4 Marketing Automation Tools Digital Marketers Should Consider

November 7th, 2019

Today’s community contributor is Zee Gimon, Digital Operations Manager at HUSPI Software Development. She loves to learn about new technologies and advances in the sciences, cook Chinese and Mexican food, and read Harry Potter to her kids. Check out the detailed reviews she’s written on TrustRadius about tools with which she has worked throughout her career.


Choosing a marketing instrument is often a long process – no matter whether there were previous processes in place at a company or you’re starting from scratch.

My personal marketing experience was interesting, mostly because I began my marketing career at a non-profit organization with a marketing budget of zero. Because of that, I started researching the software products that could be helpful to me and my company (and at the same time, not cost an arm and a leg).

10+ years later, I can now compare several of the products we’ve used during this period – namely, HubSpot, MailChimp, Reply, and SendGrid. They all are good in their own right, and I cannot honestly say that one is better than the other. Therefore, in this article, I’ll focus on the marketing and sales goals you can achieve with each one of them. 

MailChimp

MailChimp was the first automated email marketing software that I have ever used. It was back in 2010 or so, just as they added a freemium version. 

Currently, you can get 2,000 emails per month for free, as well as a simple marketing CRM and basic email templates. MailChimp also offers automation, which is convenient when you’re working in a time zone that’s different from your clients’. 

The benefits of MailChimp: 

  • I love MailChimp for its ultimate user-friendliness. The navigation is simple, and the help (in case you managed to get lost) is written for humans instead of search engine robots.
  • Drag-n-drop and the email templates help you to create a beautiful newsletter in a matter of minutes easily. 
  • Freemium version can get you started, and you can grow organically, without having to pay a lot at the very beginning when your CRM is small. 
  • It can integrate with a lot of other marketing instruments (including HubSpot, which we’ll take a look later in this article) and streamline processes. For example, when our clients filled out a survey on our website, they got a PDF of results in the email – on our side, it was done with the help of MailChimp and Mandrill.
  • You can personalize the email with the information you’ve got about the person. Our favorite is to use the person’s name in the email subject – it increases our open rate.

The drawbacks of MailChimp: 

  • One of the main drawbacks is the fact that MailChimp’s emails always go to the Promotions’ tab in Gmail (or spam in some other inboxes). Therefore, you need to remember that your email might simply go unnoticed.

Reply.io

Reply.io is a great emailing tool for our Business Development managers. We’ve used it for over two years, and we’re satisfied. It allowed us to launch email chains for following up some of the potential clients, freeing our BDMs to pursue communication with those people, who really were interested in our services. 

The benefits of Reply.io: 

  • The emails go right into the inbox (Primary) because the emails are mainly plain-text with minimum formatting. 
  • You can personalize the email using a person’s first or last name (if you have it in the database), or add other details. 
  • Great for email chains, when you need to follow up on a potential client.

The drawbacks of Reply.io: 

  • While the emails go to the primary inbox, they look rather sad from a marketing point of view. There’s no way to add a logo or anything. (Granted, our salespeople love these emails because they look more professional and more like a traditional email – with less hassle.)

SendGrid

Oh, SendGrid. I have a love-hate relationship with this email marketing provider. We have used it for email marketing for one of the products. The requirements were basic – it had to send a lot of email newsletters for cheap. SendGrid was just the thing – we got the same amount of emails for $19.99 that would’ve cost us around $75 in MailChimp. However, after a year of playing with SendGrid, we ended up switching to MailChimp anyway. 

The benefits of SendGrid: 

  • It’s cheaper than many of the competitors (compared to MailChimp. 
  • They have a drag-n-drop template builder.
  • The client’s mobile app was connected to SendGrid’s API, so it was another factor why we chose this tool. The database was the same, so we didn’t have to import anything and get additional consent for processing data. 

The drawbacks of SendGrid: 

  • I mentioned the drag-n-drop above. It was not user-friendly at all. Knowing how easy it was to create a newsletter in MailChimp, SendGrid’s editing issues were driving me up the wall. When I tried to edit the HTML source code (where I sometimes clean unnecessary formatting imported with text), the area changed from “Text” to “Code,” and the frontend formatting became all wrong. 
  • Sometimes it would also select its own text sizes and fonts. Selecting the text and choosing “Normal” from the drop-down menu of styles didn’t work on the first try, you needed to click it several times. 
  • If someone unsubscribed from your email, to delete them from the database, you needed to download the unsubscribed lists. Then you create a list called “Unsubscribes” and import your lists back. Then, you delete that newly-created list and check the box “delete all emails associated with this address.” (Cue facepalm.)

All in all, SendGrid is convenient when you want to send a lot of emails, and you don’t have much budget to spend. It does work, but it’s not the most user-friendly service.

HubSpot

My one-for-all stop. I saved it for the dessert in this article. We started using HubSpot a bit over 3 years ago. When I switched companies, that was the first thing I asked about: “Do you use HubSpot? If not, then let’s get it.”

It’s a treasure for the sales and marketing departments because it streamlines the communication between the departments and tracks everything. Again, what bought my attention in the first place was the availability of a free version that I could use at first and upgrade as needed. 

The benefits of HubSpot: 

  • Free tools for Marketing and Sales specialists as well as free CRM. 
  • HubSpot has landing page builders, chatbots for the website and Facebook Messenger, email marketing, CRM, and tracking abilities (we use their Gmail integration, which is very convenient) and a whole bunch of other tools. 
  • HubSpot Academy has numerous helpful classes, which help a budding marketing specialist (or even those who are weathered, because you have to learn as you go, whatever you do.)
  • HubSpot API helped us to collect information from our website, create people’s profiles in our CRM, and even assign appropriate lead statuses to profiles based on our criteria.
  • It also has a considerable number of available integrations (including MailChimp, for example). 

The drawbacks of HubSpot: 

  • HubSpot can get pricey in case you need additional tools, but it’s worth it.

As I mentioned, most of the time, my main requirement was low price and good quality. I know, those conditions rarely meet, but HubSpot manages to do that. Nevertheless, Reply.io, SendGrid, and MailChimp all have a niche as well because their goals are different.

What will you choose?