Marketing Automation. Sounds expensive and complicated right? Plus you don’t have the time to spend researching more systems. I know how it feels. Once you start working with a modern marketing automation platform you won’t look back. It will transform the way you work whilst saving you both time and effort.

I’ve been an expert digital consultant for over 20 years. I know how difficult digital marketing is without automation. You may use different tools to understand what’s going on with your website. Where do you start? Where do you focus? Which tool does what? It’s easy to waste time looking at data without getting any real results. It’s frustrating.

If this sounds familiar, then this post is for you. It discusses systems that are available to digital marketers like us.

Your audience

Before we look at systems, let’s think about our audience. You want to communicate with the right customers at the right time. This is inbound marketing. A method of connecting with your audience on their terms. They may not be ready to buy from you yet. As a marketer your job is to nurture them along their buyer journey. Marketing automation allows you to do just this.

In this post, I’ll introduce you to my favourite automation tools. I’ve tried each of them over the last few years. I guarantee they are worth your time and effort to investigate.

Each of the tools that I have highlighted below allow you to start small. Some of them allow a free trial account which is great news for starting out, so take some time and evaluate each to decide if it’s the right solution. Choose the right one and you’ll be able to do marketing in less time. You’ll quickly be on your way to becoming a successful marketer handing off qualified leads to your sales team in no time.

So, let’s start with a look at pro-level automated inbound marketing solutions. We’ll start here because these platforms offer the widest range of automation features. They will give you the ability to connect many different channels of marketing comms.

Inbound Marketing Platforms.

The beauty of a joined up system is that everything is connected and works seamlessly together. It means that connecting with a customer at the right time is much easier.

These three market leading solutions are a one-stop-shop, that will allow you to quickly become a powerful inbound marketer.

hubspot-logo

HubSpot is the inbound marketing leader and practically dominates the inbound marketing landscape. I can’t speak highly enough of the whole HubSpot ecosystem.

It is built to help companies grow and it has to be one of the most beautifully designed marketing systems online today. It’s powerful, easy to use and is backed by amazing support.

Your marketing team can set up landing pages that automatically feed into your contact database. Lead nurturing workflows can send follow-up emails designed to qualify leads and close a deal. All without any technical knowledge.

The reporting modules provide accurate data on anything from landing page traffic sources to lead conversion. It’s integrated social media scheduling lets you build content calendars in no time. Definitely a time saver.

One of the best aspects of all is the training. HubSpot offers an in-depth library of tutorials designed to get even novice marketers up to speed with inbound quickly. My company Hub Masters specialises in HubSpot support and development and I love working with it.

Marketo

Marketo, number two on my list was recently acquired by Adobe. It started as a lead management platform but has now become much more than this.

It’s email marketing integrations allow for custom content sent automatically to prospect who may still be in the consideration phase of their buyer journey. You can speak directly to their needs and pain points as they move towards customer conversion.

Mobile marketing and ad targeting are also part of its automation suite. The lead scoring mechanism that qualifies leads which help sales reps prioritise prospects. Compared to HubSpot, Marketo is geared more towards enterprise customers than SME’s. It’s time-saving automation capabilities for marketing teams that need the full scope of tools are undeniable.

ActiveCampaign

Maybe the best part about ActiveCampaign is its ability to help you visualise just how your automation will play out. A drag-and-drop system lets you build out email automation workflows. They allow you to see exactly what emails your leads will receive and when they’ll receive them. This is a real strong point of their platform. It’s quick, simple and easy to use.

But wait, there’s more. ActiveCampaign offers intuitive A/B split-tests. You can test content and visuals based on random audiences samples. Meanwhile, predictive content allows you to anticipate just what types of emails your audience wants to read. The system automatically segment your emails that way. It’s not as easy to use as HubSpot or Marketo, but the intuitive nature of the software plus its extra features are still worth trying.

Email Marketing Automation

Marketing automation extends far beyond email, as we’ll be discussing throughout this post. But email remains one of the quickest and most popular ways to share your message with your audience.

