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May 10, 2021


The Best Marketing Automation Platforms 2021


By Natalie Howells

If you're looking for a Marketing Automation Platform, you're going to want to know which is the best, right? Of course you are - it's a significant investment, not only in money, but in time taken to get it all set up and get your team up to speed.

We've included the g2.com scores for each of the platforms below, so you can see the unbiased ratings from millions of real users, plus we've incorporated the common feedback themes from a variety of review sources - otherwise all you're getting is our opinion (which we stand by, but we'd much rather give you lots to think about). 

HubSpot is the platform we know best, so we've popped it at the top - but make sure you read through all of the entries in this post, because you might find something that's more suited to your business. 

HubSpot

G2 score: 4.4 out of 5

HubSpot is popular thanks to its ease of use, huge array of features and integrations, and straightforward user interface, not to mention the zero-cost starting option and extensive online resources (including the free HubSpot Academy). Its powerful insights and integrated reporting also score highly. As HubSpot started as a marketing platform, it's unsurprising that the features in this hub are its most developed and effective. 

Where it loses points is in the high cost of the top tiers, the limitations on reporting and Instagram posting, and the need to have your blog hosted on HubSpot to unlock all of the analytics. 

Pros: 

  • Entry price is £0 - you can get access to a range of marketing tools without having to pay anything. 
  • Starter pricing is £42 per month, with more functionality
  • No user limits on the marketing hub
  • Extensive knowledgebase, Academy, and community forums help you get support at every level - plus at higher tiers, HubSpot Support is responsive and helpful
  • Extremely user-friendly and simple to work with
  • Huge number of integrations with other platforms to help you get what you need, where you need it (check out our HubSpot Integrations blog for more on this).
  • Extremely powerful workflows and automation
  • Integrated reporting across all aspects of your marketing funnel
  • Convenient and visually appealing reporting - and while custom reports are only available on higher tiers, there is a huge bank of available reports at every level
  • Extensive feature list
  • Marketing features integrate with sales and service features within one platform

Cons:

  • While flexible, HubSpot is not as completely customisable as some complex businesses might need
  • Ramp up from Starter pricing to Professional pricing is steep 
  • The overall cost of the higher tiers is significant, and higher than some of the competitors on this list
  • You can't get as much benefit from the analytics or SEO tools if your blog and landing pages aren't on HubSpot
  • Can take a long time to master all of the features
  • The social posting functionality can be limited - particularly around Instagram
  • Attribution reporting is only available at higher tiers
  • HubSpot CMS uses its own language, making it a more difficult option for web development
  • Analytics only goes so far - if you want a deep drill down, you'll need to supplement with Google Analytics

ActiveCampaign

G2 score: 4.6 out of 5

ActiveCampaign scores points for its low starting cost, its strong email automation functionality, its simplicity in creating emails and dynamic segmentation, and ability to integrate with other platforms. 

Where people are less impressed is in its user experience, loading speeds, user limits, and limited reporting functionality in anything but the highest tier. Its genesis as an email platform shows through in some of the limitations across other features. 

Pros:

  • Strong email automation
  • Excellent support, especially when setting up, regardless of tier
  • Dynamic segments
  • Support is helpful and responsive, plus there are plenty of guides for the tools on the site
  • Large number of integrations
  • Drag and drop email templates
  • The cheapest package is just $9 per month for 500 contacts, and Enterprise tier starts at $229 per month
  • They don't bill for duplicate contacts

Cons:

  • The CRM is not available in the lowest priced tier
  • User experience is frustrating - design is awkward, takes a long time to load, and lots of button clicks required to do anything
  • User limits make Lite package unsuitable for anything beyond a very small team 
  • Custom fields are very limited
  • Custom reporting is only available on Enterprise, and the lower tier reports are fairly limited
  • Landing pages functionality is weak
  • Automation is not as intuitive or simple as it could be
  • Cannot add contacts without an email address
  • Pricing for additional contacts adds up quickly
  • Sales functionality is limited - the platform feels like an enhanced email platform rather than a true integrated automation platform
  • Inline forms are not great design-wise and require some coding to make them look on brand

Klayvio

G2 score: 4.6 out of 5

Klayvio is not quite a full marketing automation platform, but it's a strong contender in email marketing and SMS marketing, particularly for eCommerce businesses - so we think it's worth including here. 

Its biggest plus points are the transactional emails and email automation for eCommerce, and the lack of annual contracts is a draw, especially for smaller businesses. On the negative side, the lack of additional functionality, the need for training, and lack of design customisation are the biggest drawbacks. 

