Every good digital marketer knows content marketing is important, but measuring the effect of content is crucial. Calculating if that blog post led to customer conversions, how many leads it generated or how much it fattented your bottom line is nearly impossible with standard methods, but nearly effortless with marketing automation tools. 

Related: Marketing Automation Explained (Infographic)

Hubspot defines marketing automation as “[S]oftware and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon -- that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.”

Key features of effective marketing-automation programs are:

  • Measuring prospect and customer movement through tracked email messages, web page browsing, social profile visits and other online activities.
  • Automating such common marketing tasks as sending email and publishing blog posts according to various triggers and events.
  • Lead scoring and prioritizing prospective customers in the sales cycle based on their interaction with your online content.

These five tools are great starts to your marketing-automation search:

1. Hubspot. Hubspot’s software emphasizes tracking and measuring “top of the funnel” activities such as blogging and social outreach. Key program features to check out include dynamic calls-to-action, hosted blogging with built-in SEO tools and strong onboarding support and education. Plans start at $200/month.

2. Act-On. Try Act-On if you aren’t 100 percent sure you need marketing automation. It offers month-to-month pricing and package tiers based on the contacts you actively market to instead of everyone that’s in your database. Because it’s geared to beginners, it offers some of the strongest support and training tools available. Key features include a “drag and drop” campaign creation, integration with Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Saleslogix and NetSuite CRM systems and internal phone support available for all customers. Plans start at $500/month.

3. MarketoMarketo has been awarded the “Best of Marketing Automation” award by the Salesforce AppExchange community for five years running. The platform offers several tiers of service suitable for small- to medium-sized businesses, making it possible for new users to get up and running with marketing automation quickly. Key features include a library of pre-built campaign templates, multi-touch revenue modeling and “Opportunity Influence Analyzer.” Plans start at $895/month.

4. PardotRecently acquired by Salesforce, Pardot offers many of the same features as Marketo, but with the added bonus of the potential long-term partnerships that may benefit users of the company’s popular CRM system. The program offers simple, “drag and drop” lead-nurturing and marketing-automation rule creation features that help companies get up and running with the system as quickly as possible.   

Key program features to check out include a “Lead Deck” real-time lead activity monitoring and Gmail app integration. Plans start at $1,000/month.

5. Oracle Marketing Cloud . Oracle’s Marketing Cloud, formerly Eloqua, is one of the most expensive marketing-automation programs and is best suited to mid-to-large size companies and global enterprises.Key program features to check out include extensive targeting and segmentation tools, company-specific, tailored “Success Plan” and active “Topliners” user forum. Plans start at $2,000/month.

I want to hear from you. Have you adopted marketing automation into your company in an effort to improve your content marketing return on investment? If so, which program gets your vote?

Related: 5 Content Pieces You Can Create in 5 Minutes Or Less