you optimize bids, budgets, keywords, campaigns, and more. It can even construct ads using product listings on your website and create banner and text ads automatically, so you never have to worry about making ads or bidding on them again. The advertising process may not be 100% automated by 2022, but given today’s sophisticated tools, it could get pretty close!

Schedule social media posts 

Whether it’s for your businesses or your clients’ accounts, you can cut down on time spent creating and publishing posts by using a marketing tool like Buffer, which enables you to plan and schedule posts for multiple accounts and social media channels from one dashboard. Just create the post, load them in the software, and let Buffer handle the rest.

Book appointments

Scheduling appointments with potential and existing clients sounds easy, but it seldom is due to busy schedules and endless email chains. If you’re tired of wasting valuable time booking a call, you can use software like Calendly to facilitate the process. The platform allows leads and clients to book available time slots in your calendar and automates reminder notifications. You can also enable a minimum scheduling notice, time zone detection, daily limits, and more. 

Automate reporting 

Business owners and marketers are probably well acquainted with the pain of manually pulling monthly reports. Gathering data from disparate sources and adding them to a single report takes time and energy, of which, as an owner (and human being), you have a limited supply. 

Good marketing software can automatically compile client data into one central dashboard where stakeholders can access it and see metrics in real time. Plus, you can automate sending monthly reports, giving you more time to focus on achieving client goals.

Types of marketing automation software

When you need help accomplishing tasks, searching for marketing automation software online is a logical first step. There are various options designed with different business goals, but most businesses tend to opt for tools in the following nine categories: 

  1. Chat marketing automation: a suite of tools across SMS, Messenger, and email that helps you build meaningful relationships with customers at scale. 
  2. Customer relationship management software (CRM): a program that allows you to store and manage customer information.
  3. Email marketing software: a SaaS tool used to manage contacts, send marketing campaigns, and automate transactional emails.
  4. Advertising automation software: a platform to create, optimize, and scale ad campaigns across networks like Facebook, Google, Instagram, and more. 
  5. Analytics and data visualization tools: services that pull disparate data into one place so you can track performance and explore insights in real time. 
  6. Social media automation: a suite of tools that schedule and automatically publish posts on social media.
  7. Social listening software: a platform to monitor social media for direct mentions of your brand, customer feedback, and relevant discussions. 
  8. Project management software: a web-based or desktop tool that helps you manage projects, tasks, and teams, and also tracks time spent on client work. 
  9. Business intelligence software: a platform used by companies to find, analyze, and transform customer data into useful insights. 

The best part? These tools can work together to turn manual marketing tasks into automated workflows, schedule and launch marketing campaigns and sales, and cut inefficiencies so you can focus on more strategic areas of your business.  

How to choose a marketing automation solution

There are many different marketing automation platforms available. If you’re trying to find the best one for your business, it can be challenging to know which ones will best support your needs. Here are a few recommendations for selecting the best marketing software: 

  1. Determine your goals. What processes are you struggling with, and what metrics should a marketing automation software improve? Combining a value with your biggest goals can help you find a solution to support them.
  2. Decide who will use the software. What teams will need access to the software? What challenges will it help them overcome? Who and how your team will use marketing software can help you evaluate pricing strategies and select the best one for your business. 
  3. Do your research. Online review sites like G2 can provide a wealth of information to help you find products that will suit your needs. You can read unbiased reviews and see other leading products in the category you’re researching. 
  4. Read case studies. A reputable marketing software should have a few to share with you. Just do a quick search on their website or ask a sales rep. 
  5. Try a product demo. More often than not, a software will have demos (either a free trial or one run by a sales rep) to familiarize you with the product and highlight use cases. 

Top marketing automation software picks 

To make the evaluation process easier, we’ve highlighted some best marketing automation software packages you’ll want to consider for your business.

  1. ManyChat
  2. HubSpot CRM
  3. ActiveCampaign
  4. Buffer
  5. Monday
  6. Zapier
  7. Databox
  8. Calendly
  9. ClickFunnels

1. ManyChat

Best marketing automation software for eCommerce businesses

ManyChat marketing automation

ManyChat is an essential marketing automation software to add to your business’s tech stack. Its marketing automation features help you streamline your communications and ensure your subscribers receive the right messages at the right time.

With Flow Builder, a drag and drop campaign builder, you can build automated lead generation flows that facilitate the customer journey from the first touch to conversion. You can manage SMS, email, and Messenger campaigns across different client accounts from one dashboard. It helps maintain conversations with leads and customers throughout their journey, drives down acquisition costs, and generates better ROI. 

