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Editors' Take

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The Best Marketing Automation Software of 2017


The Best Marketing Automation Software of 2017

The Best Marketing Automation Software


Marketing Automation’s Finest Tools

Email marketing is a great first step toward developing solid communications with your customers and prospects. But once you’ve moved past one-off messages and you’ve decided to create prolonged, personalized messages powered by customer data, it’s time to try marketing automation. No tools better exemplify the simplicity, effectiveness, and scalability of marketing automation software than our Editors’ Choice tools HubSpot and Pardot. Both offer a vast array of functionality that should suit your business regardless of how intricate your marketing strategy might be. We found HubSpot to be better equipped for small businesses that are steadily growing their marketing activity, whereas Pardot is ideal for large enterprises with complicated marketing plans already in place. We also tested eight other marketing automation tools, each of which offer some unique features that make them stand out from the field.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation software lets you build pre-programmed email marketing sequences that don’t require manual intervention. Unlike standard email campaigns designed to make the most of a one-off message, marketing automation workflows are typically designed by using if/then branching elements that funnel contacts through a sequence based on how they interact with your marketing collateral. By using email opens, link clicks, web form submissions, abandoned e-commerce shopping carts, and a wide assortment of customer data, you can turn a simple user action into a multi-step interaction meant to guide customers from prospect status to purchase and back again.

Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don’t have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a “Welcome” or a “Thank you for making a purchase” message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off of the workflow to conserve your email output.

How complicated and how deep your campaigns run is determined by which vendor you choose. For example, Hubspot and Pardot both offer unlimited email and unlimited sequencing options. This means you can create a workflow with multiple branches for each stage of the sequence, and you can create an unlimited number of sequences (not that you would). Conversely, Zoho Campaigns is mostly designed for users who want to follow customary workflows that guide users on basic sequences. As a result, Zoho Campaigns doesn’t offer unlimited sequencing or branching. This tool is perfectly suitable for marketers who just want to make an offer after a welcome email or for marketers who want to wish people a happy birthday once a year.

SendinBlue Create New Workflow


Pricing and Plans

Marketing automation software is typically priced one of two ways: by the number of contacts in your database or by the number of emails you send each month. For example, the Standard Pardot plan costs $1,000 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM). This plan can be upgraded to two higher tiers, each of which offers additional features, plug-ins, and add-ons. However, all three Pardot plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.

Don’t be alarmed by Pardot’s price tag as it’s easily the most expensive tool we reviewed. Hubspot lets you store 10,000 contacts for $1,200 per month for its most Basic plan; $1,250 per month for its second-most feature-rich plan, and $2,400 for the Enterprise plan. If you don’t need that massive amount of contact storage, then you can start with 100 contacts for just $200 month.

On the lower end of the pricing spectrum, you’ll find products such as Infusionsoft, which costs $379 per month for five users; 10,000 contacts, and 50,000 emails per month. The Complete package also includes Infusionsoft’s four core feature sets (CRM, e-commerce, marketing automation, and sales automation) at no extra charge. SendinBlue and Zoho Campaigns both offer free plans for anyone who is unwilling to spend even a dime for marketing workflows. Both tools scale upward for added capacity and complexity, and each offers pay-as-you-go plans for companies just dipping their toes into email marketing and marketing automation.

Zoho Campaigns Getting Started

Unique Features

In addition to an organic integration with Salesforce, Pardot offers one of the cleanest user interfaces (UIs) and one of the largest variety of pre-built templates on the market. But its best features are designed to improve your workflows once they’ve been created. For example, you can pre-test the process of an automated program to see how it reacts. This is essentially a fire drill automation campaign to ensure your complex branching doesn’t lead to a dead end or a duplicate email. Pardot also lets you schedule social media campaigns and post in real time to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter simultaneously. If you really want to manage your marketing program from within one solution, then Pardot also offers a search marketing tool that plugs into Bing, Google, and Yahoo. You can check search engine rankings, monthly volumes, and ranking difficulties as well as run competitor analysis and monitor your paid search campaigns. No other tool we reviewed offers search marketing functionality.

