Marketing Automation
9 mins read

How to Choose the Best Marketing Automation Tool for your Business

Eveline Smet

Founder & Growth Strategist

It all starts with defining your business goals

What are your growth targets?

First, you have to map out your business goals. This is extremely important for choosing the right tool for your company

  • Lead nurturing: Lead nurturing is all about developing relationships with your potential buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need, when they need it. You already have a big database with cold leads and you want to transform them into hot leads. This strategy is especially effective if you are selling products with a longer buying cycle and/or B2B products.
  • Inbound lead generation: you want to generate targeted leads by creating a blog and lead magnets. You want to created gated content that will lure your visitors in.
  • Automated customer journey: You probably have a lot of touchpoints, like your website, your blog, your social channels, an app, an e-commerce platform and maybe also offline channels. By knowing how your customer or potential customer moves across these platforms, you can give them a segmented experience.

And by addressing them in a more personal way, you increase your conversion rate. A one-message-fits-all marketing approach does not work anymore today.

Marketing automation helps you keep track of the journey across all touchpoints, so all you have to do is segment and provide the right content.

  • Aligning sales & marketing: You want a transparent communication between marketing and sales. On top of that, you want to help your sales team by providing them qualified leads, with a lead scoring assigned to each one of them.
  • Central hub for marketing: You want to have a central management tool to manage all of your marketing channels and oversee the big picture. This is especially useful if you manage marketing in different countries or with a remote team.

Understand the functionalities marketing automation tools offer

Basic functionalities marketing automation

  1. Drag & drop mailing tool
  2. Landing page builder
  3. Lead scoring & nurturing
  4. Advanced segmentation
  5. Tracking & dashboarding
  6. Basic CRM functionalities or connection with CRM system
  7. Automation flow builder

More advanced functionalities

  1. Social media management: automatic posting & analytics
  2. IP detection: especially relevant with CRM connection
  3. Social listening: analyze social conversations
  4. Mobile marketing: push notifications, geo-fencing, sms messages
  5. Dynamic content: show particular types of content to dedicated database segments

How to define the cost?

Pricing of the license

The pricing depends on the following criteria:

  • Desired functionalities
  • Number of users in your database
  • Amount of internal licenses needed
  • Amount of messages that will be sent

Pricing of the implementation

The implementation cost is sometimes overlooked when considering a marketing automation tool. This price depends on:

  • Time: How much time can be spent internally on the marketing automation setup. Is there a dedicated project manager?
  • Integrations: Which tools need to be integrated on the platform? Do they have an open API or does there need to be built a connection?
  • Customisation: Will the standard features be used or do there need to be custom built features?

Some basic pricing options for a database with 5.000 contacts

  • Activecampaign: 1.200€ per year
  • Autopilot: 1.920€ per year
  • Sharpspring: 6.000€ per year
  • Hubspot: 8.880-20K€ per year (possible add-ons taken into account)
  • Salesforce: 10.000-50.000 per year (possible add-ons taken into account)

And for a database with 500.000 contacts

  • Activecampaign: € per year /email sent/
  • Autopilot: 43.200€ per year
  • Sharpspring: 16.000€ per year
  • Hubspot: 79,320-278.340€ per year (possible add-ons taken into account)
  • Salesforce: starting from 70.000€ per year (depending on functionalities and number of emails you want to send)

Do you need guidance to define the right marketing automation license for your business? We’re happy to help!

Eveline Smet

Dive Deeper:

How can marketing automation help you reach your business goals?

When your company chooses to have a marketing automation tool implemented, it is useful to understand the quick wins and the long term wins you will get. The long term wins are usually only noticed after the whole marketing and sales team has adopted the new tool, while the quick wins will be applicable from the start.

Quick wins marketing automation

  • Warm up of cold leads & lost leads in CRM with email nurturing flows
  • Give sales a notification when a cold lead visits the website
  • Setup nurturing flows for 3rd party databases
  • Have a total overview of all the marketing efforts
  • Build an easy to replicate marketing flow in a dedicated tool

Long term wins marketing automation

  • Have a holistic view of your whole funnel from visitor to clients & see which marketing channels bring in the most revenue
  • Have a better view of the whole sales pipeline and know when to push marketing efforts on which customers
  • For sales: have an overview of the content the potential lead has consumed as a preparation for a sales call or mail
  • Helps you maintain a consistent online presence. By scheduling and automating your posts on e.g. social media, your communication becomes consistent. This way, your pages stay up-to-date and gives your (potential) clients a good impression. Because if you won’t keep your online presence up-to-date, why should your (potential) customers trust that you will communicate with them when they need you?
  • Your workflow becomes more efficient. This means your staff can execute on  big campaigns, post content and maintain relationships with a ton of customers — this amount of work would take many more people if handled manually.

Sidenote: know the difference between email automation and marketing automation

There is a big difference between email and marketing automation tools. Historically, marketing automation started with automating emails and flows.

For instance: send an invitation to your contacts for an event, resend the invitation to the ones that haven’t bought tickets, send a reminder mail with practical details before the event and send a follow-up mail after the event.

Today, full-blown marketing tools cover much more than only sending automated emails. You can automate your whole lead generation process and connect your marketing and sales departments with them.

For companies with a small marketing team or companies that are just taking their first steps towards automation, an email automation tool can be enough to get them running for the first few years.

But for companies with advanced needs, only a full-blown automation tool will be able to cover all their journeys. In this comparison, we will not only address the complete marketing automation tools, but also email automation tools.

Comparison of tools we’ve implemented and used for our clients

As a tool independent growth partner, we can work with or implement any tool on the market. But for this comparison, we’ve only selected the tools we have a thorough knowledge of. Meaning, we’ve implemented them and / or used them for setting up campaigns and automations for our clients. Here’s our honest feedback!

Eveline Smet – Founder The Growth Agency

Comparison of Hubspot & Sharpspring

Sharpspring and Hubspot are full-blown marketing automation tools. They are the right fit for companies that want to generate, nurture and close leads. Hubspot is the most complete tool in its segment, with social publishing capabilities, its own content management system with personalised content, A/B testing, event management etc.

Hubspot is known for its inbound marketing capabilities: if you have a content team that creates content every week or if you have different buyer persona that you are all addressing with different types of content, Hubspot is an ideal tool.

Sharpspring is a bit more basic, but that resonates in its pricing. The functionalities in Sharpspring are more limited than Hubspot’s, but you will find the most common functionalities are represented in the tool. You can build landing pages, setup automated flows, build custom reports, set up a CRM flow, send automated mails, set up lead scoring and track ROI.

Hubspot                                                                  Sharpspring

Hubspot’s most interesting functionalities

Integrated blogging platform

Templates for sales teams

SEO module

Website builder with a user friendly interface

Social media publishing

Smart content: dynamic content based on country, device type, language etc

Sharpspring: most interesting functionalities

E-mail automation

Lead scoring: leads get extra points based on their behavior on your site

Visitor ID: see who your anonymous visitors are based on IP tracking

Landing page builder: drag & drop landing pages

Reporting builder

Our feedback based on working with both tools:

Hubspot is the more integrated marketing automation tool that can support the whole marketing and sales department in all marketing tasks.

Sharpspring is ideal for B2B lead nurturing.

Hubspot is the more intuïtive tool of the two.

Both tools can be integrated quite fast (more about that below).

Hubspot is focused more on content, while Sharpspring focuses more on automation flows.

They both have a CRM module and while Sharpspring’s module is enough to support smaller sales teams (up to 10 people), Hubspot’s CRM module is much more basic.

When choosing for Hubspot, we advise to also connect a dedicated CRM tool.

Comparison of the tools Activecampaign & Autopilot

Both Activecampaign and Autopilot are tools that are known for automating the customer journey. They provide a very intuïtive customer journey builder where you can configure lead nurturing flows with automated email sequences. Both tools have a good enough CRM module to collect data to optimise your marketing efforts, but they are too basic to use them as full CRM systems. Both tools are comparable in pricing and ideal for first timers in marketing automation.

They don’t have landing page building functionalities and don’t do social publishing, so you might want to connect your other tools with them.

Activecampaign Autopilot


Activecampaign: most interesting features

Easily build up different flows per segment

Basic CRM that let’s you target a user based on their activity

Drag & drop e-mail builder

Site messaging

Advanced segmentation possibilities


Autopilot: most interesting features

Automated customer journeys

E-mail builder

Automated in-app  triggers

Basic CRM with activity feed

Advanced segmentation possibilities

An overview of the revenue funnel

Our feedback on both tools:

Both Autopilot and Activecampaign are tools that are based on mail automation and automating the customer journey. They don’t have SEO tools, social media tools, no landing page builder etc. For companies that want to engage users through an app, Autopilot would be the better option. Activecampaign is a robust email automation platform with an intuïtive user interface, so for companies with a lot of different workflows, this would be the ideal choice. Activecampaign has been there since 2003 and is a really stable platform, while Autopilot is newer, but also more innovative.

Which criteria to consider when opting for a marketing automation tool?

  • CHANGE: To which extent can we change the current way of working? Can we change the way we build landing pages and set up email flows?
  • TIME: How much time is  planned to get the teams inside your organisation up and running with the new tool? The more complex the tool of your choice is, the more time you need for internal trainings. When does the tool needs to be up and running? INTEGRATE: Are there a lot of other tools that need to be integrated with your marketing automation tool? Do you need integrations with your website or ecommece shop, your accounting software, a data lake, your CRM system or other tools?
  • BUDGET: Keep in mind that most of the time there’s 10% of the total marketing automation cost that goes into annual license fees and 90% of budget that needs to be left for the implementation: setting up automated flows, setting up marketing campaigns, writing content, training the team, creating dashboards, measuring results etc.

Are you thinking about starting with marketing automation?

Looking for a marketing automation partner to guide you? We can help you with:

  • Choosing the right marketing automation & CRM tool for your business. We’re tool independent and our recommendations are always based on your best interest, not ours.
  • Technical implementation of the tool. We have in-house experts and connections with software vendors who take care of the implementation. We’ll make sure you get the right price.
  • Marketing automation strategy: we define your customer journey based on customer interviews, we then create buyer persona and map your channel strategy. We also work on a content strategy you need to build in your marketing automation tool.
  • The creation of campaigns, automations and dashboarding. In short: digitising and structuring your whole marketing processes and setting them up in your new tool so that the marketing & sales department can start working in this new environment.
  • Training: we create training videos based specifically on your marketing automation environment, so that every new employee in the company can get an extensive training of the marketing automation tool & your custom setup. We also provide in-house training.

Dive Deeper:

Questions? Comments? Ideas! We’d love to hear from you! do not hesitate to drop us a note 😊

Eveline Smet

Founder & Growth Strategist

Eveline is our founder and the one who eats strategy for breakfast. She is in charge of budgets, KPI’s and growth plans. During her high school years, Eveline was wearing baggy pants and listening to 2PAC & Biggy. We have proof. Just ask. If you ever catch her looking off into the distance, it’s either because she wants to order sushi or she’s hungry thinking of ways to increase your profit. She’s also the biggest victim of marketing. But the biggest office sweetheart.

More content like this?

Sign up to receive first dibs on guides, sales, exclusive content, events and more!

Related Resources

You might also like