“Marketing Automation on a Budget”? What could that possibly mean? Each automation provider claims they are for small-medium businesses or enterprise or all three arbitrary firm sizes. When you start to dig into the pricing and feature lists, you quickly find the top names are about the same price for each tier of database sizes.
So how is having 500,000 records at a $100MM business different than 500,000 records at a $5MM business? This is a good question I can’t answer very well right now. I’d say that the lead values are different for each firm due to product differences, growth levels, and conversion rates. My point is that a $5MM business cannot pay as much for the same system as a $100MM business without losing features.
I’m currently in the market for an automation solution that integrates with Salesforce, allows me to create workflows, pulls in data from my site, tracks leads, does email marketing, and reports well on all of these things. In short, I want the “Demand Gen Dream” of integrated systems and cross system data that I can query in any way.
At my budget level, it is not going to happen. I can come pretty close though if I choose my vendors carefully.
Possible solutions for me:
- Marketo Spark and Standard - despite having written a ton of articles about Marketo, I’m not a huge fan of their pricing. Spark purports to be accessible to small businesses as does Standard. I can’t imagine most SMB firms being able to afford $29,940 a year (Spark at 100K leads) without AB testing for emails or landing pages when other services offer more for less. Marketo’s big win is in SFDC integration and workflow creation. If you can get the budget the reporting tools are also well worth it. My take: good for high growth tech businesses.
- HubSpot - Who doesn’t love their blog? Their feature set is comparable to other MA systems, except that you have to start with the “Professional” level to use any of them or integrate with SFDC. As they’ve grown into the market with larger enterprise ambitions, their pricing has risen too. They have a clearer matrix system of three tiers multiplied by the number of database records. Usually the pricing is similar to Marketo’s. If you are undecided about which level, select your database size, then change the product level. There won’t be a huge different in the annual cost. My Take: becoming out of reach of the original SMB audience.
- Eloqua – I almost didn’t put this in here. Eloqua has clearly positioned itself as an enterprise service and it shows in their pricing. They have everything you could need, but it is pricey. My take: not a contender for any SMB. Oracle’s name there is a clear positioning statement.
- Pardot – their system is similar to HubSpot and Marketo. I’ve had a couple of demos and thought the interface was ok. Not as clearly logical as Marketo or HubSpot and not as visual as Eloqua. When someone’s on a tight budget like I am, I often suggest Pardot. Their chief limitation comes with 30K block pricing after the base price, API limits, and file size limits. For growing databases, you could easily end up paying more than you intended. Since Pardot is now part of ExactTarget, I’d expect more serious deliverability help and tools than other services. My take: more of a contender for those on a budget, but be careful with list size growth.
- Silverpop - they used to come up often in 2010, but not so much these days. Sounds like their systems are more integrated. One interesting advantage is they offer email marketing and automation as separate services, so you could conceivably upgrade to automation tools rather seamlessly. Silverpop has a few interesting add ons that are more B2C oriented, such as couponing. Their pricing was not publicly available, so it is unclear if they are a good SMB tool. My take: I don’t like companies who don’t put at least basic pricing up.
- CaptureTrackConvert - I did a guest blog post about the ROI of Marketing Automation a few months ago for the team there. Their system seems good and it covers the main options. The sticking point is price and level. Their flat rate is $59.95/mo for up to 500 leads and 2500 emails. Unlike most providers, they charge a per email or contact fee for any overages and the tiers are rather limited. They offer custom options, so I’d try that first. My take: Definitely a good first option for an SMB. Might be a bit awkward for firms my size–between small and medium.
- AWeber - they are the preferred platform for pro-bloggers to run drip campaigns with some automation. Their feature set is fairly advanced for an email platform, but lacks the “automation” lead management functions we’ve come to expect. That’s ok, because I might want to just have a better email system at first. I like AWeber’s pricing which is similar to Mailchimp’s. To me, Aweber has a more natural interface than Mailchimp with some key bonuses, like personalized email delivery times. Both AWeber and Mailchimp are perfect for newcomers with limited automation needs because of the extensive help and templates. My take: it’s not Marketo, however, it is a contender for basic nurturing.
- Mailchimp - I already use this for this site’s newsletter and at my current employer. I find it has powerful features, but a poor interface because I can rarely figure out where functions are. The integration with SFDC is a bit limited. Mailchimp also bases pricing on database size with very clear options over 25K. I love it when companies are open about pricing at high volumes instead of “call us,” since it saves me the trouble of deciding to ask them. Mailchimp has similar features to AWeber with a friendly vibe thanks to the Chimp. They are very strict with CANSPAM compliance and will suspend you for even inadvertent low deliverability stats. My take: MailChimp is a much better starting point for SMBs or small list bloggers. Not sure it is a good choice for those with larger ambitions.
After exploring the Big 5 of Marketing Automation, the smaller players, and the email platforms, I’d say if you are an SMB that is not desperately in need of lead flow management, you should find an email service provider who have a few tricks up their sleeves. I recommend AWeber or Mailchimp and then find a contractor to help integrate the sync between them at SFDC. For the moment, I’m sticking to an email only solution, for about 10% of the cost of marketing automation. That being said, I am looking forward to the day I can say a $30K solution will save me the cost of a new hire.
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