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What is marketing automation?

Automation Marketing Definition
Topics
What is marketing automation?
How does marketing automation work?
What are the benefits of marketing automation (and why do customers love it)?
5 different types of marketing automation solutions
How to choose the right marketing automation tool for you
6 tips to get the most out of marketing automation
Final thoughts

In marketing, repetitive (yet essential) tasks like data entry can take up a lot of your time. Worse still, many of these tasks can drain your creativity and take your focus away from key activities that require your undivided attention.

Marketing automation software can save you time and energy by doing these jobs for you. It can be used to streamline many behind-the-scenes tasks including campaign management, behavioral analysis, segmentation, website monitoring, lead generation and more.

In this article, we’ll explain what marketing automation is, how it works and how it can take your business operations to the next level. Then, we’ll explain what to look for in marketing automation technologies and how you can get the most out of them.


What is marketing automation?

A simple marketing automation definition is using software to perform recurring, labor-intensive tasks that would usually be done by marketers. These tools help you create streamlined workflows to do certain tasks automatically so you can focus on deeper work.

For example, instead of inputting customer data into spreadsheets by hand, you can use software to collect and log data into customer profiles within your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Marketing automation can help you with many daily marketing tasks, such as:

  • Acquiring customers

  • Building long-term relationships

  • Following up with leads

  • Building better customer profiles

  • Segmenting email lists

  • Scheduling emails and social media content

  • Tracking performance and return on investment (ROI)

  • Simplifying customer service

  • Delivering dynamic content

As you can see, there are many ways to benefit from marketing automation. Let’s explore how it works.


How does marketing automation work?

Marketing automation sounds complicated, but it exists to make marketers’ jobs easier, so it’s worth putting in the time to set up automated workflows.

Most of the time, automation software implements workflows via conditional statements. These are statements that follow the “If A, then B” model, where A is a trigger and B is the condition it triggers.

For example:

  • If a lead fills out a form on your website, then offer them a free consultation by email after one hour.

  • If the lead responds, then route them to your sales team.

  • If the lead doesn’t respond, then send a follow-up email the next day.

Here’s an example of a trigger and condition in Pipedrive’s Automations:

Pipedrive Automations Trigger and Conditions


Using this simple formula, automation software can perform most of your repetitive tasks – and since these tasks aren’t usually that difficult, it’s pretty easy to automate chains of tasks into workflows.

Let’s look at another example. Say a prospective customer visits your landing page and fills out a form to sign up for a webinar you’re hosting. Here’s what could happen next with marketing automation:

  1. Your software funnels the prospect into a new email list for attendees.

  2. Your email marketing tool then begins an email nurture campaign for the attendees, starting with a sign-up confirmation message.

  3. After the webinar, the software sends attendees a “thank you for viewing” email containing a call to action (CTA) to set up a call with a sales rep.

  4. When the attendees click the link and fill out the form with their preferred call time, the sales rep receives a notification and can call at the allotted time.

To begin an automation workflow like this, you still need to do some manual work. Generally, you will start by developing the content and messaging you want to automatically send to customers. In the example above, this would include a confirmation and thank you email, web forms and a landing page.

Next, you need to determine how to segment your audience and tell the software which segments to target. In this case, your segments might be prospects (who have shown interest) and attendees (who have signed up).

Finally, define which circumstances will activate the automation. For example, when a lead signs up for the webinar, add them to the attendee email list.

You can also use marketing automation to set up additional workflows to get the most from your interactions. For example, once you have your webinar workflow set up, you can set up an additional automation to collect data about potential customers.

This added functionality can track their interactions with your digital marketing content and annotate their customer profiles accordingly. You’ll be able to see which content is most relevant and what else you can do to increase your marketing ROI.


What are the benefits of marketing automation (and why do customers love it)?

The obvious benefit of automation is that by handing off lower-level marketing tasks to software, marketers have more time and resources for strategic marketing activities like campaign planning and content generation.

Marketing automation can help businesses of any size and industry, whether it’s a small business e-commerce store or a multinational corporation.

