Sending the right email at the right time can mean the difference between rags and riches.
Unfortunately with the increase in globalisation and the evolution of online business, this has become harder with a lot of businesses serving customers across multiple time zones.
So how can you be sure that every email is delivered at the ideal time to your new subscriber no matter if they are living in San Francisco, Hong Kong or Siberia?
With the help of a little tool called marketing automation of course.
Chances are, you’ve possibly already heard of it? Think of it like traditional email marketing but with the ability to know exactly what actions your subscriber (or customer) has taken so that it can engage with them through personalised email based upon that action all while you’re out spending time with your family or sitting in on an important meeting.
Sounds too good to be true right? Wrong!
In fact, marketing automation has been around for a number of years now but continues to advance at a rapid rate due to the advances in technology and internet access throughout the globe, ensuring you never miss an opportunity to convert a subscriber into a customer again.
So with this in mind, we thought we’d provide you with a breakdown of the leading marketing automation platforms to use in 2023 including the pros and cons of each one as well as our verdict on which marketing automation platform to use within your business and why?
Ready, let’s get into it!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Marketing Automation Platform
Before deploying any marketing channel, strategy or tool it’s always important to consider what you are looking to achieve out of it? To help you out with this decision-making process, we’ve included some common questions that may come to mind:
- What campaigns are you trying to automate and why?
- How are you looking to use marketing automation?
- How can I align my emails with my buyers’ journey?
- What objectives do I want to achieve using this strategy?
Now that you’ve got these questions mapped out it’s time to decide on which platform you should use to deploy this strategy within your business.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for this step too.
Which Marketing Automation Platforms Should I Consider Using
As with any SaaS platform available on the market, there is no shortage of options available on the market making it hard when it comes to choosing the right marketing automation platform but we’re going to cover some of the industry leaders as well as a few of our preferred platforms to help make it easier for you.
While all of these platforms will do the job, each of them varies in terms of key features, pricing and who their intended user base as these are important depending upon what time of online business you are looking to start or are currently running.
So with our contenders lined up, let’s dig into each one in detail and determine which is the best marketing automation platform you should use within your business and why.
First up in our marketing automation platform showdown is ActiveCampaign. Originally starting out as a consulting firm before transitioning to a SaaS platform that has now become one of the leaders within their industry, ActiveCampaign remains true to its original foundations by providing a solution that allows businesses of any size to run effective marketing campaigns with a strong focus on small businesses which still remains true to this day with over 70,000 small businesses using the platform every day.
Where ActiveCampaign favours strongly are its focus on providing an all in one solution allowing you to communicate effectively through email and SMS while keeping everything inside of an easy to navigate CRM so you can keep track of each engagement.
They also win points by allowing you to build out advanced automation’s that track just about any action a visitor, subscriber or customer takes within your website so that you can reach out to them at exactly the right moment to ensure each and every communication is within context to where the person is within your buyer’s journey.
- Ability to create and send emails based upon specific goals (broadcast, triggered, targeted, auto-response and scheduled) emails
- Ability to create highly targeted and relevant automation’s
- Fully integrated CRM and pipeline management features with iOS app support
- Built-in SMS and website messaging features for cross channel communication
ActiveCampaigns fairs quite favourably when it comes to pricing with options available to suit both big and small businesses. Unlike most other options that may require you to use multiple platforms for contacting and managing your leads and customers, their platform incorporates everything to provide one easy to use solution.
While their plans do allow for multiple users within each tier, their pricing does however change based upon how many contacts you have.
The below pricing includes up 500 contacts
- Lite – $15 per month/$9 per month (billed annually)
- Plus – $70 per month/$49 per month (billed annually)
- Professional – $159 month/$129 per month (billed annually)
- Enterprise – $279 month/$229 per month (billed annually)
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution with a strong focus on automation while keeping things simple you can’t go past ActiveCampaign in terms of features and pricing. Unlike other platforms that have been known to abandon low pricing tiered clients when they start to scale ActiveCampaign remains true to small business meaning you won’t be shown the door when you least expect it which can be a nightmare for any business vested within a platform.
Next up in our contenders for top marketing automation platform is MailerLite. Some may call it your typical rags to riches as within their first year of business they only generated €1,652 revenue proving not all companies make it to internet stardom overnight.
