Top 20 Best Marketing Automation Software Comparison (2021)
Automation is no longer a luxury. It’s a keystone of any lean and efficient department. But maybe it’s marketing — the frontline of any company —which benefits most from a marketing automation solution.
If you’re looking to brush up on marketing automation, or are ready to automate your marketing department, then read on about the best marketing automation software out there. We got a crash course on the ins and outs of this set of tools, then compared some top software.
What is marketing automation software?
Marketing automation tools are part of a larger marketing software platform. They let you set up automated sequences to do a series of tasks. Without automating, you’d be doing these tasks yourself, slowly, and one at a time. That’s what automation features do. They take over repetitive tasks to save human agents time and effort.
So how is this applied to marketing? It’s mostly based on email campaigns, but there’s plenty of social media ads and SMS marketing too. It all starts with workflows.
Let’s use an example to explain workflows:
Firstly, think of posting an ad on Facebook to everyone who has liked your page. When someone clicks an ad, an automation workflow kicks in. It can send them an email with a link, and if they click that, it can show them custom items picked for them based on past online behavior. Or, for those who look at the ad but don’t open the email, another branch of the automation sequence may do something else, like send them a promotion email.
And it all happens without you having to do anything. You only get involved at key moments.
Good marketing automation platforms often have templates for workflows. These you can also edit using a visual dashboard. It generally looks like you're building a tree, where If-Then logic makes the either-or branches. Drag and drop lets you easily block out these workflows.
Another useful tool is audience segmentation. You can automate so that all your contacts can be grouped under various tags. This is based on the data you have in their profiles or what the software can gather from their company and social sites. You can also edit the segments and create custom tags and groups.
This enhances a marketing automation platform’s ability to customize content for each contact you’re reaching out to. For example, An online sports store mailing out an email newsletter to all their subscribers can have different background pictures based on the customer’s purchase history (eg: baseball for you, rock-climbing for me). It can also segment them based on demographics, which device they use, or geolocations.
Marketing automation tools can also be used for predictive functionality. It can look at all the activity in your campaign engagements or your funnels. Using data of your successes and drop offs, it can optimize all sorts of marketing decisions. These include finding the best time of day to post and ad or send an email. It also does lead scoring, telling you the likeliness of someone to engage or purchase.
In the end, you can say that marketing automation software is sort of like the lubricant connecting the marketing and sales pipelines. It both helps find new customers and nurture those customers down the funnel.
What are the different types of marketing automation software?
Email marketing automation
SMS marketing automation
Social media marketing automation
Direct mail marketing automation
Predictive marketing automation
Audience segmentation automation
Lead capturing marketing automation
Split testing marketing automation
Ecommerce marketing automation
B2B marketing automation
Public sector marketing automation
What is the best marketing automation software? Here’s our top 20 list:
Now that you’ve gone and learned about the features and functions of automation tools for marketing, it’s time to check out some of the best marketing automation software around today. We compare ones for big business and smaller businesses, and even find some free versions in the stack.
ActiveCampaign (Best marketing automation software overall)
ActiveCampaign bills itself as customer experience automation. This is one of the best platforms overall. It combines a CRM solution with email marketing in a marketing automation platform. ActiveCampaign has solutions for sales, marketing and customer support. You get many good marketing automation tools. These include automated workflows which can become drip campaigns. Customers in your CRM can be tagged and labelled. This lets you target specific marketing messaging to their needs. There are form tools which turn interested people into leads. ActiveCampaign lets you build a multi-channel marketing strategy. You get to apply marketing tools to social media too. As leads respond to marketing efforts, ActiveCampaign gets you lead scoring.
ActiveCampaign has price buckets. The most affordable is $9 per month billed annually. But for more serious marketing automation you probably need the Plus plan at $49 per month billed annually.
ActiveCampaign is best for:
Customer relationship management
Social media management
HubSpot (Best inbound marketing automation tools)
When it comes to inbound marketing and CRM, HubSpot is a popular platform. HubSpot has a marketing solution that includes marketing automation tools. It’s a big step up from basic email marketing. It’s easy to build emails without knowing code. Workflows are also simple to create because they are visual. You can create and customize triggers. These can set off different automated responses. You can automate workflows for different goals like a sign-up or a sale. There are also drip campaigns and landing pages. There are tools which help marketers hand customers off to sales. These include lead scoring. It also does automation for day-to-day tasks, like agent notifications.