It’s also cost-effective. In a review of 16 case studies, Nucleus Research found that marketing automation returns $5.44 for every dollar spent over the first three years that it’s deployed.

Let’s explore some more useful benefits of marketing automation.

Boost customer understanding and deliver personalized workflows

Automation helps you identify key accounts and collect actionable data throughout the customer lifecycle that can be leveraged to create more effective marketing campaigns and boost customer loyalty.

You can track customer actions and collect more insightful data to generate well-rounded customer profiles. For example, embedded customer surveys can collect and analyze customer data, storing it in a central repository like your CRM.

With insights into your customers’ needs and preferences, you can deliver the right content at key moments to boost customer retention.

Streamline processes and bring your teams together

Marketing software can link processes between your teams. With all customer information in one place, your sales and marketing teams won’t require clunky hand-off procedures to take customers to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.

For example, you can define which leads are warm and cold and have the software instantly assign the hottest ones to your sales team. Automation software can also keep sales reps informed on key information such as where leads came from and what they’ve shown interest in.

Implement complex marketing strategies

Automation software ensures that you’ll take the most effective step at each stage. It helps you keep prospective customers moving through the sales process as they complete relevant activities.

Marketing automation can also handle complex communication, letting you manage your customers across multiple channels to ensure a consistent, personalized experience regardless of how they contact you.

Based on your updated customer profiles, your email marketing software can automatically segment your email lists for more advanced targeting. It can help nurture leads with automatic follow-up emails or retargeting ads that help cross-sell or up-sell your products and services.

Save time, reduce error and improve results

With 360-degree visibility into what’s working and what isn’t, marketers can start planning data-driven campaigns. You’ll be able to abandon ineffective campaigns and optimize your spending by focusing on campaigns that get results.

Automation also helps push more effective campaigns to market. Marketing software with clean customer data lets you identify and target the right people at the right time, boosting conversion rates. Basing your campaigns on data-driven decisions rather than gut feelings reduces the chance of human error and increases the likelihood of success.

Improve the customer journey

Marketing automation also has several benefits when it comes to the customer journey. Customers appreciate it when you put the effort into showing them content they resonate with. According to a report by Epsilon, up to 80% of customers are more likely to buy from your brand if you offer relevant, customized experiences.

Automation helps you deliver relevant content that is specific to each customer. Whether it’s advertising, email marketing material or product recommendations, you can use tools like behavioral targeting to send only the information that that customer wants.

Automation tools also help solve common customer pain points. For instance, programming chatbots to respond with FAQs, video tutorials and other helpful content ensure customers can find answers when they need them.

It creates a more seamless customer experience as they move across channels and between platforms or team members.


5 different types of marketing automation solutions

Often, a brand will combine multiple marketing automation tools into what’s called a marketing technology stack or “martech stack”. This results in marketing automation platforms that go far beyond what a single tool is capable of on its own.

Here are five different kinds of automation tools and what they’re designed for.

1. Workflow automation

Combine your CRM with workflow automation to streamline your operations and ensure that you have one source of truth. Pipedrive’s software helps you boost productivity by eliminating unnecessary manual work with workflows and triggered events.

2. Sales automation and lead management

Sales automation can be used to generate qualified leads and push them further down the sales funnel. For example, Pipedrive’s LeadBooster add-on helps automate lead scoring so sales reps can prioritize follow-ups. It also features lead nurturing tools like our conversational Chatbot.

3. Social media marketing

Managing a social media account effectively is a lot more involved than many marketers realize. From content strategy to creation to engagement, there’s a lot to do to maintain a healthy social media presence.

Social media automation tools help schedule social media posts, monitor your mentions and track the effectiveness of your content. Some tools, such as Quickdialog, allow you to manage social media conversations from within your CRM.

4. Email marketing

Send single emails like welcome or abandoned cart messages or implement drip email campaigns to deliver a series of content. Once a customer fulfills the criteria, they’ll automatically trigger the emails in your workflow. Campaigns by Pipedrive lets you craft campaigns, filter contacts and get real-time insights.

5. Cross-team collaboration

Many automation tools help you manage customer information without losing time moving data between platforms. For example, Pipedrive features the Smart Docs add-on, which provides company-wide document-sharing, trackable documents and auto-fill capabilities.


How to choose the right marketing automation tool for you

With hundreds of marketing automation tools now available on the market, it can be hard to determine which is perfect for your company. Some solutions might be easier to use but have fewer features, while others have a richer set of tools but are harder to learn.

To choose the tool that will work for you, consider the following factors:

  • Key features. Some solutions will have multiple automation tools built in. For example, Pipedrive combines a powerful sales CRM with email automation, lead generation and collaboration tools. Other solutions may only have one primary feature. Consider why you want marketing automation and ensure that the one you pick supports your needs.

  • Integrations. Most marketing automation platforms support a wide range of integrations that can supplement and add various functionalities. At the very least, it should integrate with your existing content management and CRM systems. Pipedrive, for example, has a growing Marketplace of over 300 apps and integrations to help streamline your workflow.

  • Learning curve and training options. Once you get the hang of it, marketing automation is pretty simple to use. However, there will always be some growing pains, and you need to be sure that the solution you choose will be able to help you get the most out of it. Pipedrive provides an in-depth Knowledge Base, a Community forum and extensive training videos in the Pipedrive Academy.

  • Customer support. If something goes wrong, you need to know that you can find help at any time, any day – especially if you’re just getting started with marketing automation.

  • Scalability. You need a solution that’s going to grow with your company. If your email marketing solution only supports a few hundred contacts, that’s going to become a problem pretty quickly. Most automation solutions provide multiple subscription tiers so you can upgrade when necessary.

  • Cost. Marketing automation solutions vary dramatically when it comes to pricing. Keep your eye out for hidden costs and offers that might result in you paying significantly more once you’ve onboarded their ecosystem.


6 tips to get the most out of marketing automation

Automation workflows require little maintenance while they’re up and running, but they do require some upfront work to get them set up.

Here are six high-level tips to get the most out of your marketing automation.

1. Understand your customers

Automation must address customer needs. Because of this, automation works best when you have high-quality data about your customers’ preferences and needs at each touchpoint in the customer journey. The more precisely you know your customers and their challenges, the better you can target them.

2. Define your marketing automation strategy ahead of time

Marketing automation requires clearly defined goals. You can’t determine how effective your automations are if you don’t have targets to measure against.

Before you set up any workflows, it’s vital you define your marketing and sales strategy. Make sure your goals are measurable and that they support your company objectives.

3. Use flow charts to visualize your marketing processes

While building out workflows can be fairly simple with the right marketing automation software, they can be hard to envision in the planning stage. Detailed diagrams of your automation workflows will help you both implement the strategy and explain it to key stakeholders and team members.

4. Create the content

Once you have your marketing strategy laid out, you need relevant content that offers the customer the information they need via the right channel.

From Chatbot responses to follow-up messages to email campaigns, create material for each customer touchpoint, and then add it to your workflows and let the software do the work for you.

5. Keep up good communication

Cross-department communication is vital. Not only will your teams have valuable input throughout the implementation process, but with shared access to data, they can improve processes.

For example, sales and marketing can collaborate on what type of leads are converting best while customer support can let the marketing department know what challenges customers are facing.

6. Optimize consistently

You need to keep track of how your marketing efforts are performing. Use sales metrics like email open rates, click-through rates, conversions and time on page to work out where you’re losing leads.

You can also use A/B testing with different subject lines, messages and send times to work out what your customers prefer.


Final thoughts

Marketing automation software can save your company time and money, boost your marketing ROI and personalize your customers’ experiences. Put your data to work to cut down on repetitive marketing tasks and free your team up to focus on building and maintaining strong customer relationships.

With this guide, you have all the information you need to find the right tool and get started with marketing automation.

Driving business growth