B2B Marketing Guide

The 10 Best Marketing Automation Tools for VSEs and SMEs

Published , Updated 13 mn
Profile picture for Quentin Sureau

Quentin Sureau


Quentin Sureau heads Cartelis, a CRM and Data consulting firm. With almost 10 years of experience, he's helped many clients, from scale-ups to big companies. As a co-founder of Salesdorado, he shares top B2B sales and marketing practices.

No marketing without tools. And when you reach a certain level of maturity and/or ambition, a family of tools comes into its own: marketing automation software. In the marketing automation tools market, 3 segments are emerging:

  • Classic, complex, comprehensive tools: Here we find tools such as Pardot or Marketo, which are the veterans and target a very mature market – large companies with real marketing pressure management challenges, advanced segmentation requirements, etc.
  • Lighter or mid-market tools, which meet more targeted challenges: inbound marketing for HubSpot, e-commerce for Klaviyo, SaaS for Customer io…
  • Ultra-lightweight tools: Here we find tools like Brevo (ex-Sendinblue), Activecampaign or ActiveTrail, which focus on managing and automating customer conversations. For SMBs, marketing automation generates a relatively low volume of conversations, especially in B2B. This puts these companies in a delicate position, halfway between the need forautomation and the need for conversation – and these software applications have understood this quite well.

We’ve selected the best marketing automation platforms on the market – from the simplest to the most complex – to help you make sense of it all!

What is marketing automation software and what can you expect from it?

Before reviewing the best marketing automation software, we need to define what we mean. Marketing automation software is an all-in-one platform for centralizing, analyzing and activating customer data to orchestrate personalized marketing campaigns and automated communication scenarios.

Compared to “simple” emailing software, for example, a marketing automation tool allows you to :

  • Centralize your customer data. An indispensable starting point, marketing automation software aggregates customer data from a multitude of sources (CRM, website, apps, social networks…) thanks to numerous connectors and APIs. The aim: a 360° view of each contact to better segment and personalize actions.
  • Advanced customer segmentation. Thanks to advanced segmentation functionalities and the wealth of data collected, it is now possible to create ultra-targeted segments and cohorts based on numerous criteria (behavior, purchase history, affinities, etc.).
  • Orchestrate scripted cross-channel campaigns. Beyond simple one-off campaigns, marketing automation software can be used to create complex, personalized and automated communication scenarios (welcome, lead nurturing, reactivation, etc.). All by activating multiple channels: email, SMS, in-app messaging, push notifications…
  • Monitor the performance of marketing actions. Marketing automation software offers more advanced reporting modules than basic marketing software.

In short, marketing automation software is a Swiss army knife for efficiently orchestrating data, segments, campaigns and marketing channels. Any company wishing to reach a new level of marketing maturity should consider acquiring marketing automation software.

The Salesdorado look

The term “marketing automation” is actually quite reductive. The essence of these solutions lies more in their ability to centralize customer data and orchestrate personalized interactions across the entire customer journey. Some publishers prefer to speak of “marketing platform”, “customer engagement platform” or even “CDP” (although the latter is a broader term). The promise is not just to automate repetitive tasks, but to deploy relevant omnichannel communication based on a detailed understanding of each customer profile.

My advice

Not all marketing automation software is created equal. There are different levels of maturity and complexity. Lightweight tools focus on simplicity and multi-channel, mid-market solutions offer more advanced segmentation features, while enterprise platforms offer advanced integration and orchestration capabilities. Before comparing market players, take the time to analyze your needs and level of maturity to find the most appropriate solution. Keep this segmentation in mind when benchmarking marketing automation software!

#1 Brevo (ex-Sendinblue)

The Made in France benchmark for lightweight marketing automation software

marketing automation software example

French nugget Sendinblue started out as a classic emailing software, but soon integrated basic marketing automation functionalities. Now known as Brevo, the solution is very complete and has successfully integrated its various products: emailing, marketing automation, CRM, chat, CDP, etc.


As far as integrations are concerned, it’s quite strong and quite complete. The tool integrates fairly well with most CMS, and released fairly advanced integrations with many CRM software packages a few years ago. Salesforce Dot Com (SFDC) integration is only available for Enterprise plans, which remain affordable.


The segmentation tools are technically quite complete, but the user experience is really messed up. It’s great for designing simple segments (with 3 or 4 conditions) but if you make it a bit more complex, you will get lost very quickly. And if you want to update a contact, count on 4 clicks and 3 redirection pages – it’s almost faster to import a CSV file.

Our opinion

If you design your segments on another tool and feed Brevo with these segments, it’s an unbeatable tool. Otherwise, it will be very powerful for setting up fundamental sequences, but a little limited for going further.

Campaigns & Channels

It’s in campaign capabilities that Brevo shines. For an extremely low price, the tool allows you to use an impressive number of channels: email, SMS, live chat, inbox management, Facebook Ads… All this is well set to music on the automation platform, the events associated with each channel are well brought up in the tool, and exploitable to make conditions. This is very impressive, especially at this price.


All plans include an unlimited number of contacts. A special Brevo feature is that rates are based on email volumes sent, not contact volumes. For 20,000 emails per month, the Business Plan costs $55 per month. Count $159 per month to send 150,000 emails / month.

Try Brevo

Take advantage of Brevo’s free plan to discover the tool!

#2 ActiveCampaign

A little more complex, very strong on automation, and a little more expensive.

ActiveCampaign, like Brevo, started out as a simple emailing and newsletter tool, but quickly evolved into a complete marketing automation platform. Today, ActiveCampaign offers advanced segmentation and personalization features. The solution is aimed primarily at SMEs.


When it comes to integrations, ActiveCampaign goes one step further than Brevo, with a rich catalog of integrations that lets you integrate with most of the CMSs and CRMs on the market. Event tracking features are very effective.


In terms of segmentation, we are also moving up a notch. Lead scoring features allow you to continuously improve your campaign allocation and refine your segments effortlessly. We also like the features related to e-commerce (abandoned cart automation), available from the Plus plan.

Campaigns & Channels

In terms of output channels, ActiveCampaign has a similar offering to Brevo, with email, SMS, Facebook Ads, live chat, popups…Above all, the predictive features for campaign content and recipients are very powerful and a factor in the continuous improvement of your marketing strategy.


Pricing starts at $79 per month for 1,000 contacts for the Pro plan, which offers all the advanced features (including predictive capabilities). We go up to $549 per month for 20,000 contacts. You can take advantage of a free 14-day trial without a credit card.

Try ActiveCampaign

Take advantage of ActiveCampaign’s free trial to discover the tool!

#3 ActiveTrail

Advanced marketing automation with French-speaking customer support by phone

ActiveTrail is one of the oldest email marketing programs on the market, created in 2004. But the software has evolved to offer an advanced marketing automation solution. ActiveTrail makes it easy to create complex automated customer journeys, conduct surveys, or create ad-hoc landing pages for your campaigns.


In terms of channels, you can count on their experience in mail routing for impeccable deliverability, but you can also envisage multi-channel sequences with SMS, Whatsapp, social network integrations, and push notifications on cell phones.


But the big plus at ActiveTrail, in my opinion, is the personalized support they offer their customers, with a support service available Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm by phone on 01 70 70 00 51 – and by chat or email.


In terms of pricing, ActiveTrail is positioned across the spectrum, with a very affordable “Basic” plan ($13 per month up to 1,000 contacts, $55 per month up to 10,000 contacts) that’s remarkably comprehensive for the price, and a much more “turnkey” Premium plan with a dedicated account manager to help you get even more ROI from the solution.

Discover ActiveTrail

Take advantage of a free 30-day trial, with no credit card required, to try out ActiveTrail and get an idea of the tool’s capabilities.

#4 HubSpot Marketing

The inbound marketing giant

HubSpot Marketing goes pretty far when it comes to tracking, offers attribution tools, and even SEO tools, making it an indispensable inbound marketing tool. One of the great strengths of the HubSpot suite is that it obviously integrates very well with the CRM of the same name. Hubspot even offers a very complete CMS to build your website and take advantage of native tracking of all possible events from your site.


In terms of segmentation, it’s quite powerful. We can find our way around, the objects are well distinguished as with Intercom (companies, leads, contacts, products, content, …) and it allows us to consider quite complex segments relatively easily. The lead scoring features allow you to continuously refine your segments.

Campaigns & Channels

In terms of campaigns, Hubspot is one of the most complete tools, with all channels (email, SMS, live chat, Facebook Ads and Messenger, popups). Reporting is also very advanced, with customized campaign reports and website traffic analysis.


