How to Choose a B2B Marketing Automation Platform

How to Choose a B2B Marketing Automation Platform

Picture of Adam Ramshaw
Adam Ramshaw
Adam Ramshaw has been helping companies to improve their Net Promoter® and Customer Feedback systems for more than 15 years. He is on a mission to stamp out ineffective processes and bad surveys.

B2B Marketing Automation can be a very effective way to reduce human error, increase efficiency and remove expense from your marketing process. 

It can also be a very effective way to waste time and money on overly complex and ineffective processes.

Some years ago I was consulting to a major insurance company and we asked for a list of all the automated messages and contacts a customer receives when they sign up. They simply didn’t know. 

Their systems were so complex and so poorly documented, that the only way to actually know what happened was to create a dummy customer profile and literally see what turned up in the mail.

However, in this post I’ll show you how to choose a B2B marketing automation platform that is both effective and can be managed long term.

The B2B Marketing Automation Platform Features You Need

Performing a feature by feature comparison of marketing automation platforms is an almost impossible task.

Heck, even comparing the same feature between two platforms is nearly impossible:

HubSpot if/then branch

Is the If/Then workflow branch better in HubSpot, MailChimp or ActiveCampaign?”

At some point you will need to select a platform for your business but before you do you should be aware of the following.

The Differences Between Platforms are Smaller Than You Think 

Many of the features are replicated across the different platforms, but under different names and in different configurations, so the differences are smaller than they sometimes appear.

The Difficult Part is Creating the Content

There will be functionality differences but the same high converting lead nurture email flow, subject lines and copy can be automated in all of these systems.

Moving from One System to Another is Both Easier and Harder Than You Think

It’s easier; because the content / ideas are the the hard part and you have already built them.

It’s harder; because navigating the nuances between the systems to bring across your content will take longer than you expect.

It’s liberating; when you change systems (no matter from what to what) you’ll find great new features you can’t believe you ever lived without.

It’s frustrating: when you change systems (no matter from what to what) you’ll lose features that you thought were vital to your business. (They probably weren’t!)

The Top 5 B2B Marketing Automation Platforms

While Outlook’s Email Rules are a type of marketing automation, in practice we need something just a bit more sophisticated to really make a difference in B2B marketing. 

The good news is that B2B marketing automation is a very, very, competitive software space with dozens of different platforms. 

The high profile systems are constantly trying to outdo each other so I’m not even going to try to provide a feature by feature comparison as it will be out of date a week from now.

Instead I’m going to grab the top 5 systems G2 Crowd suggests and provide a short commentary on my long term impressions.

1. HubSpot

Started as a blogging platform but is now an industry heavyweight competing in the integrated business to business sales, service and marketing automation space with applicability from small businesses to enterprises. 

Minimum price that includes automation: AUD1,282 per month 

2. Marketo

Owned by Adobe and targeted primarily at larger businesses, this is a marketing automation system first and foremost. 

No public pricing.

3. Salesforce Pardot

Salesforce purchased Pardot in 2013 and it provides the marketing side of the integrated sales and marketing offering from Salesforce. 

Minimum price: USD1250 per month or approximately: AUD1,736 per month

4. ActiveCampaign

An effective email automation tool but lacks features in the CRM/sales space. 

Minimum price that includes automation: AUD95 per month

5. Mailchimp

This former email list platform has recently rolled out some substantial marketing automation features. However, it too is short of some of the needed B2B CRM/sales features.

Minimum price that includes automation: USD14.99, or approximately AUD21 per month