With artificial intelligence being used in more and more industries, it’s little wonder that marketing and sales teams have also hopped onto the AI bandwagon. The most visible form of AI adoption in marketing tasks has been marketing automation.
Whether we’re talking about digital advertising, social media or broader marketing efforts, the use of automation tools in marketing processes has been gathering pace — and the latest stats give us a glimpse of what’s around the corner.
The marketing automation market, for example, was worth $15.6 billion in 2019, and it’s been forecast to crack the $25.1 billion mark by 2023. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that 96% of marketers have already started using a marketing automation platform.
So what are the best marketing automation tools, and how do you use them? How, exactly, would a marketing automation tool benefit your business? How do their respective features and costs compare, and are there real-world examples that illustrate their magic?
Read on to learn more about these tools and how they’ve changed marketing efforts forever and will continue to do so.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation involves the use of software to automate and simplify repetitive tasks in marketing. Such tasks can include anything from managing monthly email newsletters to creating and publishing social media posts. But there are other, more complex, tasks that marketing automation can also perform.
Need to send personalized messages to some of your clients to see how they’re using your product? There’s a marketing automation solution for that.
How about answering several queries from a loyal customer about the delivery of two orders, the first made six weeks before the other? There are marketing automation platforms that can manage that, too.
While the applications of marketing automation are various, the way it operates is always the same: sending content determined by up-to-date data to customers or leads. At any point in time, the purpose of the content is to either maintain relationships with existing customers or to establish relationships with leads.
Why Your SaaS Business Needs Marketing Automation Tools
Some of the benefits of using marketing automation tools are obvious. By automating a marketing process that’s regularly performed, you’re able to focus on other tasks and areas that require more attention. Such other tasks and areas could be anything from researching potential markets to analyzing client data to making detailed long-term plans for your business.
But freeing up your time for critical, “big picture” tasks is just the beginning of the benefits of marketing automation software. Ultimately, marketing automation is geared towards customer relationship management. Such an orientation can clearly strengthen the relationships you enjoy with your existing clients, affording them a more personalized, need-specific service.
But the potential for exponential growth that marketing automation software embodies lies in lead nurturing. As any marketing and sales team knows, a company’s current clients are invariably part of a network of people — relatives, friends and colleagues — who may be just as interested in its product or service as the existing clientbase.
Research from 2018 shows that 91% of people (PDF download) are more likely to buy from brands that recognize, remember and proffer relevant recommendations — a process that is simplified significantly by marketing automation software.
Marketing automation software can filter quality leads from those who may not have a real interest in a company’s products — a key challenge for many businesses.
Another problem that most marketing automation tools can address is the difficulty in maintaining a consistent band presence. With people accessing websites from different devices, it can be challenging for an organization to maintain one public face.
Marketing automation technology circumvents that problem by allowing marketing teams to store their corporate style guides, templates and other materials in one location, making it easier for them and others to find and use official content.
Marketing Automation Examples
While the benefits of marketing automation software are clear, its impact in marketing activity becomes particularly impressive when we look at a few real-world examples.
Hugo’s use of email marketing automation is a case in point.Hugo, which operates a meeting notes platform, had been applying basic email marketing with its clients and leads for a while, but conversion rates had been mediocre at best.
Keen to improve his company’s marketing efficiency, co-founder Darren Chait decided to use marketing automation software to personalize the company’s marketing campaigns. This was achieved by crafting emails according to specific customer data, such as when users had used the platform. The result? Hugo managed to double the number of daily active users within the first month.
Another example is SEMrush, a B2B SaaS provider. While still with the company, former marketing director Alexandra Tachalova wanted to increase SEMrush’s marketing return on investment (ROI) without making any major investments. She decided to focus on the company’s user subscriptions, especially the option that allowed clients to cancel their subscription by clicking one button without explaining their cancellation.
Aware that subscription cancellation was a key part of customer relationship management, she decided to replace the cancel button with a form that, once completed, was sent to Hugo’s support team. Because the form allowed clients to outline the problem that had caused them to request a cancellation, support staff had a chance to resolve the problem before a cancellation could be justified. The outcome was an almost 10% reduction in cancellations.
At one point or another, most companies need to realign their marketing and sales teams to become more effective, as was the case with media giant Thomson Reuters. Marketing automation software was employed to address segmentation within the company’s marketing workflows as well as improve its lead scoring. This involved integrating customer relationship management (CRM) software, followed by the creation of a new lead scoring standard.
