Business

8 free or super-cheap marketing automation systems

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Image Credit: Alan O'Rourke

Marketing automation may not be the new new thing any more. Which is probably one of the reasons why bringing high-end solutions like Eloqua, Marketo, or IBM into your company can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

But all is not lost for those who want to just dip their marketing toes in the automation waters.

In fact, for those who want free or very low-cost marketing automation systems, there are at least eight options that have been deliberately designed for incredibly easy entry points — from free to under $200/month.


The VB Marketing Automation Index: 1,000 marketing pros rated the top systems in 24 categories.


“There are a lot of people out there that see the power of permission marketing and in-bound marketing,” JumpLead’s Matt Fenn told me recently. “But as soon as they start looking at how they can implement it, they hit a wall of $500 or $800 a month, which is out of the price range of many people.”

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That’s why, he says, his company built a product to do what Hubspot does, but at a price point he wanted to pay.

Here are eight companies that did the same thing:

1. Leadsius: $0 entry point

Leadsius is a three-year-old Swedish company that just released its product from a long-standing beta two weeks ago. While it focuses on small to medium-sized companies, the company’s understanding of what “small” and “medium” mean is tempered by the small Scandinavian market it started in — Sweden is home to just about as many people as New York City or L.A.

Part of Leadsius' interface

Above: Part of Leadsius’ interface

Image Credit: Leadsius

“In Sweden that is not the same as in the U.S.,” founder and CEO Markus Lundin told me. “We target companies with 10-200 employees … we end where Act-On starts.”

Leadsius has a full-ish suite of features. But the company might be strongest in website visitor tracking and analytics, since that’s where the company first began.

Features:

  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead qualification
  • Email marketing
  • Lead management
  • Landing page creator
  • Web forms creator
  • Contact database
  • Website visitor tracking
  • Lead analysis and reporting

Pricing: $0 to $1,195/month

2. Sales Autopilot: $0 entry point

Sales Autopilot is fairly typical of low-cost entry-level marketing automation solutions: It tries to do a little bit of everything, including some basic customer relationship management (CRM).

Gmail marketing automationBased in Hungary, Sales Autopilot offers complete functionality for free for its fairly extensive list of features, as long as you stay below 400 emails a month and one user. In other words, it’s incredibly easy to say yes to Sales Autopilot, and yet it can expand up to as many as two million emails a month for thousands of dollars in monthly cost.

“You can start using one of the world’s most sophisticated yet easy to use ‘all-in-one’ marketing and sales machines with no cost to you,” the company says.

Features:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrated email, SMS and direct mail campaigns
  • Lead nurturing
  • Sales process management
  • Customer targeting
  • Process management
  • Automated marketing campaigns
  • ERP integration
  • Call center integration
  • Built-in CRM
  • Built-in e-commerce
  • A/B testing
  • Website customization/personalization on the fly
  • Landing pages
  • Surveys and polls

Pricing: $0 to $3,500/month and up

3. Azuqua: $0 entry point

Azuqua is another of those quasi-hybrid systems that does a bit of sales, a bit of marketing, and a bit of customer service. In some sense that can be a bad sign, and sometimes all-in-one system do everything adequately but nothing extremely well, but in another sense it speaks to the ongoing melting of marketing and sales and customer support into a single set of activities with different foci in each.

Building an Azuqua event flow

Above: Building an Azuqua event flow

Image Credit: John Koetsier

The company is a very young Seattle-based startup that is built to automate and connect cloud-based business processes into what it calls “workFlõ” scenarios.

For example, someone could tweet about you, which Azuqua notices. The system then analyzes the tweet for sentiment, and routes it to different departments such as sales or customer service depending on what it finds in the tweet. That creates actions in, for instance, Salesforce, which then trigger customer or prospect contacts from your team.

Features:

  • Automation of workflows
  • CRM integration
  • Social integration (but not Facebook yet, apparently)
  • Personalization

Pricing: $0 to $250/month and up

4. Spokal: $39/month entry point

Spokal actually has a $19/month entry point, but that version of the service is solely focused on Twitter. And even the $39/month or the full $79/month product levels have only some of the features that you’d expect from a marketing automation system.

Spokal's content creation engine

Above: Spokal’s content creation engine

Image Credit: Spokal

But still, for a fairly inexpensive price you get a marketing automation starter system which focuses on inbound leads via content marketing and social media. The biggest feature? Search engine optimization (SEO) help in creating your content to attract leads via search marketing.

“It’s like having a SEO expert, a blogging expert, and a content marketing expert all on staff for a low monthly fee,” a customer quoted by Spokal says.

