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Inbound Marketing

The 6 Best Lead Nurturing Software Choices for Every Size Business

Did you know that it only takes ten people to run a U.S. cotton plantation that produces 10 million t-shirts per crop? It wasn’t too long ago that hundreds of people were required to produce the same.

That, my friend, is the power of technology.

Though digital marketing isn't nearly as old as cotton, the industry has nonetheless experienced some impressive technological innovations in recent years; innovations that are allowing marketers to get more done in less time. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the lead nurturing software market will increase from $550 million in 2015 to $1.9 billion in 2020.

But which software is best for you?

In this article, we'll recommend our favorite lead nurturing software programs for increasing both productivity and profits.

The 6 Best Lead Nurturing Software Choices for Every Size Business

Small Businesses:

For most small businesses, the most important factor when evaluating lead nurturing software is pricing. Several years ago, we found ourselves in a similar predicament at Lean Labs.

On the positive side, we were blowing our target goals through the roof (yay); on the negative side, things were beginning to fall through the cracks (uh-oh). Our lead nurturing technology up to this point had been affectionately dubbed "The Wordpress Franken-System."

This so-called "marketing automation" involved integrating and maintaining dozens of Wordpress plugins (Yoast, MailChimp, a variety of analytics tools) in an effort to streamline inbound campaigns. The only problem? Our homemade marketing stack was actually costing us in efficiency whatever we were saving in cash. Once we realized what was happening, we upgraded to a more sophisticated system and never looked back!

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1. Drip

Drip is our top recommendation for businesses with smaller budgets. Owned by Leadpages, Drip simplifies inbound marketing for beginners by providing a visual campaign builder, workflow management, and subscriber engagement tools in one convenient place.

What Drip lacks in tools, it makes up for in the sophistication of its email marketing system. With the goal of helping small businesses turn email contacts into long-term customers, Drip provides plenty of workflow options for setting up automated email triggers and actions.

Within Drip's interface you can schedule email campaigns; respond to customer emails; and experiment with a variety of actions, decisions, forks, goals, delays, and exits to fully customize workflow paths. Drip's customer list includes HelpScout, Ambassador, and Segment.

As one user mentioned:

After trying several email service providers, including spending over $20,000 on Infusionsoft, I now use Drip for all of my personal projects and recommend it to all of my clients. Simply put, it is the best email service provider on the planet.

PROS

  • Boasts one of the most intuitive and beautiful visual campaign builders on the market.
  • Provides a nifty lead scoring tool that informs users when contacts are most likely to convert.
  • Filtering features that allow users to cross-sell various products with select targeting.
  • Access to contact history timelines for an overview of every action they have taken.

CONS

  • Initial setup may be complex for small businesses without IT specialists at their disposal.
  • Doesn't provide integration with PayPal, which may be a deal-breaker for some small businesses.

PRICE

Starting at $49 per month

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2. Active Campaign

Active Campaign is built exclusively for creating phenomenal email campaigns, and it is ideal for small to mid-sized businesses wanting to get maximum value from the medium. The platform contains several affordable subscription tiers, with a variety of advanced features, which allow you to upgrade when the time is right.

The program comes with a variety of templates, list segmentation options, forms, and reporting analytics that are delivered via an exceptionally beautiful UI. For only $17, the lite plan delivers a pleasing level of functionality that beats significantly higher priced competitors like InfusionSoft, Marketo, and Eloqua. Active Campaign's past clients include ApproveMe, ThriveThemes and Boutique Hotel Seven Days.

As one user mentioned:

Easy to use, works well and support is awesome. I have never used a system that has such awesome support or free of glitches. None of my emails have gone out twice.

PROS

  • Simple CRM with an easy-to-use lead nurturing system.
  • Several options for controlling details of email sales funnels.
  • User-friendly interface that requires virtually zero training to understand.

CONS

  • Doesn't include landing page creation, social media integration, blogging, or ad management.
  • NOTE: Optional functionality can be acquired for additional ongoing costs.

PRICE

Starting at $49 per month

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3. HubSpot

What if you're a small business with serious ambitions to build an online presence?

In that case, we recommend HubSpot for a couple of reasons:

  1. The learning curve is significantly shorter than other comprehensive lead nurturing software options.
  2. The pricing structure is designed to grow with you.

Starting at $200 a month for 100 contacts, HubSpot's Basic Option is obviously more expensive than our previously mentioned small biz options. However, the cost is only an extra $100 a month for every additional 1,000 contacts you take on.

The Basic Option includes comparable email marketing functionality to both Active Campaign and Drip, plus content creation tools, content optimization, marketing analytics dashboards and their social media suite. With these added automated features, the software becomes more of a productivity tool. HubSpot's clients include e Shopify, Care.com and Lean Labs.

As one user mentioned:

I came to Hubspot because it was a system that was all together, not one piece on one site and another somewhere else. That still remains to be one of my favorite things. Within Hubspot I can make: Landing Pages, Forms, Social Media Posts, Manage contacts, Track Emails, Marketing Emails, Sales Pipeline.

PROS

  • Shallow learning curve + large community of users to draw back on.
  • All-in-one solution with email marketing + social media sharing, and content creation.
  • Can grow with you in terms of features and cost.

CONS

  • Editing isn't always streamlined; jumping between several different screens often required.
  • Limited "permissions structure" that allows anyone to edit anything.
  • Lack of customization options.

PRICE

Starting at $200 for Basic

Learn How to Save 60% Off HubSpot

Medium Businesses:

As a medium-sized business, you probably have larger lead nurturing goals, plus a slightly bigger budget to work with. If that describes you, we recommend the following options.

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1. SharpSpring

Although SharpSpring is more heavily marketed toward agencies, we find it to be a great value for medium-sized businesses. Compared to most other lead nurturing software providers on the market, SharpSpring offers a surprising amount of tools at an affordable price.

Here you will get everything from email campaign functionality to landing page building to content creation assistance to SEO management. Beyond the basics, SharpSpring also provides a unique Visitor ID feature that reportedly doubles or triples the number of leads that can be harvested from existing web traffic.

The feature uses reverse IP lookup to identify who is visiting your site, detailing names, emails and phone numbers. Considering 98 percent of web visitors remain anonymous because they don’t fill out forms, Visitor ID offers a lot of value. The platform's clients include EasyFish Marketing, HiveTracks, and Sachs Media Group.

Here's what one user had to say about SharpSpring:

What I like best about SharpSpring is that they specialize in providing powerful professional tools to marketing agencies for a fraction of what other platforms like Infusionsoft and HubSpot charge.

PROS

  • All pricing plans include all features (something you don't see anywhere else).
  • 1/10th the cost of other programs with similar features.
  • Easily connects to Google Adwords for convenient management.

CONS

  • No social media publishing capabilities.
  • No SEO recommendations for blogging.
  • Reporting lacks the robustness of other high-end options.

PRICE

$400 to $800 per month

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2. HubSpot

HubSpot again? Yep, HubSpot Pro offers an integrated marketing solution for medium-sized businesses starting at $800 per month (plus $50 for every additional thousand contacts).

With the company's Pro Plan, you get everything you need to launch, run and optimize sophisticated inbound marketing campaigns. The software's capabilities allow you to create keyword optimized blog articles, beautiful landing pages, trigger-automated email campaigns and custom workflows. You'll also have access to A/B testing capabilities for CTAs and emails, among other helpful features.

Another reason we like HubSpot for medium-sized businesses? It includes CRM functionality that can provide even greater insights into optimizing your campaigns.

PROS

  • Doesn't require a high-level of tech knowledge + large community of users to draw back on.
  • All-in-one lead nurturing solution that includes CRM integration + A/B testing.
  • Can grow with you in terms of features and cost.

CONS

  • Editing isn't always streamlined; jumping between several different screens often required.
  • Limited "permissions structure" that allows anyone to edit anything.
  • Lack of customization options in reporting dashboard.

PRICE

Starting at $800 for Pro

Learn How to Save 60% Off HubSpot

Enterprises:

At the Enterprise level, you most value enhanced convenience, advanced functionality, and peak-performance. If you're looking for the best of the best, consider these your top options:

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1. Marketo

Originally founded as a B2B enterprise solution, Marketo has a solid reputation for advanced features, reliable customer service, and dependable capabilities. Today the lead nurturing software is on the cutting-edge of mobile marketing engagement, targeted social media advertising, and smart list subscriptions.

It allows customers to mix and match applications by choosing one or several pre-packaged bundles including: Lead Management, Email Marketing, Consumer Marketing, Customer Marketing and Mobile Marketing. It's for these reasons that big brands like General Electric and Panasonic trust Marketo.

