12 Time-Saving Marketing Automation Software Tools for Small Businesses20 min read
“Time is money” is a total cliché.
But if you’re a solopreneur or founder of a startup, you’ll know it’s true.
You may worry that handing parts of your business over to technology will make it lose its human touch.
Don’t worry, that won’t be the case. But only if you choose the right software.
Whatever your industry, there’s a tool to automate part of your small business and increase your productivity.
Let’s find out how.
What features does the best marketing automation software have?
Great automation software should streamline both sales and marketing processes.
This could include:
- Email marketing
- Lead tracking
- Customer relationship management
- Cross-channel marketing campaigns
- Customer retention
- Measuring ROI
Source: Predictive Analytics Today
But above all, automation should save you time.
Affordable pricing (sorry, Marketo and Pardot)
What’s considered ‘affordable’ will, of course, differ from business to business.
You might not see some of the big names you expect on this list, but that’s for these main reasons.
Many of the tools below were created specifically for small businesses and their budgets.
Out-with those, we’ve chosen tools we feel have a good range of affordability for startups and small teams.
Easy for marketers to use
If you’re new to marketing automation, this is a biggie.
The process going on behind the scenes can be complicated, but the customer-facing section should not be.
We’re looking for a clean, modern design with clear instructions.
Responsive customer support
We all need help sometimes.
While you might find the perfect affordable, understandable tool, chances are things won’t always run smoothly.
When this happens, you want solid customer support available to get things moving again.
Email marketing automation tools
Email is one of the oldest forms of digital communication but remains one of the most effective.
Content marketers say that email newsletters are still their highest-performing content type for securing and nurturing leads. (It’s no wonder that email features in most marketing automation tools!)
In 2021, over 4 billion people around the world communicate via email. Experts expect that number to grow to 4.6 billion by 2025.
Rather than sending out thousands of them yourself, why not let technology take the wheel with some marketing automation solutions?
Digital broke down the steps for a successful email campaign:
- Build trust/credibility before you pitch
- Research your audience
- Find out what they need
- Segment your visitors into categories
- Create email funnels based on factors like behavior, action, and triggers
- Create email content that helps your audience
- Perfect content before sending
- Add call-to-actions (CTAs)
- Test your campaign
- Launch it
Tools like Mailchimp are among the most well-known in the industry, but their customer support reviews mean they didn’t make the cut for this list.
12 Marketing Automation Software Tools for Your Small Business
Here are 12 varied marketing automation SaaS companies (in alphabetical order).
Click on those you think are most relevant and be transported down to that section.
- ActiveCampaign – Customer experience automation
- ChatBot – Automated AI for live chat customer service
- Drip – One of the top marketing automation software for eCommerce
- EmailOctopus – Beginner-friendly email marketing automation
- Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) – Sales pipeline management
- Outfunnel – Merge sales and marketing data
- Quuu/Quuu Promote – Content curation, sharing and promotion
- Salesforce – CRM pros
- Sendinblue – From email to all-round marketing automation
- SharpSpring – Powerful and affordable HubSpot alternative
- Socialchief – Simple social media scheduler
- Sprout Social – Social media management workflows
Let’s check them out!
1. ActiveCampaign – Customer experience automation
ActiveCampaign markets itself as the #1 automation platform to create incredible customer experiences. They automate many behind-the-scenes processes such as marketing, sales and support.
They’re a big name in the industry, and for good reason. The 17 promises in their ‘Customer Service Commitment’ shows you’re in good hands.
It’s not the most beginner-friendly of the lot, though. It’s pretty advanced. Getting familiarised with the platform and keeping it maintained takes time.
The process is as follows:
- Set up your account
- Enable site tracking
- Create your first list
- Import your contacts
- Segment your contacts
- Build an automation
- Create and manage your sales pipeline
Source: Max Van Collenburg
If you’re looking for simple automation only (such as a welcome email), it might not be the one for you.
However, if you’re ready to use EmailToolTester’s “most powerful automation tool” for multi-channel marketing (whilst integrating sales with an in-built CRM) – give it a go.
Pricing: There are four pricing plans on ActiveCampaign, which change depending on how many contacts you’ll want to add. With 500 contacts, the Lite plan ($9/a month) or Plus ($49/a month) will probably be most cost-effective for your business.