Pardot Engagement Branching

HubSpot heavily relies on list building to help you manage your workflows. The tool lets you shrink (or grow) your lists in the same way you would narrow down products on Amazon or eBay, a feature which is incredibly straightforward and fast. When you add a URL to a contact record, HubSpot will automatically pull in demographic information, such as the contact’s company location and number of employees. You can email a contact directly from the Contact Record, and you can make a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) call if you have turned on this paid feature of HubSpot Sales. This integration lets you log and save call information within each contact record so there is a transparent history of which marketers and sales professionals interacted with contacts. You can also schedule interactions with contacts. You won’t find these features on the other platforms we reviewed.

Hubspot - Social Media

Infusionsoft is the only drag-and-drop tool we tested, which is a nifty feature for marketers who may wish to work on touchscreens or don’t have time to deal with lengthy drop-down menus. It also provides unique tag removal that automatically pulls contacts from campaigns if they perform a certain action. For example, if contacts don’t open three emails in a row, then you can set the tool to remove all such contacts from the workflow. This way, you’re not sending messages into a vacuum. The tool also gives you the most useful real-time alert dashboard of any that we tested in this class. It lets you see every contact interaction with anyone in your database. So, if you sent an email to someone a week ago but they just opened it this second, then you’ll see their name pop up at the top of your dashboard. From this tab, you can send a follow-up email or adjust the contact’s standing within the specific workflow.

Infusionsoft - Dashboard

The Bottom Line

These are just some of the amazing features you’ll find when using marketing automation software. As a result, it’s important for you to determine your most needed features before making a purchase decision. None of the tools we tested are bad. In fact, each of them will provide you with more power than your standard email marketing platform will.

However, some are better than others, some are more expensive, and some do a better job letting you customize your workflows to suit your specific needs. In addition to these 10 tools, PCMag will continue to test marketing automation software in order to provide you with a comprehensive list of the best tools available. We’ll update this roundup in the coming months as we add to and refine our rankings.

The Best Marketing Automation Software:

  • Constant Contact

    Constant Contact Review

    MSRP: $15.00

    Bottom Line: Constant Constant Contact demystifies email marketing with its easy-to-use, professional-looking user interface. However, it was a bit glitchy in testing and somewhat stingy for the price.

     Read Review

  • Zoho Campaigns

    Zoho Campaigns Review

    MSRP: $5.00

    Bottom Line: Zoho Campaigns includes advanced features, such as auto-responders, for a low price. However, its limited templates and dated user interface hold it back.

     Read Review

  • SendinBlue
  • ActiveCampaign

    ActiveCampaign Review

    MSRP: $9.00

    Bottom Line: ActiveCampaign offers a lot of marketing features, which results in a cluttered interface, though that’s balanced by its high quality online support.

     Read Review

  • Infusionsoft

    Infusionsoft Review

    MSRP: $199.00

    Bottom Line: Infusionsoft is an easy-to-use CRM and email marketing platform geared toward small businesses. It’s not the cheapest or the most in-depth, but the goal-oriented platform succeeds at helping…

     Read Review

  • HubSpot

    HubSpot Review

    MSRP: $200.00

    Bottom Line: If you’re a startup or a growing small business, then HubSpot has designed its business with you in mind. The tool will scale with the smallest micro business to the largest enterprise, with…

     Read Review

  • Campaigner

    Campaigner Review

    MSRP: $19.95

    Bottom Line: Campaigner is a well-designed email marketing service that offers numerous advanced features and a generous free trial.

     Read Review

  • GetResponse

    GetResponse Review

    MSRP: $15.00

    Bottom Line: GetResponse is easy-to-use email marketing software. It offers many advanced features that you can try for free, including Salesforce integration and flexible auto-responders.

     Read Review

  • Pardot

    Pardot Review

    MSRP: $1000.00

    Bottom Line: Pardot is one of the best marketing automation tools on the market. It packs a breadth of wonderful features into a system even a novice marketer can use. If you can afford its high price, t…

     Read Review

  • Act-On

    Act-On Review

    MSRP: $900.00

    Bottom Line: Act-On does it all. It’s an expensive marketing automation platform but, if you value marketing insights to drive better CRM, social media, and search marketing tactics, then you’ll want to …

     Read Review

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Google Home and Home Mini are cheaper in the UK ahead of Black Friday


Google Home and Home Mini are cheaper in the UK ahead of Black Friday

The Google Home and Google Home Mini smart speakers are now cheaper in the UK. The bigger Google Home device, which launched last year in the US, can be purchased for just £79. That’s a drop of £50 compared to its usual recommended retail price of £129.