These three email automation tools focus on making sure your emails are built with consistency and efficiency whilst looking great.

Mailchimp-Logo

MailChimp is my top recommendation if you’re just starting to automate your email marketing. A drag-and-drop editor and plenty of templates helps you build your emails, which you can distribute automatically based on both action triggers and specific dates and times. Easy, fun to use and definitely a time saver.

constant-contact-logo

Constant Contact is more configurable than MailChimp. It’s probably more suitable if you have a coder or advanced email marketer on the team. In return for the added complexity, you get several advanced features that go beyond basic automation. These include the ability to create custom list segments for more targeted sends. A longer learning curve but once you are up and running you’ll be able to develop sophisticated campaigns reasonably quickly.

emma-logo

Last on the list is Emma – part of the Campaign Monitor family. Great for emails with custom content, including the ability to automatically adjust your content based on the individual contact traits. You can even trigger a new automation workflow based on a click on a previous email. Custom-designed templates are more advanced than its competitors, but it does come at a higher price than MailChimp or Constant Contact. Worth taking a look at in my opinion.

Enter the Chatbots and Chat Automation

Chatbots are quickly revolutionising first-touch inbound enquiries. Customers who are in early stages or research can quickly evaluate if your company can meet their needs. They can do it without actually talking to anyone. How cool is that! A.I. driven chatbots can help direct the customer towards commonly answered questions. This can help with both customer support and pre-purchase communications.

Chatbots are automated programs who can respond to questions and concerns as if they were real-life business representatives. When the prospect is ready to engage, the bot will hand off the chat to a member of your team. That’s a real efficiency win. You don’t need a customer service or marketing representative manning the chat 24/7.

Here are the two best chat systems in my opinion.

drift-logo

Drift – I LOVE DRIFT! It’s part of the future of how we communicate online. It’s simple: Drift makes your business available and responsive. Its chatbot software instantly allows for 24/7 availability on your website. Meanwhile, you can easily build rules that create leads (with integration into your CRM, of course) and even generate meetings and calls for your sales teams when follow-ups are necessary.

botsify-logo

Botsify – Its beauty is in its versatility. Botsify allows integrations for anything from your website to Amazon Alexa and anything in between. I love it the smooth hand-off from automated responses to a real human. This transition allow your rep to jump in and keep the conversation going without your audience ever noticing the jump.

A/B Testing and Landing Pages

As technology advances, marketing automation is increasingly moving into the analytics and real-time space. I’ve included just a few of the many testing and analytics tools that can help you better scale your inbound marketing efforts.

unbounce-logo

Unbounce is technically a landing page builder. What’s great about it is that it allows for smooth A/B testing on your landing pages. It’s easy to create lead capture forms and to optimise their performance and conversion rate over time. It also seamlessly integrates with most CRMs and lead databases such as the other tools mentioned above.

Optimizely-logo

Optimizely focuses entirely on A/B testing and can be integrated into almost any website. Continually test various iterations of your pages, then move on with the winner and continue optimising to optimise your traffic, time on page, and lead conversion.

Google-Analytics-logo

Google Analytics – Automated tracking and reporting capabilities. In real-time, you can create complex website reports that provide valuable insights into your marketing campaigns. Integration with Google Data Studio helps to visualise these reports for greater insights and the ability to present your successes to non-marketers. But having worked with GA for many years I have to admit I still find it difficult to mine any meaningful data quickly.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing using proper automation tools has proven to be incredibly successful. Through marketing automation, you can scale your workflow as your visitors and leads multiply. From answering questions quickly to nurturing your leads, these tools help you stay on top of your marketing campaigns. Without a solid marketing stack it is very difficult to keep everything under any sort of control.

Remember, some of these tools are free, while others require subscriptions as you grow. But you’ll be surprised how much time you will save. For me, Hubspot has been a game changer. I can do way more in less time, and I get complete clarity over aspect of every marketing campaign. Check it out, it’s free to get started and I’ll even help you get it set up for free.