2. ChatBot – Automated AI for live chat customer service
If you’ve ever needed to speak to customer support outside regular working hours, you’ve probably talked to a chatbot. ChatBot is an all-in-one platform to build and launch real-time conversational chatbots.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a coder! The technology is already in-built and simplified.
There are plenty of templates to customize, and you can get started messaging in minutes.
Each chatbot is built by one Story, a drag-and-drop interface. It’s simple to use but can get slightly confusing if you’re creating more complex chatbots.
There aren’t any direct integrations for eCommerce, but it’s worth a try with their 14-day free trial for most industries.
They have plans specifically for small companies, which include:
- 1 active chatbot
- 1,000 valid chats/mo
- An unlimited number of stories
- A 7-day training history
- All integrations
- Basic reporting
- Data security
Pricing: ChatBot’s Starter pricing plan is $42/a month. Their Team plan is $126/a month (for growing companies), which upgrades you to 5 chatbots and 5,000 chats (amongst other things).
3. Drip – One of the top marketing automation software for eCommerce
If you are an eCommerce brand, Drip is where it’s at.
They’re all about building your brand by lead nurturing and managing customer relationships from start to…well, hopefully, forever!
They promise to increase engagement with email campaigns, optimize with A/B testing, and tailor your messaging with recommended audience segmentation and lead scoring.
Their USP is their UX (user experience) functionality and personalization, but it’s not for those just dipping their toe into the world of email marketing automation. It can be a little complicated.
Chamber of Commerce summarised its top features:
- A detailed email-builder that automatically makes changes to content, dependent on the customer
- Personalized omnichannel marketing tools for Facebook ads, landing pages, text messages (and even postcards!)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and tracking
- Export customer data and easy-to-share lists
- Native integration with most popular eCommerce apps (Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento)
- Follow-up resends for unopened subscriber emails
Rather than a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager), Drip’s ECRM (eCommerce Customer Relationship Management) allows you to make your customer experience “intimate”.
Pricing: For small businesses with a list of 500 or less, it’s only $19/per month. You can even add SMS messaging on a pay-as-you-go basis.
4. EmailOctopus – Beginner-friendly email marketing automation
Unlike some of the marketing automation software we’ve covered so far, EmailOctopus is beginner-friendly.
Did you know that email is nearly 40x more effective than either Facebook or Twitter for new customer acquisition? It’s also one of the most boring, repetitive tasks when done manually.
You can use EmailOctopus’ simple drag-and-drop editor to customize their templates or build your own from scratch. In addition, customer data, demographics, and insights can segment your list for greater personalization.
You can import existing subscribers to your marketing channels while creating slick landing pages to entice more.
According to a GetApp user, it has an “easy to use dashboard, all the basic features I want without all the fluff of the other software out there, and the price is WAY better than most.”
If you’re looking for a no-frills email marketing tool, this is worth a try.
Pricing: They have a free Starter plan which allows for up to 2,500 subscribers and 10,000 emails per month. After that, the Pro plan price scales with your business, starting from $20/per month for 5,000 subscribers and 50,000 emails.
5. Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) – Sales pipeline management
Formerly known as Infusionsoft, Keap has been going for over 20 years. Though the learning curve can be steep, it’s a highly-rated, all-in-one platform.
They promise to get your small business organized, automate follow-ups and help you close more deals.
Perfect for limited or solo marketing teams, it covers the following:
- Sales pipeline management
- Payments (for eCommerce)
- Reporting and analytics
- Email marketing
One user said: “Keap is a workhorse, and you can automate so much of your business. The drawback is finding out how to implement that automation in the best way possible.”
It seems the software can adapt to the uniqueness of your business, rather than the other way round.
Pricing: Their Lite plan (for solopreneurs and small businesses) provides core CRM, automation, and email tools for $79/a month. The Pro plan is $159/per month, and Max is $199/per month – with the service increasing in capabilities as you upgrade.
6. Outfunnel – Merge sales and marketing data
Outfunnel markets itself as “the most boring marketing tool on the planet”. That’s a bold move for any company, let alone marketing automation software!
Your marketing efforts are nothing without data to drive them. Outfunnel’s USP is connecting sales and marketing metrics deeply and easily.
Their four main features are:
- App integration
- Email marketing
- Web tracking
- Lead scoring
Their marketing tools and CRM integration keeps everything in sync to help drive more revenue.
At the same time, the visitor tracking service allows you to pinpoint your warmest leads and what they’re interested in.
You can even automatically calculate lead scores based on engagement via emails and web data.
Anyone afraid of combining marketing and sales surely won’t be after trying out this platform. Just make sure you have a data-driven goal in mind to get the most out of the service.
Pricing: Their Starter plan allows for up to 1000 events, emails and visitors per month for $19. However, their Growth plan (for up to 15,000 of the above) is $49 per/month. Not too large of a price jump for a whole load more data!
7. Quuu & Quuu Promote – Content curation, sharing and promotion
If you want to automate some of your content marketing game, this is the section for you.
Oh, look, it’s us!
- Content curation
- Content promotion
Curating involves finding and sharing relevant content from your niche. However, doing so yourself can take up a lot of time that you may not have.
Luckily, we’ve enlisted the help of Robin – an AI content curation specialist that we created.
By signing up for Robin’s high-quality suggestions from over 500 topics, you can ensure a steady stream of content for your niche (with minimal effort).
Some categories include:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Digital Marketing
- Health & Fitness
- Environment & Conservation
As we link up with your favourite scheduler, everything is automatically posted for you too. (Don’t worry, there’s a manual option too!)
Be warned, though, future thought leaders.
Full marketing automation software is handy. But if you want your curated posts to scream ‘you’, make sure you choose Manual mode.
This means you can edit your share texts before sharing to add unique insight to everything you post. The above is especially important if you’re trying to build a personal brand.
With RSS feeds, Quuu Discover and Profiles all included – start exploring the home of content. You’ll learn so much while you’re at it.
Pricing: There are three types of plans: Free, Pro ($5 a month) and Business ($15.83 a month). You can add 1 social profile on the Free plan, up to 10 on Pro and 100 on Business.
Promotion is all about getting eyes on your own original content. So, why is this important?
The internet is a crowded place these days. You can’t expect to “post it and they will come”.
If you want readers, subscribers, and conversions – you need to put some work in. Luckily, some clever people have done a bit of it for you!
Quuu Promote promises you hundreds of social shares (linked to SEO) from people who are genuinely interested in your niche. (These are from the users who have signed up to curated content on Quuu – told you it was clever, eh?)
Check out the calculator on the homepage to see how many shares you could expect for your niche.
Source: Quuu Promote
There’s also a 15 day 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t get the number of shares promised – what do you have to lose?
Pricing: There are three types of plans on Quuu Promote. The Individual plan gives you 10 monthly promotions (from any site) and costs $50 a month. We’ll even continue to automatically promote content that’s submitted for as long as you stay subscribed.
8. Salesforce – CRM pros
Salesforce is one of the biggest names in the CRM (and marketing automation software) sector. They brings companies and customers together.
“It’s one integrated CRM platform that gives all your departments – including marketing, sales, commerce, and service – a single, shared view of every customer.”
You can use the cloud-based service to understand your customer base and grow it. It can identify your top leads and suggests how to best connect with them.
Salesforce promises you:
- Responsive support to help your business grow
- Get more from the apps you already use with integrations
- A personalized, scalable platform with in-built AI
According to one user, “Salesforce is so user-friendly. The design is so intuitive, very little training is needed before you’re off running and getting value out of it.”
Pardot by Salesforce deals with B2B marketing automation but, while highly rated, comes in at a minimum of $1,250/per month. It’s worth checking out if it’s within your budget. Otherwise, keep it in mind for when you scale.
If you’re brand new to customer relationship and lead management, we recommend trying the Essentials plan first. Salesforce is quickly becoming the industry standard.
Pricing: The Essentials plan is $25/per month and includes sales and customer service tools in one app. Up from that, the Sales and Service Professional plans are both $75/per month and give you complete sales/customer service solutions for any sized team.
9. Sendinblue – From email to all-round marketing automation
While Sendinblue is most well known for email marketing, it believes it’s the “smartest and most intuitive platform for growing businesses”.
