Marketing Automation - What it is & How to Do it Right

In today’s cluttered online marketplaces, customers are bombarded with marketing messages from the moment they get online.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is the process that allows you to communicate across marketing channels in response to particular customer actions.  Marketing Automation gives you the opportunity to make sure that you are getting the right messages to the right customer at the right time.

Even if the term is unfamiliar, if you have an email account or have ever bought something online then you can be sure that you have been the recipient of automated marketing material.

Marketing automation examples

Have you received an email thanking you for signing up for a newsletter? Ever been sent an SMS notification that your hair appointment is confirmed?  Marketing automation processes deliver relevant contents to your customers at the point at which they want to receive it.

Marketing automation streamlines your communication with customers by creating, tailoring and sending messages automatically. 

Other examples of marketing automation include:

  • Sending customers a happy birthday greeting or special offer
  • Welcome and subscription confirmation emails
  • Reminders related to past purchases
  • Inactivity reports or shopping cart reminders
  • Loyalty rewards and incentives

Marketing automation case study

James runs a small business selling native seeds and seedlings from his shop and online store. James’ website has information about the different types of seeds he sells; when to plant them and their preferred conditions. Visitors to the site can also download a short resource booklet about how to start growing a native garden.

When a customer registers their email, they receive a link to download the booklet.  Shortly after the customer downloads the book, they receive an email from James offering them a 10% discount on a native seedling starter pack.

This email is an example of automated marketing.  James is reaching out with a special message to a potential customer he knows has some interest in his product. By setting up an automated workflow, the email is sent without James having to do any manual work.

Types of marketing automation

In most cases, automation will occur in the form of an email that is triggered by a certain action. Marketing automation can also include website forms and pop-ups and the sending of SMS messages.

Marketing automation will help you:

  • Send marketing emails
  • Generate leads
  • Interact on social media
  • Gather data about customer data and behaviour
  • Connect with new customers
  • Improve sales
  • Respond quickly
  • Engage directly in meaningful ways with your customers

What is the best marketing automation software?

The best marketing automation software for your business will depend on the size and goals of your business.  Before you decide on which option is going to suit your business, it might be worth revisiting your overall marketing objectives and assessing how each option will help you create the strategic messages you want to share with your customers.  

There are a number of marketing automation software options on the market, and each has a unique point of difference that will help you achieve different results. 

  • HubSpot is highly sophisticated and customisable
  • GetResponse boasts more than 350,000 customers worldwide
  • OptinMonster works by generating leads from landing page visits
  • ConverterKit is simple to use and great for beginners
  • ActiveCampaign is popular for small business owners and can handle both small and complex automation workflows
  • Salesforce Pardot is a high performing system used in B2B commerce

Most of these software systems are available by monthly subscription, and in some cases you can download a free trial before committing to purchasing.  Some of the products on the market can integrate with your existing CRM software, and others assist with the management of content related to your catalogue.

Benefits of marketing automation

Your customers don’t want their mailboxes overrun with generic emails or to be bombarded with irrelevant content. By automating marketing communications, you will build long-term relationships with your customers by demonstrating to customers you consider them unique, and important to you. Benefits of marketing automation include:

  • a reduction in overall costs
  • less repetitive administrative tasks
  • improved relationships with customers
  • greater brand loyalty
  • better leads
  • marketing messages and campaigns with greater longevity that can be deployed over and over

And the research around automated marketing is compelling. According to Campaign Monitor, automated emails get 86% higher open rates, produce an almost 200% increase in click-through rates and generate 320% more revenue than standard promotional emails.

Which parts of marketing to automate first

With the pressure on to meet the ever-evolving expectations of customers, you’re probably wondering how to get started. Most marketing automation actions relate to the handling and sending of emails to customers at their various touchpoints with your company. By beginning with the task of list segmentation you can coordinate your email database and prepare to start sending specific and targeted emails.

By gathering data and building up your email list, you will be able to determine which individuals are most likely to be interested in particular campaigns.  By using what you know to target messages to particular demographics, your audience will come to appreciate that you deliver email messages with a high degree of relevance.

List segmentation for marketing automation

List segmentation will allow you to send relevant marketing offerings to different contacts and subscribers on your list. This could include:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Job title
  • Gender
  • Lead or sign up source
  • Interests

List segmentation will help you get the right message straight to the customers who have the highest chance of opening your email.

Here’s an example. Your business sells soaps on a large scale and has customers in both Australia and England.  Mother’s Day is coming up and you want to offer a special Mother’s Day discount to customers who have purchased from you in the last six months. But Mother’s Day isn’t celebrated on the same day in the two countries.

Sending a generic email to all of your customers won’t work.  You need to be able to use list segmentation to automatically determine which customers to email, given the conditions they need to have purchased in the last six months, and be located in Australia. 

This is a very simple example and highlights the capabilities of Marketing automation, especially when you need to segment your customer list into multiple marketing funnels.

Marketing automation template to follow for e-commerce

Automation templates are tools that depict how a marketing interaction with a customer could occur. The template shows when and how contacts will be sent to your customer.  The template is the workflow that your automation software will follow as it carries out contacts.

You might need several templates, each for one of the actions you want to automate. Your customer onboarding template might involve sending a customer a welcome email as they subscribe, a follow-up email on day three and a special offer if they haven’t completed a purchase by day 10.

Marketing automation B2B or B2C

Automating processes will benefit you in both the B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Customer) environment. The intent is the same; to increase engagement, to send direct and relevant messages to build the brand and ultimately to increase sales. But there are some differences too.

B2B automations are likely to involve broader messages to larger groups of contacts, and have softer marketing objectives such as building the brand or offering product awareness or education. It can be more about establishing familiarity and working towards longer-term partnerships. There can be more than one person involved in a decision to interact.

B2C automations are highly personalised and specific with a specific customer journey and sales goal in mind. Decisions to conduct B2C transactions are usually made by individuals, and may be made on the spur of the moment.

The future of marketing automation

As the tech continues to evolve, more automation opportunities become available.  We’re seeing greater levels of integration between the available marketing automation software, and social media networks.

And the number of customers who primarily access information via mobile devices is ever increasing. The race is on to improve the mobile customer experience. Mobile marketing automation will give greater engagement through:

  • In-app interactions
  • Push notification
  • Location- based contacts
  • Payment tools such as Google Pay

There is also an increasing interest in AI for marketing automation. This could mean more sophisticated ways of assessing customer behavior and interests and tailoring individualized recommendations or offers.

Connect with your customers

Regardless of what state your customer contact list is in, it’s never too late to start automating your marketing activity.  Even a small investment in applying a few basic marketing workflows will save you time and increase the likelihood your customers will engage with the content you send them. Stop sending generic emails and make your messages count.