For pricing, the Pro plan will allow you to access most of the features mentioned. Beware, HubSpot’s price positioning is rather high… Expect to pay $792 per month for 2,000 contacts, and $224.72 per month more for each additional 5,000 contacts. Hubspot Marketing offers a free plan, limited to 2000 emails per month and with Hubspot branding. Last but not least, the publisher is offering a lighter version of its marketing solution for up to 1,000 contacts, at $15 per month per license.

Discover Hubspot Marketing
Take advantage of Hubspot Marketing’s free plan to discover the tool!

#5 Plezi

Mid-market marketing automation tool with lots of support and made in France

Plezi is a French marketing automation solution that, like HubSpot, has carved out a place for itself on the market thanks to its inbound marketing approach. With Plezi, you can easily create landing pages, forms, surveys and email campaigns to attract and convert your prospects. Plezi’s strength lies in its personalized support and its desire to democratize marketing automation for SMEs.


In terms of integrations, Plezi offers a large number of CRMs: Salesforce, Base, Zoho, Eventbrite, SAP, SumoMe, PipeDrive, GoToWebinar… Ideal for linking your sales and marketing teams. The event tracking is very good with a lot of content that can be imported very easily: ebooks, videos, white papers, blog articles…

Contact, campaign & channel management

The contact and lead manager is very good, with simple yet comprehensive contact sheets. With the lead scoring developed by Plezi, you can determine which leads should be sent to your CRM to be processed by your sales teams(lead generation).

On the campaign management side, the email newsletter editor is very good, close to those of Brevo or Mailchimp. Automated workflows based on pre-defined triggers enable continuous improvement of the marketing content sent to your contacts. We find all the other expected channels: landing pages and forms, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…).


Prices start at 169 dollars/month for the Plus plan, which includes unlimited emailing and 1,000 contacts. For access to lead nurturing and marketing automation, charge $599/month with the Star plan (4,000 contacts included). A free demo is available via email registration.

Discover Plezi
Take advantage of the free Plezi demo to discover the tool!

#6 Klaviyo

Marketing automation software for e-tailers

Created in 2012, Klaviyo has rapidly gained popularity thanks to its advanced integrations with the main e-commerce platforms (Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce…) and its features designed to optimize online sales: cart abandonment, product recommendations, RFM segmentation…


Klaviyo has a rich catalog of integrations. The developed API allows to connect almost all available CRMs. The offer is very focused on e-commerce, with Shopify, WIX, Prestashop, Magento Commerce, WooCommerce…


In terms of segmentation, Klaviyo is very strong. It separates your contacts between the most committed and the others to save you precious time. Most importantly, the tool uses your customers’ purchase data and product table to design segments based on a contact’s interests and likelihood to buy.

Campaigns & Channels

For campaigns, it’s very classic, very mobile-first, and very B2C – hence its primary target, e-commerce players. Email is clearly the core channel of the software, but you can also do SMS, and push notifications.


Rates for 1000 contacts are $30/month for the email channel and $45 for the email + SMS channels. Rates rise to $375 and $390 for 20,000 contacts. Klaviyo offers a free plan with 500 emails per month and 150 SMS.

Discover Klaviyo
Take advantage of Klaviyo’s free plan to discover the tool!

#7 Webmecanik

Open-source marketing automation tool with lots of services

Webmecanik offers a SaaS marketing automation tool based on the open source platform Mautic. The strength of Webmecanik is in its personalized and 100% French support, for those who are not only looking for a tool.


Regarding integration, this is one of the strengths of open source: integrations are numerous, robust, and generally well maintained. Webmecanik also brings a big contribution on the subject to integrate most of the French CRM.


The French platform allows you to easily divide your contacts into segments that make sense for your industry. This segmentation is automated on the basis of numerous predefined criteria within the tool. You can, of course, customize these criteria to make them more relevant.


Another important advantage of this tool is the large number of channels at your disposal to get closer to your prospects: email, SMS, push notifications, social networks, landing pages, web notifications…


The Enterprise plan offers access to all features and unlimited emailing for $400/month for 10,000 contacts. We go up to $600/month for 20,000 contacts to manage. You can get an idea of the tool’s capabilities with their Youtube demo.

Discover Webmecanik
Discover Webmecanik with their free demo!

#8 Customer.io

Marketing automation software for B2B SaaS

Customer.io is a marketing automation platform aimed primarily at SaaS companies and web applications. Launched in 2012, Customer.io sets itself apart from the competition with its advanced tracking and event-triggering capabilities right within your software.


When it comes to data sources, Customer.io does it right. The catalog of integrations is very developed and the Zapier integration multiplies the possibilities. We particularly appreciate the functionalities of synchronization with the audiences of platforms such as Google or Facebook, synchronization with a data warehouse, automated deduplication.


For segmentation, Customer.io is very developed, and allows you to filter according to your needs and without limit. One of the strong points is that we can send raw events to Customer.io (example: X did such and such an action in the product), and build intelligent segments on this basis in the tool. This is ideal for SaaS and mobile applications.

Campaigns & Channels

In terms of campaigns, Customer.io allows you to deliver via the great classics (email, SMS, push notifications) and in-app messages on your site (popup, chatbot, etc). The best part is that it also offers iOS & Android SDKs that allow you to push in-app messages to mobile.


Pricing starts at $100 per month for 5,000 contacts for the Essentials plan, which gives access to segmentation features, all their channels and email support. Rates for the Premium plan are multiplied by 10 ($1,000 per month). A free trial is offered by the solution.

Discover Customer.io
Take advantage of Customer.io’s free trial!

#9 Pardot

The marketing platform for Salesforce B2B users


On the data source side, the SFDC integration is ideal if you use Salesforce as your CRM. The leads and actions you take through Pardot are automatically synchronized, which allows you to easily assign the leads to the right salesperson. The Google Adwords integration allows you to integrate all the interactions of your prospects with your campaigns in the global Pardot tracking. The social network connectors (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) are also present.


When it comes to segmentation, the real strength of Pardot (also known as “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement”) is the powerful Einstein Behavior Scoring developed by Salesforce. It identifies prospects who are close to making a purchase and assigns them a score to guide and refine your marketing campaigns. But Pardot really shines when used as account-based-marketing software.


On the campaign side, journey builder and personalization tools allow you to target the best content and the best channels to deliver your marketing campaigns. The predefinition of customer paths and the sending of alerts according to predetermined critical thresholds allow for continuous improvement.


On the price side, the Plus plan is limited to 10,000 contacts and gives access to a number of advanced features for $1,250 per month. Access to Einstein Behavior Scoring costs $4,400 per month for 10,000 contacts.

Try Pardot

Discover Pardot and its features

#10 Marketo

Highly advanced in segment management and campaign creation

The solution is developed by Adobe, and it is the most advanced of our top. Marketo packs cutting-edge functionality into a platform that offers almost everything companies expect from marketing software.

In terms of integrations, the absence of a native CRM is frustrating, but Marketo remains one of the best options for businesses, and offers a large number of CRM integrations (Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics).

The segmentation is very advanced thanks to the AI developed by Adobe Marketo.

Most channels are available (email, SMS, mobile applications, social networks, pop-up, push notifications…)

When it comes to pricing, Marketo doesn’t start small – it’s aimed at structures with lots of contacts. Count on about $75 000 /year for 100k to 200k contacts, and more than $100k per year for 1 million contacts – only for licenses.

Discover Marketo
Discover Marketo and its features

4 tips from old sage for choosing the right marketing automation software

Choosing your marketing automation software is a bit like going in search of the Holy Grail: a quest fraught with pitfalls and false leads. Here are 4 valuable recommendations to guide you on your journey and avoid the most common pitfalls.

  • Start with your need, not the tool. Before even looking at the solutions on the market, take stock of your objectives, your priority use cases and your constraints. You’ll avoid being seduced by features you don’t really need.
  • Evaluate the level of support and training offered. Marketing automation software is a powerful but complex tool. To make the most of it, you’ll need the right technical and strategic support. Check out the help and training resources offered by the publisher.
  • Anticipate integration needs. Your marketing automation software must integrate with your existing technological ecosystem (CRM, CMS, analytics tools…). List all your tools and check the connection options offered by the platforms you’re evaluating. Think about future needs too, to ensure that the solution is sufficiently scalable.
  • Plan a budget beyond the tool itself. Buying a license is just the tip of the iceberg. To bring your project to fruition, you’ll probably need to plan for additional resources: manpower to set up the tool and create the first scenarios, possibly external help (consultant, integrator), sometimes upgrades to peripheral tools… In short, calculate the overall cost of the project, not just the cost of the tool.

About the author

Profile picture for Quentin Sureau

Quentin Sureau

Directeur @ Cartelis

Quentin Sureau heads Cartelis, a CRM and Data consulting firm. With almost 10 years of experience, he's helped many clients, from scale-ups to big companies. As a co-founder of Salesdorado, he shares top B2B sales and marketing practices.