What Is Marketing Automation?

What Is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is a software platform that helps organizations automatically manage customer marketing operations across multiple channels and automate repetitive marketing and sales tasks. Marketing automation platforms use tools that streamline and simplify the tasks needed to support a modern marketing campaign. With marketing automation software, an organization can initiate a marketing campaign that targets their customers with automated messages using the web, email, social media, and texting. A variety of communications are sent automatically, based on instructions called workflows. Marketing automation software supports implementing digital marketing strategies without the need to manually press the “send button” for each email, campaign, message, or post. A good automation strategy, combined with good marketing automation tools, will identify the customer base, design the most appropriate content, and then trigger the marketing process. Once the campaign begins and the results start coming in, the marketing campaign’s effectiveness can be analyzed and components can be adjusted to match customer behavior. Automated marketing strategies take manual labor (and the tedium) out of digital marketing. They also support analytics, lead generation and the sales force, and help improve the customer journey. (For those interested in sales pipeline management, different software is used.)

CRM vs. marketing automation software

Customer relationship management (CRM) focuses on collecting data from existing customer accounts and managing customer pipelines. Marketing automation, on the other hand, is about coordinating and personalizing one-to-one communications with potential customers to manage followup marketing efforts and advertising. Both CRM and marketing automation ultimately have similar goals — to collect and manage customer data.

Key features of marketing automation software

Marketing automation is both a strategy and a type of software that helps you achieve your marketing goals. These features are typical to marketing automation platforms and can significantly decrease the workload of your marketing team.


Workflow automation is explained as automating various marketing tasks by using preset rules, with the tasks being triggered automatically. Workflow triggers are events which launch the workflow. The triggers are typically actions taken by the customers while visiting an organization’s website or app. Automated workflows can be used to create detailed diagrams capable of communicating big picture goals to the entire organization. A marketing automation platform like Pardot lets you map your customer journey and automatically move customers along the funnel.

Content marketing

Content marketing describes a low-pressure marketing strategy designed to attract, involve, and retain new customers. This is accomplished by sending/sharing relevant, informational articles, podcasts, and videos. This marketing strategy (providing it targets the right people) establishes the content’s publisher as a reliable and helpful “assistant or consultant” to the customer. Content can be distributed via an email marketing tool like Act-On, or you can put your content behind a lead generation form landing page built by a company like UnBounce. Content marketing is specifically focused on the creation and distribution of content across multiple channels. It is often used in combination with inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing

The marketing strategy known as inbound marketing is used to draw potential customers to “your” website. Unlike content marketing, inbound marketing uses search engines to draw potential customers to it with useful articles and information. Inbound marketing emphasizes a website’s visibility on various search engines, drawing potential customers to the site. This process typically encourages readers to inquire about products and services, and purchase them. Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot supports inbound marketing by automatically guiding visitors through the customer journey. Joshua Gill, a marketing consultant at Inbound Authority, said, “Inbound marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for, at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.”

Marketing funnel automation

Marketing funnel automation is a multiple step process. Real-world funnels have a top that is wide, and which steadily narrows to a small opening at the bottom, guiding its contents directly into the container. In terms of marketing automation platforms, a marketing funnel channels a website’s visitors to the sales automation process, with the goal of guiding them to the purchasing process, while promoting a positive customer experience. There are a number of steps used to assure potential customers have enough awareness of the business’ products/services to consider making a purchase. The bulk of the website visitors start at the funnel’s top, with a wide variety of reasons for visiting the website. Ideally, most of them start on the landing page, and gradually move to the payment page. Over time, website visitors are guided through the funnel, and sent marketing messages designed to slow-walk them through the marketing/advertising process, and to making a purchase.

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing automation

Many B2B organizations use marketing automation platforms to communicate with other businesses. Unlike business-to-consumer marketing automation software, B2B marketing automation software provides them with the ability to design their marketing for the narrower parameters of a business audience. Marketing teams can segment customer data quite easily, supporting the creation of ad groups that target specific industries, and monitor the success of each advertising effort. This allows marketing automation specialists to easily target specific businesses, while filtering out businesses who are not likely to become customers.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing automation

Many B2C organizations are adopting a social media marketing strategy, and using other digital marketing channels. A variety of very useful tools have been created for small businesses to respond to potential customers. B2C marketing automation can significantly improve multi-channel marketing efforts, improving the effectiveness of this marketing automation strategy. While a number of the larger B2C industries use automated marketing, smaller businesses can also use marketing automation solutions. These solutions include:

How companies use marketing automation software

In the last few years, marketing automation has revolutionized digital marketing, allowing businesses to connect with their customers more efficiently. As stated in Social Media’s Today 2019 State of Marketing Automation Survey report, 91% of marketing automation users think it is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing activity. Additionally, 63% of the surveyed businesses outpacing their competitors were using marketing automation technology. How it is used is important when answering the question, “What is marketing automation?” Listed below are some of the ways organizations use marketing automation solutions:
  • Welcoming Emails– Crocs provides an excellent example of a welcoming email. Their “Welcome!” is sent out automatically, with a 20% discount for the new subscriber, as well as a newsletter.
  • Product Launches & Updates– Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 13 included sending smartphone advertisements to iPhone users, promoting pre-orders.
  • Reminder emails– The School of Life (a provider of educational materials) sent out automated emails, reminding its customers of a “Black Friday” sale, and offering 20% off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Newsletters– Food 52 sends out a killer newsletter. Their articles are written in a light, friendly tone and their artwork is eye-catching.

Marketing automation software

The successful use of marketing automation requires delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Marketing professionals can create personalized campaigns based on customer behavior, and focused on creating a personalized experience. A marketing agency is no longer needed when a marketing automation system is in use. Marketing automation users can promote lead nurturing and customer engagement with little manual effort. Ready to see which marketing automation software is right for your company? Use our product selection tool for fast, free recommendations by our unbiased Technology Advisors. Fill in your requirements on our marketing automation software page, and we’ll contact you with a short list of marketing automation platforms that meet your needs.
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