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Ask any successful business what technology they use daily—we promise that most would say their marketing platforms undergird all of their marketing activities and contribute to their success.

One thing that most marketing platforms have in common is that they automate marketing in some way and make processes more efficient. The result? A fast-moving, strategically aligned marketing team that has complete visibility into marketing ROI and customer experiences.

What is a Marketing Platform?

Marketing platforms encompass multiple marketing activities depending on their offerings—from social media and email marketing, to lead scoring and management, and everything in between.  Many different types of marketing platforms exist, all with varying purposes and features, although many are similar in their offerings.

How do you know which marketing platform is right for you? At a minimum, it should:

  • Automate your marketing tasks
  • Unify your siloed workspaces
  • Foster efficient team communication, interactions and messaging
  • Have global visibility for your team to see all marketing actions undertaken by your business in one place
  • Track sales and progress with automation and powerful analytics

All of the platforms we discuss in this guide satisfy the above requirements. However, they each offer different features. Choosing the right marketing platform will require reviewing your current marketing needs and trying the different platforms and features that align with your goals. Here are some features of marketing platforms:

  • Email marketing and campaign management
  • Social media marketing and management
  • Sales pipeline management
  • Predictive marketing campaigns
  • Streamlined operations
  • Resource management
  • Lead management
  • Content management
  • A/B testing
  • Personalised marketing; behavioural data

In this guide, we will discuss three categories of marketing platforms:

marketing platform

All-in-one CRM – These tools house a full customer relationship management platform where you can manage your contacts and automate your marketing, plus other activities.

  • HubSpot
  • ActiveCampaign

Marketing automation and activities – These platforms have marketing automation capabilities, but they might not have an internal CRM. Most allow you to integrate with your CRM, however.

  • Marketo
  • VBOUT
  • SharpSpring
  • Pardot
  • Act-on

Marketing operations – These platforms accompany your current MarTech stack (whether all-in-one CRM or marketing automation) and help organise your data so you can be more efficient and move through marketing campaigns faster.

  • TrueNorth

Marketing automation platforms streamline marketing activities and help you stay organised and efficient so you can grow faster and optimise marketing spend. Let’s discuss eight of the best marketing automation platforms, their notable features, and ownership costs.

1. TrueNorth 

The days of tracking campaigns across multiple spreadsheets, dashboards, and Trello boards are over. Get more control of your marketing campaigns, so you know exactly what is working and what is draining your marketing budget.

TrueNorth is an agile marketing platform, unique in its category. Adopting the agile framework, it  organises marketing and makes it more efficient, helping marketing teams work together asynchronously (and remotely).

There’s a reason why the world’s top tech companies (Google, Facebook) use agile in software development—it works very well. Beyond simply streamlining marketing activities, TrueNorth has brought agile into the marketing scene to help teams move faster and stay aligned.

Conventional marketing campaigns can often last months (or even years) and rely on sub-par data that produce sub-par results, usually after it’s too late to course-correct. In contrast with traditional marketing processes, TrueNorth’s agile approach works with micro strategies and iterative cycles, allowing you to gain insights and adjust your strategy quickly and “on the fly.”

agile marketing

One of TrueNorth’s notable features is its marketing simulations. Compare multiple marketing plans (before you launch them) to identify the ones that will achieve your goals with the best return on your marketing budget.

Once launched, compare your progress against your simulations to assess if you are on track to meet your goals or shifting off course. Stay more in control of your campaigns and identify warning signs early and course-correct sooner, saving time and money in the process.

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TrueNorth also offers a Playbooks feature, a bank that gathers your winning campaign ideas over time (in the background) to inform future campaigns. This is your database of insights that you can call on when you launch new marketing campaigns.

truenorth playbook

TrueNorth’s power lies in its ability to enable marketers to move faster, thereby saving them time and money, instead of wasting resources on marketing campaigns doomed to fail. Quickly spot losing campaigns and gather insights rapidly.

WithTrueNorth, you can easily prove the true value of marketing and throw away guesswork and hunches. Quickly and easily demonstrate ROI so you can spend smarter, stay on track, and grow faster.

Note that TrueNorth is unlike the other marketing platforms we will be discussing in this guide. TrueNorth can be a worthwhile accompaniment to your current MarTech stack to help you organise your campaigns and keep your processes as efficient as possible.

TrueNorth Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • Team synchronicity
  • Marketing simulations
  • Agile framework
  • Detailed analytics
  • Marketing playbooks and insights
  • Prioritisation framework

TrueNorth Pricing:

TrueNorth is currently accepting beta users onto the platform. Get early access here.

