One of the confusing things about marketing automation is that the term describes a very wide variety of things from lead tracking to lead nurturing and a whole lot more — so when I buy marketing automation, what am I really buying?
What most people don’t realize is that there are really 3 distinct types of marketing automation systems: Simple, Integrated, and Platform.
A “Simple” system is one that focuses on a single element of sales or marketing, think of email marketing systems like MailChimp, which has automation by way of autoresponder emails, social media dashboards like Hootsuite which solely automates social media or form handlers like Gravity Forms, which share data with other services. Simple marketing automation systems are usually inexpensive (and sometimes free) and easy to start using.
An “Integrated” system is one that ties several simple systems together, building a more powerful network of tools. ORBTR and Zapier are good examples of integrated automation. Integrated marketing automation systems generally are not free but still relatively inexpensive and easy to implement.
A “Platform” system is one that incorporates a very wide variety of tools within a single software solution. Hubspot, Marketo and Infusionsoft are examples of platforms that will likely be familiar to most folks reading this. A firm may still seek to connect other simple or integrated solutions here but there will be less interaction with other softwares than in an integrated system. Platforms, because of the wide variety of services included, are generally expensive and take a long time to implement.