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A beginner’s guide to automated marketing campaigns

Automated Marketing Campaign
What is an automated marketing campaign?
The benefits of marketing automation
How to automate an email marketing campaign
4 tips for smoother marketing automation campaigns
Final thoughts

Using software to run automated marketing campaigns is like having a reliable assistant to handle all your menial marketing tasks.

With the right tools, triggers and actions, you can streamline lead generation, customer relationship management and company-wide collaboration.

The only catch is that you must know what, when and how to automate to benefit. Target the wrong activities and you risk slowing productivity and wasting money.

In this article, you’ll learn what marketing automation looks like, which tasks it works best for and how it can help your business grow. We’ll also explain how to set up your first automated marketing campaign.

What is an automated marketing campaign?

An automated marketing campaign uses technology to streamline or eliminate repetitive tasks.

It involves setting up predefined triggers and actions to perform various marketing tasks, such as delivering personalized content, organizing customer data and measuring campaign performance.

The use of workflow automation is growing in many sectors. Three-quarters of respondents in our State of Sales and Marketing 2021/22 survey reported using automation tools and technology, up from 51% in 2019/20.

Marketers are also more likely to use automation tools than business owners, sales managers or salespeople.

Tech Usage and Automation Graphs

Automated marketing campaign examples

Ways you can use automation in marketing include:

  • Email drip campaigns. A series of pre-scheduled emails sent to a specific audience over time. For example, a clothing brand could send a welcome email to new subscribers, followed by messages showcasing different product categories over the next three weeks.

  • Social media scheduling. Using tools to plan and automate posts on various social media channels (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram). A travel agency might schedule posts about vacation destinations at peak engagement times.

  • Content marketing campaigns. Creating and distributing valuable content to attract, engage and educate a target audience. A fitness equipment e-commerce brand could run a campaign with blog posts, videos and infographics about learning healthy habits to build authority in its wellness niche.

  • Web push and chatbots. Automated notifications and instant messaging services designed to engage website visitors in real time. Banks often use chatbots to help website visitors find account information or direct them to suitable support channels.

  • Retargeting. Showing ads to users who have previously visited a website but didn’t convert (complete a desired action). An online toy store might display ads featuring recently viewed products, reminding customers to make a purchase.

You can also use automation to measure your marketing efforts’ effectiveness. A great example is configuring email marketing software to automatically generate regular reports on open rates, click-through rates and other engagement metrics.

The benefits of marketing automation

Automation helps marketers increase efficiency, saves time, reduces human error and ensures engagement with potential customers. It makes digital marketing campaigns more effective and businesses more profitable.

As reported in the State of Sales and Marketing 2021/22, businesses that automate sales data and activity management tasks (including marketing) are more likely to hit sales targets.

Professionals who use sales and marketing automation tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, are 19 percentage points more likely to be satisfied with the tech available to them than those who don’t – and these people are more likely to work in companies that grew their revenue and exceeded forecasts in 2021.

Here are four ways that automated marketing campaigns enhance business performance.

1. They free up time

A Slack study found that workers who use automation systems save an average of 3.6 hours per week.

That kind of saving (which would be greater for anyone with many repetitive tasks) allows marketers to focus on more complex and creative tasks, like strategizing and collaborating with sales teams.

For example, instead of manually sending individual welcome emails to new subscribers, an e-commerce company could set up an automated welcome series, freeing marketers to brainstorm content ideas for their next campaign.

Automation also leads to more cost-efficient resource management. When staff focus on skilled tasks, employers can achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) for their hiring efforts.

2. They enable large-scale personalization

Personalization matters to consumers and makes businesses more successful.

McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect brands to deliver personalized interactions. It also found that fast-growing companies drive 40% more revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts.

However, as your business grows, manually tailoring marketing content to different buyers becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming. That’s where automation comes in.

Automation solutions enable more personalized marketing in three ways:

  • Customer data management. Turning customer and sales data from various sources into actionable insights through reports, dashboards and simple user interfaces.

  • Audience segmentation. Organizing contacts into groups based on demographics, interests, behavior and buyer journey stage.

  • Content distribution. Scheduling marketing content such as emails, blog posts, SMS and push notifications to reach buyers at the perfect moments.

An online retailer can use Pipedrive (a sales and marketing CRM with automation features) to pull prospects’ data from various sources and segment them into categories like “loyal customers”, “hot leads” and “new prospects”.

