Marketing tools and software can be a bit confusing for some business owners. but marketing software is the glue that keeps every marketing strategy together. there are lots of different platforms and systems to choose from that can get overwhelming. I get it though, really do, it’s not easy trying to get all of the pieces together.

Are you a marketing/sales professional hoping to find the best marketing software for your small business? Or maybe you’re looking for a recommendation from a friend in a marketing agency. Either way, to help you make that decision in a short period, this in-depth article will cover everything you need to know.

What Is Marketing Software?

In general, marketing software helps organizations perform the following functions:

  • Attract new customers and visitors 
  • Turn customers into leads that can be nurtured through the sales funnel
  • Deliver marketing and promotional materials (e.g., via email marketing, social media, etc.)
  • Surface insights about customers to improve marketing efforts
  • Automate time-consuming, repetitive manual tasks
Reporting dashboard screenshot in Pardot

Reporting dashboard screenshot in Pardot

While some products are sold as “best-of-breed” systems (i.e., they offer a single marketing application), others are sold as “marketing clouds” or “integrated suites” (they house multiple marketing applications all in one place).

Whether a business should choose a suite or a best-of-breed solution depends on the range of functionality needed. Marketing suites are generally more expensive, but allow users to do more without having to integrate products from multiple vendors.

Best-of-breed solutions tend to be more affordable, and are best for companies that want to focus more heavily on specific applications—or that want to build their suite of marketing tools.

A Comparison of Top Marketing Solutions

There are many popular marketing solutions on the market, and it can be hard to know what distinguishes one product from another and which is right for you. To help you better understand how the top marketing systems stack up against one another, we created a series of side-by-side product comparison pages that break down the details of what each solution offers in terms of pricing, applications, ease of use, support, and more:

Top Act-On ComparisonsTop AWeber ComparisonsTop Constant Contact Comparisons
Act-On vs. HubSpot
Act-On vs. Marketo
Act-On vs. Pardot
AWeber vs. Constant Contact
AWeber vs. MailChimp
AWeber vs. Constant Contact
Top Oracle CX Marketing ComparisonsTop HubSpot ComparisonsTop MailChimp Comparisons
Oracle CX Marketing vs PardotAct-On vs. HubspotAWeber vs. MailChimp
Top Marketo ComparisonsTop Pardot Comparisons 
Act-On vs. MarketoAct-On vs. Pardot
Oracle CX Marketing vs Pardot

Common Features of Marketing Software

Below is a list of common types of marketing applications that may be available either on their own or bundled as part of a marketing suite:

Marketing automationUsed for developing, executing, and tracking marketing campaigns. Automates workflows track prospect behavior and qualify leads.
Lead generationAutomates the capture, segmentation, and assignment of leads to improve targeted marketing communications and shorten sales cycles.
Lead managementAutomates the movement and tracking of leads through the life cycle from acquisition to conversion.
Email marketingUsed to create, send and track email campaigns and autoresponders.
Social media managementProvides the means for users to create, launch and administer social campaigns and promotions. Manages creative assets on social media platforms.
Social media monitoringIdentifies words used in association with brands, and locates where on social media platforms these conversations are occurring.
Social media analyticsMeasures campaign performance and impact and track a brand’s share of voice across social channels to determine how effective social media efforts are.
Mobile marketingHandles the routing, management, and delivery of SMS messages.
Marketing resource managementManages marketing projects, digital assets, workflows, budgets, and approval processes across teams, departments, or agencies.
Marketing analyticsMeasures marketing activities across multiple online and offline channels to get a view of those channels’ return on investment (ROI).
Content marketingHelps manage the distribution of content across the Web. Creates, deploys, manages, and stores content on Web pages.
Search marketingHelps businesses generate traffic by providing information or advice to improve marketing content so it’s optimized for search engines.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Before making a purchase, companies should evaluate their marketing strategies to determine how to choose software that supports overall business objectives.

Outbound marketing.

Outbound marketing is when a marketer contacts prospects, hoping for engagement. Tactics can include advertising on search engines, paying website publishers to post your ads, or sending emails to lists of leads. Businesses that primarily want to reach out to customers in these ways should look for applications that offer email and/or mobile marketing functionality. Most marketing automation platforms include outbound email marketing capabilities. You could also consider lead generation and lead management solutions.

Inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing gets buyers to find you. This is done by providing interesting, helpful content on websites, blogs, or social media that engages buyers. Businesses using inbound marketing tactics should look for software that helps optimize marketing content for Web search (so that buyers can easily find it) and provides lead nurturing functionality—for example, inbound marketing automation, content marketing, or search marketing applications.

Social media marketing.

If you use (or plan to use) social media channels to connect with customers, consider applications that monitor social media conversations, track the results of social media marketing activities and allow you to measure the results of these campaigns. While social media marketing functionality is sometimes included in marketing automation platforms, many vendors also offer this as a best-of-breed solution.