Features:

  • SEO-informed rich content creation
  • Social sharing and scheduling
  • Lead scoring
  • Keyword research
  • SEO and social analytics
  • Twitter audience building

Pricing: $19 to $79/month

5. JumpLead: $40/month entry point

Like Leadsius, JumpLead first approached marketing automation from a web visitor profiling perspective, with a product that could identify visitors by their IP addresses. That product, however, generated large amounts of data which the company couldn’t handle.

A JumpLead dashboard

Above: A JumpLead dashboard

Image Credit: John Koetsier

“We didn’t have any capability to manage and nurture those leads,” CEO Matt Fenn told me. “The volume and scale was like sand slipping through our fingers … so we started to build the features that we needed.”

Building features for themselves, JumpLead’s engineers soon found themselves with a product that they could sell to others, with landing page creation, email marketing, contact management, and analytics joining the original visitor identification capability.

For Fenn, the low price is one of the key features:

“It does allow people to just play around with it without a significant investment in time and money,” he told me.

Features:

  1. Visitor identification
  2. Live web chat
  3. Automated notifications and follow-ups
  4. Landing pages
  5. Web forms
  6. Lead scoring
  7. Email campaigns
  8. Contact management
  9. Social media integration
  10. Analytics

Price: $40 to $480/month


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6. Nurture: $95/month entry point

Nurture pitches itself as an all-in-one marketing automation system for the Fortune 500 to the “Fortune 5,000,000″ in other words, something that works for the one-person marketing department as much as for the big marketing team.

Nurture contact management

Above: Nurture contact management

Image Credit: John Koetsier

What facilitates that wide reach are an extremely simple interface and the ability to use the system as a stand-alone tool. Some people will use Nurture within their larger company as a personal or project tool, while some will use it for their entire small business.

“It’s got a nice balance of power and features without the bloat and complexity you find in a lot of marketing automation tools,” a customer quoted on the company’s site says.

Features:

  • On-site visitors tracking and engagement
  • Email marketing
  • Surveys
  • Customer segmentation
  • A/B testing
  • Automated, rules-based messaging
  • Real-time alerts for sales staff for key leads
  • Contact management
  • Analytics
  • Lead scoring
  • Web forms builder
  • Landing pages

Pricing: $95 to $3,000/month

7. Infusionsoft: $199/month entry point

Infusionsoft is possibly the best-known and most successful marketing automation system in this list, and there are some good reasons why. Even though its price is low, Infusionsoft offers an all-in-one system that combines aspects of CRM, marketing automation, social media marketing, and e-commerce tools into one package that is very attractive for small business.

Infusionsoft can be your marketing calendar, too

Above: Infusionsoft can be your marketing calendar, too

Image Credit: Infusionsoft

That helped it achieve eighth place on our VB Marketing Automation Index among much bigger, tough competition. It’s also the system that generated the most responses in our surveys from companies with under $25 million in revenue. And, despite the low cost, it ranked well in our reader survey on its ability to meet most or all of organizations’ marketing needs.

“The small business market is underserved by software companies,” CEO Clate Mask told VentureBeat in January of this year. “Most vendors in the sales and marketing SaaS industry are gunning for the enterprise clients and their products show it … true small businesses are left having to figure out how to make these systems work for their needs and it usually fails.”

The company offers a huge range of solutions, but it’s worth noting that at the lower price points, some of the features here aren’t included: CRM and e-commerce don’t make it into the lowest package.

Features:

  • Calendaring and task management
  • Contact management
  • Lead scoring
  • Customer segmentation
  • Email marketing
  • Automated campaigns
  • Landing pages
  • Web forms
  • Web activity intelligence
  • Analytics
  • Social media integration (available)
  • Built-in CRM
  • Quoting and ordering tool
  • Sales automation
  • Sales reports
  • E-commerce
  • Referral programs

Pricing: $199 to $379/month

8. Genoo: $199/month entry point

Genoo says it marries old-school email marketing software and new-school marketing automation in a way that allows you to do more with less. The company also boasts that providing “an affordable way to grow business” is one of its top priorities.

The lowest price level doesn’t include everything, but Genoo does have a very broad marketing automation toolset for its price. It is worth noting, however, that for anyone sending significant numbers of emails, pricing will go up from the base point. And, unlike InfusionSoft, you pay for email right from the first one you send — there’s no included number of emails.

Genoo's drag-and-drop email campaign interface

Above: Genoo’s drag-and-drop email campaign interface

Image Credit: John Koetsier

However, Genoo does have an extraordinary number of features for its price point.

Features:

  • Website and content management system
  • Blogging platform
  • Landing pages
  • SEO analysis
  • Web forms
  • Contact management
  • Email marketing
  • Lead nurturing
  • Customer segmentation by demographics and behavior
  • Automated programs with triggers
  • Social media tracking
  • CRM integration
  • Built-in CRM
  • Lead scoring
  • Analytics

Pricing: $199 to $1,499, with emails costing extra


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