That’s a big claim, but many (from SMBs and beyond) seem to agree.
As far as marketing automation features go, they hit a lot:
|Omnichannel Marketing||Customer Experience||Customer Acquisition|
|Email marketing||CRM||Landing pages|
|SMS marketing||Marketing automation||Signup forms|
|Live chat||Transactional emails||Facebook ads|
|Team inbox||Audience segmentation||App integrations|
The two biggest selling points of Sendinblue is that the platform is accessible and adaptable.
You can access the same tools as big companies (without the hefty price tag!), and no matter your starting point, the platform can grow and adapt as your business does.
The slightly outdated UX is the only main dislike for a lot of current customers. So, if you’re looking for an all-in-one marketing automation platform with few cons, give it a go!
Pricing: They have a Free plan to test out the platform, then their Lite (perfect for new marketers) starts from $25/a month for up to 10,000 emails.
10. SharpSpring – Powerful and affordable HubSpot alternative
It’s no secret that HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales pro. You can’t think of marketing automation software without considering them.
However, for £655/per month for their Professional plan, it could be out of your budget.
Enter the next all-round marketing automation platform: SharpSpring.
They claim they’re “the only one to deliver all the features you need to support your entire customer lifecycle.” They’ll be your social media, digital marketing and sales team all-in-one.
Their focus is on qualified leads and turning conversations into conversions.
Bear in mind, if you’d rather have one company cover the role of multiple tools, the price will (naturally) be higher. SharpSpring offers complete sales and marketing campaign management.
- Email marketing
- Landing pages
- Blog creation
- And more!
They combine marketing automation and CRM into one easy platform designed to help your small business grow. You can also build a mar-tech stack by integrating all of your favourite tools.
Like Sendinblue, the only downside seems to be a slightly clunky UI (user interface) at times. However, we’re sure this will improve.
Pricing: Their small business plan is $399/per month, which gives you pretty much everything the more expensive plans get (bar some agency-specifics).
11. Socialchief – Simple social media scheduler
Socialchief is a “free, super-simple social media scheduling tool.” One of the easiest marketing automation software tools on the list.
It’s not one of the big names in the industry. But if you’re new to scheduling, it’s perfect.
Curating is a massive part of any content marketing strategy and automating with a scheduler means you’ll stay consistent with posting.
Socialchief’s no-frills layout makes it easy to set a posting schedule and see exactly what’s going out and when.
Link up your social profiles and watch your content be shared with the world.
Top tip: while publishing can be automated, don’t forget about customer engagement. If you want to get more eyes on your content, you need to give as much social media engagement as you get.
Pricing: There are three types of plans: Free, Pro ($19 a month) and Team ($49 a month). You can add up to 3 social profiles on the Free plan, up to 10 on Pro and unlimited on Team. Both Pro and Team accounts have a free 14-day trial.
12. Sprout Social – Social media management workflows
One of the most well-known names in social media marketing is Sprout Social.
It’s a seamless, all-in-one platform that “blows other competitors out of the water”. It’s also one of few social media management tools that has CRM features.
- Engagement (unify how you communicate with customers)
- Publishing and scheduling (plan, manage and post campaigns as a team)
- Analytics (drive decisions with data)
- Social listening (track your mentions and customer touchpoints)
As there are so many features, it can be a tad confusing at first. However, the price is higher than the other tools on this list because of that variety.
Source: Sprout Social
It’s praised for its intuitive design and ability to put business team members on the same page.
They even host free social media webinars that cover various topics and industries to continue learning in your own time.
Pricing: The standard plan is $99/per month while the Professional is $149/per month. If that’s a tad expensive for your small business, check out Buffer. It’s way more limited but could be more cost-effective.
The right marketing automation software can virtually expand your team and upgrade your strategy for an affordable monthly fee.
Whether it’s email marketing, lead generation for new customers, or retention to create loyal ones – there’s a tool on this list for you.
Of course, this is only a brief introduction to each. But, hopefully, you’ve learned more about marketing automation in general, too.
With so many tools offering free trials, why not test a few?
You might find that using your spare time to test out marketing automation platforms could actually end up saving you a heck of a lot of it in future.
Which tool have you tried on the list? Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments!