If you want marketing automation for your business, there are two main approaches:
A “full-stack” all-in-one system
A “custom-stack” of point solutions
Examples of full-stack solutions include systems such as Hubspot and Marketo. They give you a large suite of features to execute a marketing automation approach.
A custom-stack approach is one where you pick-and-choose different point solutions to achieve the specific functions and features you need to meet your goals or support your marketing strategies.
Which is right for you? That depends on the stage of your company, your sales and marketing goals, your budget, and your technical know-how.
In this article, we’ll analyze both approaches—including the price comparisons of each.
(Note: Want to see who’s visiting your website—even if they don’t fill out a form? Try Leadfeeder for free.)
Marketing Automation Features
To compare the various marketing automation offerings, let’s first define the core features of marketing automation.
These are the features that perform the basic job of moving customers and prospects through the customer journey.
Lead generation and tracking
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
SEO analytics & auditing
Social media marketing
Social media monitoring
Question No. 1 to ask before deciding on a platform is this:
What Features Do I Need to Achieve My Goals?
With that answer in hand, you can evaluate the specific technology options.
‘Full-Stack’ and ‘Custom-Stack’ Options, Features, and Costs
We looked at the pricing and features of four prominent full-stack marketing automation platforms:
In the chart below, we list each one and note the features of each. We also included a list of “point-solutions” to show an example of what a custom-stack of point solutions might look like and its cost.
As you can see, it’s possible to build a custom marketing automation stack for less than $300, and if you decide you don’t need some of the features, the cost can be lower.
Point Solutions and Costs for a Custom Marketing Automation Stack
Here are the point solutions we found that offer similar features to those that are provided by full-stack automation platforms.
Lead Generation and Tracking
Price: $55 / month
One of the primary reasons companies buy marketing automation systems is to learn more about who is visiting their website. Leadfeeder identifies what companies visit your website, even if the visitor doesn’t fill out a form or download a resource.
Third-party integrations enable marketers to proactively create leads based on key prospect visits. They can also send and update visitor information in MailChimp and CRM software.
Hubspot Free CRM (or Insightly, Zoho CRM)
Hubspot Free CRM is a very easy to use and implement CRM that contains most of the features you would find in a paid version, but all of the features needed for a core lead management platform.
Sales managers can utilize the pipeline and lead management features, while marketing managers can make use of the free Hubspot Marketing platform. Hubspot Free CRM also offers API key access, meaning integrations with third-parties are an API-key generation away, or its features can be extended by integrating with workflow automation tools like Zapier.
Contact Forms and Landing Pages
Price: $99 / month
Unbounce offers a basic WYSIWYG landing page and contact form editor. However, its real value is in its simple A/B testing setup and webhook integrations. A workflow tool like Zapier can be easily integrated and form data can be integrated into a CRM, email marketing platform, or other campaign action tool.
0-2000 contacts / 12,000 emails per month
MailChimp provides marketers with a comprehensive email marketing platform for little to no cost. It has many native integrations, and its integrations can be extended by connecting MailChimp to Zapier.
Features include email template creation, dynamic content insertion, list segmentation and A/B testing—which is more than enough for any B2B marketer to get started with. Use Zapier integrations to trigger emails based on actions in certain applications, such as a change in CRM detail.
Automated Lead Management
Price: $20 / month
Zapier is a powerful tool that provides workflow automation between individual apps and platforms. With over 1,000 app integrations, Zapier can trigger actions in one application from an event in another.
When a new subscriber is added to MailChimp, use Zapier to add the contact information into your CRM. When a certain keyword is mentioned in a Slack channel, use Zapier to trigger the creation of a task in a project management tool like Asana or Trello.
It’s probably worth paying $20 per month for the Work plan, which enables you to refine and create more complex automation processes and filters.
Google Analytics is the market standard for website analytics. It provides a large number of reports that give insight into your visitor demographics, behaviors, acquisition and conversion analytics, all for free.
Spend time learning about the full extent of Google Analytics’ capabilities. Once you get into customized funnel analytics and reporting, it gives you a wide view of your customers and prospects.
HotJar fills the gaps that Google Analytics misses—in particular, by providing click, scroll and movement heatmaps and visitor recording functionality. It also features surveys, conversion funnels, and feedback polls, all tools used to increase conversion rates.
Price: $99 / Free
Moz offers a range of free SEO tools, and for $99/month, the company’s basic plan offers a more powerful suite of tools for a relatively inexpensive cost. Track the ranking of up to 300 keywords, run keyword queries and backlink reports for a comprehensive view of strategic keyword performance.
Social Media Marketing
Price: $29 / month
While Buffer and Hootsuite dominate social media management news, Sendible offers a social media marketing platform with enterprise features at small business prices. Standard features such as post scheduling, collaboration, analytics, and bit.ly or custom URL integration are all features.
Content Marketing Tools
Price: $5 / month
WordPress is the No. 1 free website and blog management platform. The only cost is your own server to host on (which can start at $5 / month if you’re hosting on Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform).
WordPress’ extensive plug-in marketplace means most of your other marketing stack tools will have an integration already configured, and if not, you can always plug actions like contact form submission into Zapier, which can send the data to other tools as well.
While it’s important to have an owned version of your blog, it is also important to understand where your audience lives and offer them content in that setting. Medium has fostered thriving across many communities, and their simple “Import Story” feature means you can republish your blog content on Medium without a duplicate content penalty.
Google Tag Manager
What Solutions Are Right for You?
Is it spending $1,000+/month for a full-stack marketing automation system? Or $255+/month for a custom stack of point solutions? From the pricing difference, it’s tempting to say a custom stack is the obvious winner—but that’s not the full picture.
What’s right for you will depend on your situation and your needs. If you have a large email list, the cost for point solutions can go up significantly as you move into plans for higher numbers of contacts. When you grow beyond 2,000 contacts in MailChimp, for example, you’ll move onto plans that run $10/month or above.
In those situations, a full-stack solution might be the right choice. For enterprise companies, a full-stack suite with support may also make more sense.
But for companies looking to be nimble, a customized stack can give you the ability to choose features based on your specific requirements—and take advantage of any cost-savings that come about as a result.
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