What Is Marketing Automation?

“Marketing Automation a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) that focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible.” by Marketing Automation Times

“At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon – that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.” by Hubspot

“Marketing automation is the use of software to automate marketing processes such as customer segmentation, customer data integration, and campaign management. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would have otherwise been performed manually much more efficient, and makes new processes possible. Marketing automation is an integral component of customer relationship management.” SearchCRM

“Marketing automation is the use of software and Web-based services to execute, manage and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.” by Techopedia

Read more on what marketing automation is.

How Can Marketing Automation Help?

Leveraging marketing automation, your sales and marketing teams can work as a single, cohesive team to automate and optimize your leads as they move from the top of the funnel, down to the bottom, where sales are made.


Marketing Automation helps you:

  • Generate more leads
  • Qualify and prioritize your leads
  • Nurture those leads to a sales-ready state
  • Manage all of your email marketing campaigns
  • Report on the success of your campaigns

Marketing departments save time and resources with an easy-to-use platform that makes it simple to manage all your campaigns in a single solution. Your campaigns run on autopilot while you spend time on all the other things you need to do to become more successful. With marketing automation you have a 360-degree view of how your prospects are interacting with you and the tools to turn them into customers.” by Pardot


Who Uses Marketing Automation?

“Large enterprises have long found value in the technology, but marketing automation isn’t just for big companies. In fact, Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs) make up the largest growing segment in the space right now. And thousands of companies even smaller than that are using automation as well. Similarly, companies across all industries are using it.

The early adopters were primarily in “business-to-business” (B2B) industries such as high-tech / software, manufacturing, and business services. But increasingly companies across all categories–including “business-to-consumer” (B2C) industries such as healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and retail–are adopting the software for its real-time, engagement-oriented approach to maintaining and extending customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.” by Marketo

Who Should Use Marketing Automation?
  • Do you have a large database of leads, at various points of the buyer’s journey, with no way to organize and know who to contact, at what time?
  • Are you frustrated with the amount of leads that don’t end up adding to your sales bottom line?
  • Did you know that 80% of leads just aren’t ready to buy at that time?

Marketing automation with tools like lead nurturing can help with that, and bring some of those leads back into the funnel.” by Pardot

What Are The Reasons Companies Use Marketing Automation?

“The top reasons cited for evaluating marketing-automation software by small businesses ($50 million or less in revenue) are

  • improving lead management (27%);
  • not being satisfied with their current system (15%);
  • need better or more features (13%); and company growth (10%).

The top features small businesses are looking for in marketing-automation software are

  • contact management (74%),
  • email marketing (55%),
  • lead tracking (43%),
  • “drip” marketing campaigns (39%) and
  • follow-up management (38%).”

by Adage

What Is The Value And ROI Of Marketing Automation?

“Companies can expect three core benefits: more pipeline, more productive Sales reps, and higher revenue, as found in the Marketo Benchmark on Revenue Performance (as of Sept 15, 2012 n=489).

In a benchmark study by eMarketer, research found that B2C marketers who are using automation- including everything from birthday emails to cart abandonment programs – have seen conversion rates as high as 50%.

Furthermore, according to Nuclear Research, 95% of companies reported some benefit from marketing automation. They found that companies can expect to achieve an increase in marketing staff productivity between 1.5 and 6.9% and increase sales productivity by an average of 4%.

Marketing automation brings value and ROI to your numerous marketing efforts. The right marketing automation platform, combined with smart organizational and process alignment, makes it possible to connect the dots between that promotional email you sent last month, that webinar you hosted last year, and the revenue your CEO sees this week or can expect to see next quarter.” by Marketo

Features And Functions Of Marketing Automation?