Lead Labels

With leads separated by buyer journey stage, the company can trigger personalized emails featuring relevant product recommendations and exclusive offers to each group. The more relevant the emails are, the more likely recipients will engage.

3. They reduce human error

Automating repetitive marketing processes reduces the likelihood of human errors, like sending the wrong email or mistiming a social media post.

Take personalized email campaigns. Email marketing automation software can pull recipients’ data from your CRM system, ensuring names, email addresses and other details are accurate.

Manually entering this information increases the chances of making an error in someone’s name and appearing unprofessional. A typo in an email address will stop the content from reaching the recipient.

Minimizing human error like this helps businesses:

  • Maintain professionalism and quality standards. Even simple mistakes can damage a brand’s reputation. In a Tidio survey, 97.2% of respondents claimed grammar errors affected their perception of a brand.

  • Stay compliant with data privacy regulations. Sending the wrong information to the wrong person, regardless of whether it’s a simple mistake, could land you a hefty fine.

  • Save time. Rectifying human-made mistakes, like writing and sending an apology email, takes valuable time.

Note: If you make an obvious or potentially damaging mistake in marketing correspondence, it’s always best to own up and address it. Learn more in our guide on writing apology emails to customers.

4. They enhance customer experiences

Every individual benefit of marketing automation contributes to better customer experiences (CX).

It matters because great CX inspires loyalty and advocacy, improving customer lifetime value (CLV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC) sales metrics. As a result, your business becomes more profitable.

More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents in a Verint survey were more than likely to buy from a company again after receiving an amazing customer experience online.

Automating workflows frees up your time so you can give more attention to:

  • Researching and understanding leads’ needs and behaviors

  • Crafting helpful lead-generation content

  • Helping new customers get more value from their purchases

Personalizing marketing content (with help from automation tech) ensures leads consistently get the information and reassurance they need to progress through your sales funnel.

Lastly, reducing human errors makes it easier for potential customers to trust your brand. They’re less likely to question your professionalism or legitimacy, meaning they can buy with confidence – potentially multiple times.

How to automate an email marketing campaign

The automation process varies between different marketing channels and marketing automation platforms.

However, running through one type of configuration can help you understand how automation workflows generally happen.

We’ll use email marketing for this example. Start these steps only after you’ve written your email content – more on how to do that in our guide to email copywriting techniques.

Note: You can do all the following and more using Pipedrive’s email marketing tool, Campaigns.

Step 1: Name your campaign

Start by giving your campaign a clear title.

It will help you quickly identify and access it later. If you need to review, edit or copy an automated campaign in the future, you can pick it from a list or use your software’s search function.

When creating your first automated campaigns, keep your titles short and simple.

For example, you could call an upselling email campaign “upsell email”.

As you build more campaigns, you can get more specific about dates, product ranges and other details. “Software upsell email – December 2023”, for example.

Step 2: Add your content

Now’s the time to add your freshly written email or template from your email marketing software to your campaign.

Next, add a subject line and email preheader (also known as preview text), which is the copy your recipients see in their inbox before they open your email.

Email Subject lines

Great subject lines and preheader text entice clicks so more people see your content. With that in mind, here are some of our tips for engaging email content:

  • Get to your point quickly to grab and keep readers’ attention

  • Ask questions to spark intrigue

  • Personalize your message with recipients’ names

  • Use numbers to show readers what to expect (e.g., “3 loyalty-boosting retention tips you must know”)

You can use A/B split tests to find the best subject lines and preheaders for your campaigns. An A/B test is where you run two or more versions for smaller sample groups and compare the outcomes.

Step 3: Add a trigger and choose your conditions

A trigger is a specific event or condition that sets off an automated action or series of actions. It is the starting point of an automated workflow.

Your trigger could be a website visitor signing up for your newsletter, prompting an automated welcome email to the new subscriber.

Deal status changes can also be helpful automation triggers. For instance, you could trigger a lead nurturing campaign whenever someone creates a new deal.

Other helpful marketing automation triggers include:

  • Purchases

  • Product returns

  • Abandoned carts

  • Website visits

  • Support inquiries

Use these and more to automatically deliver helpful content when your leads and customers need it most.

You’ll also need to set some conditions. These predefined rules or criteria determine whether certain actions within your automated workflow should go ahead. It allows the system to base decisions on user behavior or data attributes.

For example, you might trigger welcome emails in different languages based on the new subscriber’s location.

When using deal status changes as triggers, you could send different emails based on whether the deal is won or lost (the condition). You might send “next steps” to new customers (deal won) and a feedback request when a deal is lost.

Step 4: Add a delay

Delays are timed pauses between two actions in an automated email sequence. They create natural pacing in your workflow, ensuring actions happen at the right moments.

For example, delay your follow-up email for two days after sending a welcome email to give recipients time to see the first one.

Optimizing email cadence (the frequency and timing of your marketing emails) boosts your open and click-through rates, meaning more eyes on your website content.

While there’s no single best practice for email cadence, it can help to look at how other companies get results.

A Databox survey of marketers found that 45% send emails weekly and a third do it more than once a week. Over 40% of respondents said sending marketing emails on Tuesday proved best for engagement. Depending on your software, you can build these timing factors into your marketing automation campaign strategy.

Step 5: Choose the recipients

Choose who receives your automated emails by setting specific conditions in your email marketing software.

Say you’re running an automated campaign to promote a new product. The recipient criteria could be existing customers who made similar purchases. If the new product has a well-defined target audience, you could choose recipients based on their demographic profile, interests or location.

If your automation trigger is a deal status change, the recipient should be the contact associated with that deal in your CRM software. It’s a much smaller audience but your message will be ultra-relevant.

Step 6: Activate your campaign (and monitor the results)

When you’re confident you’ve set everything up correctly (running a test with a few colleagues is always sensible), activate your campaign, sit back and wait for the results.

Conversions are your aim but these email marketing metrics will also help you gauge your campaigns’ effectiveness:

  • Deliverability rate. The percentage of emails sent that successfully reach recipients' inboxes.

  • Open rate. The percentage of delivered emails that recipients open.

  • Spam complaint rate. The percentage of recipients who mark an email as spam or junk.

  • Click-through rate. The percentage of recipients who click on a link or follow a call-to-action (CTA).

  • Unsubscribe rate. The percentage of recipients who choose to opt out of receiving further emails.

Use this information to optimize your efforts. For example, a high spam complaint rate (above 0.2%) indicates that your content isn’t relevant to all of your audience. Removing less engaged subscribers from your email list could help.

4 tips for smoother marketing automation campaigns

Anyone can use marketing automation campaigns but it takes thought and planning to get the best results. Here are four tips to help you hit the ground running.

1. Make the most of integrations

Connecting your marketing automation software to other sales and marketing tools will help you build smoother workflows and increase productivity.

For example, integrating your email marketing tool with a CRM system saves you from repeatedly entering recipients’ contact information for every new campaign. Instead, you can pull the data straight from your CRM’s database.

When shortlisting potential automation tools, check out their integration libraries or marketplaces to see what’s possible.

Note: Even if a ready-made integration isn’t available, you may be able to connect two tools using an API or Zapier.

2. Don’t automate everything

Automation is powerful but not suitable for every task. Many interactions still benefit from a personal touch.

For example, an automated chatbot can provide basic information on a product or service but is unlikely to improve an unhappy customer’s sentiment. For that, it’s better to ask a salesperson, support agent or account manager to contact them directly.

Automate repetitive tasks with minimal risk, then use the time you gain for work that requires more human attention, such as strategic planning, acting on campaign insights and crafting original content.

3. Experiment with different strategies

Not every automated marketing campaign will go perfectly on the first try. Testing different messages and approaches helps determine what works best for your audience.

Assemble your marketing team after every new campaign to discuss what worked and what didn’t, then apply your findings to the next effort.

For example, if sending abandoned cart emails within an hour of someone leaving your website increases your unsubscribe rate, add a 24-hour delay to give recipients more thinking time.

4. Find an automation tool that works for you

Choose automation software that aligns with your business needs (e.g., budget), integrates seamlessly with your existing tools and can automate tasks in the marketing channels you use most.

Some tools can automate more than just marketing campaigns, giving you an even bigger ROI. For example, Pipedrive can also handle many sales processes, helping you streamline other aspects of the customer journey.

Final thoughts

As long as you target suitable tasks, use your time savings wisely and keep learning from the process, marketing automation will make you more productive than your competitors.

Start small by automating a single campaign for email, social media marketing or another channel. Eventually, you’ll be able to run multiple automated campaigns at the same time, gaining time and increasing efficiency.

Driving business growth