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Marketing Automation for Startups: What is it, Top Free Tools [2022]

Source: Unsplash

Using a marketing automation software could reduce costs and scale your ROI, but it should not be a substitute for real marketing know-how. While marketing automation tools can help scale your marketing, the person using them should also be well-equipped with the right knowledge and training.

Most startups are overly concerned about using an all-in-one marketing automation solution, which can confuse less experienced marketers and backfire. Instead, you should take the time to consider where your startup's needs and your use case really lie , and then find a suitable marketing automation software from the list below:

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a way by which software can automate some types of marketing work. Marketers use the software to help nurture leads often through integrations to product data management (CRM) or customer data platform (CDP) software.

With a  fast-changing customer base, marketing patterns emerge. Marketing automation technology helps you with time-saving and revenue generation. The best marketing automation tools should include countless features and automated workflows making marketing less of a headache.

Marketing automation helps identify customers by automating the process of nurturing those leads into sales-readiness. It automates actions whose prospects reach the point of direct contact by the sales team with the purpose of closing a sale and beginning ongoing relationships.

Marketing automation delivers useful content that builds trust and respect for your brand quickly and easily helping leads understand what it is they get. Once your prospect is narrowed down and they are keen to buy from your brand, you can use marketing automation tools to easily reach out with a specific message tailored particularly to a group of prospects.

Skip straight to: Best Marketing Automation Software Free for Startups

What is Marketing Automation used for?

Instead of performing manual, repetitive procedures, marketing automation tools help you save time and concentrate on more strategic tasks. Marketing automation software also helps you serve customers better, as you can maintain the details of an offer and automate the creation of customer profiles. You can use this customer data to personalise almost every conversation and creating custom user experiences.

Advertising automation is the best choice to manage the digital marketing department, decreases errors & improves overall effectiveness. Use omnichannel marketing automation software to tailor every interaction for seamless experiences across a number of channels. Use email marketing automation to automate the following tasks: Planning and designing, goal development, doing research, establishing brand consistency, measuring KPIs and more.

What's the difference between Marketing Automation and CRM?

Marketing automation runs top of the funnel activities to convert qualified prospects into sales. CRM stores the contact list where their sales cycle is occurring. Marketing Automation and CRM both work very closely together, making it important that the marketing automation and CRM integration tools can orchestrate data and ensure only cleansed data flows between the marketing automation and CRM.

Benefits of Marketing Automation on Marketing Efforts

Marketing automation provides numerous business benefits, from early-stage startups to those in the growth and scaling stage. It helps with prospecting, lead nurturing, customer acquisition, cross-selling and upselling among many other aspects of digital marketing.

However, it is important to be mindful not to sign up for every shiny new marketing automation solution, and pick the right one for your fast-growing startup. Thankfully, the list of marketing automation software here is free to use so you won't waste money. But you should still try not to waste your time giving every marketing automation solution a go, and instead choose them according to your startup's marketing and sales efforts.

Skip straight to: Best Marketing Automation Software Free for Startups

Why is Marketing Automation so important for startups?

By automating every step of the process from sales to marketing, your team can focus more on general strategy while maintaining customer data of the leads that display real potential. Marketing automation provides you with a comprehensive image of the behaviour of potential customers.

Incorporating behavioural tracking methods into marketing software can help your marketing team understand how user interests are affected and where they are in the process of buying. Based on such behaviour, your marketing automation tools can help you customise all follow-up activities from those actions points. It will further drive larger marketing campaigns including detailed research, qualifying and prioritising lead types.

How can Marketing Automation help startup marketers?

Marketing Automation Systems replace manual and repetitive tasks and increases efficiency. Software can take over operational, process-focused tactical work which lets marketers allocate more resources to strategy, content and creative problem-solving - especially crucial for fast-growing startups.

With automation marketing software, the right content and target groups can be customised and be distributed the right messages at the right time. Those tasks could not happen automatically given the complexity and sheer volume of elements of omnichannel digital marketing campaigns, which is where marketing automation becomes helpful for lean startup marketing teams.