There’s a free version of HubSpot with some email marketing tools. For more marketing automation, HubSpot Marketing starts at $45 per month billed annually.
HubSpot is best for:
Email marketing automation
Salesforce (Best marketing automation software for large business)
Big name CRM Salesforce has a marketing automation platform. It’s part of Salesforce’s total marketing cloud with social media and email marketing. You can create custom emails. You build customer journeys which work across communication channels. Every customer who interacts creates data used to help segment them better. Segmentation helps plan the next email marketing campaign so the right content reaches the right audience. Salesforce also has A/B testing. It can automatically create regular reports on the results of these tests and other campaigns. You can also automate reports from social listening and sentiment analysis on social media. Finally, Salesforce has mobile marketing and digital advertising features too.
Salesforce for email, mobile and web marketing starts at $400 per month billed annually.
Salesforce is best for:
Social media marketing
Pardot (Top B2B marketing automation platform)
Pardot is another product by Salesforce. This is a B2B marketing solution. It aims to help businesses streamline everything from lead generation to sales automation. It’s an impressive marketing automation solution to engage leads and move them down the pipeline. It helps with retargeting cold leads too. You have a visual editor to build complex workflows. Pardot uses a good deal of AI to make their marketing automation smarter. Overall this is a more professional version of Salesforce marketing solution. There’s a strong emphasis on boosting ROI and providing a better customer experience.
Pardot has several pricing tiers. They start at $1,250 per month billed annually and can go up to $15,000.
Product name is best for:
Infusionsoft by Keap (Good marketing automation tool for lead capture)
Infusionsoft is a product of the software company Keap. Keap also makes Keap Grow and Keap Pro for expanding business. Infusionsoft is Keap’s product for sales and marketing teams. It covers email automation and has other marketing tools. You also get basic CRM functionality. Infusionsoft helps you build landing pages. These do very effective lead capturing. It gives you customer data on your leads which helps convert them with personalized content. There is segmentation to also help target the right customers with the right messaging. An Infusionsoft campaign builder takes email marketing to the next level.
Infusionsoft by Keap starts at $100 per month.
Infusionsoft is best for:
Email marketing software
Customer management tools
Marketo (Top marketing automation tool for marketing analytics)
Marketo is a serious piece of marketing automation SaaS. The marketing automation tools let you do behavior tracking. This finds the right customers for your campaigns. Building marketing campaign workflows are easy. There’s analytics to see how marketing campaigns are helping sales. You also get 360 degree views of contacts. You can connect with people over web, email, messaging or social media. There is real time data for how customers are engaging with your content. Lead funnel tools do lead scoring. Personalized content helps move leads on to sales. Marketo has many unique tools. There is experience automation and marketing data environment tools. This uses AI for segmentation.
There are many packages for Marketo. For prices contact their sales team.
Marketo is best for:
Customer experience optimization
Email marketing campaigns
Social media marketing campaigns
AI audience segmentation
Sendinblue (Best free marketing automation platform)
Sendinblue is a total digital marketing platform. They have modules for smaller businesses as well as huge enterprises. It includes a CRM for storing customer data. Your customers’ real time activity can trigger personalized marketing messages. This is key for keeping your brand front of mind. It also updates the CRM profile in real time. Sendinblue has tools for SMS marketing, email marketing and even chatting. For automating your marketing Sendinblue offers many solutions. The workflow builder is visual and easy to use. There are simple workflow templates and you can build very advanced custom workflows. Sendinblue also has tools for landing pages, Facebook ads and retargeting.
Sendinblue has a free version. Paid versions begin at $25 per month. For enterprise prices contact their sales department.
Sendinblue is best for:
Autopilot (Good marketing automation tools for email templates)
Autopilot is marketing automation software which comes with many useful templates. Templates are for various uses. You can have one to mail out newsletters at optimized times, and others which serve as autoresponders to emails. There are templates for lead capture and lead nurturing. You can also have templates to track website and email engagement. Building emails is done with basic drag and drop functionality. Of course there are good email templates to work with too. Autopilot lets you segment your leads into silos. This is a good marketing automation SaaS for team collaboration. You can work in real-time with team members to conceive and create workflows and campaigns. It’s also an omnichannel communication tool. It works across SMS, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords and more.
