What is Marketing Automation And How is it Being Used?

August 21, 2019

whole brain marketing blog author


Posted by Greg Linnemanstons

What is Marketing Automation and How is It Used

Marketing automation tools remain a hot topic for marketing teams, and with good reason. According to numbers compiled by Emailmonday, it’s estimated that 49% of companies currently use automation as part of their marketing strategy, with the percentage ticking up to 55% for B2Bs. It’s no wonder, then, that marketing automation adoption continues to grow, expected to top $25 billion by 2023, according to Forrester. To put that in perspective, the spend on marketing automation was just $11.4 billion in 2017. 

Impressive statistics, to be sure, but maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since Google trends data continues to reflect all-time highs in searches for “marketing automation,” there’s clearly a sustained interest in it, but maybe a little mystery, too. 

Let’s take a step back and explore just what marketing automation is, and how it can benefit you.

Marketing Automation Definition

The concept of “marketing automation” isn’t necessarily easy to boil down into a few sentences, but Techopedia offers a fairly concise definition:

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 [emails, social media, certain website actions] with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.

The Three Categories of Marketing Automation

There are three basic categories of marketing automation:

  1. Marketing intelligence refers to the use of tracking codes to monitor customers’ online behaviors. Marketers can then analyze and identify patterns they will ultimately use to create behavior-based market segments. Amazon was arguably the first large enterprise to do this well. Today, most Amazon customers admit that Amazon’s knowledge of their past behaviors improves the user experience by recommending additional items of interest, sending reminders, keeping you informed about price adjustments and more.

  2. Business development is focused on moving potential customers from the top of the sales funnel (initial awareness) to the bottom of the funnel (ready to buy). Do this by segmenting and nurturing based on interests expressed, scoring or qualifying leads based on fit and intent, and attempting to close based on a combination of behavioral and attitudinal measures. Automated business development relies on email, social media, search engine optimization and content marketing to make it work. Before you deploy these tactics, however, you need to:
  3. Workflow automation generally refers to internal processes like budgeting, the marketing calendar, digital asset management, and everything else that large enterprises need to run sizable, complex marketing departments.

While the third category has been leveraged by mega-brands like Procter & Gamble, General Mills and other giant marketers, workflow automation technology has become much more accessible to small businesses and midsize organizations. Still, the vast majority of businesses will derive the greatest impact from tools and processes available from marketing intelligence and business development. 

Why? Marketing intelligence and business development focus on the top line, which is where most businesses need help today.

The Benefits of Using Marketing Automation Software

There’s a lot of data to prove the benefits of marketing automation and lead generation. For example, companies that use automation to manage their leads can expect a 10% or more bump in revenue within 6-9 months. Likewise, businesses that nurture leads — say, with targeted email campaigns — make 50% more sales at a cost that’s 33% less than non-nurtured prospects. 

Seriously. Read that again.

In addition to the obvious financial impact, marketers say that the biggest benefit of automation is saving time. These benefits will only compound in coming years, since 67% of marketing leaders currently use a marketing automation platform and an additional 21% plan to implement one in the next two years.

In a nutshell, here are some of the most powerful marketing automation benefits that businesses can expect:

  • Increased qualified leads, at a lower cost per lead
  • Improved customer retention and relationships
  • Improved marketing and sales alignment
  • Demonstrated strength in marketing ROI

Beyond the Data — Automation Improves Relationships

Some indirect benefits of marketing automation that we’ve witnessed with clients extend to the impact on their corporate culture and team attitudes. Sales professionals, for example, discover just how much more rewarding it is to work with warm qualified leads as opposed to cold calling from low quality purchased lists. Plus, those leads can be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) software and populate a lead’s record with relevant information. 

For example, did a lead visit a landing page and download an eBook about the benefits of your product or service? Did they read a blog about how to choose a vendor? Having that kind of customer data is virtual gold to your sales team and can be the fuel that starts a conversation. Another benefit to sales is that they get less pushback on pricing because the leads are of higher quality.

For anyone interested in learning more about the marketing automation software options available, your research should start with insights found in reviews. For example, G2|Crowd, a third party software reviewer, ranks HubSpot, Omnisend, Marketo, Pardot, RD Station, Act-On, ActiveCampaign and others among the top performers. 

As a Platinum HubSpot partner, we can attest to its ease-of-use and ability to get results. If you’re getting started with marketing automation, keep going, it’s worth the effort. And if you haven’t started yet…what are you waiting for? We’re happy to introduce you to the world of inbound marketing and automation. Just reach out. 

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This article originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and current best practices.



Topics: Marketing Automation



whole brain marketing blog author
Written by Greg Linnemanstons

With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, Greg has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. He leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.

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