Today, they help over 600,000 businesses, startups and freelancers around the world to connect with their subscribers delivering over 1 billion emails every month and comprise a team speaking 12 languages so chances are you’ll feel right at home.
What I love about MailerLite is that they have remained true to their roots by providing an affordable solution that anyone can make use of when starting out with pricing starting at $0 until you reach your first 1,000 subscribers with affordable pricing options no matter how big or small your list becomes.
They are also an industry leader when it comes to customer support by offering 24/7 live support with an average response time of fewer than 5 minutes meaning they’re on hand when you need them most (no matter where you run your business from).
- Integrated landing page and pop-up builder allowing you to build conversion optimised campaigns all from within one centralised platform
- An ever-growing list of integrations enabling you to connect it with other platforms
- Easy to use drag and drop email builder with pre-built templates
- Ability to split test email variables including design, headings and more
MailerLite not only provides an easy to use platform but helps you save across the board by allowing you to create landing pages and pop-ups within their platform meaning fewer overheads which is important for any business when starting out.
While their free plan does come within some limitations it will more than likely provide you with everything you need to get up and running, however, their paid plans start at $10 and include every single feature which is rare to see within most SaaS offerings.
- 1 to 1,000 Subscribers – $0 per month (with limitations)
- 1 to 1,000 Subscribers – $10 per month/$84 per year
- 1,001 to 2,500 Subscribers – $15 per month/$126 per year
- 2,501 to 5,000 Subscribers – $30 per month/$252 per year
- 5,001 to 10,000 Subscribers – $50 per month/$420 per year
MailerLite is an ideal choice if you’re just starting out as they not only offer one of the most affordable options on the market, they also save you having to pay for a landing page builder and pop-up builder which don’t always come cheap.
By also providing an all-in-one solution you’re able to save time having to learn how to set up and use multiple platforms and time is money as they say. Well played guys!
Next up in our list is a company that up until recently was a crowd favourite and possibly even the undisputed leader when it comes to marketing automation, Drip.
Chances are, if you’ve been in the market for a marketing automation platform or looking to switch you would have probably stumbled upon a lot of negative press relating to Drip recently.
We’re not going to lie, in some ways they pissed off a lot of long time customers within recent months with deliverability issues, a drop in customer support standards and not to mention a massive price change right on Christmas/new years resulting in a lot of businesses having to make drastic changes while on holidays. Uh oh!
But bare with us here, as we still think they provide a product well worth considering and we’re going to explain why we think they still deserve a spot on this list now.
If you’re not aware of the history behind these changes, let us sum it up for you in a nutshell.
Originally founded in 2013 they quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the best platforms in terms of features, price and customer service. Next thing you know, Drip was acquired by landing page builder leader LeadPages and everyone was thrilled.
Unfortunately, this is where the problems mentioned above began and people got frustrated and started looking for alternatives as Drip wasn’t cutting it for them.
Now while this has had some impact on their street cred, their platform is still one of the best on the market with a stack of features you simply won’t get with other platforms.
Still not convinced? Let’s have a look at them in more detail below.
- Detailed insights into customer data allowing you to get a full overview of each and every action a user takes through the use of tags, custom fields and customer behaviour
- Advanced personalised features ensuring you’re sending the right email at exactly the right time using segmentation, behaviour based actions and personalised content
- Ability to integrate with other marketing channels for cross channel marketing
- Advanced optimisation of campaigns through the use of revenue attribution, split test, and detailed insight dashboards for every subscriber and campaign
Since we last revised Drip they have made some changes in terms of their pricing and they now offer pricing plans starting at $19 per month for up to 550 subscribers which makes them a great contender for those just starting out in marketing automation.
They also offer a 14-day free trial which provides you with plenty of time to take the platform for a test drive so that you can determine if it is the right platform for you and your business.
- 0 to 549 Subscribers – $19 per month
- 550 to 2,499 Subscribers – $29 per month
- 2,500 to 2,999 Subscribers – $39 per month
- 3,000 to 3,999 Subscribers – $59 per month
- 4,000 to 4,499 Subscribers – $79 per month
- 5,000 to 5,499 Subscribers – $89 per month
- 5,500 + Subscribers – from $99 per month
With their recent backflip in pricing it now makes them one of the best value platforms on the market for both beginners and seasoned marketers looking to create advanced automation’s and while they now heavily promote themselves as eCommerce focussed they offer one of the best feature stacks on the marketing making it a great choice for almost any business owner.
You may also want to consider exploring some of the video training, pre-built templates or even schedule a free demo with Drip directly to see it in action.
An often overlooked contender in the marketing automation platforms space is SendInBlue and while at times it simply comes down to the fact there are a lot of options on the market we think SendInBlue deserves its spot amongst the big players within the industry.
Not only nail it in terms of their branding they also have been around long enough to earn their fair share of loyal users and have crafted a full-stack solution that can be used in many ways as an all in one marketing solution for your business.
Founded over 10 years ago they now boast over 80,000 customers across 160 countries and deliver 100 million emails every day for their customers.
Where they win points also in our showdown is by offering everything the budding business owner needs all inside of one easy to use dashboard. From email marketing to SMS marketing, chat, segmentation, marketing automation, CRM, landing pages, signup forms and even a Facebook Ads builder they have everything on offer for a very reasonable fee.
And while many sceptics argue that a tool that does everything isn’t generally good at anything we beg to differ on this occasion.
- Ability to build multi-channel campaigns all within one platform that can be deployed via email marketing, SMS marketing and chat
- Create highly personalised marketing campaigns based upon specific actions taken by the website visitor through advanced segmentation
- Convert visitors into strangers using through the use of their landing page builder, sign up form and CRM functionality without having to switch between multiple platforms
- Detailed analytics including open rate, click-through rate, heatmaps and a/b test results so that you can measure and optimise every campaign
Another area they fare favourably in is their pricing, unlike most platforms that charge based upon how many contacts you have SendInBlue focuses on upon features instead and even then their top tier with all features starts at $66 per month… hot damn!
They do however cap based upon the number of emails per month but even then, their limits are extremely generous so it’s very unlikely you would reach these limits.
- Free – $0 per month (300 emails per day)
- Lite – $25 per month/$300 per year (100,000 emails per month)
- Essential – from $39 month/$374.40 per year (1,000,000 emails per month)
- Premium – from $66 month/$633.60 per year
- Enterprise – customised pricing only
If you’re looking to get bang for your buck you can’t go past SendInBlue as a full-stack solution that saves you time and money and lets you manage everything from one dashboard.
Our only negative point that could be said about this platform is that their CRM does not feature a deals pipeline which may be essential for some businesses but this is nothing can be managed through the use of one of their natively supported CRM plugins or just about any CRM platform on the market with the help of Zapier.
Feel free to explore their extensive offering of features in more detail here or if you prefer to see it in action you can sign up for a free account and try it out for yourself (no credit card required).
We’re now down to the final two in our marketing automation battle and the next contender stepping into the ring is probably one of the most well-known brands within the marketing world.
Founded in 2006, Hubspot has grown at incredible rates through the use of their inbound marketing methodology, certification programs for both marketers and agencies and multiple conferences they hold annually to lure companies, marketers and agencies alike into the world of HubSpot and it’s core beliefs around marketing.
But does any of these actually help you and your business in the end? Well, let’s take a look more in terms of how they stack up when lined up against our other contenders.
HubSpot has also opted for an all in one solution rather keep everything within one place which is always a good idea if you are looking to manage everything in ease and while they do offer a reasonable tool stack including a CRM, lead capture forms, pop-up forms and email marketing all for free this is just a handful of features you need for true marketing automation.
What’s the catch? If you actually require the marketing automation component that’s going to set you back a tidy $800 per month, billed annually as well as a $3,000 onboarding fee.
That’s a total of $12,600 per year UPFRONT!
Now, the numbers don’t lie and we’re not here to badmouth anyone here, we’re just presenting all of the leading options and laying the cards out on the table for you to see for yourself.
And if the numbers are anything to go by, the numbers don’t lie. Their revenue grew from $255,000 in 2007 to $15 million in 2010 so clearly, they have a loyal allegiance of customers.
In terms of features, you get for this price, you get the whole kit caboodle including marketing automation, smart content personalisation, blog and content creation tools, SEO and content strategy, social media tools, landing pages, split testing and a whole bunch of nifty tracking analytic reporting tools but I guess you’d expect that and if you’re shelling out $10k+.