The fruits of these labors were a 23% increase in leads being passed to sales staff and 175% increase in revenue from leads.
What’s the Best Marketing Automation Software for SaaS Businesses?
The best marketing automation software for medium to large SaaS businesses covers a broad range of activities: from email marketing and lead nurturing to social media marketing and marketing campaigns with multiple channels, as well as everything in between.
While they may vary in their focus, they can each transform your business when used appropriately.
Here’s a snapshot of the top 15 marketing automation platforms used in the SaaS industry.
Email Marketing Automation
Intercom is a messaging platform that enables communication with customers across multiple channels. It streamlines communication by reducing the number of tools that are normally used with customers.
- Business Messenger: An automation tool that offers businesses a live chat function with their clients, as well as a chatbot that can answer client queries.
- Outbound Messages: An automation tool that allows you to send personalized time-sensitive messages to current clients and leads, including push notifications. The tool also includes a function that analyses specific customer data such as those customers who have just opened messages, as well as those who have replied to messages.
- Help Center Articles: A central location for articles that answer client FAQs, as well as other queries that are common during the customer lifecycle. It can be tailored to include articles in various languages and can be integrated with other Intercom automation tools, such as Business Messenger.
- Product Tours: An automation tool that delivers different information to clients based on their interaction with a business’s website — for example, when clicking on “Learn more” while browsing a product web page, the client is presented with a video demonstrating how the relevant product works.
Intercom offers three general product plans: Support, which provides personalized help to clients; Engage, which focuses on on-going support for clients and other aspects of customer relationship management; and Convert, which focuses on turning website visitors into actual customers.
Prices vary depending on how many business employees use Intercom and how many clients receive at least one message from a business employee in a 30-day period.
The articles in Intercom’s Help Center webpage answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients.
Userlist is a marketing automation platform that focuses on crafting behavior-based emails and messages at different stages of the customer journey. Unlike some other tools, it focuses on serving companies rather than individuals, applying functions such as onboarding clients and segmentation on an organization-wide level.
- In-App messages: Businesses can send personalized messages through apps that their customers use.
- Behavior-based campaigns: Launch email campaigns based on how your clients use your product.
- Many-to-many relationships: Complex relationships between individuals and companies are catered for.
- Client timelines: Set up activity timelines for individuals, giving you a snapshot of their current position in the customer lifecycle.
- Broadcasts: one-off broadcasts can be sent for announcements and to promote Userlist features.
Plans & Pricing
- Up to 5,000 users: $99 per month
- Up to 49,000 users: $519 per month
- Up to 500,000 users: $5,049 per month
Annual subscriptions are also available and provide a 20% discount.
A free 14 day trial is available.
The articles on Userlist’s help center web page answer common cover technical and non-technical queries from clients. There’s also a help center email address.
Customer.io is a messaging platform that allows you to send and analyze customized emails, push notifications and SMS messages.
- Send welcome and onboarding emails to new customers, then analyze the metrics.
- Automatically activate a drip campaign when customers have been inactive for a period.
- Remind customers that their subscription renewal rate is approaching.
- Reward customers for using your products — for example, inform them of exclusive offers when they download your app.
Customer.io offers two plans: the Basic plan and the Premium plan. The first includes sending an unlimited number of emails, SMS and push notifications, as well as technical support. The second includes all of the Basic plan’s features, along with a dedicated customer success manager and a 90-day onboarding program.
- Basic plan: minimum of $150 per month
- Premium plan: minimum of $995 per month
Customers can log in to the Customer.io Support web page.
PandaDoc is an automation tool that allows you to create and manage the approval and signing of electronic documents.
- Use templates to create a variety of documents, such as forms, proposals, quotes and contracts.
- Integrate your documents with other marketing automation tools you may be using, such as HubSpot and Salesforce.
- Monitor the progress of a document by tracking who’s viewed and signed it, as well as who’s approved different versions.
- Keep documents secure with encryption.
- Allow clients to sign documents wherever they are — including on their mobile phone.
PandaDoc offers several monthly or annual plans, with annual plans being cheaper. Its free eSign plan includes unlimited document uploads and a mobile app. The Essentials plan includes all of the free eSign plan’s features, plus templates, a drag-and-drop document editor and 24/7 email and chat support. Its Business plan includes all of the Essentials plan features, plus CRM integrations and custom branding. And the Enterprise plan includes all of the Business plan’s features, plus integration with the Salesforce tool and reporting on user performance.
- Essentials plan: $29 per month per user
- Business plan: $59 per month per user
- Enterprise plan: determined with PandaDoc
The articles on PandaDoc’s help center page answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients.
SEMrush is a marketing automation platform that offers a range of tools in the areas of SEO, content, market research, advertising, social media marketing and search engine reputation management.
- An on-page SEO checker that analyzes the optimization of a given webpage, then suggests how to improve the page.
- A social media automation tool that schedules and posts content across multiple platforms, while also tracking and analyzing the content of competitor social media.
- A brand monitoring tool that tracks mentions of your business online, as well as mentions of your competitors. It also uses Google Analytics to assess the effectiveness of PR and marketing campaigns.
- A topic research tool that finds appealing content according to your audience’s needs. Based on these needs, it can then formulate a content plan.
The Pro Plan is for marketing newcomers and small in-house teams, the Guru plan is for SMEs, developing agencies and marketing consultants, and the Business plan is for enterprise businesses and other organizations.
- Pro plan: $119.95 per month
- Guru plan: $229.95 per month
- Business plan: $449.95 per month
Annual subscriptions are also available.
The articles on SEMrush’s help center page answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients. Clients can also use the help center email address.
Ahrefs is a set of SEO automation tools that, broadly speaking, focus on optimizing your business’s SEO performance. It also provides specific content used in your email marketing, social media and other elements of your marketing automation platforms.
- Site Audit: This tool analyzes the SEO performance of your website, pinpointing areas that need improvement.
- Site Explorer: An indispensable part of any competitor analysis, this tool analyzes the organic traffic and backlinks of other websites.
- Keywords Explorer: By analyzing thousands of keywords, then ranking them for their traffic potential, this tool helps with the optimization of content across an entire marketing platform. The tool analyzes keyword metrics in Google, YouTube, Amazon and Bing.
- Content Explorer: This tool will analyze billions of web pages and rank their popularity according to factors such as organic traffic, domain rating and shares on social media. This can be used to help develop content for your landing pages, social media and other communications.
Ahrefs offers a range of monthly plans. The Lite plan includes all of the above tools. The Standard plan includes all of the Lite plan’s tools, plus SERP updates, among other features. The Advanced plan covers the Standard plan’s features plus two year’s worth of backlink and ranking data. And the Enterprise plan includes the Standard plan’s offerings, along with the option to manage access permissions for your marketing team.
- Lite plan: $99
- Standard plan: $199
- Advanced plan: $399
- Enterprise plan: $999
Annual plans include two free months.
The articles on Ahrefs’s help center web page answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients.
Social Media Management
SkedSocial is a marketing automation tool that focuses its services on ramping up your Instagram presence.
- Create and schedule your Instagram posts in a simple drag-and-drop planner.
- You can also schedule your Instagram posts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
- Add buttons on your Instagram profile that directs leads to specific places, such as your blog, newsletter or YouTube channel.
- An analytics tool to find out how your posts are performing and, where necessary, how to improve them.
SkedSocial offers three monthly plans. Its Fundamentals plan is aimed at single users who have up to three Instagram accounts and up to 10 other social accounts. The Essentials plan places no limit on the number of users, and it can be used for up to five Instagram accounts and up to 20 other social accounts. The Professional plan includes all of the benefits of the Fundamentals and Essentials plans and can be used for up to 10 Instagram accounts and up to 30 other social accounts.
Billing can be done monthly or annually.
- Fundamentals plan: $25 per month
- Essentials plan: $75 per month
- Professional plan: $135 per month
FAQs and articles on other product-related matters are available on SkedSocial’s support page.
If you’d like to know which companies are visiting your website, as well as how they found you and what they’re interested in, Leadfeeder is the tool you need.
- Use behavioral and demographic filters to score your website’s visitors.
- Filter individual contacts from a company based on their job roles or location, then contact the best person.
- Integrate Leadfeeder data with your existing CRM tools and create reports.
- Email alerts notify you when specific companies visit your site.
Leadfeeder offers two plans: the Lite plan and the Premium plan. The Lite plan allows you to identify a maximum of 100 leads who have visited your site in the last seven days. The Premium plan is much more comprehensive, offering an unlimited period for registering who’s visited your site, as well as access to a contacts database and CRM integration, among other features.
- Lite plan: free
- Premium plan: from €79 per month
The articles on Leadfeeder’s help center web page answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients.
BuiltWith has a database that lists millions of websites around the world, as well as the marketing software and other technologies that each uses.
- BuiltWith’s database covers 58,507 technologies that have been tracked over 22 years, which means that lists can be compiled according to specific criteria. For example, a website’s current usage of, and expenditure on, technology; predictions of a website’s usage of technology based on previous records; and lead scoring lists.
- Filter reports on technology usage according to various criteria, including keywords, countries and states, or whether a website has been optimized for mobile devices.
- Snapshots of websites that outline their usage of key technologies, as well as analysis of how competing technologies are faring against one another.
BuiltWith offers monthly and annual plans, with annual plans including a discount. Its Basic plan offers limited access to technologies, keywords and retail reports, while the Pro and Team plans offer unlimited access in these areas.
- Basic plan: $295 per month
- Pro plan: $495 per month
- Team plan: $995 per month
BuiltWith’s knowledge base page provides an extensive directory of articles answering FAQs and other queries.
Hunter is a lead generation tool that helps find the right people in the right organization – a key part of the lead scoring process as well as the broader work of lead generation.
- Hunter’s Chrome extension allows you to find the address you need from any website. And its Domain Search will do the same for individuals within a company.
- If there’s something odd about an address, Hunter’s Email Verifier tool will check it.
- For email campaigns, Hunter will organize everything for you — from personalizing each email, to setting up daily quotas for emails and, when necessary, sending follow-up emails.
Hunter’s Free plan offers 25 monthly searches and 50 verifications. Its Starter plan offers 500 searches and 1,000 verifications, plus features such as images in campaign emails. The Growth plan offers 2,500 searches and 5,000 verifications, plus a limit of 5,000 recipients per campaign. The Pro plan offers 10,000 monthly searches and 20,000 verifications, plus a limit of 7,500 recipients per campaign. The Business plan offers 30,000 searches and 60,000 verifications, along with the features offered in cheaper plans, plus a limit of 10,000 recipients per campaign.
Hunter offers monthly and yearly plans. Yearly plans include a discount.
- Starter plan: €49 per month
- Growth plan: €99 per month
- Pro plan: €199 per month
- Business plan: €399 per month
Hunter’s help center page provides articles that answer common technical and non-technical queries.
Mailmunch is a lead-generation platform that uses various tools to engage clients across the entire customer lifetime cycle.
- Attract and retain visitors to your website by using customizable templates to build pop-ups, forms and landing pages.
- Craft personalized emails for your marketing campaigns.
- Gamify your content by using customized spinwheels and coupons.
- Use detailed analytics to track the performance of your content and broader campaigns
Mailmunch offers annual and monthly versions of two plans. The first, the Premium plan, includes an unlimited number of forms and landing pages, email automation and in-depth analytics and reporting. The other plan’s features are not specified, presumably because they’re tailored according to the number of your subscribers.
- Premium plan: $13.99 per month
- Bespoke plan: enter the number of your subscribers in the online calculator to determine your monthly or annual fee
The articles on Mailmunch’s help and support page answer common technical and non-technical queries from clients.
HubSpot is well-known for the variety of tools it offers, from various social media and email marketing automation tools to sophisticated inbound marketing software. But underpinning all of these tools are the principles of good lead generation and lead nurturing.
- Marketing Hub: A platform that provides a suite of marketing automation tools, from blogging and social media automation tools to video hosting and live chat software.
- Service Hub: A platform that includes a library of help articles that clients can refer to, as well as a function for communicating seamlessly with clients between one marketing channel and another.
- Operations Hub: A platform that synchronizes data and automates repetitive tasks, such as formatting client names and dates.
HubSpot offers monthly and annual plans, with annual plans including a discount.
Marketing Hub: A Starter plan, which offers a minimum of 1,000 marketing contacts; a Professional plan, which offers a minimum of 2,000 marketing contacts; and an Enterprise plan, which offers a minimum of 10,000 marketing contacts
Service Hub: A Starter plan, which is aimed at a minimum of two paid users; a Professional plan, which is aimed at a minimum of five paid users; and an Enterprise plan, which is aimed at 10 paid users.
