What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to software platforms that help businesses automate their marketing and sales engagement processes to generate more leads, convert those leads to sales and optimize ROI.

Marketing automation reaches its full potential when it helps move leads through the inbound marketing funnel. Your strategy should be dedicated to one central focus: Your customers. 

When using a marketing automation platform, you should research your target audience and create a complete buyer persona to tailor your campaigns directly to them. 

Constant Contact's Lead Gen CRM Flywheel with marketing automation at the top
Constant Contact’s all-in-one, centralized Lead Gen & CRM platform

What Marketing Automation is NOT

The marketing automation definition is broad and sometimes leads to misconceptions about the system. To help narrow it down, let’s look at what it isn’t. 

Marketing Automation is Not Spammy Email Marketing

Marketing automation is not meant to spam your contacts. Not only is spamming a bad marketing practice, but it can also reduce customer loyalty

Marketing Automation is Not a Tool with a Singular Function

There are many types of marketing automation, and it encompasses an entire suite of tools to help companies drive more leads, convert those leads to sales, and maximize spend. This includes features like landing page builder, built-in CRM, reporting capabilities, social media management, and so much more. 

Marketing Automation is Not a “Set it and Forget it” Solution

One of the biggest myths about marketing automation is that once you set it up, you never have to think about it again. While it is an incredible tool that often helps businesses achieve real results, those results don’t occur without the right processes, strategies, and efforts set in place. Marketing automation objectives are meant to enhance and support marketing and sales, NOT completely replace the human factor. Don’t sit back and expect it to reach your business goals without you implementing a strategy — and sticking with it. 

Marketing Automation Trends

If you follow marketing automation trends, you can see the number of companies using this type of software is growing. In fact, it’s becoming the norm rather than the exception. 

And while it is often viewed as a hands-off enterprise, the opposite is true.  

For instance, marketing automation can track which potential leads haven’t responded to emails and automatically send follow-ups written by your marketers. Since your marketers don’t have to follow this and send follow-ups themselves, they can take the time to personalize responses to those who did respond.

This is true even if implementing chatbots, which can answer basic customer questions without human intervention after the program has been created. If a customer’s question needs to be escalated to a real person, the bot can do so. Using chatbots means you don’t have to have your team constantly responding to customer inquiries, with only the most challenging ones reaching that level. 

Using marketing automation software allows marketers and other workers to focus on big-picture issues, and email marketing and chatbots are only two of the many trends in the field. 

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

The short version is that marketing automation generates leads and converts them through customization. It allows you to search for potential leads automatically, then automatically and manually dig through your options to narrow down your list to your best possible leads. 

By paying attention to your engaged leads and their behaviors, you can craft targeted campaigns that meet their needs, and, ultimately, capture conversions. 

What is Marketing Automation Primarily Used For? 

Marketing automation can be used for a variety of objectives, but the three most significant are its ability to drive more leads, convert those leads, and maximize how your marketing money is spent. Today, 67% of marketing leaders use a marketing automation platform, and 75% of marketers overall use at least one automated tool.

  • Drive more leads
  • Convert leads into sales
  • Maximize marketing spend

Driving More Leads & Converting Leads Into Sales

Marketers employing marketing automation strategies in today’s competitive landscape will find that their number of leads increases and their conversion rates go up after starting to use these methods. 

Maximizing Marketing Spend

When using marketing automation as part of a complete marketing strategy, many marketers discover their ROI is quite high. For example, retail-based watch repair specialist Tick King was able to cut their advertising spend by £400 a month and still gain a whopping 327% more online inquiries and a 143% increase in web visitors after adopting its use. 

What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?

There are many benefits of marketing automation, including creating more valuable relationships, illustrating value to clients, and generating recurring revenue for each month.  

  • Create higher-value relationships
  • Prove value to your clients
  • Generate monthly recurring revenue

Create Higher-Value Relationships

Marketing automation’s efficiency can allow your marketers to expedite communication with initial leads and spend more time building relationships with their strongest options. 

