Many business professionals like the idea of automating their marketing. But once they start looking, they become overwhelmed with the amount of marketing automation tools available. There are so many options available, and it’s not easy to find the tool that will actually benefit you. Furthermore, the price points can become a significant stumbling block for a lot of small, starting businesses.

Yeah, I get it… show me the list.

So while you’re interested in trying out some marketing automation, you’re not be too sure how it fits in your current operations. Small businesses, for example, may be better off with an a la carte approach, working with a few tools that cover the exact functions they need. In fact, the majority of businesses work best with a blend of both manual and automated marketing. You don’t have to plunge into a full suite of marketing automation software – you can start by dipping your toe in to see what works.

But what digital marketing tool should you start with? Do you prioritize budget or ease? We put marketing automation into perspective and bring you a list of the best marketing automation tools.

The marketing automation funnel

Marketing automation is broken down into three different levels within a funnel. Each level of the funnel provides a level of automation.

The widest level is the mouth of the funnel. It provides you with the basics of marketing automation, and is the easiest and most affordable way to “feed” your growth. As you become more familiar with automating your marketing, you start to trickle down to the more advanced levels of automation.

Many small businesses think they need coverage at each level of the funnel. In reality, starting at the most basic level might be enough. You have to build your way up – or in this case, down.


The mouth of the funnel (attract)

The main marketing goal at this level is to attract contacts. With this in mind, some of the largest channels to automate in marketing are email,  social media, and blogging. Automating any of these channels can help you easily turn strangers into visitors. These visitors will then turn into leads, and ultimately, customers.

Say, you start blogging in order to provide site visitors with write helpful content about your industry. You then send an email or newsletter to spread the word about your new blog content. And finally, you look to social media to share your blog and newsletter updates, as well as any other campaigns you want to promote. See how this is turning into a cycle?

These three channels, in addition to a strong SEO strategy, will get your website in front of your target market.

Mid-level (nurture and convert)

This is the level where you start looking to expand your market. You may be looking for ways to maximize your list of followers (i.e., on social media, email lists), or to expand your channels of communication into other platforms.

One popular marketing tactic used to nurture leads is to offer them free industry resources, such as ebooks and guides. These not only solidify your expertise in the industry, they can also be a great way to get more information. Consider integrating a sign up form on one of your web pages, which visitors can fill in before downloading the free content. This will help to grow your contact list, all while testing out different forms of content and engagement.

Spout (retain and close the deal)

Now that you understand a greater degree of marketing automation, this level is where you start putting this new knowledge to use in converting more people into customers. At this point, you’re implementing different ways to keep customers engaged and happy. You are a little more comfortable with new ways of gathering contacts, and understand how to look at analytics that can help future growth.

You may even be sending your customers surveys on what they’re interested in, and using that to improve marketing and all other aspects of your business. Congratulations, you’ve made it to the bottom of the funnel and now have a base of your best customers!

The marketing automation tools

Email marketing
Referral software
Social media and reviews
start affiliate program
Sales automation
Lead management
The all-in-ones

Okay, by now you’re wondering what marketing automation tools make up the Holy Grail and can increase your reach. We’re going to focus on marketing automation tools for newbies and small businesses. But that doesn’t mean these tools aren’t helpful for big businesses or eCommerce sites too.

Listed below (not in any particular order) are over 40 budget-friendly, easy-to-use, and totally worth it tools. They will help any small business improve their leads and free up some time. So, without further ado…

Email marketing automation tools

This is an easy way to engage in email marketing. Email marketing automation tools allow you to send your emails to customers at specified times. There are a ton of cloud-based email services out there, here are a few to consider.

convert kit marketing automation ConvertKit

“ConvertKit automation allows you to send the perfect sales sequence to each subscriber. It’s simple to use, cleanly designed, and very powerful”

ConvertKit uses triggers so that when an event happens it will produce a certain action to occur. The software explains how each step of the automation process should flow. It’s a great email automation marketing tool. It includes unlimited: forms, courses, landing pages, automation rules, and emails.

Price: Starts at $29 a month

MailChimp Marketing Automation Tool MailChimp

“Being yourself makes all the difference”

MailChimp has over 12 million users, making them a top contender for email marketing. MailChimp is primarily thought of as an email marketing automation tool. But that’s not all they offer. Some features that push it towards the marketing automation spectrum as well.

MailChimp is compatible with hundreds of apps, making integration easy. This tool offers resources for creating, managing, delivering and sharing everything you need. Some other features include analytics, mobile, templates, segmentation, A/B testing, campaigns. Plus, so much more.

Price: Starts at $0 a month

Constant Contact Constant Contact

“Powerful email marketing, made simple. Create professional emails that bring customers to your door”

Constant Contact provides a powerful and easy to use email marketing automation tool. Constant Contact is simplistic yet customizable. Some great features include customizable templates, contact management, list-building tools. Not to mention tracking and reporting, social media sharing, apps, and integrations.

Price: Starts at $20 a month

Drip Drip

“Lightweight marketing automation that doesn’t suck”

Drip is the lightweight alternative to the bulkier versions of marketing automation. They used a simpler version to craft an easy and cost-effective email marketing automation tool. This tool is great for doing all the marketing jobs, not just email. This easy to use automation software will help any small business increase conversions. Some key features include campaigns, widget, tracking performance. Plus, easy integration, reports, split testing, data exports, and customizable templates.

Price: Starts at $49 a month

MailUp Mail Up

“Are you ready for a new way of thinking marketing?”

Mail Up allows you to use email and SMS to reach your customers. They give you the tools to create completely automated workflows. Mail Up isn’t only geared towards email and SMS message automation. They also help you build customer engagement, generate leads and increase conversions. Some best features are database management, landing pages, API & integrations, filters, customizable.

Price: Starts at $46 a month


“Evolve to Omnichannel Marketing Automation. All from One Platform.”

Omnisend offers omnichannel features built just for eCommerce marketers. Offering sophisticated automation workflows that are surprisingly easy to implement, you can add email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, push notifications, WhatsApp, Viber, and more to the same automation workflow. Handling your communication across several channels, Omnisend lets you bring your marketing operations to one simple dashboard. Omnisend offers a free plan for basic email marketing that allows you to send up to 15,000 emails per month, and their Standard plan including automation starts at just $16 per month. For those who are outgrowing simple email blasts, Omnisend is definitely worth a look.

Price: Starts at $16 a month

Referral software

Referral marketing software is a marketing platform that automates word of mouth, by incentivizing and streamlining customer sharing.

Referral Rock Software Referral Rock

“Referral marketing software for any business”

Referral Rock provides online referral marketing automation software. It helps any business get more customers using the power of their own network. Online and offline businesses can design incentive-based programs. Enroll existing customers and partners into a program. Capture new leads and sales, then issue rewards. This software automates every step of the process. That way the business can scale. Not to mention measure the success of referral marketing programs.