Spending hours on email scheduling and lead follow-ups?

Struggling to find time to work on big-picture strategies because repetitive marketing tasks occupy all your time?

This is where marketing automation can step in.

This guide to marketing automation for small businesses covers plenty of ground, from how you can streamline those pesky repetitive tasks to choosing the perfect automation platform for your industry and specific needs.

Key takeaways

  • Marketing automation helps small businesses streamline everyday tasks, including email scheduling, social media posts, and lead scoring and nurturing.
  • By automating marketing tasks, your marketers can focus on more important activities.
  • Marketing automation tools leverage user data, such as behavior on your website, to create personalized ads and emails.
  • The best marketing automation for small businesses includes HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Drip. The best solution will depend on your needs and requirements.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is when businesses use software to automate repetitive marketing tasks.

Typical automated marketing tasks include:

  • Sending out scheduled emails.
  • Tracking customer behaviors on a website.
  • Lead scoring and segmentation.
  • Social media posting.
  • Analytics and reporting.

What is the ultimate aim of marketing automation software?

To streamline marketing operations, generate more quality leads, and personalize the customer experience so your marketing team can focus on their marketing plan and achieve their goals.

The different types of marketing automation campaigns

The different types of marketing automation campaigns

1. Email marketing campaigns

Email marketing is a core part of most businesses’ marketing strategies, and email marketing benefits include its high ROI and ability to drive website traffic and increase customer retention.

These emails can include newsletters, welcome series, and triggered emails like cart abandonment reminders.

Some ways you can use automation in email marketing campaigns include:

  • Triggered emails: Once a user performs a certain action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, an automated email is sent in response.
  • Segmented campaigns: Based on the user’s data and behaviors (such as previous purchases, location, or engagement level), the automation tool sends out tailored email content to specific segments of your customer base.
  • Performance tracking: After emails are sent, small business automation tools can monitor open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and bounces.

2. Social media campaigns

As a small business, you probably already know the value of social media for your marketing campaigns.

These campaigns can be incredibly time-consuming, but marketing automation tools for small businesses can help.

  • Scheduled posts: Automation tools allow businesses to plan and schedule content across multiple platforms in advance. This ensures consistent posting without manual daily intervention.
  • Social listening: Automated tools scan platforms for mentions of your brand or relevant keywords, allowing for quick responses or strategy adjustments.
  • Performance analytics: Tools automatically gather and present data on metrics such as post reach and engagement rates.

3. Lead nurturing campaigns

Scoring and nurturing leads is an everyday and essential task for B2B marketing teams.

Automation software for small businesses isn’t just about attracting new customers; it can also help nurture leads.

  • Lead scoring: Automation tools assign scores to leads based on their interactions. This helps prioritize leads that are more likely to convert.
  • Personalized content delivery: Based on the information and behavior of the lead, relevant and personalized content, like articles, webinars, or offers, is sent to guide them through the sales funnel.
  • Behavioral trigger actions: If a lead downloads a resource or visits a specific webpage, it can trigger a follow-up action, like sending a related email.

4. Multi-channel campaigns

We’ve covered email and social media, but a good marketing team covers all the bases in a coordinated fashion.

Small business automation software can help with marketing efforts across platforms like email, SMS, and social media based on user behavior.

  • Coordinated messaging: Automation tools ensure that messaging is consistent across channels. This can include email, SMS, social media, and even app notifications.
  • User journey mapping: Tools track user interactions across channels, providing a clear, overall view of the customer journey.
  • Real-time personalization: Based on the user’s behavior on one channel, content can be personalized in real-time on another channel. For example, after reading an email about your product, the user might see a related ad on social media.

5. Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns are a scheduled set of messages (typically emails) that aim to engage users over a period.

Marketing automation makes this type of campaign easier, more consistent, and data-driven.

  • Sequenced messaging: Once a user takes a triggering action, they’re entered into a drip campaign. They then receive a series of predetermined emails or messages over a set period, nurturing them toward a specific goal.
  • Conditional logic paths: Depending on how users respond to initial emails (using data based on open rates or click-throughs), they can be funneled into different subsequent sequences, ensuring they receive the most relevant content.