- All in one solution to create entirely integrated marketing campaigns using marketing automation, landing pages and lead capture forms
- Professional onboarding with HubSpot or a partner agency
- Create track and manage deals using their inbuilt CRM and sales pipeline
- Advanced reporting and analytics with the ability to create split tests based on results
Now, we’ve already broken down the fees involved in HubSpot above so we’re not going to go into too much detail here but there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to committing to a platform like this and while it is a great solution for many businesses it may not be for you.
We thought however we’d include both their free and paid offerings though below as their free platform does have a lot to offer and also plays nicely with some of the other mentioned platforms within this list when integrating them together.
- Free Marketing Tools – $0 per month
- Marketing Hub– $10,375 per year (billed annually) + $3,000 onboarding fee
So the only question you’re probably wondering is why on earth would I pay $12,600 upfront per year with no guaranteed return on investment?
Well, at the end of the day you’re buying into more than just the software. You’re committing to a long term strategy to grow your business through both organic and paid growth all done from within one integrated platform with ongoing support and guidance.
This does not actually mean you’re buying a marketing team who’s going to run the show for you while you sit back and collect the rewards, HubSpot and inbound marketing require long term commitment and the aid a certified inbound marketer or agency who knows how to get the most of the platform and can help you work towards your goals.
If however, you’re a small business, don’t have an in-house marketing team, or simply aren’t at a stage where you can invest $12,000+ into a long term strategy HubSpot is NOT for you.
Last but not least in our search for the best marketing automation platform is a platform that is renowned for its customer service, providing free migration services from their competitors.
ConvertKit is a crowd favourite amongst many online creators (bloggers, authors, podcasters, designers) having been founded by a former freelance web designer turned content creator himself so who better to understand the needs and wants of this audience?
Not only this, they place a strong emphasis on standing by their core values and have set themselves some pretty big milestones within their overall mission to help online creators make a living from doing work you love (isn’t that everyone’s dream?).
So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at ConvertKit in more detail in terms of features so you can see if it’s a right fit for you and your business.
ConvertKit was built with online creators in mind so naturally, they have remained true to this by providing a stack of features that are suited towards this market, however, most of these features can be deployed across varied business models.
Now, this isn’t to say it can’t be used within traditional businesses but depending upon your specific requirements it may not be able to meet all your needs and sorry to burst your bubble here but very rarely will any software do this.
- Easy to create embedded opt-in forms with advanced reporting so that you can keep track of growth and understand your visitors and subscribers
- Ability to create advanced email marketing automation’s so that you can send the right email at the right time keeping your subscribers engaged
- Manage all your subscribers using their well-designed dashboard
- A growing collection of integrations making it easy to connect with other platforms
ConvertKit doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to pricing claiming “ConvertKit will be the best money you’ve ever spent to grow your audience” and it’s easy to see why by offering affordable plans which include all features no matter which tier you choose.
- 0 to 1k subscribers– $29 month/$25 per month (billed annually)
- 1k to 3k subscribers– $49 month/$41 per month (billed annually)
- 3k to 5k subscribers – $79 month/$66 per month (billed annually)
- 5k+ subscribers – from $99 month/83 per month (billed annually)
While ConvertKit does cater to a more niche market, we simply couldn’t resist including them in our list of contenders for marketing automation platforms. With a great back story, core values and a clear mission that remain true to this day, affordable pricing and amazing customer support what more could you ask for from a marketing platform?
They also provide free product demos to help you get a full understanding of how their platform works so that you can make an informed decision before making the final call.
And the winner is…
Now that we have weighed up all the options and you have an overview of each one, you’re probably waiting for us to pick the winner? Well, this comes down to your individual needs as no business is the same, however, here’s our picks on which one to use and recommend.
ActiveCampaign – Great all in one solution for those looking to integrate their marketing and sales due to their inbuilt CRM and deals management features.
ConvertKit – When it comes to building out advanced automation’s, you can’t go past ConvertKit and it’s what we use in house to keep our subscribers up to date and share our latest insights.
SendInBlue – Ideal for those just starting out or those who are looking to combine their marketing all in one place due to its landing page builder and pop up forms.
And there you have it, our top marketing automation tools for you can implement within your business in 2021 for better email marketing results year-round.