Google Home

The smaller Google Home Mini, which got official last month, is now priced at £34. In this case you’re saving £15 over its normal price. The cuts are already in effect at the Google Store, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Argos, and Maplin.

Google Home Mini

The two smart speakers will keep the lower prices until November 29, in a prolonged celebration of Black Friday. So if you’ve always wanted some more Google Assistant in your life but never took the plunge and purchased a Home or Home Mini, maybe now’s the perfect time to do just that.

Published at Wed, 15 Nov 2017 23:00:02 +0000

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Best Free JavaScript Modal Window Plugins


Best Free JavaScript Modal Window Plugins

You can find plenty of pure CSS modals but these don’t offer the same control as JavaScript. With a JavaScript modal, you can add custom animations, UI inputs, and really enhance the user experience.

But, why design something from scratch when you can use a JS library? I have collected the best free JavaScript-powered modal scripts here for you to peruse and single out your favorites.

All of these are completely free and open-source, so you can edit the code and restyle them to fit your site as needed.

1. Tingle

Tingle.js plugin

One of my favorite free modal scripts is Tingle.js. It’s built on vanilla JavaScript with no dependencies, so you don’t need any jQuery or Zepto libraries.

Plus, it’s a fairly small library, although it does have a lot of options for customization. You can change the CSS transitions, the JavaScript modal animations, and the whole user experience with just a few settings.

Tingle.js is designed to be fully accessible and responsive, so it works on mobile devices and supports older browsers, too.

You can see all the documentation on GitHub, along with the free source code. They also have a demo link, so you can check out Tingle in action to see if it could fit on your website.

2. Vanilla Modal

Vanilla Modal JavaScript plugin

Here’s a modal I just found recently and it’s a whole lot simpler than most. Vanilla Modal stands true to its name with a pure vanilla script powering the modal, along with CSS transitions.

This thing is pretty small and super flexible, with custom CSS to restyle the windows. It also has quite a few options you can alter with JavaScript, making it perfect for running DOM functions or even callback functions.

Take a peek at the demo page to see the default style. It’s a really basic design, so it’ll require customizations to use it on a production site. But this also cuts down on the total code requirements, so it’s one of the slimmest JavaScript modal libraries.

3. SweetAlert2

Sweetalert2 modal

I loathe default JavaScript alerts because they’re just annoying and obtrusive. In this era of web design, we simply don’t need default browser alerts, especially with scripts like SweetAlert2.

This free JavaScript library comes with zero dependencies and works just like a modal window. However, it supports OK/Cancel inputs from the user, so you can design these and use them like alert boxes, too.

You won’t need any other scripts, so SweetAlert2 runs pretty light. Take a look at the demos to see how the modals look like in a real web page. SweetAlert2 is a perfect solution for stylish modal alert boxes.

4. plainModal

plainModal JavaScript plugin

If you want a really simple script I highly recommend plainModal. It is built on jQuery, but it’s one of the smallest modal scripts available.

It does not use any external CSS or image files. Just one single JS script is all you need.

Once the plainModal script is added to your page, you just target the modal button and you’re good to go. This grants you control over the display and how much you want to alter the modal interface.

Plus, you can set up the modal with one line of JavaScript keeping with the minimalist theme of this plugin.

5. Modaal

Modaal plugin

There’s no denying accessibility is huge on the web. Every designer’s goal should be a more inclusive experience for people around the world on various devices & with possible limitations.

With Modaal, you get that perfect experience which passes the WCAG 2.0 test with a solid AA accessibility rating. You can see a fantastic example on the main page, along with some code documentation.

Overall, I recommend this vanilla JavaScript plugin for anyone who really cares about accessibility. The AA rating can be required on some web projects, so Modaal is a really handy script to keep bookmarked.

6. Scotch JS Modal

Custom JavaScript tutorial

The development team at publish tutorials and guides for coders. Their work is incredible and it really shows in this JavaScript modal script, hosted on the Scotch GitHub.

The modal was developed by Ken Wheeler and this script even has a full tutorial if you want to learn how it works. However, the free code should be enough for most developers since this is super lightweight and easy to set up. No dependencies, and even a sample demo on CodePen.

7. Bootbox.js

Bootbox.js plugin

The fastest way to launch a new web project is through Bootstrap. It’s a powerful frontend framework that encourages developers to create their own add-ons to the library.

One such example is Bootbox.js, a small JavaScript library, designed solely for modal windows in Bootstrap. It actually works on dialog boxes where the user can click OK or cancel, based on your request.

Typical JavaScript dialogs are awful, just like alert boxes. The Bootbox script offers a solid alternative for anyone working in the BS3/BS4 ecosystem.

Again, it’s totally free and open-source, along with a lengthy documentation page to get you up & running fast.

8. iziModal.js

iziModal.js plugin

If you need a solution a little more customized check out iziModal.js. This tool is fully responsive and designed to work in all modern browsers perfectly.

I’ve yet to find another modal script that offers such an aesthetically pleasing design. It comes out the gate with a gorgeous UI that can blend into practically any website. However, you can also restyle the design to suit your needs.

Just note this plugin does run on jQuery, so it’s one of the few here that has a dependency. But, if you want the iziModal styles it’s a small price to pay for such sleek popover windows.

9. jQuery Modal

jQuery modal

The jQuery Modal plugin is perhaps the simplest modal script on jQuery you’ll ever find.

It can be programmed to automatically bind with certain HTML elements based on various attributes. It also supports keyboard shortcuts such as ESC for closing the window.

In total, this plugin measures less than 1KB and it works in every possible browser you can imagine. jQuery developers should keep this plugin saved for quick access to a simple modal script without the extra frills.

10. PicoModal

PicoModal plugin

Getting back towards vanilla JavaScript, we have the PicoModal library. This is probably one of the smallest scripts you’ll find and it’s designed to run perfectly on a vanilla JavaScript backbone.

It supports all modern browsers, including mobile browsers for Android and Mobile Safari for iOS. It even supports older IE browsers, dating back to IE7!

PicoModal’s developer created a small JSfiddle script to demonstrate how it works. This is a very small example and it’s not tied to a click event or anything else, but it’s not hard to script in a few toggle buttons to run this modal window properly.

11. Avgrund

Avgrund plugin

Avgrund is probably one of the most unique modals in this list. It uses a custom page fading effect, along with a shrinking animation to bring the modal right into view.

Not everyone will appreciate this animation, so I can’t say this script would fit every website. But, it is a pure vanilla modal and it’s super easy to set up, with just a CSS and a JavaScript file.

Take a look at the demo page to see how it runs. It’s certainly got a unique style and is bound to grab attention with the custom animations that just work.

Final words

No matter what you’re looking for, I’ll bet there’s something in this list to suit your needs. But, if you’re still not satisfied browse through GitHub for related modal scripts and see what else you can find.

Published at Mon, 06 Nov 2017 13:01:40 +0000

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Twitter says it will remove verification badges from accounts that violate its rules


Twitter says it will remove verification badges from accounts that violate its rules

Twitter will begin removing verification badges from users who violate its rules, the company said today. The announcement, which was made on the official @TwitterSupport account, appears to make concrete a policy that began in January when the company removed the badge from the account of the noxious right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. (It banned him from the service a week later.)

“Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement,” the company said in a tweet. “We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception. We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritize the work as we should have.”

Twitter said the problem worsened after is decision, in July 2016, to let anyone request a verified account. “This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse,” Twitter said.

The company is now working on “a new authentication and verification program,” the company said, without providing new details. In the meantime, it is not verifying any accounts, which the company announced last week.

In the meantime, though, Twitter said it had begun a “review” of verified accounts in an effort to identify accounts that violate its rules.

The scope of the review is unclear. It comes just over a week after the company verified the account of Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who organized the United the Right rally in Charlottesville this August. The move drew widespread criticism.

Still, promising to remove verification badges from accounts that violate Twitter’s rules will likely create a thicket of tricky editorial decisions for a company that has historically prided itself on free speech. It remains to be seen how Twitter navigates the verification battles to come — and whether de-verifying accounts has any effect on reducing harassment and abuse on the platform.

Published at Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:47:28 +0000

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