B2B Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Startup Marketing

3 Marketing Automation Platforms for SMBs

Inbound marketing makes it easier for most businesses to take advantage of the web to drive business leads. Marketing automation platforms (MAP) is a relatively new area of expertise formerly open to large enterprises that has the money and resources to implement these complex systems into their already even more complex sales cycles. However, the need doesn’t end with large corporations. SMBs, particularly start-ups need automation tools to grow their business at a more sustainable and rapid pace in order to compete in the marketplace. In fact, the argument could be made that MAPs are even more critical to SMBs than to large corporations since they don’t have the time, money or resources to dedicate to acquiring and developing leads.

The good news is that there a few tools that SMB’s can utilize to help make their lead generation and sales cycle a little easier and more fluid. While they may not have all the sizzle of the larger platforms, they can provide a lot of value in helping you weed out the good leads from the bad. Additionally, less sizzle equals less complexity – an Achilles heel for most platforms that target the big guys.

To get you started, here are three tools you should evaluate today as part of your automation strategy that are specifically geared toward the SMB market.

Spark by Marketo

Spark is the SMB version of Marketo’s major league product. As one of the leaders in the marketing automation business, Marketo has built a strong reputation for its usability and effectiveness. Spark packages key functionality that automates email marketing so you can generate more demand through sophisticated lead nurturing using multi-step drip campaigns based on criteria you set. Spark also has lead scoring capabilities to help you focus on leads that are ready to buy and makes lead generation and capture easy with integrated landing pages, forms, and leading webinar platforms. Social media and ROI reporting are also part of the package.

Pricing: Spark offers a free trial. It costs $750 per month with no annual contract for 30,000 emails and unlimited nurturing campaigns. As your business grows, upgrading to their enterprise packages will cost you $2,600 - $3,600 per month, but by then the ROI on the platform will more than pay for itself.

Pardot Marketing Automation

Pardot offers similar capabilities around email marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, CRM integration, social media and ROI reporting. They recently added more social features to give marketers a better handle on how social media affects their lead generation efforts. You can pull in photos and other information into your CRM from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter so you can build better prospect lists, schedule updates and track the ROI of each channel.

Pricing: Pardot costs $1,200 per month with no annual contract. You can save $200 per month if you commit to a year, but take a look at the other tiers as some of the social features mentioned above are not included in the starter package. When thinking long term, Pardot is prime contender. Forrester Research identified Pardot as the solution with the least expensive total cost of ownership.


Genius is probably the most affordable marketing automation platform on the market. Lead qualification and nurturing are part of the package and their ability to play back visits can help sales and marketing identify buyer interests. They describe it to be like Tivo for web visitors. Genius allows for social media tracking with their own URL shorterner that can be plugged into normal conversations just like bit.ly and others. You can create custom email and web promos that can be personalized for specific people or actions. Plus their integrated web chat allows you to more deeply engage with potential buyers when they visit your site.

Pricing: Genius has two packages – Small Business and Pro Marketer, but you’ll need Pro Marketer if you want to use drip marketing campaigns and automated lead nurturing and scoring. You can try both for free. When you’re ready to upgrade, pricing ranges from $50 per month to $330 per month.

There are dozens of marketing automation platforms on the market that have similar capabilities. The solutions mentioned above offer month-to-month contracts making them affordable solutions for SMBs and start-ups. Other solutions like HubSpot are great tools but require annual commitments. When designing your technology strategy, outline key features that are important to your business and compare against your requirements. Many times these decisions come down to price, but consider the long term benefit to your bottom line.

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