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The Best Marketing Automation Software Options for Small Businesses

Published May 18, 2022
Justin Guinn
By: Justin Guinn

Our Small Business Expert

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Unlock newfound capabilities and boost your growth with a marketing automation platform. You have tons of options to choose from, and they’re constantly evolving. It’s critical you analyze multiple systems to find what’s best for you now and in the future.

Marketing automation tools empower small business marketing teams to punch above their weight and large marketing teams to shoot for the moon.

These tools enable you to launch lasting sales and marketing processes, track performances, and optimize your website marketing over time. Do more with less by strategically automating outreach with triggered emails and behavior-based journey builders.

The marketing automation software space has lots of overlap. For example, some systems offer full customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, and a couple provide a content management system (CMS) to centralize web page and blog creation with marketing automation. Here we'll dig deep into the nuances of the best SMB options to help you determine which marketing platform is best for your team.

Product Description Next Steps
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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4.50/5
Freshmarketer empowers you to automate email marketing, customize highly personalized journeys, optimize your conversion process, and unlock key analysis to boost the ROI on your marketing spend.
Rating image, 4.20 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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4.20/5
HubSpot marketing automation capabilities integrate CRM and lead management with automated workflows, trigger engagements, and centralized blogging, email, and social media tools.
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
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4.00/5
ActiveCampaign provides seamless sales and marketing functions at affordable price points. It’s designed to scale as you grow, making it a great fit for all business types.
Rating image, 3.80 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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3.80/5
Infusionsoft is one part CRM, one part marketing automation, and one part sales tool. It checks all the boxes you need for support with generating, qualifying, and closing new leads.
Rating image, 3.80 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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3.80/5
Hatchbuck offers a price-efficient option for adding or optimizing your sales and marketing automation capabilities.
Rating image, 3.70 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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3.70/5
Klaviyo pulls valuable and actionable insights from customer data across your e-commerce platform to deliver optimized experiences that generate sales.
Rating image, 3.70 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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3.70/5
SharpSpring empowers users to track leads and deliver personalized marketing campaigns from one seamless platform. It’s a powerful tool that provides marketers with all the capabilities.
Rating image, 3.40 out of 5 stars.
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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3.40/5
Pardot is a power marketing automation platform built exclusively for B2B organizations and best utilized by Salesforce CRM users.
Freshmarketer
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line: Freshmarketer empowers you to automate email marketing, customize highly personalized journeys, optimize your conversion process, and unlock key analysis to boost the ROI on your marketing spend.

Freshmarketer provides complex marketing automation solutions in an easy-to-use solution that’s a fit for most any business size. You employ Freshmarketer’s features to program engagement across the entire life cycle, from contact to lead to customer.

Cross-functional tools provide a bridge between sales and marketing needs, with critical features such as monitoring and acting on lead activity.

Freshmarketer's Content Segment

Segment leads to personalize outreach with Image source: Author

Freshmarketer. Source: Freshmarketer.

Freshmarketer’s features and price point make it a fit for most all business types and sizes. Small businesses new to marketing automation can take advantage of its forever free “sprout” product tier to test out the system before committing to a larger plan and monthly payment, which begins at $49/month.

HubSpot Marketing Automation
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4.20 stars
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Bottom Line: HubSpot marketing automation capabilities integrate CRM and lead management with automated workflows, trigger engagements, and centralized blogging, email, and social media tools.

HubSpot is a one-stop platform for all your integrated marketing needs. HubSpot marketing automation tools empower businesses to do more with less, programming common and complex automated marketing plans.

Businesses across industries and of all sizes can use Hubspot to boost site traffic, turn visitors into leads, and strategically engage leads to close deals.

HubSpot offers dynamic pricing options that vary depending on contacts and feature set. It’s a fit for startups and small businesses, especially digital natives, that need to grow quickly.

HubSpot's workflow

HubSpot workflows offer powerful automation capabilities. Image source: Author

HubSpot is also a great fit for medium to larger companies looking to revamp marketing strategies and integrate a new tool. HubSpot is powerful enough for enterprises, but it gets very pricey when scaling it that large.

ActiveCampaign Marketing Automation
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00 stars
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Bottom Line: ActiveCampaign provides seamless sales and marketing functions at affordable price points. It’s designed to scale as you grow, making it a great fit for all business types.

ActiveCampaign locks in on generating leads and turning them into customers. They bill their platform as a “customer experience automation platform.”

This emphasis on customer experience is essential to the nuances of ActiveCampaign. The automations empower marketers to provide highly personalized and consistent engagement marketing across channels with advanced tracking and scoring capabilities.

ActiveCampaign is a great fit for small businesses with new marketing teams. It also scales exceedingly well to satisfy enterprise marketing needs. Pricing varies with contacts and features, which is standard for the space.