Operations Hub: A Starter plan, which connects tools and synchronizes data; a Professional plan, which includes the Starter plan features plus the ability to build custom reports; and an Enterprise plan, which includes the Professional plan features plus advanced data calculation options.
- Starter plan: starts at $50 per month
- Professional plan: starts at $890 per month
- Enterprise plan: starts at $3,200 per month.
- Starter plan: starts at $50 per month
- Professional plan: starts at $400 per month
- Enterprise plan: starts at $1,200 per month.
- Starter plan: starts at $50 per month
- Professional plan: starts at $800 per month
- Enterprise plan: starts at $2,000 per month.
HubSpot’s customer support page offers a variety of support material — from how-to articles on specific tools and client forums to blog posts and videos. Support from HubSpot staff over the phone or through email or chat windows depends on a user’s plan.
Hotjar gives you an insight on why some aspects of your marketing automation strategy might seem flawless while other elements seem to be an endless source of problems.
- Heatmaps pinpoint the sections of your site that clients and leads are drawn to, as well as the sections they’re ignoring.
- Video recordings show where visitors are spending most of their time on your site.
- Survey templates that allow you to get feedback from visitors in minutes.
Hotjar’s Basic plan is offered free of charge, and includes access to a maximum of 35 daily sessions — a session is a visitor’s full journey across every page on your website. Its Plus plan is aimed at small teams and includes a maximum of 100 daily sessions and unlimited surveys. The Business plan targets growing companies and includes the Plus plan features plus integrations with software such as HubSpot and Slack. The Scale plan is designed for large businesses and includes the Business plan features plus unlimited daily sessions.
Here are a few helpful tools and resources for marketing automations:
- 3 Things To Know Before Choosing Marketing Automation Software
- 20 Essential Saas Marketing Automation Tools
- Grow Your Small Business Faster With Content Marketing Automation
- 10 Best Content Marketing Automation Tools For Small Businesses
- Plus plan: €31 per month
- Business plan: €151 per month
- Scale plan: determined with Hotjar
Clients outside the Eurozone area are charged in US dollars.
Hotjar’s support page lists many articles, ranging from how to use heatmaps to billing issues.
EngageBay offers a variety of automation tools, including a tool for email marketing automation, another for building landing pages and others that focus on sales and appointment scheduling. Each can play an important role in engaging with your clients and leads.
- Drag-and-drop webform builder: This can improve your lead nurturing by creating customized forms.
- 360 Degree Customer View: This platform allows you to build a comprehensive profile of your clients over time, including their social media habits and other online behavior.
- Live-chat software: Resolve queries through the live-chat tool as your leads progress on their customer journey.
EngageBay offers a free plan with basic features, such as the live chat tool. The Basic plan includes email templates and lead scoring, while the Growth plan includes other tools for marketing automation, including push notifications. The Pro plan covers features such as web analytics and custom reporting.
- Basic plan: $14.99 per user per month
- Growth plan: $49.99 per user per month
- Pro plan: $99.99 per user per month
Annual and biannual are available at a discount.
Customers can schedule an online appointment with an EngageBay representative to discuss a tool they’re interested in.
15. HR Cloud
HR Cloud is a platform that provides a variety of HR-focused automation tools.
- Onboard new employees remotely using customized tasks and checklists.
- Sign, track, store and share documents from any device.
- From checklists to exit interviews, automate the employee offboarding process.
- Design polls and surveys for your employees.
HR Cloud offers three plans. The Engagement plan focuses on employee engagement and integrating HR Cloud with other platforms, such as Slack. The Onboard plan focuses on the onboarding process. The HR Suite plan includes all of the features of the first two plans.
Subscribers receive a discount if they choose an annual over a monthly plan. Specific prices need to be determined directly with HR Cloud.
The support section of the company’s website provides guidance on various technical and non-technical issues.
In short, those are some of the best marketing automation tools on the market. Whether you need to spruce up your business’s social profile, upgrade your email marketing automation tools or maybe engage with your clients more personally, the marketing automation landscape has something for every SaaS business.
But whichever marketing automation tool you choose, remember that it’s an investment worth making – as, hopefully, your clients will make clear to you soon enough.