Marketing automation [MA] is the digital marketer’s Swiss Army knife. It elegantly displays disparate sources of data—web traffic, social media, email, search trends and advertising benchmarks—and allows users to automate these sources through a single application, boosting ROI, SEO ranking, efficiency and customer satisfaction.

However, MA is big business—$1.65 billion big—and there are dozens of solutions with similar feature sets. Since every company wants a piece of the pie, some of biggest enterprise firms are making bold moves by acquiring MA software companies. Salesforce acquired ExactTarget in 2013 for a staggering $2.5 billion (only a year after ExactTarget acquired Pardot for $95 million), Oracle acquired Eloqua in 2012 for $810 million, in 2013 Adobe acquired Neolane for $600 million and IBM acquired Silverpop in 2014 for about $270 million.

With so many competing interests among marketing cloud makers, how can marketers find the right tool? We’ve poured through coverage and reviews to find the five best MA solutions for the five most common modern marketers.

1. Marketo: Enterprise Automation, Huge Ecosystem, Best for Big Marketing Departments


Marketo stands as the best among enterprise-level marketing automation for its high customer ratings, depth of features and huge ecosystem.

Though its UI “appears to have been designed a decade ago,” according to Forbes’ Mike Tempelman, Marketo’s workflow automation tool is hyper flexible. It’s the perfect choice for data-driven marketers who want to analyze millions of data points and don’t mind a steep learning curve.   

Marketo also has a great ecosystem of partners, including Percolate, Segment and ToutApp. This strong partner ecosystem allows Marketo to offer a diversity of features not possible on platforms that rely solely on core product updates. AdBridge, for example, connects Marketo behavioral data, with targeted display ad partners, like AdRoll.

2. HubSpot: Award-Winning Application for SMBs Who Need a Little Guidance

HubSpot is an easy choice, having an enormous user base and a rapidly growing trophy case of industry awards. Last year, in fact, it was added in 2015 to G2Crowd’s illustrious Marketing Automation Quadrant.

And, while its feature set isn’t as staggering as the likes of Marketo, HubSpot has gained traction in small- and mid-size businesses, in both B2B and B2C business models. It’s received high marks for customer service, and is a great tool for marketers who need a little help with a little bit of everything.

Beyond its laudable flexibility, Hubspot has received praise for its intuitive user interface and solid SEO tools, CTA building and lead scoring functionality. Also, HubSpot’s open API and large customer base means there’s a host of nifty applications designed to work within the platform.

3. LeadSquared: The Best Budget Option for Cash-Strapped Marketing

When your marketing budget is inflexible, LeadSquared should be your go-to marketing automation and analytics platform.

At $125 per month for a basic feature set (with access to 5,000 contacts and five users), LeadSquared offers a great value. Reviews have so far been positive, praising LeadSquared’s ease of setup, great customer service and simple lead list management.

4. ThriveHive: Marketing Automation For SMB Owners Who Don’t Even

Despite the often slick, easy-to-use interfaces that come with MA solutions, they require a knowledge base of marketing concepts and terms that make them inaccessible to non-marketers and small business owners. ThriveHive is an up-and-coming MA platform that guides users through their digital marketing strategy, providing suggestions on what users should be doing with their time.

ThriveHive’s user base has been expanding rapidly, and it has received great users reviews, often praising the simplicity and helpful guidance. Those concerned the simplicity extends to ThriveHive’s feature set need not worry. The application has a full array of automation tools, including contact management, email marketing, web analytics, landing page optimization, SEO, social media and more.

5. Kahuna: The Solution for Mobile-focused Marketers

Mobile web use is flourishing, with mobile purchasing on track to make up approximately 80 percent of online purchases by 2016. For those marketers who want a laser-like focus on their mobile strategy, and don’t know where to begin, Kahuna is the best mobile marketing solution out there.

Kahuna tracks, analyzes and engages users on your app or mobile site. The platform allows marketers to behaviorally target customers in real-time, sending customized messages via push notifications, in-app messages and emails.

Don’t forget; your marketing automation software purchase is not final. While you’ll likely want to be sure you purchase a best-fit software package, if you’re finding it lacking, try something else. And, if you still have more questions about marketing automation, and don’t know quite where to start, I highly recommend Quicksprout’s The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.

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