What is marketing automation?

woman employed as IT support using a computer in an office while talking to a customer through a headset
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is marketing automation?

B2C marketing automation and B2B marketing automation (opens in new tab) is using the information stored on the best CRM software (opens in new tab) to automate some of the most repetitive marketing tasks that you need to perform to succeed.  

What does marketing automation do? 

Marketing automation takes the key parts of marketing and does them for you, saving you the effort of doing so manually. That can include multiple different parts of marketing. These include: 

  • Sending out marketing emails. These emails can be for marketing purposes, or to follow up with a client after completing a project for them. This is often done in conjunction with CRM software (opens in new tab)
  • Performing social media tasks. These can include automatically posting tweets or Facebook posts
  • Measuring email/website behaviour and activity. Marketing automation can also track your company's performance by analysing statistics
  • Creating sales leads. By using information gleaned from the best CRM for a small business (opens in new tab), marketing automation can create personalized sales leads, so that you don't need to do it manually
  • Responding to customer queries. Queries from clients can initially be answered automatically before being redirected to a human when needed

How departments use marketing automation 

Staff at desks on computers in office

Departments from customer service to IT can utilize marketing automation tools, both internally and externally (Image credit: Pexels)

Customer service

Marketing automation within customer services can help in many different ways. It can automatically remind clients when a specific license expires and needs renewing. 

On a simpler level, it can also provide automatic responses to email queries from potential clients, or those looking for assistance, before a human customer service operative takes over. 

At other times, it can help the customer service operative advise a client on related products, or simply be more aware of the client's prior needs and equipment. It's one of the core reasons why small businesses need a CRM (opens in new tab).

Marketing

Marketing automation is at its strongest within the marketing department. It ensures that sales leads can be automatically generated and targeted at customers most interested in a product, saving the marketing department from doing so manually. 

By recommending the right product and not wasting anyone's time, it's more likely you will gain that sale too, as well as keep the customer happy and satisfied. A well-made CRM tool with great automation features will help drive customer growth (opens in new tab) substantially for businesses, as it can analyse what works best for the client. 

That leads to more relevant emails for the client, and no need for the department to complete such monotonous tasks. 

HR

Marketing automation means there is always a virtual paper trail for HR departments to follow to check that certain procedures are being followed. 

If the HR department wants to check that all employees are keeping up with maintaining sales leads or strong customer service performance, it can be easy to check here automatically, with relevant software throwing up statistics to show what has been achieved. 

It can also help HR departments predict more accurately what the future holds based on prior results. It can even automate some of the recruitment process through CRM software and similar products, as well as implement HR policy updates more quickly. 

Finance

Much like HR, a finance department can track the performance of individuals as well as specific campaigns, therefore knowing where the best investments are. Alongside that, it can use such knowledge to test scenarios to work out where the biggest profit margins lie. 

It can also create reports showing how progress has been made through more automated means than doing so manually, as well as respond to queries more quickly. 

IT department 

An IT department can use marketing automation to evaluate where bottlenecks may be occurring within a company's service, before working on improving those areas. It can also send out mass emails explaining updates to IT systems more easily, and generally operate more efficiently. 

Being able to deploy new software that instantly automates more services should be simpler too, through the use of the best free CRM software (opens in new tab) as well as other paid solutions. 

Features and benefits of marketing automation 

woman on a customer service call

Marketing automation solutions can result in improved sales lead quality, efficiency, and a more personalized service (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Improved efficiency 

A company that works more efficiently through marketing automation saves money, works better, and generally has happier staff and clients. 

Thanks to marketing automation services taking out all the effort of more tedious tasks, staff can focus on the more complex matters, leaving automation tools to deal with automated emails, lead nurturing, and admin tasks. It can also keep track of performance records automatically. 

Better lead quality

By using marketing automation services alongside CRM software, it's possible to nurture better leads with existing and new clients. 

While automation sounds like it would involve repetitive emails, by combining it with CRM software, users can send emails on client birthdays, specific days such as renewal day, or simply target them with sales suggestions that will actually relate to their business needs. 

When used appropriately, clients will feel they are enjoying a personal service rather than receive pointless messages. 

Personalized service

As before, a personalized service is more easily achieved through appropriate use of marketing automation. That doesn't just relate to sales either, with customer service improved via the use of automated messages early on to solve simple issues, before a client being transferred to a human operator for anything more complex.

It can even be used within a business to ensure that all staff know exactly what's going on, through a more simplified method than having to send out individual emails or policy updates. 

Improved marketing ROI

A more personal and user-friendly form of marketing automation means that ROI (or return on investment) is far improved. While the initial outlay for a marketing automation system might seem expensive, when used well it can easily pay for itself through improved sales and marketing performance. Anything that saves time and money tends to lead to improved ROI. 

Better future prediction

With marketing automation software also including extensive tracking, performance reports, and statistics, staff are able to predict the future more accurately based on prior performance. Through such tools, users can see where sales leads were developed the best, as well as see if there are any gaps in email campaigns or the sales cycle. 

In the long term, it makes it easier to predict which quarter is most likely to be the most successful based on prior campaigns. 

How much does marketing automation cost? 

budgetary and financial analytics displayed on a laptop

The cost of any marketing automation systems will depend on what you go for and what you need (Image credit: Unsplash)

Marketing automation systems cost a varying amount depending on which one you go for. Expect to be able to pay either on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, with many prices alternating based on how many users are signed up for it, as well as how many contacts are added to the system. 

Some outlets suggest that marketing automation tools will take up between three to five percent of your marketing budget, but this can vary depending on what you're looking for. It's important to check that the marketing automation software offers the features you need such as CRM integration, asset creation, and performance tracking. It's also worth contemplating setup fees, and how long it will take for your business to adjust to using it. 

It's possible to pay tens, hundreds, or even thousands a month depending on how much you need from it. A simple email marketing automation tool can only cost $25 a month, for instance, while a service that also offers lead generation automation or lead nursing can soon cost a lot more. 

Marketing automation FAQ 

What is an example of marketing automation?

One of the most obvious examples of marketing automation is sending out surveys and feedback emails. Customers can report back on how they found your service, enabling you to improve in certain areas. 

Other forms of marketing automation involve sending emails that offer personalized services or items, so that a client feels they're receiving a personal touch from you. 

What is included in marketing automation?

Marketing automation is all about automating tedious tasks, saving staff from having to do so manually. Generally, the simplest of marketing automation tools provide you with ways in which to send emails en masse to clients without it feeling soulless.

Alternatively, other marketing automation services allow for lead generation - again, in a more personal way than the name suggests. It's also possible to set up automated customer service responses for simple issues. 

What is marketing automation used for?

Marketing automation is used to automate repetitive tasks within a company. This can vary depending on the company's needs, but it typically involves sending out emails via the information gathered in CRM software, without it looking mass-generated. 

It can also be used to analyse sales performance based on the leads generated by such emails or social media campaigns, with information such as how often a client clicks on an email from your company proving invaluable. 

Which marketing automation solution is best?

No one solution is perfect for everyone. Companies like Mailchimp can prove popular for email automation, but other companies such as HubSpot are useful for more extensive marketing automation tools. 

It's important to evaluate what you need for your business, as well as consider your budget and how many contacts you need to add to the system. 

How do I start with marketing automation?

Picking the right marketing automation software is the first step you need to undertake. It's then important to integrate it with your CRM before importing contacts, setting up email templates, and arranging the first campaign to be run.

Other automations can include preparing for customer service needs, or setting up internal tools such as sending out HR policy updates to the whole company. It's important to train your staff extensively so that they know how to get the most out of the software. 

Main takeaways  

man using voip headset talking to customer

By utilizing marketing automation tools, your business can be more efficient, and offer a more personalized service (Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Efficiency is everything. A more efficiently-run business saves you time and money. This can be achieved through marketing automation services
  • A more personalized service is always good. A more personal touch means that customers feel more valued than elsewhere. Marketing automation can do this through key use of information
  • CRM integration is vital. By integrating marketing automation tools with a CRM, you can easily use lead information to provide a faster and more personal service
  • Happier staff and clients are possible. Using marketing automation software means that staff can work more effectively, leading to higher satisfaction. Similarly, clients feel more valued
  • Automation is simple. Once marketing automation is set up initially, it's relatively simple to maintain and keep operating for clients and staff alike

Further reading on CRM software

Marketing automation software works at its best when integrated with the best CRM software (opens in new tab). Whether it's paid software or the best free CRM software (opens in new tab), it's important to find the right one. If you're not convinced, look at the five reasons why you need a small business CRM (opens in new tab) to learn how a CRM can drive customer growth (opens in new tab).

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 


Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.