ActiveCampaign's Workflow

Start small and scale with Image source: Author

ActiveCampaign. Source: ActiveCampaign.

What’s unique is the low cost of entry for ActiveCampaign’s basic tier. Small businesses with 500 or fewer contacts can get started with ActiveCampaign’s lite plan for only $9/month.

Keap Infusionsoft
Rating image, 3.80 out of 5 stars.
3.80 stars
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Bottom Line: Infusionsoft is one part CRM, one part marketing automation, and one part sales tool. It checks all the boxes you need for support with generating, qualifying, and closing new leads.

Keap Infusionsoft delivers powerful marketing and sales capabilities for department leaders and their teams. Take advantage of increased organization and newfound automations to achieve and sustain growth goals. The easy-to-use platform provides sales outreach automations, advanced marketing campaigns, lead scoring, built-in e-commerce, and critical integrations.

Sales and marketing automations include programmable engagements so you can set messages to send out whenever contacts and leads take certain actions on your site or with prior engagements. Lead scoring and segmenting enable you to get highly precise with messaging by targeting specific verticals, job titles, subject interests, and more.

The e-commerce tools include product listings and services invoicing, so you can manage whatever you’re selling. You can define SKUs for all listed products and services and set prices and item images for everything as well. Centralize marketing campaigns, ongoing sales outreach, and client details along with your actual selling mechanism.

These features and capabilities work for all types of businesses. It’s a great fit for small, growing businesses, and a product you can scale up and expand as your business grows.

Keap Infusionsoft is priced competitively for single users, given its robust feature set. However, expect increased costs as you add additional users and contacts, as well as any support offerings. It’s still priced competitively as you scale, but it’s important to know where you want to be in two years and how much Infusionsoft will cost once you’re there.

Hatchbuck
Rating image, 3.80 out of 5 stars.
3.80 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line: Hatchbuck offers a price-efficient option for adding or optimizing your sales and marketing automation capabilities.

Hatchbuck, which has recently changed its name to BenchmarkONE, offers reliable marketing and sales automation capabilities. The wide range of features includes essential CRM tools in addition to an abundance of automation features.

Automations are easy to program and include outreach to high-priority leads based on rising lead scores and in-depth nurture campaigns.

Hatchbuck’s lowest price tier is $99/month. This relatively low price point and ease of use make it a great fit for small and medium businesses, especially users with less experience using marketing technology.

Hatchbuck's Dashboard

Grow your business with Image source: Author

Hatchbuck. Source: Hatchbuck.

The ease of use may leave some more skilled marketing technology professionals wanting, but it’s a great starter system.

Rating image, 3.70 out of 5 stars.
3.70 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line: Klaviyo pulls valuable and actionable insights from customer data across your e-commerce platform to deliver optimized experiences that generate sales.

Klaviyo is a marketing platform designed for e-commerce businesses to deliver memorable, optimized engagements to customers and site visitors. The tool sits on top of your e-commerce platform, gathering, analyzing, and acting on behavioral signals from website and online store visitors. Klaviyo is able to generate real-time, personalized engagements meant to spur actions and drive purchases.

The cloud-based tool provides advanced email marketing capabilities, integrations across a multitude of platforms, visitor tracking and audience segmentation, in-depth reporting, and more.

The email marketing component empowers users to send targeted, highly personalized messages to past and potential customers based on their activity on your website, and purchase history. It also learns from past email interactions to help you optimize future send times, design, and more.

Key integrations that boost Klaviyo capabilities include many of today’s most popular e-commerce platforms and online store builders. Other key integrations include shipping management and order fulfillment providers, advertising and social media platforms, point-of-sale systems for in-store businesses, and many others.

Klayivo pulls insights from your e-commerce system, payment processors, and integrated marketing tools and CRMs. The small business marketing tool ingests these visitor tracking insights and turns them into valuable personalizations and highly segmented audiences. As such, Klaviyo operates as a precision engagement mechanism powered by centralized data points from across your business.

Advanced reporting capabilities include pre-built and customizable dashboards to monitor critical performance metrics. These measures include most- and least-ordered items, product margins, visitor activity, etc.

The platform comes at a monthly subscription with pricing based on how many users and contacts are needed for your account.

SharpSpring
Rating image, 3.70 out of 5 stars.
3.70 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line: SharpSpring empowers users to track leads and deliver personalized marketing campaigns from one seamless platform. It’s a powerful tool that provides marketers with all the capabilities.

SharpSpring is a powerful marketing tool that extends well beyond marketing automation capabilities. It integrates with leading CRM platforms, but it can also stand alone as the only tool you need to support sales and marketing work.

