What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation emailMarketing automation is a term used to describe a variety of automated marketing technologies. Over time, as technology has evolved, more software has been developed to help automate repetitive marketing tasks.

This software ranges from relatively simple, like email auto-responders that send an email automatically when an action, such as signing up to an email newsletter, has been completed, to incredibly complex multi-purpose systems with extensive analytics and reporting built in.

The extent to which companies are using marketing automation varies significantly. According to an Ascend2 survey, 18% of respondents were using marketing automation extensively, 43% used it for some tasks, and 39% didn’t use it at all.

Marketing automation generally becomes more useful the larger your business grows, when it gets to the point where you can’t individually target prospects, you may want to start using some kind of automation software to make sure you’re targeting potential customers with the right communications, at the right time.

Types of marketing automation

There are now a large number of systems offering marketing automation tools, helping to automate marketing tasks ranging from sending email to keeping track of leads.

Automated outbound emails

Automated email responders are perhaps one of the first kinds of marketing automation software that businesses might use. Most email marketing providers, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact, offer the facility to send an automated email when a specific action has taken place. This might be used when someone signs up, or alternatively to send a sequence of emails over time.

Personalisation

Automation can also help personalise your online marketing efforts. In its simplest form, emails can be automatically personalised with the name of the recipient, at the other end of the scale, the whole email could be created from personalised elements.

Ecommerce systems also make extensive use of automation to send personalised emails – for order confirmations and even emails to prompt customers to purchase if they left items in their basket. Emails can also be set up to send based on sets of rules, for example an email could be sent just to a segment of your list which had previously shown an interest in a certain product, service or topic.

Dynamic content

Using automated software, you can also display dynamic website content, dependent on the criteria you set up. This could range from showing a different version of the site depending the country of the visitor, to product recommendations based on pages browsed previously.

Lead management and tracking

While standard web analytics can tell you how many people are visiting your website, it won’t tell you much about who they are. In response, there are now tools available to which provide more information about your visitors, plus track and manage potential leads – for example LeadIn and Lead Forensics. These are especially helpful for B2B businesses, as they can identify which company web visitors are from, allowing you to contact them to follow up if required.

If you decide to experiment with marketing automation, we recommend starting small and gradually building up over time.