Features of Marketing Automation include:

  • Advanced Email Marketing: What is Marketing Automation? Create beautiful emails using pre-formatted templates or a simple, visual editor. Run A/B testing, view rendering reports, and test against spam filters. Send them now, or schedule them for later. Track your success.
  • Forms and Landing pages: Easily collect prospect information using forms and custom landing pages.
  • Campaign Management
  • Prediction/Scoring – Blended Lead Scoring and Grading: Don’t waste time chasing down dead ends. Understand who’s showing interest in you, and follow up with only those meeting your ideal customer profile.
  • Lead Management and Nurturing: Set-up personalized, automated engagement tracks that free up time to focus on hot leads while preventing early-stage leads from slipping through the cracks.
  • CRM Integration – Prospect Activity Tracking: Understand each customer’s interest, plus use alerts to know who to follow up with in real time. What is Marketing Automation?
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Analytics – Reporting: Gives you access to reports that tell you just how well your marketing automation campaigns are working, and where leads are coming from.

by Marketo and Pardot

Why Does Marketing Automation Fall Short?

“When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation. Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database as leads and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there. Do you have all the existing leads needed to hit your revenue goals in your database already? Are you getting your fair share of the available market?

It’s ineffective given the effort required to see meaningful results. When done correctly, effective marketing automation takes time, effort, and resources to implement and maintain for revenue growth. Even if your database is currently filled with top-notch, quality leads, how effective will your marketing automation be when you’ve either converted all those leads into customers, or when your database begins decaying at the rate of 23% / year (via unsubscribes, job turnover and a variety of other factors.) Even when they’ve invested the time and effort to master the art of “Amazon-like” marketing automation, without enough leads to work towards purchase many marketers end up unhappy with the ROI of their marketing automation investment.

It opens the door for irrelevant, spammy, automated messages. Understanding that a large database of leads is required for marketing automation to have any effect on their bottom line, many marketers end up buying lists of contacts to nurture with marketing automation. The consequences of list-buying are numerous, but most importantly this spammy tactic produces incredibly low ROI. Along with the cost of buying these lists, sending unsolicited emails to people who have never requested any information from you leads to low engagement and hurts your IP address reputation, lowering your email deliverability rates.

When marketing automation is limited to one channel (most commonly, email.)To say “email doesn’t work” would be a lie. However, to treat email as the only avenue of communication with your contacts is a disservice to both your business, and the experience of your leads.

Because of the constant influx of marketing emails to their inboxes, buyers have begun to block out many  of these communications, whether through inbox filters or a subconscious disregard for irrelevant messages. Instead, these buyers are doing Google searches, and asking their friends for recommendations. They’re tapping the social media community for advice and browsing your website to see if your business offers a solution fit for their challenges. If you’re only communicating with these leads through email, you’re not only missing out on an opportunity to reach your leads via multiple channels during various parts of the decision process, you’re also ignoring a slew of behavioral data points they’re giving you about their needs and interests.

If you’re not leveraging interactions across every marketing channel like social media, your website, or the content your leads are consuming, it’s as if you’re only listening to your leads 30% of the time. Have you ever been on the phone with a sales rep who doesn’t answer your questions and reads straight from a pre-generated script without taking your specific needs into account? Did you end up buying from that company?” by Hubspot

What does “bad” or “good” marketing automation look like?

Marketing automation campaigns can run the gamut in terms of functionality and effectiveness. Let’s explore what it looks like when a marketing automation approach is ineffective, and which approaches produce the highest ROI for your marketing automation efforts.

Traditional marketing automation: a limited approach. Traditional marketing automation often refers to triggering emails based on time delays or actions like email opens and email clicks.  But is an email click alone enough data to execute an effective lead nurturing strategy that appeals to their needs as a consumer?

Limiting your marketing automation in this way fails to supply the marketer with any context about who her leads are, where they are in her funnel, or what they’re interested in. This gives little foundation to automated campaigns based upon solely email actions, and ultimately results in a poor user experience for those prospects.

Inbound marketing automation: centered around the prospect. Inbound marketing automation uses all the information we know about a person to understand what their wants and needs are, and delivers them the information they need to make a purchase, exactly when they need that information, in the place they’re looking for it.

Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social clicks, viewing a pricing page or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges and how to guide them down the funnel. The most effective marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels, but uses those various channels to send their marketing messages as well. That means the success of your campaign relies less on the email, and fully utilizes the various channels that influence a buyer’s decision.” by Hubspot

How do you know if it’s time to invest in marketing automation?

If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.

  • Are you generating a steady flow of new and qualified leads?

  • Is your sales team overwhelmed with the number of quality leads you’re passing along to them?

  • Has marketing and sales agreed on what conversations should happen with marketing and which with sales?

  • Do you have an efficient content strategy mapped to your buyer’s journey?

  • Are you tracking your leads’ digital body language across every touch point and marketing channel (not just email)?

  • Do you have a proven lead nurturing strategy that you want to scale?

These are all good signs that marketing automation (when done right) could work for your business. The key here is understanding that marketing automation does not do marketing for you, but can help scale your successful efforts.” by Hubspot

What are the keys to successful marketing automation?

Though there are many pieces that must be put in place to establish a successful marketing automation strategy, there are two extremely key principles to keep in mind when developing a strategy that scales and evolves with your customers.

(1) Recognizing that marketing automation does not do marketing and lead generation for you, but can help scale your successful efforts.

The first step is building a pipeline of good fit leads by generating relevant, optimized content that speaks to your prospect’s needs and challenges. This is where inbound marketing becomes the building blocks of your marketing funnel.

(2) Centering your marketing messages around the real, live person at the receiving end of your campaigns.  

That means we should treat them like a real person, not a fragmented self across different tools like email, social media, etc. If we can leverage all the marketing tools, channels and behavioral data possible to paint a complete picture of a person, we can nurture them based on their unique challenges and interests, not based solely on the emails they open or click through.” by Hubspot

What are the Marketing Automation Trends?
How do I choose the best marketing automation provider for my business?

When considering a marketing automation provider, it’s important to choose the software and company that best suits your business and your unique goals. Don’t focus on the individual features–focus on the business results and the long term partnership.

Here are some resources to help you make your strategic decision.

by Hubspot

Can you recommend more resources to help me understand marketing automation better?
What is Inbound Marketing?

The terms “inbound marketing” and “content marketing” are used interchangeably. Inbound marketing is a customer acquisition practice that is built on human-to-human relationships. HubSpot calls it “the most effective marketing method for doing business online.”

Instead of relying on outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and aggressively pushing audiences into become leads, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally. By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is in a position to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.

Hubspot calls these the biggest forces behind inbound marketing:

  • Content Generation: Create targeted content that directly addresses your customers’ demands. That content should be extremely high-quality, entertaining, engaging, & shareable.
  • Conversion Funnel Targeting: Marketers should pay attention – and respect– the fact that people go through stages as they interact with your company. Each stage requires different marketing needs. A customer who is just learning about your company for the first time, for instance, may not respond well to an aggressive, ‘buy-now’ CTA.
  • Personalization: As you build out your inbound marketing and marketing automation strategy, you will learn more about your leads. This learning process will empower your company to re-invest that data into refining your marketing strategy. Marketing automation software will help you streamline this process and build 1:1 connections with hundreds of thousands—and even millions—of users.
  • Cross-channel: Multi-channel marketing strategies connect all touch points in the customer journey. It’s common for users to engage with your brands across channels – email, social, and content before deciding to engage in a sale. Analytics will be crucial to this framework, so make sure that you are well-acquainted with basic web analytics tools.
  • Integration: Your marketing and analytics software need to communicate effectively with each other. This integration will help ensure that your brand is delivering the right marketing messages to the right audiences at the right time in their journeys.

HubSpot also explains these four important marketing actions as part of Inbound Marketing:

Attraction & Engagement

Traffic acquisition is only part of the marketing equation. Organizations need qualified, targeted traffic to be successful in their marketing. We want to attract audiences who will ultimately become happy, long-term customers (who will refer other customers). The following marketing activities can help attract audiences to your website:

  • Blogging: Create educational content that answers your audience’s questions.
  • Social Media: Create profiles and human presences where your target audiences are likely to engage.
  • Keywords: Be accessible to your audiences in the exact moment that they’re searching for information.
  • Website Pages: Optimize your website to appeal to and speak with your ideal buyers. Create a flow between webpages to answer your target audience’s core questions.

