What Is Marketing Automation?

If you’re new to digital marketing, you may have heard about marketing automation and what it does – but chances are that you haven’t. Even if you have heard about it, you’ve probably encountered a few common misconceptions on the subject.  

Here are all of the basics you need to know about marketing automation: what it is, what it does, how it works, what benefits it brings, and how to get started. Enjoy the read! 

What Is Marketing Automation? 

Marketing automation is process performed by software that allows marketers to mechanize and reduce – and in some cases even completely eliminate – repetitive day-to-day marketing tasks, such as sending email campaigns, SMS and mobile messaging, social media posting, online ads, and data management and analysis. Marketing automation takes advantage of data on your subscribers behavior, preferences, and purchase history so that you can send the right message to the right people, at the right time. The goal of sending these messages is to trigger your audience to take an action that results in both increased sales, and stronger customer loyalty. Ideally, marketing automation should be aligned with your overall sales and marketing strategy to generate and nurture leads, and to convert them into paying, returning customers. 

Why Is Marketing Automation Important and What Benefits Does It Bring to Companies? 

Adopting marketing automation into your sales and marketing strategy brings a number of benefits to companies of all shapes and sizes, with the most significant gains being: 

  • Helps you to understand your audience better and adapts your communications to them accordingly. 
  • Helps with building a repeated and meaningful interaction with your audience that regularly delivers them value and eventually turns them into loyal customers. 
  • Allows you to build a personalized, one-to-one relationship and unique buying journey for each individual customer without spending much time and effort on it. 
  • Allows your customers to feel special instead of part of an anonymous crowd which results in greater customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand or online store. 
  • Allows you to design, set up, and implement complex marketing strategies and scenarios that are based on many variables and as such; take personalization to the highest level. 
  • Frees your resources, increases the productivity of your efforts, and lets your team focus on more creative and rewarding tasks. 

How Does Marketing Automation Work? 

Marketing automation uses information on user behavior to trigger specific actions. Each time a person subscribes to your newsletter, makes a purchase at your store, or clicks on one of your ads, they’re providing you with data that you can use to turn them into a loyal customer. Marketing automation platforms give you a holistic view of your audience, but at the same time deliver robust segmentation options, i.e. dividing customers into subgroups based on shared characteristics. You can then decide what messages you want to send (channel, contents, visual elements), what segments of your audience you want to target, and what should trigger a message to be sent. If all is properly set up, your marketing automation platform can act without your constant supervision and send the right content to the right people at the right time – freeing you to focus on more creative tasks. 

What Communication Channels Can Be Used in Marketing Automation? 

Here’s the good news: all of them! 😊 Whether it’s email, SMS, mobile or web notifications, marketing automation platforms can do it all. Some of them even allow you to include chatbots and Facebook & Google Audiences into the mix! But more importantly, marketing automation platforms allow you to build complex communication scenarios that take into account all of these channels and combine them for an optimal result. 

Is Marketing Automation an Option for Only the eCommerce Industry? 

Of course not! Marketing automation is widely associated with the eCommerce business but the truth is – it has been adopted by many other industries outside of traditional eCommerce over the past few years. At first sight some of them seem unlikely to benefit from such tools, but they are using them nevertheless – with great success! Marketing automation is commonly used in banking and finance, media and publishing, digital healthcare, travel and hospitality, and the automotive industry to name a few. All of these industries are using marketing automation in a slightly different way, but what they all have in common is the fact that they use customer data to nurture their leads, provide a personalized customer experience, and cross-sell and up-sell their sales.  

How to Get Started with Marketing Automation?  

If you’re thinking about including marketing automation in your marketing strategy, here’s what you need to plan. 

1. Choose the Best Marketing Automation Software 

There are a lot of platforms to choose from, so start with defining your business needs and estimate your budget. A solution for a small eCommerce store may not suit a larger online store with millions of visitors each month. Also, make sure that your provider will give you proper onboarding and support for you and your team, so that you all understand how to best use the system in your specific business context. In other words: make sure they’ll teach you their system properly so that you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. Which brings us to the next step: 

2. Go Through the Onboarding and Training Process with Your Provider 

Agreed, implementation of a marketing automation software can be done fairly quickly, in as little as a couple of days, but it still requires engagement on both sides: the provider’s and yours. So, make sure you have the responsible staff available and be ready to work with your marketing automation software provider’s experts to make it happen. Then, make sure that your team – or at least your marketing department – is properly trained with the training content that your provider offers for new customers. To make the most of the tool you need to know it inside out – and this will require some time and dedication, especially from your team. 

3. Import Your Contacts from Wherever You Keep Them and Segment Them 

Once you have your marketing automation software implemented and your employees trained, you need to import all of your contacts into your new tool. Depending on the platform you have chosen this process will vary, but it is important that you do this carefully, so that no data gets lost or damaged in the process. Also, do an initial segmentation (divide them into subgroups based on some type of shared characteristics.) 

Having all of your contacts intact in your new tool and segmenting them as well will allow you to actually use the software that you’ve just implemented. Which takes us to: 

4. Set Up Your First Email Template 

Once your contacts are in the new system, it’s time for you to start sending communications that will lead them to make a purchase. And for this, you’ll need at least one email template. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have IT skills or engage your IT staff for that. Most platforms provide you with easy-to-use, drag-and-drop email template creators that will help you prepare one in no time – with your logo, brand colors etc., so that your messages stay consistent with your brand style. 

5. Send Your First Email 

Now it’s time for you to do some actual marketing. Send out your first email campaign – this can be either a single email informing your subscribers about a release of a new product with a call to action (Buy now!), or a series of messages nurturing their interest in a field related to the products you offer. Here’s where all of the different segmentation options and personalizing your emails comes into picture. Click here to learn more about segmentation. 

6. Measure the Results and Plan Next Steps 

Once you’ve started sending out communications to your customers and prospects, your marketing automation software starts measuring the effectiveness of your actions (e.g. open and click rates, message bounces, unsubscribes, spam reports, etc.). Depending on these results, you can tweak your actions, making your communication truly data-driven. Also, this is where you can add additional steps to your communication scenarios involving channels other than email, like SMS, web push, or mobile push. Please remember that you want your final communication workflow to be truly multichannel, thus increasing its effectiveness. 

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the reporting module of your software and spend some time analyzing the data. This may take some time but in the long run, it is the key to successful marketing. 

A Key Fact to Remember When Planning to Implement Marketing Automation 

Before you go, here is an important thing for you to remember when planning to implement marketing automation software at your company: marketing automation is only a tool. It is a great, robust solution that can help you in your sales and marketing endeavors, but in itself it is not a miracle-maker, silver bullet, or whatever you may call it. To be able to do its job properly, marketing automation software needs a steady stream of new leads, i.e. contacts that have expressed some level of interest in your products or service. Marketing automation can help you effectively nurture them and gradually turn them into loyal customers, thus increasing the overall effectiveness of your marketing efforts. But to make it happen, the software needs quality leads to work with. It’s your job to make sure you have good methods of acquiring them.  


We hope you’ve found the above guide on marketing automation useful. If you have any questions related to the subject, please feel free to contact us. And if you’re already looking for a specific, effective multichannel marketing automation platform, why not give ExpertSender a try? To request a free, no obligation demo of our software, click here

Written by
Jarek Wasielewski
Digital Content Specialist at ExpertSender
After work: local historian. Double bass enthusiast.
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