It’s 1 pm on a Friday, and you’re the marketing vice president of a well-known furniture retailer.
Your marketing team has been tasked with finding a software solution that handles one or several marketing tasks such as emails, social media posts, SMS, and direct mailpieces.
Automation platforms don’t just save you time. Many will track and centralize customer data across multiple channels, giving you deeper insights as you optimize your company’s marketing strategy.
After reviewing the most popular marketing automation platforms, we’ve curated ten to consider. There’s no “best” platform — the right tool for you will depend both on your specific needs and how you evaluate these factors:
Marketing category: Automated direct mail
With Lob, it only takes minutes to design, print, and send a direct mail campaign to your contacts. Lob’s platform contains direct mail templates that you can customize with branded visuals and calls to action. The platform also saves you the trouble of finding a printer and guarantees a specific delivery window.
Lob’s power rests in its APIs and integrations. Connect the platform to your other marketing automation tools, so you can make direct mail a part of your omnichannel marketing strategy. With the Iterable integration, for example, you can trigger a direct mailpiece if a customer doesn’t open an email.
Lob offers a demo which can be scheduled here. It does not offer a free trial.
Address verification. Lob validates every address before a mailer hits the USPS, reducing the likelihood of returned mail.
Ease of use. Lob requires no technical expertise thanks to its intuitive user interface, simple workflows, zero coding, and excellent API documentation.
Point solution for automated direct mail. Many marketing automation channels can control multiple communication channels, Lob focuses on automated direct mail. However, you can make direct mail a part of your larger omnichannel strategy with Lob’s plethora of integrations.
Zapier is like a bridge — the platform connects tools together, even if they don’t have built-in integrations. Say you want to integrate Lob with your customer relationship management (CRM) software, but no native or built-in integrations exist between them. Zapier is the software “bridge” that brings them together. You might set up your Lob direct mailpieces to appear in your CRM’s customer records.
It doesn’t stop with direct mail. Zapier has more than 3,000 integrations with the likes of ActiveCampaign, Google Sheets, and Klaviyo, which you can explore with its 14-day free trial on all plans. Zapier doesn’t offer a live demo, but you can click here for an online tour.
No coding needed. You simply create a Zapier account, locate the two platforms you wish to integrate, and tell Zapier what activity to perform. If for some reason Zapier doesn’t offer a pre-built integration between your desired platforms, you can request that they build one. Have a Slack account and a Facebook account? Want to share new Facebook Page posts in Slack? Zapier takes care of it.
Pricing. Zapier charges by the number of integrations, or “zaps,” and the number of “tasks” you want those zaps to perform. A single Facebook post in Slack would be one task. You can spend anywhere from nothing for five zaps and 100 tasks per month to thousands per month for unlimited zaps and millions of tasks.
Marketing category: CRM, email, support
ActiveCampaign comes with just about every marketing channel you need “under the hood”: email, SMS, chat, a CRM, a landing page builder, and a Facebook integration that doesn’t require a third-party application.
ActiveCampaign’s claim to fame is creating the visual automation sequence builder. This builder allows you to map a customer’s journey toward a sale or some other desired action. The journey plots the channels (email, SMS, etc.) you want to use to move the customer in the direction of that action.
Zapier allows ActiveCampaign to integrate with Lob, so you can add direct mail to your customer journey. For example, you can trigger a Lob postcard when a customer clicks a specific link in an ActiveCampaign email.
Fewer integrations needed. Given ActiveCampaign’s comprehensiveness, you can keep third-party integration costs to a minimum.
Onboarding. ActiveCampaign offers free, online accelerated onboarding to help you get up and running quickly. They have an extensive library of videos and guides you can reference once onboarding ends.
Steeper learning curve. Even with accelerated onboarding, ActiveCampaign’s wealth of features means it takes some time to fully master. If you don’t need its range of tools, consider a simpler automation platform.