B2C Marketing Automation Tools for Startups

Marketing in a consumer-facing environment is all about convincing potential buyers over a shorter time frame. B2C marketing automation also covers understanding customer behaviour to establish a messaging strategy.

A consumer promotion must quickly capture the customer's interest keeping the journey of the purchase quick, simple, obvious, and tempting.  Marketing automation has one logical step - nurturing the prospects for sales. A customer is brought in with the sales process they should have: brand awareness and a quick sales process.

B2B Marketing Automation Tools for Startups

B2B is an experience where product education and awareness building is crucial. It is also a space where purchases are not done in an instant by individuals, but instead are considered and logical. The buying decision in such circumstances will also take time with weeks, months, or longer elapsing between the initiation process and its completion. These characteristics, coupled with customer research, creates several data points that can be analysed. As such, marketing automation software is supremely well-suitable for the B2B market.

Skip straight to: Best Marketing Automation Software Free for Startups

Why does Marketing Automation fail?

Marketers will not get all the tools needed to implement effective marketing automation until they have a consistent source of prospects. Too many marketers who don't have a solid marketing plan for leads get stuck by learning how to capture the smaller fraction of the market they have in their database and blame the wrong reasons for their lack of marketing ROI.

Don't invest in marketing automation without establishing fertile lead generation processes, so that your marketing campaigns can blossom. Moreover, avoid obtaining unsolicited email leads as the practice is unethical and causes poor engagement to your campaigns anyway.

Bad Marketing Automation Examples

The problem marketers have with marketing automation tools is the lack of training required to manage and manipulate data. Marketing automation's real value is in understanding and using the customer data effectively. Merely collecting lots of data without the right knowledge leads to poor marketing automation, which kills marketing efforts.

Best Marketing Automation Software Free for Startups [2022]

Creating an effective and dynamic marketing campaign requires automation, especially for fast-growing startups that are always lacking resources while the to-do list is piling up. We evaluate all the leading marketing automation systems with startup-friendly competitive pricing, to help you find the right marketing automation solution.

Whether it is to generate leads, build customer relationships, automate repetitive tasks, or improve sales efforts - we hope you will choose the right marketing automation streamlines to ultimately get your startup more paying customers.

Inbound Marketing Automation Tools


Best Marketing Automation Software - Typeform
Source: Typeform

Typeform helps you build lead generation forms and landing pages quickly, and integrate them beautifully on your website. Without the need for developers. Startup marketing and sales teams love Typeform for its ease of use and great price (even free!), to easily launch and test marketing messages and improve the buyer's journey.

Typeform's form builder also allows sales and marketing teams to filter qualified leads instantly, based on their answers on the form.

Price: Starts from Free


Best Marketing Automation Software - Sumo
Source: Sumo

Sumo is a free email capture tool that lets you easily collect emails from visitors on your website. It integrates with Google Tag Manager, Shopify, and Wordpress, so you can capture customer data that come from every marketing channel, including digital advertising ad campaigns.

With its easy setup and generous features on the Free plan, Sumo is popular with sales and marketing teams across fast-growing startups, and perfect even if you're a small business owner.

Price: Starts from Free


Best Marketing Automation Software - HotJar
Source: HotJar

HotJar is not only great for the marketing team for lead management, but also startup product managers and UX/UI teams to understand customer data instantly. It shows you a heat map of how visitors engage on your website, where they spend their time on landing pages, and actions they take towards becoming a lead (or not).

This helps time-starved startups easily visualise whether their marketing activities are effective, and the behaviour of leads coming from various drip marketing campaigns to help with lead scoring. HotJar also lets you create short surveys at various points of the customer journey on your landing pages, helping startups further optimise their marketing workflows and sales funnel.

Price: Starts from Free

Email Marketing Automation Tools


Best Marketing Automation Software - HubSpot
Source: HubSpot

HubSpot needs no introduction, being one of the best marketing automation software and sales CRM automation tool. But with so many different use cases and features, it can be intimidating especially for startups who are working on everything at once, and the confusion might discourage your marketers.

