According to Autopilot’s 2015 “Marketing Automation Performance Report”, 46 percent of companies cited “Low Cost” as the number one reason that would entice them to adopt marketing automation technology.

Are you a small business owner that’s considered some kind of marketing automation system to help streamline the marketing, lead generation and sales processes? If so, there’s usually a catch: your budget. You simply don’t have the money for one of the costly, big-name marketing automation products.

But what’s the alternative? Many SMBs and start-ups have actually found success using free marketing automation products that are available online and can be set up with little effort. However, there are literally dozens of free marketing automation tools out on the market (ranging to awesome to horrible).

Here are the three best free solutions available in 2016 based on our research, expert opinions, upcoming features and firsthand demo of the products:

1. Leadsius

A sleek, modern interface is typical of Leadsius’ UX design (Image Source: Leadsius)

Leadsius is arguably the most robust free marketing automation softwares available. Based out of Sweden, they’re laser focused on the SMB market. If you already have a fair amount of contacts in your email marketing database, this is a great place to start because the free version allows for a capacity of up to 2,500 contacts. You’ll also be able to utilize scaled-down versions of features you’d find in an enterprise marketing automation system:
behavior-based email triggers, custom nurture workflows and automatically passing “marketing qualified” leads to sales.

For beginners that desire something user friendly and easy to get up and running, Leadsius is perhaps the best option. The main downside is that if you outgrow the features or contact limits of the free version, upgrading to the paid version will cost you $295 per month. But if that’s the case then you’re probably having a lot of success, which is a good thing.

Leadsius also makes the list because of outstanding features they have in the pipeline for 2016. The two major developments that will really benefit SMBs are a Leadsius plugin for WordPress, and a drag-and-drop landing page builder.

2. Simplycast Autoresponder

Autoresponder’s canvas allows you to easily set up workflows and campaigns (Source: SimplyCast)

Headquartered in Canada, Simplycast is one of the bigger players in the CRM and marketing automation game. Thankfully for SMBs, they offer a free version of their automation solution called Autoresponder. Those familiar with enterprise B2C marketing automation solutions may find the layout and interface of Autoresponder to be strikingly similar to Oracle’s wildly successful Responsys product. The free version of Autoresponder comes with a cap of 2,500 contacts and 380 email automation workflows, which is sufficient for most small businesses just getting started with marketing automation.

 

You’ll also receive a drag and drop email editor along with the ability to create drip marketing nurture campaigns. On the flip side, Autoresponder is probably best if you plan on investing in a broader ecosystem of apps for other related functions like CRM, internal email and social media marketing. That being said, Autoresponder’s tiered pricing model is attractive, offering upgraded packages at $10 and $20 per month, along with a pay-as-you-go option. If you need a little extra functionality here and there or for one-off campaigns, it won’t blow your budget.

Autoresponder is one of the last players standing that offers truly free marketing automation that fits into a suite of standard business apps.

3. Mautic

Mautic’s open-source solution is organized via “PACE” (Image Source: Mautic)

 

Mautic is an open-source marketing automation solution. Its design and functionality stems from the “PACE” methodology, containing the following elements: People, Assets, Campaigns and Evaluation. In laymen’s terms, Mautic allows you to keep contacts contacts, store email templates, execute campaigns and analyze the results. For small businesses unfamiliar or just getting started with marketing automation best practices, Mautic’s PACE design is a great onboarding point.

 

A benefit of Mautic being open-source is that they host an online community, allowing users to get involved with the development of the product. Features or functionality that don’t currently exist but you’d like to see? Post a message to the community or ask existing users, odds are there’s a member out there willing to work with you to create it. And as a true open-source solution, there is no tiered pricing model or limits on functionality.

 

Also, if your contacts already exist in another CRM or email marketing database, it’s likely that someone has developed a plug-in that will make migrating the data easy and seamless. SalesForce, Hubspot and Zoho are just a few of the mainstream CRM systems for which Mautic already has plug-ins.

 

For tech-savvy business owners that enjoy a constantly evolving product, Mautic is probably the best free marketing automation choice for 2016.

 

When deciding whether or not your small business should take the leap into marketing automation, consider another statistic from Autopilot’s 2015 report:

 

“More than 60% of marketers use mass email blasts to stay in touch with customers, but only 13% are using marketing automation software.”

 

This means that it’s not too late to get into the game. Doing so will serve to put your company ahead of the competition in terms of capturing high-quality leads and prospects. Now that you know the three best free marketing automation tools available for small businesses and start-ups in 2016, you’re ready to choose the right one that will get results quickly (and most importantly) without about spending a fortune.

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