Stingy Lite plan. For a platform as feature-rich as ActiveCampaign, your jaw might drop when you see that their Lite plan starts at only $9/month (if paid yearly) for 500 contacts. The reality is their Lite plan only offers an email tool (though it’s an outstanding email tool). No SMS. No Facebook integration.
For example, say you have a Shopify store. When you integrate your store with Drip (see screenshot), you can immediately program communications around created, deleted, or updated checkouts. For example, Drip comes fully equipped to send an SMS message in response to a deleted or abandoned cart. With ActiveCampaign, you would have to write additional code to set this up.
You can schedule a Drip demo here and start a 14-day free trial here.
Pricing. Drip’s pricing is competitive given its wealth of features. It costs $157/month to send unlimited emails to 10,000 contacts and 200 SMS messages. For comparison, ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is $138/month but doesn’t include SMS or Facebook integration. Adding SMS raises ActiveCampaign’s price to $229/month.
Easy to learn despite a wealth of features. Drip’s user interface is simpler and more intuitive than ActiveCampaign’s and other automation platforms with the same number of tools.
Support. No phone support for any customer tier. Email and live chat support available Monday–Friday during business hours only.
No free plan. Drip offers a 14-day free trial, but if you need more time to make a decision, you have to pay.
Marketing category: Social media
SocialPilot is a cloud-based social media B2C marketing automation tool that enables users to schedule, publish, manage, and evaluate social media posts across 75 different networks — including TikTok.
From the platform, you can listen to what consumers are saying about your brand and respond to them. SocialPilot also offers rich analytics, so you quickly see what types of posts resonate most with your audiences.
Pricing. SocialPilot’s most inexpensive plan is $30/month and allows management of ten social accounts. Ten accounts on competitor Buffer runs $60/month.
Built-in content curation. One of the toughest parts of managing social media accounts is coming up with a steady stream of fresh content. SocialPilot lets you find and share articles associated with your chosen keywords at no additional charge.
No free plan. SocialPilot has a 14-day free trial, but if that may not be enough time for you to fully evaluate the product.
Small number of integrations. SocialPilot handles social media really well. But say you want to send a custom Facebook ad to customers who open an email but don’t click. You’ll need to purchase a third-party integration with your email provider using Zapier. SocialPilot’s seven native integrations — Canva is one — only help you create social media posts.
Marketing category: Email, SMS, webpush
Besides integrating easily with the major ecommerce platforms, Omnisend offers the following tools: website pop-ups, forms, email, SMS, and the ability to sync audiences for social media ads.
Omnisend stands out because it offers its customers a gamification tool to attract leads. Their Wheel of Fortune lead magnet gives website visitors a prize in exchange for their email addresses. Prizes can include free shipping, a product discount, and more. It’s a great idea for creating a memorable brand experience.
24/7 support for paid plans. Phone and live chat are available. You even get a customer success manager once you hit a certain contact threshold.
Free 14-day trials on all paid plans. If you’re not sure which plan to choose, you can test-drive each one before spending more than is necessary.
You have to pay for advanced reporting. The free plan has decent reporting, but for the greatest insights, you need to be on a paid plan.
Fewer email templates than competitors. Omnisend offers an array of customizable email templates, but not as many as similar platforms at this price point. On the plus side, it does have a Product Picker, which lets you add specific products to emails with a few clicks.
Marketing category: Email
If you run a small business and you’re just starting out with B2C marketing automation, ConvertKit might be the solution for you. Its user interface is one of the most intuitive we’ve seen, and it handles email, lead magnet forms, and landing pages with ease. Its limited native integrations include Shopify and WordPress.
ConvertKit’s automated customer journeys don’t go beyond email campaigns. You program your automations one by one, without access to a mapping visualization. If you want the visually rich customer journey maps offered by Drip or ActiveCampaign, you’ll need to purchase a Zapier integration with them.
Pricing. ConvertKit has a free plan which allows up to 1,000 subscribers. After that, you pay. The cost goes up as you add subscribers, but 1,000 contacts only sets you back $29/month. (Zapier integrations will cost you more.)
Support. ConvertKit may be the simplest marketing automation platform on this list, but they don’t skimp on support. Once you hit a mere 300 subscribers and start paying for a Creator plan — which starts at $9/month — you get live chat and email support.
Very limited email design options. You get three templates with ConvertKit, and only one of them allows images.
No multiple email lists. If you need a place to house separate lists for unrelated projects, ConvertKit might not be for you. The tool allows one email list only, which you segment using tags.
Marketing category: Retargeting, direct mail
Inboundgeo uses GPS technology to geolocate website visitors who permit you to track their locations. Once identified, you can then send a piece of direct mail to their address using Inboundgeo. Inboundgeo easily integrates with Lob, which verifies addresses and has more options for designing your mailer. If you integrate Lob with an automation platform that contains email and CRM tools, you can use direct mail in advanced customer journeys.
Fills an important lead-generation gap. If your website sees steady levels of traffic that doesn’t convert, Inboundgeo can be an excellent way to turn a percentage of that traffic into leads. Google Analytics can help you determine your new and returning web visitors.
Extremely easy to set up. You don’t need to vet printers or designers. Inboundgeo has the templates and printer relationships you need to get up and running.
Address verification not available at scale. What if the person receiving a mailer after visiting your site is only a house guest or someone about to move out? If either of these conditions is true, the mailer will be a waste. The good news is that Inboundgeo integrates with Lob’s address verification tool.
Can get pricey.Inboundgeo charges $1.50 per direct mail piece (creation, printing, and sending). This can add up, especially if you want to integrate it with a CRM or other marketing automation platform.
The platform feels like Drip and Omnisend with its intuitive drag-and-drop customer journeys and robust reporting. But the cost of its paid plans may make you wish it had all the features of Drip and Omnisend.
Predictive analytics. Klaviyo’s excellent reports help you identify customers who are most likely to churn, so you can better personalize your offers.
Robust free plan. Despite the cost of its paid plans,Klaviyo’s free plan includes all features, including email support. The free plan is limited to 250 contacts, and 500 email sends, and 50 SMS per month.
Pricing. If you want to send 1,000 text messages to 1,000 contacts each month, you’ll spend $70/month for Klaviyo — as opposed to $44/month for Drip.
Stingy testing. Klaviyo only lets you A/B test individual email elements. Drip offers automation split testing, where you can pit two entirely different customer journeys against each other to see which drives more conversions. For example, Klaviyo lets you A/B test email subject lines. Drip lets you test whether an email-SMS-direct-mail chain of communications results in more conversions than an email-SMS chain.
Marketing category: Email, SMS
Sendinblue stands out not because it has radically different features from many of the other automation platforms mentioned here but because its free plan is one of the best out there. Users can send personalized emails, SMS messages, and chat responses to an unlimited number of contacts. Their customer journey mapping is not as visually appealing as other platforms mentioned here, but it is no less powerful.
Lead scoring. Sendinblue recently introduced lead scoring, which helps you isolate your best (and worst) customers for more targeted marketing.
Support. Even Sendinblue free plans get email support. Many Sendinblue competitors offer free plans limited to self-help guides.
A/B testing only available in Premium and Enterprise tiers. A/B testing isn’t a part of their Free or Lite plans.
Full automation features limited to Premium and Enterprise. You get automation features with the Free and Lite plans, but they’re limited to 2,000 contacts, which might be enough if you’re just starting out.
Save time with B2C marketing automation platforms
Sure, you’ll need to invest time and money to choose, set up, and learn a marketing automation platform. But once you’re up and running, that investment will pay for itself as your customers respond to your timely and personalized messages.
Lob can help you add a profitable dimension to your customer journeys. Contact us here to learn more.
This blog provides general information and discussion about direct mail marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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