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what is marketing automation

What is Marketing Automation?

A Business’s marketing strategy is an involved process. Teams monitor messages via email, social networks, phone calls and many other channels, formulating tailored responses to each. Marketing strategies move potential and current customers through the sales funnel toward measurable goals, tracking progress and determining next steps. While the process as a whole is complex and different from business to business, the individual components are well understood. Marketing automation involves capturing these steps, automating necessary responses, and assembling them into a more completeĀ and efficient strategy.

What Does Marketing Automation Look Like?

Modern companies have expansive internet presences. Email addresses track sales and support requests. Twitter feeds enable public conversations with current and potential supporters, also providing venues for quick promotional messages. Facebook groups and pages allow for longer-form updates and discussions. It can be hard to manage a cohesive strategy across all of these channels, especially if on a budget.

Marketing is more than simply tailoring messages to a target audience. A good marketing strategy must also track the effectiveness of a given action, determining whether it is worth repeating or needs modification. Effective techniques must not only send messages, but must also track who has received them, along with the actions they’ve taken in response.

Marketing automation software addresses these points. A good system integrates with multiple sales channels and supports sending custom messages to each. Actions taken in response are tracked, with inbound customers’ progress toward goals quantified and displayed. If a lead takes action from multiple points of contact, a marketing automation system consolidates their access, presenting that individual as a single profile. As such, it becomes possible to measure and respond to actions by a single lead across multiple channels.


Marketing automation’s history is entwined with that of the internet itself. It first gained traction in 1999 with the founding of Eloqua. Naturally, this spawned several competitors over the next few years, each riding the wave of the internet’s growth in both usage and capability.

As the internet’s speed increased, so did the number of marketing automation systems. A faster network made it possible to run complex software in the cloud, using the web browser for rich, beautiful user interfaces.

The most recent boost to marketing automation’s success was the rise of social media. Not only was it now essential to track only page views and email contacts. The best marketers needed to gauge interactions across a large and growing array of social media channels. This development prompted marketing automation to slowly encompass sales and customer relationship management, tracking lead profiles and quantifying the sales funnel.

Types of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation takes several forms. Good systems will include aspects of each in the solution offered to companies if they need it.

Marketing Intelligence

Marketing intelligence is a set of strategies that usually involves embedding tracking codes in links sent to social media or included in email messages. If leads access content via these targeted links, they are tracked and measured as they pass through the sales funnel. A point-based system is commonly used, with actions given arbitrary scores and goals associated with specific totals.

It is also possible to segment leads by specific categories. For instance, codes can be assigned to specific products or services. If a lead is interested in specific areas, campaigns can be targeted at more specific vertical markets based on a lead’s specific set of actions.


Customer Relationship Management

As leads are acquired through social media and other channels, marketing intelligence systems assemble a customer profile. As such, marketing automation with a CRM systems with its own database of leads, which can be further augmented via manual processes.

For companies with legacy CRMs, many marketing automation solutions can synchronize data. Even in those instances, it is good to keep databases of leads in both systems due to the additional features and advanced capabilities available to marketers.

Workflow Automation

As leads move through the sales funnel, marketing strategies typically target them with specific communications to nurture them along. These range from automated drip-style email campaigns, to high-touch sales calls seeking additional details on their needs.

Marketing automation can trigger these steps based on obtained intelligence. Leads with certain scores might automatically funnel into a specific email list, for instance. At other points, sales staff might be notified to initiate personal contact for a more high-touch process. This insures that leads have access to content and communication more relevant to their interests.

Good for Leads and Marketers

By tracking access across multiple channels and collecting detailed information, one might argue that privacy is being compromised.

Another perspective is that, by learning about a lead’s specific interests, it is now possible to communicate in ways not only relevant to those, but also to the desired level of engagement. Leads interested in a specific product but without a high score might funnel into a low-frequency drip list for announcements. Highly-engaged leads might receive a personal email wishing to set up a meeting. Treating each lead as if they require a high-touch process, or sending information about all current products and services, is a good way to discourage further contact and get flagged as spam.

Adopting a good marketing automation solution is not just an obvious choice. It is an essential next step for any new or current company. It will not only increase marketing efficiency, but will also cut costs and boost engagement. Marketers can do their jobs more easily and track progress, while leads feel less pressure and encounter more relevant content. As such, marketing automation represents a win for everyone involved.