Marketing automation can help connect and simplify these seemingly disparate actions. Instead of reaching customers manually, you can use software to establish these 1:1 bonds.

Conversion & Progression Through The Funnel
Once you have visitors on your website, the next step is to convert them. At the very least, you should start collecting their email addresses. Once you start building an organic email list, you can start reaching out to your customers and prospects so that you can re-engage them through your content: ebooks, whitepapers, and tip sheets. Here are the most important components of conversion optimization:

  • Calls-to-Action (CTAs): These are e-mail sign-ups, lead generation forms, and ‘purchase’ buttons. CTAs are crucial for moving audiences through the conversion funnel and converting them into paying customers.
  • Landing Pages: Landing pages present specific offers to online audiences and shoppers. The best-performing landing pages are build around one CTA.
  • Forms: To effectively pursue leads, you need to collect some information. Ask your online audiences to share their name, interests, and job title so that you can connect them with the right targeted offers.
  • Contacts: Don’t let your new leads fall through the cracks. Keep them close in an email database so that you can build a relationship with them for the long-haul.

Marketing automation can help connect your prospects and existing customers with the right messages at exactly the right time. This strategy is more than a traffic acquisition tool – it’s an engine for boosting conversions. The key is to deliver personalized landing pages and custom CTAs to your audiences, across marketing channels.

You’ve become a lead magnet, what comes next? Now, you need to seal the deal by triggering marketing messages that inspire users to take action. At this point of your marketing strategy, you need to transform leads into customers (and existing customers into repeat buyers). These techniques should be integrated with your marketing automation:

  • Lead Scoring: Use a numerical representation of the propensity that a lead will become a sale. Marketing automation software (like HubSpot) can do this analysis for you.
  • Email: A lead completes your form, follows up, redeems your offers, and still doesn’t convert. What do you do? You send an automated email, that’s what. You can customize your marketing automation software to send personalized messages based on user triggers. Think of this approach like a logic puzzle. If users take actions x, y, and z on your site, your marketing automation software will deploy message “q.” This process is something known as sequencing. Tip: When you send an email to distribute a blog post—don’t show the full text. Show a snippet, and link back to the original website.
  • Marketing automation: HubSpot says that marketing automation is crucial to the ‘closing’ stage of marketing. You need to move customers through your sales conversion funnel – this process will be continuous and require some degree of nurturing, guiding, and even hand-holding. Marketing automation can help your company take the lead in guiding prospects through the sales conversion funnel.
  • Reporting: Marketers don’t throw darts in the dark. With infinite reporting capabilities on your side, you should be tracking everything to make sure that you’re investing your time in high-yield efforts only. Integrate a reporting system with your marketing automation efforts – from day one. Don’t wait. Pair systems (i.e. your analytics tools with your CRM) so that you can monitor data.

A sale isn’t the end of a brand-to-consumer relationship. It’s the beginning. And it’s probably the customer acquisition channel that you’re ignoring. Delight is what helps marketers navigate the art of upselling. Marketing automation, social media, and emotion-driven calls to action are crucial to this stage of marketing. This idea holds true for consumer and B2B marketers alike.

Make sure that you’re maintaining your relationships with your customers for the long-haul. Focus on more than just acquisition – embrace the art of retention. It’s easy to feel like new user acquisition is the low hanging-fruit. Keep in mind, however, that growth from within is just as—if not more—important to your marketing process.

Care about your customers. Send them marketing messages that inspire delight. Always be looking for opportunities to listen to feedback.
Stop thinking about “pushing” email blasts, and focus on ways to pull audiences close to your brand. Marketing automation means targeting the right users with the right message at the right time in their buying journeys. by Quicksprout