There are 3 plans for Autopilot, The basic Silver plan costs $39.20 per month billed annually.
Autopilot is best for:
GetResponse (Top marketing automation platform for startups)
GetResponse is inbound marketing software. It lets you create marketing content which brings new leads and customers to your brand. Email marketing tools help you build nice newsletters using drag and drop. There are also email templates. You can automate sending them out at perfect times. There is an autoresponder tool as well. You get to silo your contacts and then send them customized emails and content. Marketing automation goes a step further. It is rules-based automation that is simple to work with. User behavior is analyzed in real time. It can trigger automated responses. GetResponse does a lot of integrations. Most common ones are for ecommerce SaaS like WooCommerce or Shopify. You also get landing pages and sign up forms.
GetResponse has several pricing plans. It starts at $12.30 per month billed annually.
GetResponse is best for:
Rules based workflows
Omnisend (Good marketing automation tools for ecommerce integrations)
Omnisend is a marketing platform with a lot of automation. It’s a tool for email and SMS marketing. There are many templates for email campaigns including welcome email and reminders. A product picker adds shop items to the emails. Segmentation tools help you find the best audience. A campaign builder can automate resending campaigns and offers A/B testing. Automated workflows can also work cross channel from email to messaging. Omniesned has many prebuilt workflows which you can customize. Pop ups and forms builders help capture more leads. You also get data on your activity as well as data from third party ecommerce integrations.
Omnisend offers a free version. Paid plans are $16 per month and $99 per month. Larger enterprises can get a custom quote.
Omnisend is best for:
Ontraport aims to be a total solution for business owners looking to expand. When it comes to marketing automation, Ontraport begins with getting as much customer data as possible. This makes for smart segmentation. There is a marketing campaign builder. It is visual and uses drag and dropping. Ontraport is a multichannel tool combining SMS, emails and phone calls. This streamlines the handoff from marketing to sales. There is a forms tool for lead capture. You get a Facebook Custom Audience tool as well. Analytics shows which campaigns get more engagement, or where leads drop out. On top of that there is A/B testing. Outside of marketing automation, Ontraport hass many other tools for marketers and ecommerce.
Ontraport has several prices. The basic plan goes for $79 per month.
Ontraport is best for:
Mailchimp was one of the first great apps for email subscriber lists. Now it has many tools for CRM and marketing automation. You can create drag and drop workflows for managing customer journeys. When planning email marketing campaigns you get send-time optimization. It’s based on open and click rates. There are integrations with ecommerce sites. You get automations that work with WooCommerce and ShopSync for example. There are automations that go off in real time with behavior based data. There are retargeting and follow up automations. You can also manage landing pages and digital ads with Mailchimp.
Mailchimp has a free version with marketing CRM. Paid plans go for $9.99, $14.99 and $299 per month.
Mailchimp is best for:
Send time optimization
Drip is a platform for ecommerce marketing. Emails and text messaging are its main channels. It gives you customer data from all across your marketing channels. You can also use it to show ads on Facebook and Instagram. You can easily tag and segment people. Segmentations help you make targeted campaigns. It also uses visit and click data. Workflows can be set up to connect with segments at optimized times. There are other behavior based automations with Drip. Workflow split testing lets you try out multiple marketing strategies. Drip has a full analytics dashboard as well.
Drip’s pricing scale depends on contact list size. It starts at $19 per month for 100 contacts.
Drip is best for:
Facebook and Instagram Ads
SharpString is a total solution for sales and marketing automation. It gathers useful customer data even after the initial click. This data is tracked to find the optimal time of the day to reach out. The workflow builder is done in a visual dashboard with branching functionality. You can create personas for buyers to work with. Automated notifications share hot leads with you every day. It does lead scoring and page tracking to further convert leads. Landing pages and blog tools are in there. For social media management, you can set up triggered workflows. You also get chatbots. SharpString offers you good analytics and clean reports.
SharpString pricing is $550, $850, and $1,250 per month. Enterprises and agencies can get a custom price.
SharpString is best for:
Social media management
Reports and analytics
RD Station is going for the startup and smaller business scene. It uses automation and other tools to streamline the customer journey. It helps optimize your sites on search engines. You have social media management in there. Landing pages and pop up forms are there for grabbing more leads. There’s a simple workflow builder. It has automated email campaigns which use data for the best send times. Lead ranking can also be done automatically. RD station has good analytics too. The audience segmentation has advanced features. There are also loads of integrations with apps like Facebook and WordPress.