Features include: 

  • Option to create and design emails, texts, and Messenger conversations through an editor 
  • Easily manageable templates and personalized messages at your disposal 
  • Message customization for specific customer segments and prospects
  • Automatic qualification and lead scoring based on online behavior, demographics, interests, and more 
  • Social ad campaign optimization and the ability to reach customers through their Facebook profile
  • Access to pre-built and custom reports and dashboards to measure campaign performance
  • Access to advanced chat automation methods and education
  • Advanced lead scoring with unlimited scores and rules to prioritize leads based on your business’s most important considerations 
  • Facebook and Instagram marketing automation capabilities. 

Price: Free to start. Pro starts at $10 per month.

Scale your business and drive better outcomes with ManyChat’s marketing automation tools. It’s free to get started.

2. HubSpot CRM

Best marketing software for small businesses

HubSpot free CRM homepage

The HubSpot CRM is a lightweight, free, and intuitive marketing software ideal for small- to medium-sized businesses. It combines sales, inbound marketing, and customer service functions into one dashboard to help you organize, track, and grow your contact list. 

The free version of HubSpot CRM includes access to the Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub products. You’ll also get access to web forms, advertising tools, marketing automation, content marketing tools, helpdesk, and more. 

Features include: 

  • An intuitive interface that makes it easy to get started
  • Automated drip marketing campaign capabilities for sending relevant messages based on predefined steps
  • Customer and prospect segmentation abilities to enhance personalization and marketing efforts
  • Tools to help identify market trends and customers who are likely to engage with your business
  • Tracking across advertising and marketing channels, including video, mobile, and social media 
  • Data collection to improve effectiveness and measure the impact of marketing campaigns
  • Reports and dashboards to analyze campaign performance 
  • Access to over 500 apps in the HubSpot marketplace to help grow your business

Price: Free.

3. ActiveCampaign

Best email marketing software for small businesses 

ActiveCampaign marketing automation tool homepage

With over 90,000 small business customers and adding more every day, ActiveCampaign is one of the fastest-growing marketing software companies in the market. It’s an all-in-one sales and marketing tool that comes with a built-in CRM system to help acquire, retain, and engage your contacts during every stage of the customer lifecycle.

With ActiveCampaign, you can build powerful email automations—from welcome series to cart abandonment campaigns—with little experience. You can also integrate ManyChat into ActiveCampaign to collect contacts, add and remove tags, and start automations based on subscriber behavior.

Features include:

  • Integration with over 150 apps and services, including accounting, content management systems, lead generation tools, analytics, and sales platforms
  • Advanced split testing to test different sender information, subject lines, and email content so you can identify what works best for you and your clients
  • Drag and drop email builder to build automations in minutes
  • Custom sign-up forms for landing pages 
  • Free phone, live chat, and email support 

Price: “Lite” plan starts at $9 per month.

4. Buffer

Best marketing automation platform for social media marketing

Buffer social media marketing homepage

Buffer is a browser-based software used to manage your social media content. It allows you to automate the publishing process across today’s leading social media platforms (such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) to improve engagement and productivity.

Buffer’s analytics help you determine the most effective time to schedule content and provide data on clicks, mentions, reposts, and potential reach, all in a neat and organized dashboard. 

Features include:

  • Custom schedules for each platform and profile that will drive more clicks and greater engagement
  • Ability to pre-populate content that will be automatically published according to a schedule, so you can guarantee client profiles will remain active without the need for manual posting
  • Browser extension that allows you to share online content in seconds
  • Analytics that show how your social media has performed over days, weeks, or months
  • Ability to upload native videos or GIFs to boost engagement with your followers 
  • Access to over 60 apps (including Zapier to build workflow automations for your business)

Price: Pro plan starts at $15 per month.

5. Monday

Best marketing platform for workflow automation

Monday marketing automation

Monday is a task management app that syncs all information into a single hub used by sales and marketing teams to manage their work better. The automation tool uses Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and workflow automations (like sending notifications and reminders) to help teams handle any project type. 

Automation “recipes” (one of Monday’s exclusive features) are built-in combinations of actions and triggers for which you can customize the criteria to suit your needs. For example, when you modify the generic recipe from “when {status} is {something}, {notify} {someone} {every time period}” to “when Task is done, notify Reporter,” its marketing automation system will alert the Reporter when a task is complete. 