6. Retargeting campaigns

A retargeting campaign is a series of ads or messages shown to users based on their past online behaviors.

This requires careful data gathering and analysis, which marketing automation tools can do far quicker than humans.

  • Behavioral tracking: Automation tools identify users who engaged with a brand but didn’t convert. This might include users who visited your website or added items to the cart but didn’t purchase.
  • Ad placement: Based on this behavioral data, automated retargeted ads are displayed to these users on other websites or platforms they visit, reminding them of the products or services they showed an interest in.
  • Conversion tracking: Once a user converts, automation tools ensure they’re removed from the retargeting list so they don’t continue to see irrelevant ads.

The benefits of marketing automation software for small businesses (what can it do for you?)

1. Efficiency

Marketing often involves lots of repetitive tasks.

You may feel like your days are taken over with setting up scheduled emails or following up on leads rather than working towards big-picture ideas.

Marketing automation software for small businesses can make your small business more efficient, for example:

  • Problem: Small businesses often struggle with a limited workforce and can get overwhelmed by the repetitive nature of many marketing tasks.
  • Solution: Automation software handles repetitive tasks. This frees up staff to focus on more strategic, revenue-driving activities.

2. Personalization

You’ve heard about personalization in the marketing sector.

Here’s how marketing automation might benefit your small business by helping with personalization:

  • Problem: Manually crafting personalized content for diverse customer segments is challenging and time-intensive.
  • Solution: Small business automation tools can segment audiences based on behaviors and preferences and then deliver tailored content to each segment.

3. Enhanced lead generation and nurturing

Have you ever spent hours or even days chasing up a lead that went nowhere?

You may already know the value of lead scoring as a way to identify and nurture the most promising prospects.

Here’s how small business marketing automation software can improve the process:

  • Problem: Without proper tools, managing and organizing a growing number of leads can be chaotic.
  • Solution: Marketing automation tracks, scores, and categorizes leads, streamlining the process of nurturing and converting them.

4. Data-driven insights

Marketing campaigns can produce a huge amount of data.

You can use this data to make better decisions since it’ll help you see what works and what doesn’t.

Rather than trawl through the data and try to analyze it yourself, marketing automation often simplifies this task:

  • Problem: Small businesses often lack the resources or expertise to manually collect, analyze, and interpret large amounts of marketing data, leading to missed opportunities or misinformed strategies.
  • Solution: Marketing automation platforms automatically gather, process, and present data in an understandable format. These insights allow businesses to make informed decisions, optimize campaigns, and better understand their audience. No need to be an expert in data analysis.

5. Scalability

Your small business is growing — great news! Yet you may be worrying about how to handle the increased workload in your marketing team.

The scalability of marketing automation for SMBs is an important benefit.

  • Problem: As small businesses grow, manually managing increased marketing demands, from scheduling emails to customer support on social media, can become increasingly difficult.
  • Solution: Marketing automation platforms can effortlessly handle growing volumes of tasks and often require little additional input, allowing marketing efforts to expand without needing constant manual intervention.

Small business marketing software: Some of the best options

To help you choose the right marketing automation software for your organization, we’ve researched some of the top solutions on the market.

We’ve considered each carefully in terms of usability, features, and performance, as well as what industries it might suit.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot screenshot

HubSpot is an all-in-one platform and is hugely popular amongst marketers.

You may have already come across its CRM software, but what can it offer for marketing teams?

Key features: HubSpot offers tools for content creation, SEO, email marketing, lead management, and analytics and allows you to automate tasks relating to each. The CRM integration seamlessly tracks customer interactions, and it also offers sales and customer service features.

Industries: Tech startups; B2B companies; software as a Service (SaaS) businesses; professional services such as consultants and agencies.

Best for: Businesses looking for an all-encompassing solution, from lead generation to customer service, will find HubSpot to be the best marketing automation software for small businesses.

Challenges: Pricing is a potential downside. While HubSpot offers a free version, the more advanced features can be pricey for some small businesses.

2. Mailchimp


Mailchimp is best known for email marketing but also offers tools for creating landing pages and automating social media posts.

Key features: Now that Mailchimp is a multi-channel marketing platform, it provides features like email campaigns, landing page creation, social media ads, and automated workflows. Mailchimp also allows you to track the effectiveness of your automated campaigns. Plus, users often enjoy Mailchimp’s easy-to-use platform.

Industries: E-commerce and retail businesses; bloggers and online publishers; education and other public sector organizations.

Best for: Small businesses focusing heavily on email marketing with a need for additional multi-channel features.

Challenges: While perfect for basic email marketing, Mailchimp might lack some advanced features or integrations that other platforms offer.

3. ActiveCampaign


ActiveCampaign is a cloud marketing platform that combines email marketing, CRM, and sales automation, primarily aimed at small and mid-sized businesses.

Features: Combining email marketing, CRM, and sales automation, ActiveCampaign allows for personalized email marketing, segmentation, and automated funnels. It also offers messaging features like SMS.

Industries: E-commerce and retail; B2B companies; online education platforms and course creators.

Best for: Small businesses needing an integrated CRM and email marketing solution with advanced segmentation options.

Challenges: The platform’s advanced features might require a steeper learning curve for newcomers.

4. GetResponse


GetResponse is a digital marketing tool well-suited for inbound marketing strategies.

Features: GetResponse provides email marketing, landing pages, and webinar solutions that help nurture leads. It also offers a visual marketing automation builder that allows businesses to craft automated workflows based on user behavior.

Industries: Small businesses and solopreneurs; B2B companies; online marketers focused on lead generation; webinar hosts.

Best for: Businesses that leverage webinars in their marketing and need a robust email marketing platform.

Challenges: Some users find the design and customization of templates a bit too restrictive.

5. Drip


Drip is an ecommerce-focused platform with especially intuitive and user-friendly software. This is one of the best marketing automation tools for small businesses in the retail industry.

Features: Drip offers email marketing automation and tracking tools with features like cart abandonment emails and personalized product recommendations.

Industries: E-commerce and retail businesses; digital product sellers.

Best for: Ecommerce businesses looking for highly specialized email marketing automation tools and plenty of personalization.

Challenges: The pricing is based on the number of contacts, so costs can increase rapidly as your list grows.

What’s the difference between marketing automation and CRM (client relationship management)?

While both marketing automation and CRM manage interactions with potential and existing customers, they serve distinct purposes.

Marketing Automation is primarily focused on attracting potential customers.

It deals with campaigns, lead generation, and nurturing potential leads to the point of conversion.

CRM (Client Relationship Management), on the other hand, is about managing relationships post-conversion.

It tracks interactions with current customers, manages sales pipelines, and ensures customer satisfaction.

In many cases, businesses can benefit from integrating both marketing automation and CRM.

This helps with streamlining business processes as it allows for a seamless transition from lead acquisition to customer retention.

Why it’s smart to take advantage of small business marketing automation

Small businesses are often working with limited resources, so you need every advantage you can get.

SMB marketing automation allows businesses to compete with larger entities seriously.

From optimizing your marketing efforts to automating repetitive tasks, your small business’s marketing team can focus on strategy, innovation, and growth rather than the grind of daily tasks that can be streamlined and automated.

Incorporating marketing automation into your small business strategy isn’t just a smart move; it’s essential for staying competitive in today’s market.

The marketing software for small business listed above are great, but why not go one better with PandaDoc’s marketing automation software?

Request a demo or book a free 14-day trial and see how we can help you and your business.


PandDoc is not a law firm, or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. This page is not intended to and does not provide legal advice. Should you have legal questions on the validity of e-signatures or digital signatures and the enforceability thereof, please consult with an attorney or law firm. Use of PandaDocs services are governed by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.