One SharpSpring differentiating feature is its visitor ID capability. It tracks site visitor IP addresses and uses reverse IP lookup to identify the companies your visitors work for. This enables you to de-anonymize site visitors and provide them with industry segmented, if not hyper-personalized marketing.

Along with expected journey building and triggered communications, SharpSpring is one of a few systems that provides full CMS capabilities. This allows you to centralize blog and web page creation, publishing, and management in a single platform.

A knock for SharpSpring is its high cost. It’s priced prohibitively for startups and small businesses that don’t have an extensive marketing budget, let alone a marketing automation tool.

SharpSpring's Dashboard

Execute highly personalized outreach with Image source: Author

SharpSpring. Source: SharpSpring.

The lowest monthly pricing tier is $550/month for up to 1,500 contacts. Medium- and large-size businesses, enterprises, and marketing agencies that can afford the tool stand to gain good value, as it’s priced to scale favorably. The highest tier includes 20,000 contacts for $1,250/month.

Pardot by Salesforce
Rating image, 3.40 out of 5 stars.
3.40 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line: Pardot is a power marketing automation platform built exclusively for B2B organizations and best utilized by Salesforce CRM users.

Pardot is Salesforce’s marketing automation solutions that works fine as a standalone system but also integrates seamlessly within the Salesforce ecosystem.

Pardot excels with lead management scoring and tracking capabilities. These features power journey building and other automation tools, enabling users to provide persistent personalization as contacts are converted into leads and leads nurtured into customers.

Pardot is a fit for medium-sized businesses and enterprises, but may be price prohibitive for smaller businesses and startups.

Pardot's Dashboard

Pardot packs a punch, especially for Salesforce users. Image source: Author

It works for all types of B2B businesses, but it’s especially a fit for organizations with traditional, dedicated sales teams that can own lead engagement and work to close deals one-on-one once leads come into the bottom of the marketing funnel.

What The Ascent looks for in a great marketing automation solution

Marketing automation platforms are a natural evolution of CRM and channel marketing tools, matched with increased usability. They provide abundant tools that enable marketers to do more with less by automating personalized outreach.

We look for three critical features when examining marketing automation platforms. Here is a rundown of these three components.

Journey builders

Journey builders, experience builders, and workflows are the foundation of marketing automation tools. These features enable you to design outreach paths with email automations and other triggered communications.

These are essentially vast, well-programmed if/then-based journeys that respond to behaviors such as email opens, link clicks, offers, and other trackable engagements.

Journey builders let you set it and forget it, ensuring your leads are receiving persistent, optimized engagement at opportune times while you focus on other tasks at hand.

Attribution

Attribution capabilities are table stakes for marketing teams of all shapes and sizes. Marketers scramble to accurately determine ROI, pinpoint successful campaigns and best practices, and showcase value.

Advances in analytics and tracking have enabled marketers to grab their fair share of value from the sales process, rather than having the salesperson who closes the sale get all the credit.

Marketing automation tools provide the capabilities, pre-built reports, and dashboards to easily monitor and pass performance up the ladder.

Predictive machine learning

Advances in machine learning are empowering marketers to take automations even further. Marketing automation platforms are beginning to introduce predictive machine learning tools that introduce valuable optimizations across your marketing team.

One optimization is real-time personalizations in content and design based on known information of an individual lead. Another is the ability to prioritize leads based on predictive scoring that provides the percentage chance that the lead will turn into a deal.

How your business can benefit from using marketing automation software

Marketing automation platforms offer features and benefits that are vast and highly impactful. Most of these tools offer integrations or on-board capabilities that bolster the relationship between sales and marketing teams.

And the increasing ease of use and varying price points have created a solution that fits nearly any business’ skill set and budget.

Optimizations across marketing efforts

One of marketing automation’s key benefits is the optimizations they provide. You can ensure your messaging is personalized and matched to the life cycle stage of the lead.

Other valuable marketing automation optimizations include behavior-based outreach, real-time response in the moments that matter, and more. These all work together to boost conversion rates and improve nurture tactics to turn more leads into sales.

Reporting and analytics

Reporting and analytics are critical for marketing tools. This is especially true with marketing automation tools given their vast nature and array of components.

Marketing automation reporting provides critical attribution capabilities so you can understand the performance and bottom-line impact of any campaign. This enables you to build best practices while identifying and investing in what works best.

Newfound efficiency

Marketing automation empowers marketing teams to do more with less, do it better than before, and prove the impact of their work. Automations can be built and tested then left to run as programmed, with only minimal monitoring.

This ensures your contacts and leads are getting the levels of engagement with the right content they need without you and your team conducting outreach to all contacts. Think of the side projects, stretch goals, and other objectives you can complete with more time on your hands.

Our Small Business Expert