Features include: 

  • Easy access and task monitoring for teams that also provides performance insights, automated alerts, and notifications
  • A customizable platform that’s configurable to brand standards
  • A 360-view of everything your team has planned during a specific period, to which you can add important deliverables and deadlines for more productive weeks 
  • Reports generated in minutes to share with clients and showcase your team’s results
  • Over 50 integrations with the best marketing tools to help streamline your workflows  

Price: Basic plan starts at $8 per user per month.

6. Zapier

Best digital marketing automation tool for integrating web apps

Zapier marketing automation software

Zapier is the easiest way to connect all your apps without writing a single line of code. It uses workflows called “Zaps” to send information between two or more apps based on predefined triggers and actions. You can choose from thousands of templates or create your own custom workflows. 

Many marketing agencies use Zapier to save time, boost productivity, and decrease human errors resulting from performing repetitive manual tasks. 

Features include: 

  • Ability to build connections between apps to automate basic tasks without using code
  • Easy to create conditional, multi-step workflows
  • All your marketing and reporting tools integrated into one cohesive suite
  • Ability to create automation workflows for lead management, customer engagement, and other marketing processes

Price: Free for up to 100 tasks per month. Starter plan begins at $19.99 per month.

7. Databox

Best marketing automation tool for business analytics and visualization

Databox homepage

Databox is a business analytics platform that aggregates all your data in one place so you can track performance and uncover insights in real time. It’s the ultimate tool to combine information from disparate sources into one dashboard and get a comprehensive view of client performance at a glance. 

For automations, Databox offers hundreds of one-click integrations with platforms, including Shopify, HubSpot, Google Analytics, Facebook, Salesforce, and more. Reporting monthly stats is also incredibly easy thanks to their automated reports feature, which allows you to email reports directly to your clients. Clients can also check on the status of their campaigns at any time through a web browser, mobile app, or even a smart TV in their office. 

Features include: 

  • Dashboards that provide and display priority KPIs for client campaigns 
  • Easy and intuitive custom or standard reports populated with attractive charts and graph options
  • Data tracking in real time with access to historical snapshots and automated email notifications 
  • Ability to consolidate data from multiple internal and external sources, including payment options like PayPal or Stripe 

Price: Start for free. Basic plan starts at $49 per month.

8. Calendly

Best marketing software for scheduling appointments

Calendly

Say goodbye and good riddance to phone and email tag when trying to set up meetings. Calendly delivers a robust feature set that allows you to effortlessly schedule one-on-one appointments, group events, and team meetings. You can connect up to six calendars to automatically check everyone’s availability—from contacts to clients and teammates—so you can efficiently find the best meeting times. 

Features include:

  • Ability to connect up to six of your Google, Office 365, Outlook, or iCloud calendars, so you never be double booked again
  • Team pages offering a single view of all events, allowing attendees to schedule relevant people, topics, or events
  • Centralized billing system so you can make one easy payment that covers all teammates’ subscriptions
  • Reporting capabilities that provide metrics on attendee engagement and monitor scheduling activity
  • Integration with ManyChat and dozens of other marketing tools to help streamline your workflow

Price: Free. Premium plan starts at $8 per user per month.

9. ClickFunnels 

Best marketing software for building sales funnels

ClickFunnels Homepage

ClickFunnels is a cloud-based platform that allows businesses of all sizes and industries to generate more leads and sales on autopilot. 

It helps you build entire sales funnels—from landing pages to follow-ups—with help from its sales tools, integrations, and training programs. You can add automated emails, text messages, and other communication actions to your funnel, all of which are triggered by actions visitors take on each page. 

Features include: 

  • Drag and drop visual builder that lets you create sales pages without a single line of code
  • Easy to craft automated follow-ups for webinars, advertising campaigns, and more with Actionetics 
  • Built-in shopping cart that allows you to track customer orders without signing up for an additional shopping cart service 
  • Ability to add ManyChat Growth Tools to your ClickFunnels sales page to capture leads and run automated marketing campaigns 

Price: Free 14-day trial to start, then $97 per month.

Building your business toolkit with automation software

Marketing software isn’t just another line item expense in your budget. Use it to position your business, improve your marketing strategy, and gain back the time you need to focus on your business’s strategic needs. 

If you feel like you’re wasting valuable time on manual work, it’s time to reassess which processes in your business could potentially be automated. With so many free options, it’s a low-risk proposition to try out some of the marketing software in this article and decide for yourself which ones are the best fit for your business.

Scale your business and drive better results with ManyChat’s marketing automation tools. It’s free to get started.

The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.