RD Station has various pricing with regular promotions. Check their site for current prices.
RD Station is best for:
Social media management
Act-On is a decent automated marketing solution. It’s suited for smaller businesses looking to scale up. The automated journey builder is for creating communication workflows. It’s done on a simple visual canvas. You can build landing pages and web pages too. Automated lead nurturing campaign features use if-then rules to guide the customer. It gathers user behavior data across multiple channels. There is automated messaging which finds the best times to send. You get many transaction event triggers to keep the email automation going. Act-On has lead scoring and segmentation features. There is a fuller suite of social media management tools. Act-On is a decent overall platform except you have to get over the noisy company website.
Act-On has two price packages. The regular starts at 900 per month for up to 2,500 contacts. The Enterprise package is $2,000 per month for up to 2,500 contacts.
Act-On is best for:
Iterable is a growth marketing platform. The idea behind Iterable is to make deeper connections with customers. It’s a cross channel marketing tool for email and mobile messaging. But it also lets you manage web push, in-app notifications, social media and more. This is a very data heavy platform. It gathers data and updates in real time from sources like demographics and behavior. It also gets event-based data. Then Iterable creates custom marketing campaigns for you automatically. It even gets data from third parties. This does smarter, more dynamic segmentation on your contacts. As for marketing automation Iterable has a full suite. It's a drag and drop campaign canvas interface. This is a good tool for marketing team collaboration. It does decent analytics.
For prices, you’ll have to contact Iterable through their website.
Iterable is best for:
Marketing data analytics
AdRoll is a marketing platform that lets you build your brand and get more customers. It does this by trying to get more visitors to your sites and to engage with your other marketing campaigns. You get advanced audience targeting. This includes a lookalike targeting feature. Other marketing automation tools include showing visitors unique content for them. This includes products on an ecommerce site. You also get pretty good retargeting abilities to help increase revenue. There’s a big email template library. You can also do your own branded emails. Email workflow sequences are easy with AdRoll. All engagement with your email marketing is monitored and used as data. It can also create new contacts in your CRM with forms.
There is a free version of AdRoll that’s good for 5,000 emails per month. Premium versions are $9 per month and $19 per month paid annually.
AdRoll is best for:
Campaigner is lucky to have locked down that name. This platform is an email marketing automation solution. It has many advanced features. There are great email builders and social media ad builders. You got your workflow builder. You can set it up for events triggered by user behavior. There are autoresponders, for example to send out a welcome email after first user engagement. You get audience segmentation. This works alongside custom content blocks. For experimenting with campaigns, Campaigner gives you A/B testing. You can use this for email subject lines or form names. This is a good platform to use for ecommerce. It analyzes data like historical purchase behavior. Then you get reports.
Campaigner has several packages which begin at $40.95 per month billed annually.
Campaigner is best for:
How can we build a list and not mention dear old Zoho? Everyone knows Zoho is a cloud-based suite of business SaaS. Zoho Campaigns covers all your basic email marketing. You can import your CRM data and use it. There is A/B testing to try out multiple strategies on your contacts. There is a newsletter template library which has some gorgeous designs. You can edit those using drag and drop. Zopho Campaigns includes automation tools. You can set up email workflows. There is an autoresponder. Zoho automatically helps match your contacts with personalized content. There are also many workflows to manage your ecommerce operation like for abandoned carts. This can help manage social media campaigns. And it has analytics.
There are three Zoho Campaign plans which depend on the number of emails you plan to send. They start at only $2 per month billed annually.
Zoho Campaigns is best for:
Social media management
What’s the best marketing automation tool for you? Our conclusion
We’ve crowned ActiveCampaign the best marketing automation tool overall. But it wasn’t easy, and they’re all winners right down to the bottom of the list.
If it’s free you’re looking for, Sendinblue and HubSpot are nice options. If you want something bigger, say, for B2B marketing, Pardot by Salesforce or Marketo may be up your alley.
When you automate the easy repetitive tasks of marketing, it allows your human marketers to focus on what’s important: creating great content to connect with people and streamlining the best customer experience on their way to sales. Happy lead hunting!