Should you put blind faith in the companies that make the most noise, like Hubspot or Marketo? Should you put your money on the players with the longest histories, like Eloqua or Pardot? Or should you go the other way, and check out promising challengers like ActiveCampaign and Autopilot?
Well, it depends. Not the answer you were expecting? Just wait, and let me explain…
First off, it depends on your needs, on the size of your company and its complexity, on the strategies you want to put in place, the importance of marketing within your organization, etc. More than anything else, though, it depends on the other tools and platforms you’re already using (or that you’re planning on using).
For us at Adviso, the number one criteria in choosing a platform is its ability to integrate with your existing tools. Because your marketing automation platform is a central piece of your marketing stack, on the same level as your CRM, it’s essential that it be able to play nice with the other tools you’re using.
Let’s start with your CRM, to ensure that these two platforms can speak to each other properly:
As you can see, integration with your CRM is a very important factor, but other kinds of integration natively available with the tool also need to be carefully considered, because these can save you many headaches and a lot of development hours. Other types of integration to consider are your e-commerce platform (ActiveCampaign integrates deeply with Shopify, while Dotmailer and Bronto are good choices to use with Magneto), your customer support tools (Hubspot works amazingly with LiveChat while Drift integrates better with Salesforce), as well as your advertising tools.
If you want to take it even further, I would say that integration with Segment should be a critical consideration. Segment represents a central hub for managing data, which is the fuel that powers all marketing automation. This integration ability qualifies the main players in the market (Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot, ActiveCampaign, Autopilot, Eloqua) but disqualifies some outsiders like Dotmailer or ClickDimensions.
Finally, the functionalities included in the platform you’re considering should carry the least weight in your decision-making. If a functionality is missing from a platform that has all the right integration capabilities, it’s highly likely that you’ll be able to find complementary tools that integrate well with your marketing automation (ActiveCampaign and Unbounce or Autopilot and Instapage in the case of landing page builders).
This represents an important change in our industry: the transition from software first to stack first. The massive influx of new, niche actors in marketing technology over the past few years has made the idea of a marketing stack more compelling than all-in-one software. The best is better together, you could say. That’s why a marketing stack made up of several best-in-class tools gives you more flexibility and precision than an all-in-one software living in isolation.
We would even be ready to lose some functionalities in favour of better “integrability” of these specialized technologies. Think, for example, of PowerPoint vs. Google Slides; yes, Google Slides have fewer functionalities than PowerPoint, but its integration within the Google ecosystem and its SaaS model allowed it to catch up to the Microsoft software within a few years (I haven’t been able to find recent market shares, but the search trends speak volumes).
Getting back to marketing automation, the final thing to note is the appearance of specialized tools developed to connect or integrate other, already existing tools, usually with the ability to automate actions between them. Zapier is the most well-known, but Automate.io, Stamplay, Tray.io and PieSync have interesting new functionalities to offer. The opportunities for integration are multiplying, though native integration should still be prioritized. The sky is the limit!
In the end, I can’t tell you whether you should choose Hubspot or Pardot or Autopilot. Because, of course, “it depends.” But one thing is certain: by choosing your marketing automation platform intelligently, on the basis of its integration, you will absolutely be able to build a marketing stack that runs like a Swiss watch, and gives impressive results.