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign focuses on helping small businesses create stellar customer experiences by automating the customer journey from lead to retention and beyond. Though ActiveCampaign became famous as an email automation platform, it has developed into an all-in-one CRM with features that far outweigh just email capabilities.

ActiveCampaign’s automation builder is user-friendly and easy enough for the most technically challenged marketer to create automations. The platform also offers what they call automation workflow recipes (templates) you can use as a foundation to build and customise your automated workflows.

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In addition to its customer experience automations, ActiveCampaign also offers omnichannel marketing features that allow you to reach your audience and integrate your communication across multiple platforms. Capabilities include landing page builder, SMS marketing, live chat with automated workflows, and integration with Facebook Custom Audiences.

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ActiveCampaign Features:

  • Sales automation
  • CRM
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Customisable sales pipelines
  • Contact management
  • Lead management & scoring
  • Site tracking
  • Email marketing & split testing
  • Omni-channel marketing
  • Customisable forms and landing pages

ActiveCampaign Pricing:

14-day free trial

Pricing is dependent on the number of internal users and contacts. If you have three users and up to 500 contacts, the Lite plan starts at $15 / month, with annual billing discounts. For 500-1,000 contacts and 1,000-2,500 contacts, the Lite plan is $29 / month and $55 / month, respectively. The Lite plan offers email marketing, unlimited sends, subscriptions forms and marketing automation.

Premium plans start at $70 / month for the Plus plan for up to 500 contacts and 25 users, with annual billing discounts. The cost does not increase until you pass 1,000 contacts, which is $125 / month.

The Enterprise plan starting at $279 / month is the most robust and offers everything in the premium plans plus custom reporting, custom domain, custom mail server domain, unlimited email design testing, unlimited users, dedicated account rep, and more.

Marketo 

Marketo is a popular marketing platform that is flexible enough to cater to small or large businesses or those hoping to scale. Like ActiveCampaign, it has many different automation capabilities and serves, but it is not an all-in-one CRM.

Marketo is still an industry leader and prides itself on helping marketers engage with prospects from acquisition to advocacy.

One notable feature of Marketo is its AI-powered (Adobe Sensei) audience segmentation, lookalike audiences, and insights. Marketo’s predictive intelligence helps you target the right audience to optimise conversions and then replicate future campaigns’ success.

For example, reduce unsubscribe rates by identifying the users who are most likely to unsubscribe with the Likelihood to Unsubscribe Predictive Filter. Slow down messaging for fatigued subscribers or stop engagement with suspended contacts. The power is in your hands.

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With predictive technology, you can also replicate your success with lookalike audiences. For example, capture signups from one of your successful marketing campaigns, and create a similar audience to the contacts who converted. Marketo allows you to create filters to find similar audience members to those you add to a defined list.

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Marketo Features:

  • Customer engagement marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • AI-powered predictive technology
  • Lead generation
  • Social marketing
  • CRM
  • Email marketing
  • Landing pages & forms
  • Scoring, routing & alerts

Marketo Pricing:
Marketo does not list its pricing on its website. But, it is more expensive than many platforms in its category. The Select plan does offer many of the platform’s key features, and it is a more robust starter plan than most.

Hubspot

Like ActiveCampaign, HubSpot is a CRM and marketing automation platform that caters to businesses of all sizes. It offers several additional products or “hubs” so businesses can choose which services they need.

Hubspot offerings:

  • Marketing Hub
  • Sales Hub
  • Service Hub
  • CMS Hub

Each Hub has a monthly cost and minimum contact limit.

HubSpot is also famous for its free, albeit limited plan which provides a good number of basic sales, marketing, and service features and the ability for you to give the platform a try before you buy.

HubSpot’s Marketing Hub provides multiple capabilities including a form and landing page builder, email marketing, account-based marketing, social media management, lead and ad tracking and management, and more. HubSpot also offers video hosting and a live chatbot for your website to attract and convert more leads.

With its automation features, it’s simple to convert leads with personalised emails, advanced segmentation, and automated campaign workflows.

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Once those leads convert, reviewing your analytics gives you a complete idea of what worked and what didn’t. HubSpot’s marketing reporting features customisable reports and dashboards and allows you to tie your campaigns to closed deals with multi-touch revenue attribution.

hubspot campaign
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HubSpot Marketing Hub Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Lead management and scoring
  • Email marketing
  • Custom workflows
  • Social media management
  • Live chat
  • Custom forms and landing pages

HubSpot Pricing:
14- and 30-day free trials

HubSpot offers a decent Free Plan which includes email tracking and templates, reporting, ad management, contact management and more basic features.

HubSpot’s Marketing Hub starts at $50 / month with discounts for annual billing. This Starter Plan includes everything in the Free Plan plus email marketing, ad retargeting, list segmentation, conversational bots, live chat, landing pages, and more.

If you want to take advantage of HubSpot’s advanced marketing automation features, it will cost you a minimum of $890 / month with discounts for annual billing. This Professional Plan also adds on social media, contact scoring, marketing automation, custom reporting, traffic analytics, A/B testing, ABM tools, Salesforce integration and more.

The next tier is Enterprise which costs a minimum of $3,200 with discounts for annual billing.

Note that the cost fluctuates depending on the number of contacts. The pricing above is also only reflective of HubSpot’s Marketing Hub, not its Service or Sales Hub. However, HubSpot offers Bundle Suites at decent rates if you want to bundle its services.

VBOUT 

VBOUT is a simple marketing automation platform that caters to businesses of all types and sizes. Like Marketo, it offers a full suite of marketing tools such as social media management, lead generation and management, email marketing, and landing pages.

VBOUT’s email marketing capabilities include personalised messaging (via merge tags) and dynamic email creation. So, for example, you can add countdowns and animated GIFs for specific events. You can also control email delivery and cadence and automate a workflow based on custom triggers connected to a lead’s score, behaviour or progress.  

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In addition to email campaigns, this drag-and-drop visual workflow builder includes automation templates and can also automate marketing tasks and cross-channel communications around leads, tracking, and integration with 3rd party applications.

With VBOUT’s lead generation features, import unlimited contacts, or synchronise your leads with your current CRM platforms. VBOUT allows you to segment your leads with filters, track their activity from the first to last touch, and gather insights with its analytics and tracking tools. Use lead scoring to focus on the hottest leads, and use custom labels to monitor their progress through your pipelines.

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VBOUT Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • Lead scoring and management
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Form and landing page creation
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Custom workflows
  • CRM integrations

VBOUT Pricing:

14-day Free Trial

VBOUT’s Starter Professional Plan starts at $100 / month for all of its features (email marketing, social media, automation, analytics, landing pages, and lead management), with annual pricing discounts. Pricing is a la carte for four of the six features. For example, if you were not interested in social media or landing pages, the price would reduce to $80 / month for email marketing, analytics, lead management, and automation.

The Premium plan (Enterprise and Agency) pricing is only availably by a custom quote. These plans offer additional features such as customised stack and integrations, dedicated IP warmup and dedicated account manager, white-label options, and more depending on whether you are an agency looking for opportunities to serve your clients.  

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SharpSpring

A close competitor to VBOUT, SharpSpring is a B2B sales and marketing automation platform that caters to small to medium-sized businesses.

Like other marketing automation platforms, you can automate email campaigns and create custom behaviour-based workflows for various customer journeys. Use SharpSpring’s built-in triggers and filters to set up automated personalised, relevant emails at specific times to engage with consumers and leads and encourage them to convert.

SharpSpring also allows you to create powerful marketing automation workflows with its intuitive interface. Use branching logic to create your lead’s pathways to conversions and follow them every step of the way.

Track leads with SharpSpring’s dynamic list feature, a behaviour-based segmentation tool that automatically updates as contacts satisfy your custom list criteria. So, for example, you can create a segmented list for every prospect who performs a specific action (submits a form, visits specific product pages, reviews your pricing page, etc.)

SharpSpring
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Get more information from anonymous website visitors with SharpSpring’s VisitorID. It tracks your visitors’ IP addresses and pulls back identifying information. VisitorID also tracks time on page, browsing behaviour, where visitors came from, and what they searched for before reaching your site.

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SharpSpring Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • VisitorID lead tracking
  • Lead scoring and management
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Form and landing page creation
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Custom workflows
  • Blog builder
  • CRM integrations and features

SharpSpring Pricing:
14-day free trial

SharpSpring doesn’t advertise its prices on its website. Pricing has been reported to start at $550 / month for the Basic plan, which includes 1,500 contacts. All plans offer access to all features. The plan costs increase as the number of contacts and emails increases.

Salesforce Pardot 

If you’re looking for a marketing platform, Salesforce would be overkill. Pardot is the marketing automation arm of Salesforce’s comprehensive suite, perfect for businesses wanting a robust marketing automation platform without signing on to other Salesforce products.

Like other top-rated marketing automation platforms we’ve already discussed, Pardot offers customised workflows, social media management, lead generation and management, email marketing, analytics and reporting.

Pardot is also known for its artificial intelligence feature called “Pardot Einstein” which includes Einstein Lead Scoring, Einstein Behavior Scoring and Einstein Campaign Insights.

Einstein Lead Scoring monitors your lead’s conversion patterns and scores new leads based on previous conversion data.

Salesforce Pardot
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Einstein Behavior Scoring monitors leads’ behaviour and notifies you when they are ready to purchase, while Einstein Campaign Insights looks for new prospects based on similarities to your highly engaged leads. Pardot’s AI capabilities allow you to attract, convert and find new ready-to-convert leads based on machine learning and ongoing monitoring of your leads.

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Pardot also feeds its automation capabilities with the data it collects on your leads’ behaviours. Build personalised automations, custom workflows, and engage with leads at the right time to increase the chances of conversion.

Pardot Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • Pardot Einstein (AI)
  • Lead scoring and management
  • Email marketing
  • Landing pages
  • Social media management
  • Account-based marketing
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Custom workflows
  • Salesforce integration

Pardot Pricing:

Pricing starts at $1,250 / month billed annually for the Growth plan for up to 10,000 contacts. Premium plans (Plus, Advanced, Premium) start at $1,250 / month billed annually for up to 10,000 contacts. Pardot also offers some a la carte add-ons to customise your packages.

All plans include email marketing, landing pages, email A/B testing, marketing automations, lead scoring, custom fields, and more. Premium plans add more sophisticated marketing automations, B2B marketing analytics, dedicated IP address, a developer sandbox, advanced email analytics, unlimited forms and landing pages, and additional upgrades.

Act-on 

Act-on is another impressive marketing automation platform offering email marketing, social media, analytics and other marketing features.

Act-on’s powerful behaviour-based segmentation tracks your segment’s interactions and engagements with your brand, and scores leads and fuels campaigns based on this data. In addition, use the demographic and firmographic segmentation data to personalise experiences and deliver relevant messaging to increase engagement.

Act-on’s segmentation would not be complete without its dynamic scoring, which follows your lead’s actions and records their steps to empower your segmentation and alert you when leads are ready to buy.

Act-on

Track buyer pathways on Act-on’s score sheets, where you can outline scoring criteria and rules for your contacts and create one scorecard for each audience for segmentation purposes.

With Act-on’s Automated Journey Builder, customise a communications workflow to construct your multi-channel campaigns and reward your prospects and customers with personalised brand experiences.

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Act-on Features:

  • Marketing automation
  • Lead scoring and management
  • Landing pages
  • Social media management
  • Account-based marketing
  • Sales performance and analytics
  • Custom workflows
  • CRM integrations

Pricing:

The Professional starter plan starts at $900 / month for up to 2,500 active contacts and includes most features. The Enterprise plan starts at $2,000 / month for up to 2,500 active contacts and adds on CRM integrations, Data Studio for advanced reporting and BI integration, account-based marketing and transactional emails.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Platform

How to Choose the Right Marketing Platform

Choosing the right marketing platform will depend on what you need to complete your MarTech stack. These platforms also integrate, so in some cases, it might make sense to use more than one to fulfil your marketing requirements.

For example, if you have HubSpot, but you want a more robust operations platform to funnel in your results data and better optimise your marketing campaigns, you might also want to try TrueNorth, which integrates with HubSpot.

If you already have SharpSpring, but you are looking for a more robust CRM, you might look into HubSpot and integrate it with SharpSpring.

Here’s how to break it down:

OPTION 1: If you are looking for an all-in-one CRM + marketing automation, try HubSpot or ActiveCampaign. We also published an in-depth piece on the best CRMs for small businesses.

OPTION 2: If you are looking for just marketing automation and other marketing capabilities (social media, customised workflows, landing pages, email marketing, etc.), try Marketo, VBOUT, SharpSpring, Pardot, or Act-on. Make a list of the marketing activities you want to automate, and then review each tool’s features to match them up. Not all of them offer every marketing feature.

OPTION 3: If you want to speed up your marketing processes to get results quicker, and make your systems more efficient, try a tool like TrueNorth. TrueNorth can work alongside and above your tool stack as a control panel. You can import your performance results to figure out what campaigns are working and which ones are draining your marketing spend. Use TrueNorth as a first step to evaluate future campaigns and their potential for success even before you run them.

Choose the Marketing Platform That Meets Your Needs

We covered eight of the top marketing platforms in this article. Take one or more for a test drive to see if they meet your needs.

The great news is that these platforms often integrate so if one does not fulfil all of your needs, you can combine them to create a unique stack that aligns with your company goals.

And remember that TrueNorth is accepting early beta access applicants who want to test drive the platform. This agile marketing platform is a powerhouse addition to any marketing team that wants to move faster and stay aligned with highly efficient processes. Apply right here to request beta access.