Planning and measurement focus.

Marketers that want to measure the ROI of marketing projects should look for software that provides detailed analytics. While this functionality is often included in other types of marketing software, you may want to consider the in-depth reporting tools offered by best-of-breed marketing analytics and social media analytics software. Additionally, businesses that need help planning and executing marketing campaigns can consider marketing resource management software.

It’s important to note that marketing functionality can also be incorporated into suites outside of the typical marketing software industry. For example, leading event management software often includes some elements of marketing, such as tools for creating customizable websites, email marketing and push messaging campaigns. These are described in more detail here.

Key Considerations

To further narrow things down, here are two key factors to keep in mind as you evaluate marketing products:

Prioritize the applications you use most often

Avoid purchasing systems with bells and whistles that don’t support your business processes. However, do consider any applications, features, and functionality that you will need in the future, even if you’re not quite ready to use them today.

Make sure your new system supports necessary integrations.

When comparing options, you’ll want to know whether—and how well—a given marketing system will synchronize with your existing data and tools. For example, you may want to consider marketing software that offers native CRM integration. If you plan to access the system while on the go (via mobile phones or tablets), consider a system with a native mobile app. If you’re building your marketing technology stack, be sure to check that the systems you combine will work together seamlessly. You may also want to look for vendors that offer integration support and services.

4 Ways That Sales and Marketing Software Provides a Positive ROI for Growth Teams

Saving Money

Paying for one solution is usually cheaper than buying multiple products that do the same tasks less efficiently. To get all the features a sales and marketing software platform offers, you’d need to invest in separate tools for email marketingsales automationcustomer relationship management, and analytics, to name a few. It all adds up, especially if you have a large team and are paying for each user every month.

Freeing Up Time

Streamlining your tools into one growth team platform helps ensure that time isn’t lost working out incompatible integrations or doing busy work like updating client files and transferring data between platforms. In other words, using an all-in-one sales and marketing tool allows users to spend more time on their highest ROI activities.

Improving Lead Quality

One of the best ways to improve the quality of your B2B leads is to align sales and marketing teams on what a qualified lead is, how quality should be measured, and what both departments should do to continue nurturing the relationship.

Sales and marketing software can help growth teams develop a mutually beneficial feedback loop that promotes high-quality lead generation, and improves growth team alignment by keeping everyone in sync, up to date, and focused on clear, measurable goals.

Building Trust

Using sales and marketing software to align your team builds trust among your clients by providing consistent messaging throughout the buyer’s journey. For more on creating consistency at every sales touchpoint, watch our Q&A with Social Centered Selling’s Barb Giamanco at BOUNDLESS 2020.

The Best Sales and Marketing Software Platforms

Each of these sales and marketing software platforms offers a set of features that fulfill the essential operational needs of sellers and marketers. We’ll go over what every tool does, which features growth teams should pay special attention to and the pricing options each brand offers.

We’ll also offer tips for how growth teams can use these standout platforms to improve their productivity, streamline collaboration, and maximize their investment.

1. Nutshell

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

Nutshell is a top-rated CRM that makes powerful sales and marketing automation tools accessible for small- and medium-sized businesses. At just $39/month per user, their full-featured Nutshell Pro package includes a fully customizable pipeline automation builder, one of the best reporting suites on the market, automated personal email sequences, and unlimited in-app phone dialing, as well as unlimited CRM contacts, unlimited data storage, and free live support.

The flexibility of Nutshell’s platform makes it a very valuable CRM for marketers. In 2021, Nutshell released their Nutshell Marketing email marketing automation suite, which allows sales and marketing teams to design and send beautiful marketing emails, automatically trigger drip sequences based on subscriber actions, instantly see who’s engaging with their messages, and manage all of their customer nurturing out of a single tool.

2. ActiveCampaign

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

ActiveCampaign is an automation tool designed for integrated email marketing and customer relationship management. It’s mostly geared towards small businesses looking to meaningfully engage with customers at scale. ActiveCampaign recently won G2Crowd’s prestigious Best Software Companies of 2020 award, ranking #12 in the world.  

In terms of growth features, this sales and marketing software platform offers omnichannel management for everything from email to text messaging to social media as well as machine learning tools. Packages range from $9 to $229 a month depending on your contact list size and which upgrades (such as lead win probabilities and free design services) your team may be interested in.

If you want to grow your online sales, you can use ActiveCampaign to tailor ads to the hobbies and interests of your dynamic market segmentations.NO CREDIT CARD REQUIRED

Free Trial [Want to kick the tires a bit?]

3. Keap

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

Keep, another small business favorite, is an email marketing and sales platform that organizes all of your client information and daily work in one user-friendly dashboard. Their features help users quote customers, schedule sales calls, create invoices, collect payments, and foster long-term relationships using a CRM with follow-up tools.

Keap Grow syncs client information across all devices and users. It also helps you email, call, or text leads right from your phone and streamlines all payment activities with one-click features. Keap occasionally has steeply discounted limited-time offers but if they don’t snag one of these deals, individual Keap Grow users can expect to pay $24 for their first two months then $79 per month for up to 500 total contacts.

To quadruple your lead generation like Keap customer Presidential Pools did set up web forms with automated follow-up messages that are tailored to the customer’s interest level.

4. EngageBay

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

EngageBay is a fully integrated all-in-one marketing, sales, and service platform that provides small to medium businesses with modular solutions. The platform has various tools to automate redundant and manual tasks, build and organize contacts, visualize deals, manage sales, and support customers—all from a single, easy-to-use platform.

EngageBay’s software is neatly categorized into three stacks for marketing, sales, and service. Each of these stacks is called a ‘Bay.’

The Marketing Bay has many compelling features, ranging from automation and scheduling to landing page and form builders. You can also keep your content up-to-date on various social media platforms using their ‘Stream’ feature.

The CRM & Sales Bay has impressive tools to streamline your company’s sales process, and gives you a bird’s eye view of your leads and the statuses of your deals. You can connect with third-party calendar applications to schedule appointments with customers, and get a holistic view of your sales progress using visual charts and insightful metrics right from EngageBay’s dashboard.

The Service Bay offers a prudent way to manage and issue customer tickets quickly and efficiently, all from one place. With remarkable features such as canned responses, support groups, and autoresponders, your business can quickly view, prioritize and solve tickets in a customer-friendly manner. Additionally, you can interact with your customers in real-time with EngageBay’s Live Chat feature.

With a completely free CRM, migration services, and onboarding sessions, EngageBay is one of the best options for small businesses and startups looking for a comprehensive solution to their marketing, sales, and customer support needs.

5. HubSpot

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

HubSpot is a full-service platform for inbound marketing, sales, and customer service. They’ve also become a go-to educational resource for professionals at every level of these departments.

Besides being a business household name, the quality of their tools prompts real users to say, “HubSpot has been THE tool in the Inbound Marketing space for a while now. They provide great value to any company or organization that wants to embrace inbound marketing.”

The HubSpot Growth Platform has a completely free CRM included, plus a Marketing, Sales, and Service Hub that help users manage projects. Although they normally sell these Hubs as individual products, you can get a 25% discount with their Growth Platform—which helps, since HubSpot is notoriously expensive.

Growth teams interested in doubling their revenue like HubSpot’s demographics consultancy client, .id, did, should use the tool to hyper-focus their efforts on their most lucrative existing demographics while also expanding into promising new market segments.

6. Insightly

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

Insightly is a sales and marketing platform for unified growth teams that includes key tools such as task automation, a robust CRM, and popular app integrations. It is a past recipient of the 2018 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for Sales Force Automation, receiving a 4.4 out of 5-star user rating.

Their standout growth features include a customizable marketing automation roadmap that allows marketing and sales teams to visually plot out a full cycle strategy for various customer segments. While you can purchase the marketing and sales features separately, growth teams who wish to bundle the two offers can contact sales for a custom quote.  

Take a page out of NimbleRX’s book and align multiple departments by using Keap’s highly customizable CRM to create personalized layouts, reports, and dashboards that scale high-value customer interactions.

7. Zoho

Sales and Marketing Software Reviews

Zoho is a digital office suite for complex enterprises that allows users to store notes, manage projects, send invoices, and more. They even offer remote work help with features such as virtual training and meeting tools.  Their sales and marketing software platform won PCMag’s Business Choice Awards in 2019.

While they offer a variety of bundles for HR, Finance, and IT departments, growth teams would be most interested in Zoho One, their A to Z business platform, which boasts a complete “lead to cash” solution for users. They offer a 30-day trial with a custom pricing quote.

If you want to expand your internal team from 2 to 1,500 people and scale your customer base along with it as IIFL did, consider getting a solution like Zoho One. It has a full suite of tightly integrated marketing and sales tools with more than 40 streamlined app integrations, so your customers can enjoy the personal touch that comes with knowing in-depth relationship histories no matter how big your team gets.

Maximize Impact With Growth Tools

Not using a sales and marketing software platform to unify teams and promote growth yet? You may be wasting a lot of unnecessary time on miscommunications, unstructured workflows, and lost sales. Adopt one of the suggested tools above to help automate tasks and guide your team towards rapid growth.


Marketing software provides you the ability to automate many of the actions involved in marketing your product or service. Modern marketing software platforms do much more than track sales and customer information, they provide services like lead generation, email marketing, and social media engagement.

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