To start off, you can focus on their Email Marketing tool. Simply import your email list or automate it with their versatile CRM integration options, and start creating and sending emails to your user base for lead nurturing. The free plan also has automation tools that helps with lead scoring and lead management, with features to track email opens, link clicks, and individual user activity overtime. Perfect for growth-stage startups looking for a marketing automation tools that can scale together with your business in the long term.

Price: Starts from Free


Best Marketing Automation Software - Mailchimp

Mailchimp has been the OG email marketing automation system for early-stage startups and small businesses, which allows marketing and sales teams to access automation tools and CRM integration without the need for much technical knowledge. However, they have since moved from a simple email marketing automation software into a robust marketing automation platform - perfect for your growth-stage startup's marketing automation efforts.

Their marketing automation system lets you fully automate marketing messages, email marketing processes, and track your customer lifecycle for qualified leads. Its simple setup and interface lets startups easily discover which customer relationships to nurture with more constant contact, and create email campaigns and landing pages - making it a good marketing automation solution for startup marketing teams.

Price: Starts from Free


Best Marketing Automation Software - Omnisend
Source: Omnisend

Omnisend is an email marketing automation software for e-commerce marketing and sales professionals. Its integrated marketing automation helps collect customer data and segment users, so marketers can identify the right marketing channels to focus on.

This is important for e-commerce businesses, as bidding strategies for social media ads can be costly especially for small businesses, and you want to identify the right user segments to target. You can also use multiple channels to automate your marketing tasks and conduct account based marketing beyond email, such as SMS push notifications.

Price: Starts from Free

Best Marketing Automation Software -

This is a special mention. Although they don't have a free plan, is one of the highly recommended email marketing automation tools for tech-savvy startup marketers. Unlike many other email marketing tools, lets you send automated emails triggered by user actions on the website - not only based on page views, by also individual events.

Its simple interface allows even new startup marketers to create email campaigns that visualises the entire customer journey, and build marketing automation for customer lifecycles. The main downside is that it requires some developer help to set up initial integrations and tracking. It is also a relatively new product that might have disruptive bugs.

Price: 14 days Free Trial, then from $150 per month

Social Media Marketing Automation Tools


Source: Buffer

Buffer is the only social media management and automation software you need. Its simple but effective features help your startup's lean marketing team schedule social media content and engage with your audience easily.

Being one of the top social media marketing automation tools, Buffer also provides user-friendly analytics that lets you analyse your social media marketing performance and access reports to help you keep your audience engaged with constant contact.

Price: Starts from Free

The Bottomline on Marketing Automation Tools

None of the marketing automation tools listed above are bad, and no specific tool will be the sole answer to your startup reaching unicorn status. However, each of those marketing automation tools can provide you with more power that a typical email platform or Excel sheet would.

Some will provide additional customer insights and improve the chance of closing sales. Some have better free features than others, and some are more expensive yet help you better customise your workflow depending on your specific needs in the present and long term.

Each marketing automation software will bring you a greater amount of control for your campaign management than a standard email or web application will. Some marketing automation tools offer additional insights, and can help you close sales more efficiently than others.

What about all-in-one Marketing Automation tools?

As mentioned earlier, as much as it's important to utilise marketing automation tools, high-growth startup founders and teams need one thing the most: Focus.

Lots of the marketing automation software on this list claims to be an all-in-one marketing automation solution, and they indeed have many robust features to help your marketing activities. However, each of the marketing automation tool above are highlighted for their main feature based on your startup's needs.

What’s the best Marketing Automation solution for my business?

You should pick the right marketing automation tools according to your startup’s specific business needs, instead of going for the one with the most features. Most of the time, it's harder to simplify than to complicate things - the same goes for picking marketing automation tools.

Besides thinking of current marketing needs of your startup, you should also think about whether that software is a current stop-gap effort, or a marketing automation solution that will grow with your company in the long term.

You can also weigh the investment required for using each tool, beyond just price. Some other investment considerations for picking marketing automation tools include: Time spent on set up and learning how to use, number of team members you have to get involved/distracted from their main tasks to help with the set up, data storage capabilities, and ease of exporting data if you choose to move away from that tool in the future.

Keeping those factors in mind will help you make your strategic decision to pick a suitable marketing automation tool for your startup.

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