Marketing Automation What is it and How Does it Work

Marketing Automation 101: What is it and How Does it Work?

If you work in marketing, chances are you know the term ‘marketing automation.’ But could you explain what it is to a co-worker in the elevator? Probably not.

The truth is, marketing automation is a tough concept to grasp in just a few sentences. The best place to start is with an authoritative definition. According to Wikipedia, “marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.”

Extrapolating from the definition, we can say that marketing automation has three essential characteristics:

  1. A software platform that integrates all digital channels and measures performance metrics relative to marketing goals. Standard performance metrics include lead generation, lead nurturing, customer segmentation and targeting, and ROI measurement.
  2. A replacement for manual and physical tasks (like sending out personal emails to a new customer) that would otherwise take up valuable time and money.
  3. A customer relations management tool that churns customer touch points into personalized, highly-targeted content to bolster customer acquisition efforts.

How Does Automated Marketing Work? 

Let’s look at the example of email marketing to explore how automation can make your workflow more efficient, increase accuracy, and improve ROI.

Email marketing is a widespread outreach and customer relations tactic in use today. Emails are blasted off to every contact in the prospect lists with faint hopes of connecting with someone and (eventually) making a sale. There are some problems with this approach, including:

  1. A one-size-fits-all approach. Assuming that all (or most) of your customers are interested in the same things about your business is a common oversight in marketing.
  2. Wasted time and money. Writing and designing an email may only lead to a 5% open rate. What does that mean? It indicates that you are not segmenting your audiences enough and curating content to match.
  3. Customer fatigue. A lead may get tired of reading irrelevant material (from their perspective) sent by your company. And once they have decided to ignore your emails, it is tough to get them interested again.

A lot of marketers realize that their email marketing campaigns could be more specific. Enter an automated marketing system, which allows you to reach customers at any stage of the buyer’s journey and respond to reservations they may have with relevant content.

Consider the difference in the workflow using an automated marketing software:

  1. Send invites to a targeted list to download a new industry trends report
  2. Track open rates and individual interaction as part of a lead scoring metric.
  3. Send a follow-up email to all those who downloaded the report. Offer an article on a key industry trend for more context and insight.
  4. Optimize your software to alert your sales team whenever a customer downloads the article.

Now you have a healthy conversion funnel that builds upon customer knowledge and reflects their level of interest in your company. The sales team is happy because they have highly-qualified leads to work with, and your customers are satisfied because they feel a 1:1 connection with your company.


This, in a nutshell, is marketing automation 101. If you are struggling with time management and low conversion rates, then perhaps you need a more robust marketing automation infrastructure. CRM tools like Salesforce Pardot (for B2B) and Marketing Could (for B2C) are a great example of marketing automation because they are designed to save you time, increase customer satisfaction, and drive conversions.