In my opinion, a huge deciding factor in picking a Marketing Automation (MA) tool is your CRM.
Do you even have one? How are you taking inventory of your leads, contacts and opportunities? Don’t even tell me Excel! First, assess your CRM situation. You have one? Great. You don’t have one? That’s OK too.
If you don’t have a CRM already and you’re looking for an all-encompassing CRM/Marketing Automation combo, Hubspot seems to be the clear winner. Its combination of features and native CRM is very attractive to many companies because of its core functions and out-of-the-box ease of use. I found that Infusionsoft is second, but I feel that Hubspot is a little easier to use and have more robust features, but you pay for it through the nose. The price difference is huge. Hubspot is priced up there with the top-tier MA tool-only solutions, so it makes sense for many companies to opt for Infusionsoft. If you can do without certain functionalities, Infusionsoft is a viable option.
SFDC has become such the standard that every app and their mom wants to connect to it
Oh, you have a CRM already. Is it Salesforce? Please, let it be Salesforce. Why would anyone get a separate CRM and MA tool when you can get an all-in-one combo like Hubspot or Infusionsoft? Though more convenient, the all-in-one tools may be missing more advanced functionalities that the top CRM-only and/or marketing automation-only tools provide. You can also have a CRM to manage your contacts without ever having an MA tool. Many companies have had Salesforce for years, and just recently decided to scale up to an MA component. So, it makes better sense to just get it as an add-on rather than migrating the whole thing to a new CRM/MA combo. Starting with a CRM first then progressing to an MA add-on is also a little easier on the pocketbook, as long as you have a long-term plan laid out and know what the future MA tool is going to need once you start configuring your CRM.
Salesforce.com (SFDC), the Lego of CRMs, is by far the number one CRM right now. Along with being one of its ambassadors, SFDC helped legitimized the cloud. Even out of the box, SFDC is a powerful tool. There’s no software to install or maintain, immediately scalable and you can access it anywhere there’s an internet connection. It’s highly customizable, always up to date and super-easy to use. What makes it so powerful though are its cloud connectors. SFDC has become such the standard that every app and their mom wants to connect to it.
The SFDC’s connector store, AppExchange, can rival any app store. Need to instantly add an accounting function? Boom, Quickbooks app. Need it tied into your Outlook? Boom, an Outlook app. The app ecosystem was the game changer. SFDC has the most apps in the CRM space, which makes no two instances look the same. You can make it compliant to anything, SOX, HIPAA, security, etc. Because of its plug-and-play agility, price and ease of use, you can ensure that it can support most of the popular marketing automation tools in the market. Honestly, I don’t even look at anything else.
Going back to the MA/CRM combo, a third option is SFDC’s Marketing Cloud. Years back, Salesforce bought an MA company called ExactTarget and integrated it into the SFDC ecosystem, calling it Salesforce Marketing Cloud. If your team has been inoculated into the SFDC ecosystem and learning curve is an issue for you, then the Marketing Cloud is an option. It looks and feels like Salesforce because it is basically Salesforce. Why is it not in the conversation among the big players? It’s still light years away from the features of an Eloqua, Marketo or even Hubspot, so it makes sense that its price point is on the low end. For companies looking for the basic functionalities of a marketing automation tool, Marketing Cloud is a great gateway drug. Once they get their act together and build it up to Marketo-level class, watch out. Being built on the same platform as SFDC, it will be hard to overlook.