The Top 20 Best Marketing Automation Software Features
At Interrupt Media, marketing automation features are our jam! These tools allow us to streamline our multi-channel digital marketing workflows by automating manual tasks so we can scale our campaigns without having to hire an army.
However, it’s become increasingly apparent to us that most of the information available on marketing automation software and marketing processes are written in “marketing-ese.” And while large and small businesses can benefit from marketing automation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they speak the marketers’ language, at least not in the beginning.
So, for those of you who are new to marketing automation platforms and their features, we’ve written a translation, so to speak, to help you understand what these features do and how they will benefit your marketing strategy.
At the end, we’ve included an infographic that will compare each of the most popular marketing automation tools by which of the top 20 features we’ve discussed here are available with their tool. Then, you can make an educated decision about which automation tool is best for your marketing efforts.
Feature #1: Visitor Tracking
One of your marketing automation features will be visitor tracking. Visitor tracking is a way of noting who’s viewing your business’s website and how long they’re spending on each page. It also shows you what content of yours they’re engaging with. Visitor tracking is a valuable way to not only learn WHO is viewing your content but WHAT content appeals to them the most. That is powerful information to have!
Feature #2: Host Marketing Content
This simply means that you can host (upload and publish) your content through your marketing automation tool on your website. This is typically done by integrating your website and your marketing tool.
It could be a downloadable asset that you upload and connect to a form (i.e. the customer fills out the form, submits it, and gets access to the free downloadable asset) however, it could also be a landing page or content sent through an email campaign.
Feature #3: Track Marketing Content
If you were wondering why feature #2 is important, this is why. By hosting your content through your marketing automation tool, you can also track the traffic it’s getting and how it’s performing. This is a powerful way to learn what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be improved. Any good marketing automation platform will have this.
Feature #4: Track Prospect Activities
One of the most time-consuming activities for sales and marketing teams is attempting to track a prospects’ moves while traveling through a funnel. Thankfully, marketing software has made this process exceedingly convenient by allowing you to program your tool to alert you when specific ready-to-convert actions are taken by a lead so that you can jump in when it’s the right time, and focus on other important activities until then.
Feature #5: Score and Grade Leads for Ideal Profile
As you begin to gather leads through outbound or inbound marketing campaigns, you will find some are far closer to being ready to purchase than others. This is where lead scoring and grading become valuable.
Marketing automation tools with this feature can be programmed to add a score to a lead based on particular actions they take or demographic and firmographic qualifications that you tell it to look for. Thus, the higher the score, the more likely a lead is to be ready to buy.
Feature #6: Automate Lead Assignment
Adding onto the functionality of feature #5 is automatic lead assignments. It’ll be up to you to decide what the threshold is for a lead score that indicates a lead is ready to buy. Once you know what that number is, you can program your marketing automation software to automatically assign a lead that meets that minimum score to a sales representative.
How you operate your lead management and assign them to your sales reps is up to you. You can do it alphabetically, by territory, round-robin style, whatever works for your organization.
Feature # 7: Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is a very important component of effective marketing strategies. It keeps your sales reps from spinning their wheels working leads who aren’t ready to buy. Thus, lead nurturing is for those newer, less mature leads that need to be educated (marketed to) for a time to prepare them for sale.
This is also referred to as “drip marketing” because essentially, you drip small amounts of content overtime to keep your brand top of mind for a lead. That way, when they’re ready to buy, guess who they’ll think of first?
And keep in mind that lead nurturing can also be used at other stages in the customer life cycle to aid in retention, loyalty, and upselling.
Feature #8: Build Landing Pages & Forms
Landing pages and forms are a critical component of strong marketing campaigns. Your marketing automation platform will allow you to build and customize professional landing pages and forms without needing any coding knowledge.
And, not only do these tools allow you to build and host your landing pages and forms with easy-to-use drag-and-drop interfaces, but they also track their performance. Furthermore, you can program triggers that will send an email, notify you, increase a lead score, and more based on lead actions taken while engaging with this content.
Feature #9: Progressive Profiling (a.k.a. Shortening Forms)
Forms are a fantastic method for lead capturing. However, a form that’s too long can result in ineffective lead generation. Thankfully, the creators of marketing automation software have found a solution! It’s called progressive profiling. What this does is allow you to decrease the number of form fields to only what’s absolutely necessary.
Once the initial form is filled out and the lead is created, they will be shown additional fields on any forms they fill out in the future. This allows you to build up a prospect with more detail over time.
Feature #10: Dynamic Content
If you’re researching marketing tools, then you already know that consumers today don’t just want to be sold to, they want to be engaged with.
Dynamic content allows you to do just that by display content customized to who’s viewing the site. This feature has been shown to dramatically impact site traffic and engagement statistics. Best of all, it’s not just limited to one form. Dynamic content can be used on landing pages, emails, forms, and templates!
Feature #11: Email Marketing Tool
When most newbies think of an all-in-one marketing automation solution, the first thing that usually comes to mind is email marketing and autoresponders. While marketing automation is so much more, email marketing is definitely a huge part of it.
With marketing automation, you can segment what content you send to which contacts, try different versions (refer to Feature #15: A/B testing) to increase engagement and open rates, and send automated messages that follow up on a prospect’s action, and SO…MUCH…MORE.
Feature #12: Contact Management
One of the more basic, but extremely valuable, features of marketing automation platforms is contact management. Contact management enables you to easily store and pull contact information. It can also track all of the touchpoints your business has made with the contact so you can see their location in the sales cycle at any given moment.
In addition, most sales reps rely on contact management to be able to store notes and any enrichment information they can use to equip their sales conversations with the prospect.
Feature #13: Smart List Segmentation
Smart lists segmentation is a way of further slicing your database based on any custom criteria or a mix of criteria. Therefore if you have a particular piece of content that would only appeal to a certain niche portion of your database, creating a smart list is the perfect way to engage them. One specific use for smart lists is for remarketing or retargeting to maximize conversions.
Feature #14: Native Integration
The term “native integration” means that a particular application or software was designed specifically for use on a particular platform. In some instances, the same company has developed both the application and the platform. In other circumstances, a company acquisition results in an effort to make the application integrate seamlessly with the platform, as is the case with Salesforce and Pardot.
Native integration often provides optimized performance and routine upgrades. Thus, it is a coveted feature.
Feature #15: A/B Testing
As we mentioned earlier, A/B testing is a way of tweaking content slightly to see which performs best in lead engagement. With marketing automation software, you can use A/B testing, to optimize your campaign and gain a better understanding of what appeals to your lead database. Equipped with this knowledge, you can develop more relevant content, and improve your metrics.
Feature #16: Tool Integrations
Marketing automation software should have the ability to integrate with other powerful tools used by enterprise organizations. Some examples of frequently used integrations are:
- Webinar and Video Connectors
- Social Media
- Paid Advertising
- URL Shorteners
- Customer Success Tools
- Messaging Tools (ChatBot, SMS, Text)
- Optimization Tools
These tools represent a lot of value to many of the same organizations who are heavy marketing automation users, thus the ability to integrate them is of extreme importance.
Feature #17: CRM Integration & Reporting
Reporting is likely the most important feature of a marketing automation platform. Without it, you would have no idea what is working in your campaign and what isn’t. Real-time reporting can help you connect closed deals to the campaigns that created them, calculate campaign costs, and sync the customer data between it and your sales team’s customer relationship management tools (CRM).
Thus you will be able to determine your ROI and attribution with clarity and insight. Not only can this help you determine where the best leads are coming from, but you can also then prioritize your budget and channels.
Feature #18: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can boost your marketing automation efforts by helping to create personalized interactions with leads and customers alike. These game-changing advancements can be used to personalize email marketing, nurture campaigns, cross-sale opportunities, and improve customer retention.
Feature #19: Organic and Paid Search Insights
Organic search refers to unpaid, natural rankings according to search engine algorithms. It means people are naturally searching for the content you have and you have not paid for additional visibility on a platform they use to entice them to your site. Organic search can be improved with SEO best practices.
Paid search, by contract, allows you to pay to have content displayed on a search engine or social media marketing platform when someone is searching (or has recently searched) for specific keywords or phrases that you indicate in the ad campaign.
Marketing solutions that include these features will help you with SEO and best practices to ensure you are getting the most benefit from your advertising initiatives. It will then track for conversion and other metrics that can help you optimize the effectiveness of your paid search opportunities.
Feature #20: Social Media Management
Adding to feature #19, many marketing tools offer social media management capabilities, so you can manage social media marketing channels, calendars, and posts from within your marketing automation tool. This is comparable to features in tools like Hootsuite, so you get a one-stop solution for social media marketing.
Marketing Automation Platforms Feature Checklist
Now that you know what these fabulous marketing automation features are, let’s take a look at the most popular tools on the market and which features each has. This list compares HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, SharpSpring, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact.
Want to learn more about pricing and the pros and cons of various marketing automation tools? Here are our reviews and migration workflows for the top marketing automation solutions: