Back in the 80s, marketing meant a lot of legwork. Imagine spending all day making cold calls, knocking at individual house doors, or sending coupons via mail. Now, marketers can finally focus on the big picture and automate whatever monotonous, mundane tasks there are left — but not everyone actually does that.
76% of companies report using automation in 2021, according to HubSpot. 78% of content marketers already rely on automation to plan and deliver their content at scale. More than 65% automate their email marketing and 17% of marketers are even integrating AI-powered automation or segmentation into their strategy.
As a marketer or an entrepreneur, you don’t want to be left behind. Check out these 10 essential marketing automation tools that can enable you to generate and nurture more quality leads in a shorter period.
You’ll learn how to use automation to make data-driven marketing decisions, boost your productivity, and improve marketing-sales alignment. The tools we’ll be reviewing in this post are free or budget-friendly, which means that even small-business owners and solopreneurs can use them.
- What is marketing automation for small businesses?
- Why should you use marketing automation?
- 10 best tools for marketing automation that are free or cheap
- Marketing automation tool #1 SendPulse
- Marketing automation tool #2 Klaviyo
- Marketing automation tool #3 Ortto
- Marketing automation tool #4 Omnisend
- Marketing automation tool #5 Loomly
- Marketing automation tool #6 VBOUT
- Marketing automation tool #7 Twilio Segment
- Marketing automation tool #8 EngageBay
- Marketing automation tool #9 iContact
- Marketing automation tool #10 OneSignal
- Free marketing automation that you’ll actually want to use
What is marketing automation for small businesses?
Marketing automation software helps marketers tackle everyday challenges, streamline their workflow, and assess the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. It automates routine and time-consuming processes while enabling greater personalization.
The following areas of marketing can be partially or fully automated:
- email marketing;
- social media management;
- customer segmentation;
- content creation and delivery;
- landing page creation;
- campaign tracking and analytics;
- engagement and customer retention;
- paid advertising;
- marketing forecasting and strategizing;
- live chat conversations;
- SMS and messenger campaigns.
According to Ascend, most marketers would like to use more automation in their work but often lack the resources, budget, and training to do so.
Want to drive more sales?
With SendPulse, you can reach your target audience by sending various types of messages through a communication channel they prefer — email campaigns, web push notifications, SMS, and chatbots for WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, or Telegram.
Why should you use marketing automation?
Half of the marketers say that marketing automation saves time on repetitive tasks and communications. For 45%, it increases efficiency and the ROI. 39% agree that it leads to higher lead quality and more conversions. In every third case, marketing automation also noticeably improves marketing and sales alignment.
Here are just some examples of what the best tools for marketing automation help you achieve:
- track email marketing metrics to understand what resonates with your audience;
- shorten your sales cycle and generate more sales-ready leads;
- test and instantly adjust paid campaigns to increase conversions;
- send highly targeted offers right after the customer takes a specific action;
- improve brand consistency on different channels and campaigns;
- personalize communications with customers.
Industry professionals value the quality data and actionable insights that marketing automation tools give them. In general, using automation means collecting, storing, and processing more information while making fewer errors.
10 best tools for marketing automation that are free or cheap
Running a small company is always a challenge, and the last thing business owners want to do is make risky investments or hoard online tools they barely need. That’s why we’ve picked the most powerful on-budget and free marketing automation software to share with you in this post.
Marketing automation tool #1 SendPulse
SendPulse is an all-in-one marketing automation platform made with small and medium-sized business owners and solopreneurs in mind. It has various free marketing automation tools that can cover all your business needs, from communication with customers to establishing your thought expertise.
Here’s a quick overview of what you can do with SendPulse:
- create stunning emails from scratch or customize pre-designed templates in a visual editor;
- set up, personalize, test, and improve your email campaigns using our analytics tools;
- send transactional emails via SMTP or API;
- store all your customer information in a CRM and use it for crafting ultra-personalized campaigns;
- build lightweight, responsive subscription forms and other pop-ups for lead generation;
- use Automation 360 to automate your communication with customers;
- prepare slick, nice-looking landing pages for promoting individual products, services, or events;
- create chatbots for Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and WhatsApp to send promotional messages and reply to your subscribers’ questions 24/7;
- use our SMS service to send your customers time-sensitive messages and important announcements even when they’re offline;
- drive your users back to your online store with the help of browser push notifications;
- turn your expert knowledge into attractive online courses to build a dedicated audience who fully trusts your brand.
With SendPulse, you won’t waste time switching between different tools and apps or trying to make them — everything you need for marketing and sales automation can be accessed from a single tab.
SendPulse offers flexible pricing: you pay just for the features you need. The final price depends on how many subscribers you have, for example, for just $16 a month, you can communicate with up to 1,500 recipients, build 50 automated flows, and create 10 landing pages. Paying annually will cost you 20% less.
Marketing automation tool #2 Klaviyo
Klaviyo is a one-stop shop for marketers and business owners who need a single tool for automating their email and SMS campaigns. It’s also a customer data platform that helps you deliver highly personalized experiences at scale.
The beauty of Klaviyo is that it democratizes complex marketing automations — it unlocks eCommerce growth opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses by giving them enterprise-grade tools for working with customer data. The platform enables lightning-fast user segmentation by turning chaotic records into a single source of truth.
Klaviyo offers a code-free visual template editor and automated A/B testing.
Let’s look at Klaviyo’s features closely:
- behavior-based automations and customizable templates for elegant, dynamic, always-on-time email campaigns;
- AI-powered subject line generator;
- individual customer profiles for fine real-time segmentation;
- highly targeted SMS for re-engagement and seamless communication across channels;
- personalized mobile-friendly subscription forms and pop-ups;
- 220+ pre-built integrations with essential marketing tools and platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce;
- automatic data synchronization across all integrations;
- open APIs for custom integrations;
- predictive analytics powered by machine learning;
- pre-built and custom reporting and peer benchmarks.
Klaviyo has a free plan that allows for up to 250 email contacts, 500 monthly emails, and 150 SMS. With a free plan, you can reach out to Klaviyo’s email support if you need help. The second cheapest plan costs $20 a month or more, depending on the size of your mailing list.
Marketing automation tool #3 Ortto
Ortto is free marketing automation software that makes your customer data, messaging, and analytics work in perfect alignment and enables you to build highly personalized customer journeys. With Ortto, you can seamlessly maintain conversations across multiple channels: email, SMS, pop-ups, and Facebook campaigns.
Here’s how it works:
- Connect your online stores, CRM, billing, helpdesk, and ad accounts to Ortto.
- Track customer activities and unify them through one-click integrations to see the full picture.
- Segment your audience using event-based, behavioral, demographic, and transactional data.
- Build ultra-personalized email and SMS campaigns and measure customer sentiment with reactions.
- Use A/B testing to optimize campaigns as you go.
- Receive suggestions from Ortto AI to create more converting emails.
- Make your customer data accessible to your whole team to keep everyone on the same page.
- Get a bird’s-eye view of your key campaign metrics and goals.
- Rely on visual analytics to understand which campaigns lead to the most sales and what needs to be improved.
You can create all sorts of messages and pop-ups with Ortto using its template collection.
You can use this potent marketing automation tool for free if you’re okay with keeping Ortto’s branding. The second cheapest plan is quite generous — it costs $29 a month and includes 2,000 contacts and 8,000 monthly emails. Ortto also has a 14-day free trial.
Marketing automation tool #4 Omnisend
Omnisend is an eCommerce-first marketing automation platform. With this tool, you can combine email, SMS, pop-ups, and web push notifications to create a frictionless omnichannel experience for your customers.
You can define the look and behavior of your campaign or form in a visual editor.
Let’s see what Omnisend has to offer:
- email personalization through conditional content blocks and dynamic recommendations;
- intuitive lifecycle-based audience segmentation;
- A/B split testing;
- time-saving pre-built workflows and an automation builder;
- built-in audience sync with Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match;
- automation splits for more personalized campaigns;
- advanced reporting tools;
- 50+ integrations;
- data import tools for smooth migration in less than an hour;
- award-winning 24/7 customer support.
Omnisend has a free plan with up to 250 contacts and 500 emails a month, along with many other features. For $25 a month, you can message 1,500 subscribers and send 18,000 emails per month. All Omnisend users on any plan get free SMS credits.
Marketing automation tool #5 Loomly
Loomly is one of those free marketing automation platforms that are easy to overlook. However, it can save you a lot of time when it comes to social media marketing. Loomly helps you create, organize, and schedule organic posts and ads for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google Business Profile.
With Loomly, you can easily automate or streamline most social media management processes:
- get a clear overview of all your scheduled posts across different channels;
- collect ideas for future content using Loomly’s recommendations;
- collaborate with your team and get your content reviewed and approved before it goes live;
- get notified whenever your colleagues or clients update or comment on your content;
- store your content assets in a unified library;
- improve your campaigns based on Loomy’s optimization tips;
- set reminders for manual publishing on TikTok, Snapchat, and custom channels;
- use automated pushing for Facebook and Instagram ads;
- respond to the messages, comments, and reactions of your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn;
- track your posts’ performance and improve your strategy as you go.
In short, Loomly empowers you to be more consistent in your social media marketing — with automations, you can be sure that your posts will be published on the right channel at the right time.
Loomly doesn’t have a free plan, but it’s one of the cheapest social media marketing automation software to date. For $35 a month, you can manage up to 10 channels and get access to all the core features and more. Annual billing will help you save 25%.
Marketing automation tool #6 VBOUT
VBOUT is a powerful but surprisingly affordable marketing automation platform for businesses of all sizes, as well as SaaS companies and educators. It offers a rich code-free toolkit for automating complex workflows and optimizing customer relationships.
Let’s go through the main VBOUT’s features:
- built-in builder for emails, SMS, lead capture forms, landing pages, and browser push notifications;
- automation templates and a drag-and-drop automation builder;
- social listening, scheduling, and engagement tools for social media;
- cross-channel automations;
- if/then conditions, numerous triggers, and actions for more natural and relevant messaging;
- web page tracking and lead scoring;
- 360 view of the customer lifecycle;
- campaign tracking, analytics, and detailed reports;
- CRM, Facebook audiences, and Google audiences synchronization;
- thousands of integrations and add-ons, such as Meeting Calendar and Content Bank;
- onboarding and coaching webinars.
VBOUT can replace dozens of marketing automation services and help you save time and money on communicating with your leads and customers.
The platform has a 14-day free trial and is very flexible when it comes to pricing. You can use toggle buttons to choose the features you currently need and “turn off” the ones you don’t want to pay for. The entire VBOUT suit costs $100 a month. You can save 10% by paying yearly.
Marketing automation tool #7 Twilio Segment
Twilio Segment is a versatile customer data platform for building consistent and personalized customer experiences. Segment collects events from your website and mobile app and provides your teams with clean data helping you develop tailored omnichannel campaigns.
You can manage your customer data in a very straightforward way.
With this software, you can transition from vague messaging to super-personalized and engaging communications with your audience:
- create complete customer profiles to clearly understand their buying intent and interests;
- improve your customer acquisition, conversion, and retention strategies;
- manage email, SMS, and custom communication channels from a single platform;
- personalize your emails with recommendations based on actual user behavior;
- develop perfect sending frequency using real-world insights;
- create highly-targeted real-time campaigns that reach your customers when the moment is right;
- connect Segment with 400+ marketing tools to build a coherent communication strategy.
Segment offers scalable plans for startups as well as growing and mature companies. A free plan includes 1,000 visitors a month. A more advanced plan for teams costs $120 a month and includes 10,000 visitors, and you can try it out for free for 14 days.
Marketing automation tool #8 EngageBay
EngageBay is a multi-purpose automation platform for marketing, sales, and support teams. It includes a CRM system, marketing automation tools, live chat software, and helpdesk software.
Marketers and small business owners can use EngageBay to:
- build and automate personalized email sequences;
- create attractive web forms, push notifications, and sticky bars;
- use customizable email templates and a drag-and-drop builder to streamline campaign creation;
- segment and target their mailing lists;
- build responsive and converting landing pages in minutes;
- ensure seamless campaign execution, tracking, and optimization;
- get a 360-degree customer view and keep customer data consistent and up-to-date;
- enrich customer information by adding contacts’ social media profiles;
- plan and track sales and tasks in a single CRM.
EngageBay offers an impressive automation suite at a reasonable price, not to mention a free migration service. You can use the platform for free if you have fewer than 250 contacts. A basic plan costs $14.99 a month and includes 750 contacts, a landing page builder, and other features. You can also purchase individual toolkits.
Marketing automation tool #9 iContact
iContact is an easy email marketing automation platform for small and medium-sized businesses. It allows you to create beautiful and efficient email campaigns without having to code or design anything.
iContact has everything you need for hassle-free email marketing automation:
- library with hundreds of professionally designed responsive templates;
- drag-and-drop email and subscription form builder;
- multi-step automations for personalized trigger campaigns;
- audience segmentation based on customer information and behavior;
- smart sending feature allowing you to pick the ideal time for your campaigns;
- email analytics and A/B testing;
- free multi-user access;
- visual landing page builder;
- free list verification Kickbox account;
- custom on-demand services from iContact’s experts;
- resource center and thousands of integrations.
iContact is free to use if you have fewer than 500 contacts. For higher-volume sending, choose an advanced plan starting at $23 a month and pay as your mailing list grows.
Marketing automation tool #10 OneSignal
OneSignal is a customer engagement service for mobile and web push notifications, email, SMS, and in-app messages. It’s used for designing seamless customer journeys and messaging automation — you can seamlessly nurture and guide your users toward success.
The list of the OneSignal features includes:
- simplified 15-minute setup;
- four types of push notifications;
- powerful no-code email composer compatible with other email providers;
- customer segmentation based on real-time data;
- personalized SMS and MMS messaging;
- easy A/B testing on controlled segments;
- Intelligent Delivery feature powered by machine learning;
- targeted audience segments with filters, data tags, and location data;
- tracking and detailed reports;
- sophisticated cross-channel automations and time-based triggers;
- customized workflow builder for relevant behavior-based messaging;
- API for sending personalized messages at scale.
OneSignal has a generous free plan for small businesses. A more advanced plan starts at $9 a month, and a professional plan costs $99 a month. All OneSignal plans are scalable, and you can change your plan or downgrade to the free plan at any time.
Free marketing automation that you’ll actually want to use
64% of marketers acknowledge that their automation solutions are only somewhat integrated or not at all integrated. As a result, more than half feel like they don’t fully utilize their software’s potential due to the lack of training, resources, or internal adoption. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Try our marketing automation platform to reduce silos and make sure that all your marketing tools work together. Spend more time on strategizing and creating and less on repetitive, uninspiring tasks. Our learning materials and support team will help you seamlessly move to SendPulse and never look back.