Although many B2C companies use the software today, remnants of its B2B roots can be found in the technical nature of the UX. Although Marketo requires significant IT knowledge to unlock advanced capabilities, its customers continually give the company high marks for support.

As one user mentioned:

Support is great, and you really get the sense that the organization is listening to its customers. Also, they have a great onboarding program and robust user community. Additionally, they are constantly adding new functionality and have some really great offerings around personalization and ABM.

PROS

  • Mobile Marketing Engagement platform with location-based features that allow companies to make decisions based on opt-in consumer-behavior data.
  • Ad Bridge offering that allows companies to connect behavioral data to Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and other ad platforms for more personalized experiences.
  • Deeper analytic capabilities (the Success Path Analyzer shows the correlation between marketing efforts and revenue fluctuation over time).

CONS

  • The bundled pricing options mean getting everything you need will be pricey.
  • With constant innovation, documentation sometimes trails availability of new features.

PRICE

While no longer listed on their website, the last figures published include pricing ranging from $895-$3,195 per month.

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2. Maropost

With bold claims like "The world's best enterprise platform" and "The last sales and marketing solution you'll ever need," Maropost has caught the attention of enterprise companies and marketing giants alike since opening its doors in 2011. The company's client roster includes Mercedes Benz, Rolling Stone, and News Corp.

The lead nurturing software provides a full suite of capabilities designed to help modern marketing and sales teams scale their digital audience engagement and revenue to new heights. With Maropost you get all the traditional automated marketing features plus premium ones like mobile marketing, media listening, and advanced analytics.

The company gets high marks for its weekly product updates; 24/7 "talk-to-a-human" support via email, phone, or live-chat; and all-around comprehensiveness.

As one Maropost user mentioned:

I came across Maropost after trying several good options, and to be honest, its usability and efficiency simply blew off my mind. Maropost made emailing easier. We get the delivery at a blink of an eye. When we are having any suggestions for the software to make it better, the team starts working on your suggestion without wasting much time and gets it done.

PROS

  • Sophisticated campaign targeting on the basis of engagement level, actions taken, domains, locations, product interest and revenue targets.
  • Supports multi-channel communication management including email campaigns, SMS campaigns, Social Media campaigns, and Web Marketing campaigns.
  • Offers API integration with most of the major CRM service providers.

CONS

  • Has some limitations when it comes to the reporting and response features of the program.
  • There is no integration with services such as LeadPages, which means you will have to manually create squeeze pages and landing pages that integrate with Maropost.
  • Surprisingly, no ability to split test emails (subject lines).

PRICE

Subscription price plan not published.

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3. HubSpot

Finally, we also recommend HubSpot's Enterprise option for large companies who seek an easy, integrated solution for housing digital marketing, sales and hosting all under one roof. For $2,400 a month, you get 10,000 contacts, plus $10 per month for every additional thousand.

In addition to all the features provided by the platform's Pro Option, you'll get revenue reporting, custom event reporting, company reporting, contacts reporting, predictive lead scoring and events-based segmentation. Put simply; it's an all-inclusive sales and marketing powerhouse we have come to rely upon and love.

We're such big fans of the platform that we have actually turned down free newbie automation software providers who wanted our endorsement in exchange for free product! The primary reasons we love it? Everyone on our team can use it fairly easily (not just developers) and the company's customer support has always proven super knowledgeable and dependable.

PROS

  • Shallow learning curve + large community of users to draw back on.
  • Robust capabilities including full funnel analytics, A/B testing, and predictive lead scoring.
  • Integrated solution for digital marketing, sales, and site hosting in one place.

CONS

  • Editing isn't always streamlined; jumping between several different screens often required.
  • Doesn't offer mobile marketing features.
  • Lack of customization options in reporting dashboard.

PRICE

$2,400 a month

Learn How to Save 60% Off HubSpot

Which Should You Choose?

While there is no perfect lead nurturing software program on the market, the six options discussed today offer substantial bang for your buck. Ultimately, you must ask yourself which program best meets your needs in terms of current budget, current priorities and long-term goals.

As previously mentioned, we ultimately chose HubSpot because we found it to be the best system for our agency to grow into. With HubSpot we are able to create fully-optimized websites; drive traffic, leads, and customers on behalf of our clients, and analyze our results from within one marketing stack.

If you're ready to ditch the multiple account passwords in favor of one automated system, we encourage you to further investigate the providers on this list.

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Written by Ashley Gwilliam / October 4, 2017

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam