So, you’ve heard this phrase marketing automation being bandied about and you’re wondering if it’s something that could help your business. Maybe you’ve been tasked with finding out more marketing automation.
One of the big questions that will be at the top of your list is: how much does marketing automation cost? Is it affordable for me and my business? If I recommend it to ‘them upstairs’, is there a chance that we’ll get stung with unexpected costs and I’ll get it in the ear…or worse?
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of the factors that influence the costs you’ll be paying, the costs of some of the most popular systems you should consider using and the next steps you can take.
Where do you start?
It may come as no surprise to learn that costs for marketing automation vary greatly and depend on a whole load of things. I’m pleased to let you know, though, that marketing automation can be a lot more affordable than you may think.
There can be a great temptation to use lots of bells and whistles when you start out on the road to automating your marketing. Try not to be dazzled by all the shiny objects that you’ll find; costs can quickly spiral plus you can find that there’s actually too much to handle.
Instead, concentrate on what will bring value to your customer’s experience, and if that can be reflected in your bottom line. If you’re at all unsure about what you should use to get the best out of your marketing automation, speak to an expert first. Investing in their time now could save you a lot of time, money and heartache later.
Something that you will definitely need from the outset is a system that will run your marketing automation: these can go by the name of Customer Relationship Management systems, Smart Customer Management systems, and the like.
There’s no shortage of these systems that claim to help you save time, restore order to the chaos of juggling the likes of Outlook, spreadsheets and Post-It notes for keeping track of your contacts, leads, and sales.
Names you may have seen already could include Keap, Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Hubspot, Salesforce, Active Campaign and MailChimp. All these marketing automation systems vary hugely in price, but their pricing can be broken down into these basic parts:
- Contacts: How many contacts (leads, customers, etc.) do you need to be able to store on it?
- Features: Does the system have the capability and features to do what you need?
- Users: How many people in your business will need to use it?
- Support: How much help do you need setting up, running and maintaining your marketing automation?
Whichever system you go for, you will be charged a monthly fee based on combinations of these, and will usually let you upgrade or downgrade your account as needed.
Paying an upfront annual fee will sometimes get you a discount – this will be highlighted on their pricing page if it’s offered.
To save you from having to wade through too much info, I’m going to concentrate on a cross-section of platforms that cover all price ranges:
Number of Contacts
A contact is anyone for whom you need to store information about. This can be your existing customers, prospects, and leads. As well as basic information like name, email address, and postal address, a marketing automation system will let you store a lot more than that. For example, you may want to store a contact’s birthday, their purchase history, and how they came to be on your system in the first place (lead source).
How customer management systems charge for contacts varies, but you’ll usually find that they have set packages, each with a limit on the number of contacts you can store until you have to move up to the next package.
MailChimp will even have a free plan where you can store up to 2,000 contacts and send up to 10,000 emails per month. This can be great for getting started – so long as you don’t mind having a MailChimp badge at the bottom of every email you send.
Something to keep in mind when thinking about the number of contacts you need, even if someone on your system has unsubscribed for your emails or not even opted-in by confirming their email address, they will start count towards your total number contacts. This is especially relevant to MailChimp’s 2000-contact limit on their free plan: if you have 1,700 ‘valid’ contacts plus 400 who have opted out, your total number of contacts will actually be 2,100, taking you over their limit for the free plan.
The MailChimp website will show you estimated pricing in GBP, but they’re based on the US Dollar pricing below being converted to Sterling. So, your actual monthly fee will vary depending on the exchange rate.
Max. Number of Contacts
The pricier plans come with more features (no surprises there), but the Free plan can be a great introduction to MailChimp and will allow you to have a play around with it without spending a penny.
They also offer a Pay-As-You-Go plan where instead of paying a recurring fee, you can buy credits for sending emails. This is only cost-effective if you send only a few emails and very infrequently. It comes with the same features as their Essentials plan and pricing starts at $150 USD for 5,000 credits.
It’s important to understand what a credit is: 1 credit = 1 email sent. That does not mean one email newsletter that you send to 1,000 contacts will be just 1 credit. It goes on the number of contacts to whom the email is sent. So, if you send one email newsletter to 1,000 contacts, that is 1,000 credits.
If you’re running a non-profit or charity, you can apply for a 15% discount on any of their plans.
There are currently two plans available from Keap (formerly Infusionsoft – they renamed the company in 2019). The two plans – Grow and Pro – each come with 500 contacts as standard.
Keap has a partner programme and if you purchase through a Keap Partner you can usually get access to discounts that are unavailable when buying direct. There is also a one-time setup fee applicable when buying directly with Keap; purchase through a Keap Partner and they can deliver this for you and include it in their fees.
Even though Keap is a US company, they do offer fixed GBP pricing, so you can keep a better handle on your costs from month to month. The base monthly costs are:
- Keap Grow: £59
- Keap Pro: £79
You can add extra capacity for extra contacts when you need to:
Number of additional contacts
Additional Monthly Fee
Infusionsoft by Keap Pricing
While Keap Grow and Pro are aimed squarely at solopreneurs, micro and small businesses, Infusionsoft by Keap is more enterprise level. The starter version comes with 500 contacts, and again, when the time comes that you need to add extra contacts, this can be done for an additional monthly fee:
|Number of additional contacts||Additional Monthly Fee|
If you’re looking for probably the biggest and – some would argue – the best CRM system, Hubspot is very eye-catching.
Hubspot has a free plan that is designed to lure you in with the ‘no-brainer’ price point. The intention is, obviously, that you will sooner or later want to move up to their paid plans. Be aware that once you start getting into the meaty stuff, you’ll need to pay some eye-watering prices.
They have divided their offerings into what they refer to as hubs:
- Marketing Hub;
- Sales Hub;
- Service Hub.
There is also the Hubspot CMS that can be used to, as they say, “build powerful, optimised websites that convert”.
Each hub has Starter, Professional and Enterprise plans. Only the Starter plans can be paid monthly; Hubspot quote their prices for Professional and Enterprise as ‘per month’, but they are actually charged annually. The annual plans also require you to pay a one-time onboarding fee which is £2,450 for Professional and £4,900 for Enterprise.
Monthly fee from
Adding more contacts will increase your monthly fee as below:
Total number of contacts
Extra Monthly Fee
Like Keap, Hubspot has a partner network that can help you get set up and provide you with ongoing support as needed.
(Well done if you’re keeping up with all of this!)
HubSpot have been smart enough to put a price calculator on their website which makes figuring out your costs relatively easy.
Marketing Automation Features
What you can actually do with your marketing automation will come down to the features included in the system you choose and the package you go for.
Typical examples of features include:
- Lead generation
- Invoicing and payments
- Sales pipeline
- Landing Pages
- Email broadcasts
No prizes for guessing that entry-level packages will have fewer features than those with a higher monthly fee. You may find that you only need a basic set of features to get you going. Be sure to think ahead, though. It’s likely that, as you progress and learn more about the amazing things that can be achieved, you’ll want to be able to take advantage of more sophisticated features. Starting out with a system that can grow and scale along with you and your business will make a whole lot easier for you in the long run!
Number of Users
You’ll find that most CRM platforms charge for the number of users you need to have access to the system: the more users you need, the more you will usually need to pay. You’ll get at least one user account included with your base monthly fee. How much you’ll pay for additional users will vary depending on the platform, the plan that you’re on and the actual number of users you need:
MailChimp User Pricing
MailChimp prefers the term ‘seats’ to ‘users’. An important factor to keep in mind about MailChimp’s pricing is that you cannot add extra seats. This means that, for example, if you’re on their Standard plan but must have more than 5 seats, you’ll need to upgrade to their Premium plan. It starts at $299 per month, which is a huge leap in price.
Base monthly fee from (USD)
Number of seats
1 seat, with Owner permissions
3 seats, with Owner and Admin permissions
5 seats, with Owner, Admin, Author, or Viewer permissions
Unlimited seats, with Owner, Admin, Author, Manager, or Viewer permissions
Keap User Pricing
Base monthly fee
Users included in base fee
Monthly fee per extra user
Handy hint: if you need 6 or more additional users, buy Keap’s 10-user bundle as it is just £109 per month – cheaper than buying 6 extra individual users.
Infusionsoft User Pricing
Infusionsoft keep it simple: it has one starting plan which comes with one user.
Additional users can be added for £22 per month each. Like Keap, they offer a 10-user bundle which, at £110 per month, kicks in as being better value when you need 5 or more users.
Hubspot User Pricing
Base monthly fee
Users included in base fee
Monthly fee per extra user
Don’t worry about having to purchase extra user subscriptions if you’re getting help from a partner like a Keap/Infusionsoft Certified Partner; you’ll likely be able to give them access to your account for free).
How Much Help You Need
Another big factor to consider before taking the plunge into automating your marketing is how much help you’ll need getting set up initially. You should also include a budget for ongoing help – yes, you may be able to do a lot yourself, but the time will come when you need to get some extra help.
When I’m helping clients with their marketing automation, my aim is for them to be able to do as much as they want to by themselves. Some like to be very hands-on, while others prefer to have it all done for them, freeing them up to concentrate on growing their business.
