4 Top Marketing Automation Tools for Startups

Technology is revolutionizing industries of every field, and digital marketing is no different. If you’re a startup, this means choosing the right marketing automation tool to help scale your business beyond the size of your team.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), what was once impossible is now the new norm. If you want your business to be able to compete, you must keep up with what technology has to offer.

The following marketing automation tools bring something new to the table, and offer efficient strategy planning for just about any type of business. If you’ve never heard of them or haven’t tried them before, we recommend giving them a shot - especially since each one of these tools offers a free trial!

Drip

Drip is a customer relationship management (CRM) software that’s designed specifically for e-commerce. It helps business owners better understand their customer journey and provide a more personalized experience to those customers.

Just like your other, good ol’ CRM tools, Drip helps you create event-triggered messages. These messages can be sent to your clients via email, Facebook, Instagram, or even SMS and direct mail, with third-party integration.

In addition to that, Drip helps you create drip campaigns, email broadcasts, and everything else you’d expect to find in a decent email marketing tool. Basic features aren’t what make Drip worth trying though - here’s a look at what makes Drip stand out.

What Makes Drip Awesome

1. Powerful segmentation capabilities

Segmentation works wonders when it comes to increasing conversion rates. And no tool does segmentation better than Drip.

Instead of dividing your email contacts into lists, Drip tags every person separately, based on different events and trigger actions. This could be anything from a customer’s location to an action they made on your website.

You can also apply these tags manually, to segment your list even more. In addition to avoiding the well-known downsides of the traditional list-based segmentation, like people ending up on two lists, tags allow for a level of personalization that’s not possible with lists.

2. Individual customer journeys

Drip doesn’t collect just information about your customers’ journeys to help you better understand them, it also helps you visualize these journeys.

By presenting different actions from a customer journey in a visually-appealing way, you can easily determine which experiences have the highest conversion rates. You’ll also be able to know the most and least engaged customers and send them different messages accordingly.

3. Goal-driven workflows

Another feature that gives Drip an edge when it comes to the overall user experience (UX) that you provide your customers is how goals work in different workflows.

Instead of being just a metric, achieving a goal in Drip will actually remove the customer from the related workflow. For example, if someone abandons their cart at your website, they’ll trigger the abandoned cart email sequence.

Once they buy the abandoned item, they won’t receive any more emails from the abandoned cart sequence and will be automatically moved to another workflow.

marketing strategy planning collaboration


4. Visual workflows

Being able to modify and design workflows visually makes Drip really interesting. Even if it’s possible to achieve a similar level of customization with other tools, being able to create complex workflows in such a simple way makes it the right choice for many people.

Instead of having to set up complicated rulesets to trigger different actions, you can set different action triggers manually. The skip logic branching that’s used allows you to cover different scenarios and set your triggers as actions or even wait periods.

 

Pros

  • Excellent segmentation options

  • Easy-to-use visual builder for workflows

  • Powerful automation features

Cons

  • Templates aren’t easily customizable 

  • Lacks the template variety of other similar tools

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing tool that keeps things simple. It’s easy-to-use and designed specifically to be as user-friendly as possible. If you’re a blogger, or any other type of online creator trying to grow and engage your audience with email, we highly recommend giving ConvertKit a try. Especially because of its beautiful interface and Wordpress plugin.

Does ConvertKit have all the bells and whistles of big email marketing tools? The answer is no, but often you don’t need all that flashy stuff, anyways.

For most businesses, it’s better to have a practical tool with just the components they need than a super-powerful one with a ton of features they’ll never use, not to mention a steep learning curve.

What makes ConvertKit awesome

1. Intuitive interface

Email marketing doesn’t get any easier than this. Actions such as creating email sequences and segmenting your subscribers are ridiculously easy with ConvertKit. So you won’t waste time learning how the tool works and can get right to work on getting things done.

Everything from the clutter-free interface to the intuitive visual builder come together to create a tool with a UX like nothing we’ve tried before.

2. Tag-based segmentation

Unlike email marketing tools that are stuck in the “list era”, ConvertKit uses a tag-based system to segment subscribers. All you have to do is choose tags for the people you want to target in a specific email sequence and the tool will automatically select them from your subscribers.

Not only is this segmenting method easier to use, but it also works better with a blog’s subscriber list.

3. Shareable visual automations

ConvertKit allows you to share funnels with the visual automations they create. You can easily share them with other people, and they can share what’s working for them.

This is a huge deal for people who don’t want to spend lots of time on these tasks - just find an automated sequence that works for a similar creator and use that. Easy peasy!

4. Drag-and-drop sequence builder

Creating an email sequence doesn’t require much work with ConvertKit. The visual builder allows you to use drag-and-drop blocks to create personalized email sequences, with zero technical hassle.

Using the same method you can also change the order in which the emails are sent. The best thing is that you can edit the content of each email and its sending sequence at the same time, making the sequence easier to visualize.


Pros

  • Intuitive interface

  • Easy-to-understand reports

  • Tags for segmentation

  • Built with creators in mind

Cons

  • Limited A/B testing capabilities

  • Missing lots of advanced features

  • Few template options to choose from

bnw email letters

ActiveCampaign

This tool is all about powerful automation features. Unlike ConvertKit, the focus here is on having as many automation options and tools as possible. And it doesn’t stop at email, either - ActiveCampaign allows you to automate everything from emails to SMS and on-site messaging.

This means you can target the people visiting your website with customized messages, delivered through their browsers based on an action they made. This is useful because you don’t need to get their email or any other kind of contact information to start engaging them.

Also, the fact that ActiveCampaign is an all-in-one solution makes it even more appealing to advanced users. Marketing automation, CRM, and messaging of all sorts can be managed with this platform.

What makes ActiveCampaign awesome

1. Lead scoring system

The lead scoring system of ActiveCampaign is one of the features we like most. This system uses machine learning (ML) to analyze your lead data and do the necessary number crunching to determine a purchase probability for each lead.

After a lead is assigned a score, you can easily arrange and segment it, based on that score. What’s really impressive about this system is that it takes multiple factors into consideration (instead of a single action) and uses ML to keep getting better.

2. Smart deals pipeline

Instead of having all your leads in a single sales cycle, ActiveCampaign helps you make sense of this mess by breaking each sales cycle into a series of steps that are visually represented. Cold leads, marketing qualified leads (MQL), and sales qualified leads (SQL) are sorted in separate lists, each with a distinctive color.

You can also build different pipelines for different lead segments, which makes the overall process more efficient and easier to handle. The fact that you can automate this process means you can get the results you’re after without having to set all this up manually.

3. Automatic deals assigning

To make the entire automation concept of ActiveCampaign work even better, they have a feature that allows you to automatically assign deals. All you have to do is set up the criteria and each deal will be directed to the right salesperson.

This can be based on anything from the status of lead in the sales cycle to their assigned lead score, or even their geographic location.


4. Intuitive marketing automation builder

Despite the powerful automation features ActiveCampaign packs, it has an easy-to-use visual builder. So, instead of setting up automation sequences manually, you can do this with flow charts . . . that make sense!

You don’t need to “learn” how to use the sequence builder, as it’s pretty self-explanatory. We really liked this because we don’t have to assign the creation of all automation sequences to the “tech wizard” on the team. Everyone can pretty much create whatever automation sequence they want, which saves lots of time and effort.


Pros

  • Powerful automation features

  • Beautiful interface

  • Decent templates selection 

  • Deliverability testing 

Cons

  • Features can be overwhelming

Act-On

If you’re an early stage startup, Act-On is a great tool that can make your life a whole lot easier. This all-in-one marketing tool stands out from the crowd because of its in-depth marketing insights.

The only downside of Act-On is the hefty price tag. It’s definitely not cheap but the value it can bring to a startup makes it worth considering, especially with a free trial option.


What makes Act-On awesome

1. In-depth insights

The insights you can get from Act-On are by far better than those from similar tools. The data Act-On collects can also be visualized using one of the many compatible data visualization tools.

For an early stage startup, better understanding of what’s going on with your marketing will help you make better CRM decisions. It’ll also help you create an effective marketing strategy that’s based on facts, instead of assumptions.


2. Powerful integrations

In addition to Act-On’s wide array of features, it’s compatible with many third-party tools. You can connect to CRM tools such as SalesForce, or organic social media plugins for social networks.


3. Open API

Every startup has its own unique technical needs, so pre-made solutions usually won’t cut it. With Act-On’s open API, your developers can make it compatible with any CRM tool on the market, even if doesn’t work with Act-On right out of the box.

4. Simple automation setup

While marketing automation is great, setting it up is a major frustration for most teams. One thing we really like about Act-On is the intuitive workflows that make setting up complex automations super-simple.

Instead of focusing on the tool, Act-On allows your team to focus on getting things done. If your team relies heavily on automation to overcome issues such as not having enough employees, the price tag that comes with Act-On can be justifiable.

Pros

  • In-depth actionable insights

  • Works with all major CRM tools

  • Open API 

  • Simple automation setup

Cons

  • Expensive compared to similar tools