Prove Value to Your Clients

When we perform case studies, one thing we consistently hear is that using our automation platform has helped our marketing partners to prove their value to their clients. For instance, take this quote from Matt Koeppel of the digital agency, Ocreative:

“Clients needed us to provide them with more usable, visible data,” explained Koeppel. “Now, they can start to see the numbers. And I think within the next three to six months, those numbers are going to be scrutinized closely and used heavily in their next step planning and decision-making. It’s really given them something they can now review, take back, and take action upon. Whereas before, it was all just speculation and spreadsheets.” 

Matt Koeppel, Ocreative Chief Business Development Officer

Generate Monthly Recurring Revenue

If you’re in the marketing business, when you provide automated marketing services, you can charge a monthly fee to your clients. This provides recurring revenue via their subscriptions, and since they’re in a contract, the income is predictable until they decide to renew their subscriptions or not.

According to recent research, 45% of agencies rely on marketing automation platforms to show ROI, with 42% of respondents noting client acquisition as a top objective in their marketing strategy. 

Agencies Have Their Eye on ROI

What are the most important objectives of a marketing automation strategy?

graph showing the objectives of a marketing automation strategy
Source: 2022 State of MarTech Report, in Partnership with Ascend2 Research

What are Common Marketing Automation Features?

  • Email Automation
  • Built-In CRM
  • Social Media Management
  • Personas
  • Blog Builder
  • Lead Scoring
  • Sales Notifications
  • End-to-End Reporting & Analytics
  • Dynamic Form Builder
  • Landing Page Builder
  • Anonymous Visitor ID
  • Dynamic Emails & Landing Pages
  • Dynamic Lists/Segmentation
  • End-to-End Reporting & Analytics
  • Campaign Optimization

When it’s time to get started with marketing automation, your success depends on three primary factors: 

How to Maximize Marketing Automation Success

Strategy

Marketing automation should be part of your overall marketing plan and can’t function alone. If you implement a marketing strategy supported by marketing automation, it may be easier to integrate marketing automation software into your plans and potentially increase your reach and conversions.

Personalization

Your marketing automation strategy needs to build in time to analyze customer behaviors and personalize messaging accordingly. Without personalized messaging, you’ll likely miss out on a significant number of conversions.

Ability to Adapt

The beauty of marketing automation is its ability to inform you about what’s working and what’s not. To maximize your success, be sure to make adjustments based on the data you collect. This way, you can focus on the marketing tactics that work.

When is the Right Time to Invest in Marketing Automation?

When you think of adopting marketing automation for your business, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have an inbound marketing strategy set in place? Is my sales team having trouble keeping track of all our leads?
  • Do the marketing and sales teams sometimes feel disjointed?
  • Is it a challenge to discover hot prospects and quality leads?
  • Do I have clear visibility into how effective my marketing and sales strategy is?
  • Am I currently using a stack of disparate apps and software to help meet my marketing and sales goals?
  • Could I benefit from driving more leads, converting more leads to sales and optimizing my spend?

The answers to questions such as these will help highlight just a handful of the many ways marketing automation can help your business grow.

Bad vs. Good Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is all about how much effort you put into it. So there are techniques that work and ones that don’t.

Bad

Bad marketing automation loses sight of your customers and prospects. Often, it involves sending non-targeted spammy messages. And it fails to utilize all the customer data it has collected to create meaningful relationships and, therefore, loses out on many potential conversions. All the most advanced marketing technology can’t help a cold, disruptive, marketing strategy.

Good

Good marketing automation reaches its full potential when it helps move leads through the inbound marketing funnel. Your strategy should be dedicated to one central focus: Your customers.

How does marketing automation work?

The best marketing automation works to snag leads and convert them through customization. By paying attention to your engaged leads and their behaviors, you can craft targeted campaigns that meet their needs, and, ultimately, capture conversions.