There are three main avenues you can take when it comes to actually implementing your marketing automation:
- Done for you;
- Done with you;
- Do it yourself.
Done For You
This is the ideal solution if you know that marketing automation can really help you to grow and scale your business but you do not have the time, inclination or both to implement it yourself. As I’ve mentioned before, many systems have their own network of certified partners who can help you with this. They will have gone through rigorous training to gain their certification and are best placed to advise you, design and build processes, provide training and ongoing support.
The benefits of using a partner does not stop there, though. They will be keeping up to date on the latest developments with their software, and so will be able to suggest how they can be used to give your business an edge over the competition.
The partner networks can actually be thought of more as communities where knowledge and experience are freely shared. So, you will not only have access to the skills of the partner with whom you work but also the wider community.
A done-for-you service is the priciest option but should be looked on as an investment rather than an expense. Being able to provide a definitive cost here is always going to be tricky, but the factors that will have a bearing on what you can expect to pay include:
- Deep dive into your who is your ideal customer;
- Mapping out the ideal customer journey;
- Building campaigns to nurture prospects to leads, through being a customer to becoming a raving fan of your business;
- Creating any marketing materials needed as part of these campaigns, e.g. videos, whitepapers, etc.;
You can expect to pay anything from £5K to £50K+ for this kind of service. If you want the ongoing support as well, you’ll be looking at prices from around £400 per month.
Done With You
If you’re more confident about you or your team setting up and running your new CRM and marketing automation systems, but feel that you would benefit from some hand-holding from a trusted partner, a done-for-you package would be a good fit.
You’ll get help and support only where you need it, freeing you up to work on those areas you are confident of being able to fulfil yourself. This can be the ideal option while you get up to speed on how everything works.
Over time you may find that you can actually implement everything yourself and no longer need any help. Alternatively, you may decide that you want to have all the geeky stuff done for you, letting you and your team get on with actually making sales.
Whichever option you go for, communication is very important. However, when using the done-with-you model, good communication is vital. A lot of time, heartache and frustration can be saved by ensuring your team and your partner communicate. There’s no point in your team diving in to set up new campaigns only to find that, having made incorrect assumptions about how the CRM has been set up, the work needs to be unpicked and started again.
Believe me – I’ve been there.
Expect to pay from £1K to £35K+ for done-with-you services. Ongoing maintenance could start at around £250 per month.
Do It Yourself
As the name suggests, in this scenario you’re left to your own devices to set up, run and maintain the CRM and your marketing automation yourself. This option is only really suitable if you have a dedicated and experienced team ready to take this on.
Also, you will not benefit from having a partner on hand to act as a sounding board, who is keeping up to date with new developments and has access to the wider partner community.
As you’re doing everything yourself, the only cost – other than the software fees – would be your time.
So, there you have it. I hope that I’ve given you an idea of where to start when considering your marketing automation options.
While MailChimp has, for a long time, been perceived as cheap-n-cheerful, good value, etc., it is actually now one of the more expensive systems when you take into account the features you get, the number of contacts you can store, and the absence of being able to add extra users.
HubSpot is simply amazing, but it is only going to suit you if your pockets are deep enough and have a real need for all the toys it offers.
Keap is aimed squarely at owners of small businesses who want simplicity and ease-of-use coupled with power and flexibility. New features are added regularly and, with its new pricing, is a serious alternative for existing MailChimp users.
Infusionsoft is for more enterprise-level businesses. Being able to migrate from Keap to Infusionsoft as your business grows and scales makes it even more tempting.
Keap did lose their way a bit in 2018 and there was quite a lot of unrest in the partner community regarding how products were being developed and how clients and partners were being treated. However, Keap acknowledged this and have completely turned this around. They are now more focussed than ever on giving their customers the best experience possible and helping their partner community be ideally placed to help them.
Don’t just stop at the three platforms I’ve highlighted here; the likes of ActiveCampaign and Ontraport are feature-packed and have very active partner communities, too.
Whichever platform you go with, I can guarantee that you will find at least one thing about it that annoys you, even slightly. None of them is ‘perfect’ – it’s a case of finding one that is the best fit for you not only now, but as your business grows.
Now it’s time to take a look at the runners and riders and draw up a shortlist of systems you are confident fit your needs. Sign up for trial accounts and take each one for a spin.
Find out if there are partner communities and speak to a few of them. Any partner worth their salt will not actually try to sell you their platform; they’ll want to ensure that you get the best system for your particular needs.
I’ve spoken to prospective clients who have been surprised when I tell that that, actually, the platforms I deal with would not be a good fit for them and point them in a different direction.
Take comfort in the fact that you will find something that works for you.