Pros:

  • Library of pre-made templates
  • Straightforward and simple segmentation
  • Integrates with paid media campaigns on FB and Google
  • Syncs with Shopify
  • Extremely strong on transactional emails
  • No annual contracts
  • Pricing based entirely on number of contacts

Cons:

  • Only focuses on email marketing and SMS - not a full marketing automation platform
  • Not enough design options for creative/branded emails
  • Doesn't integrate with every platform, particularly if you have a highly customised website
  • Sometimes emails fail without reason
  • Requires a reasonable degree of training and/or technical knowledge to start using
  • Price is relatively high for email-only functionality
  • Integrations are laborious and most often require Zapier as an intermediary.

MailChimp

G2 score: 4.4 out of 5

The common theme in Mailchimp's feedback is that it's a fantastic platform for smaller businesses, or marketing departments just starting out with emails and marketing automation, but that its lack of advanced functionality means it's easy to outgrow. As it started as an email-only platform, it's unsurprising that this is its strongest area. Reporting appears to be the weakest. 

Pros:

  • Strong automation and personalisation
  • Free plan available, with limitations (including Mailchimp branding on emails)
  • Straightforward drag and drop editor
  • You can choose just emails, or the full marketing suite
  • Pay as you go option available
  • Clean and simple user interface
  • Simple to integrate with Wordpress

Cons:

  • Pricing can get out of hand with lots of subscribers
  • Only one user allowed on free plan
  • Lack of personalised reporting, inability to customise reports, too much information delivered in a difficult to follow manner
  • Started as an email platform, so some other features are less developed
  • Complicated to configure
  • Email deliverability can be a challenge - lots of mention of spam reports in the feedback
  • Not necessarily aimed at complex/strategic marketers - some areas are a little basic
  • Some functions don't work nicely together
  • Fewer integrations than other platforms - many require API use

Keap (previously Infusionsoft)

G2 score: 4.4 out of 5

Infusionsoft had a reputation for being overly complex and difficult to get to grips with. Now that the platform has rebranded as Keap, there is still a degree of feedback that points to a steep learning curve, but there seems to be less confusion than there used to be. 

The utility of the app came up regularly in the positive feedback. The huge variety of features spans both positive and negative reactions - positive due to the options and opportunities available, negative because it adds to the complexity of the platform. The excellent customer support in figuring things out was a very common theme in the feedback, though this does of course point to the fact that it's as necessary as it is. 

Pros:

  • Intuitive dashboards
  • Make calls and send texts from the app
  • Highly customisable
  • Excellent customer service
  • Extensive feature list
  • Marketing features integrate with sales features within one platform
  • Focuses on small to medium businesses, no enterprise features at high pricing
  • Strong automation
  • Multi-device with a good phone app

Cons:

  • Learning curve remains steep
  • Lack of tutorials, guides, and learning materials
  • Automation-building is complex and can be challenging
  • Some plugins and integrations are limited and outdated
  • User limits - pay per user on all versions
  • Syncing between devices can lag
  • Consolidated reporting requires exporting variety of information and compiling yourself. 

 

Marketo

G2 score: 4.1 out of 5

Marketo is another highly-specced platform, which means it combines high levels of functionality and advanced features with a steep learning curve. The comprehensive information available within the platform is a big positive, while the user interface and complexity receive the most negative feedback. Data syncing delays might be a big drawback for customers with large databases. 

Pros:

  • Higher user limits than many other platforms
  • Highly customisable
  • Strong feature list
  • Comprehensive picture of customers and their journey
  • Powerful automation functionality
  • Great integration with Salesforce
  • Mature and sophisticated platform

Cons:

  • User interface is outdated and needs refreshing/improving
  • Steep learning curve (though there are lots of resources available)
  • Not easy to find pricing without speaking to a sales associate
  • Lack of support
  • Sometimes need a developer to customise elements that should be straightforward
  • Data syncing and platform responsiveness is slow, especially with large amounts of data

In Conclusion

When you're looking for the best marketing automation platform, you're looking for the best platform for your specific business. So what appears to be a positive or a negative to one business, might be perfectly fine for another.

Therefore, the key is to look at the reviews and the different elements that others have found beneficial or frustrating, and apply them to how your business works. 

If you have a large database, you'll want to look at the email send limits and the pricing differences for a large number of contacts. If you have a large marketing department, you may want to avoid platforms with low user limits. 

Let's take a look at some of the use cases and which platform comes out on top, based on user feedback analysis:

Best for eCommerce - Klayvio

Best for Strategic, data-led marketing - HubSpot, Marketo, Keap

Best for a Large marketing team - HubSpot

Best for a New/young marketing function - Mailchimp

Best for Low budget, small database - ActiveCampaign

Best for businesses with No developer resource - HubSpot, Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign

Best for Strong reporting requirements - HubSpot, Keap

Best for Simplicity - Mailchimp, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign

Best for Suite of functionality, including sales - HubSpot, Keap

Ultimately, the right answer for you will depend on many factors - including what you want to use it for, what your marketing department looks like, your priorities, your limitations, and your overall goals. 

Download our free guide on switching CRMs

 

 

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