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What is Marketing Automation?

The Internet has revolutionized marketing activities in both B2B and B2C. Several decades ago, marketing was based on the so-called traditional forms of communication. Television, radio, billboards, advertisements, and flyers were all used. There is no denying that these forms of advertising are characterized by a very low degree of personalization of the content. The advertisement was seen by anyone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. There was no targeting of the audience.

This led to a huge budget burn (the ad had to reach the widest possible target group to increase the likelihood that a person potentially interested in the product would see it) and resulted in very low conversion rates. In addition, the ads increased the annoyance of the message recipients. Due to the mismatch between the communication and the target group, a huge part of the recipients wasted their time watching the advertisement, which did not concern them.

The era of digital marketing

The popularization of the Internet and changing behavior of society have revolutionized thinking about marketing. It is a well-known fact that today’s average Facebook user “scrolls” through a feed as long as the Statue of Liberty! We use search engines to find answers to most of our questions and solve problems, which results in dozens of search terms a day. This marks the beginning of the digital marketing era. 

The data that users started to leave on the Internet became useful to marketers. Why? Because of the possibility of personalizing communication and targeting messages. Why would you need to spend your marketing budget on showing your ad to everyone who watches a given TV channel?

The same with drivers who look at billboards, passing through a busy intersection in a large city. Most of them are not in our target group and will not care about our services or products. It is better to advertise only to those who may actually be interested. The Internet has been present in the work of marketers for several years. Now they are facing another important revolution. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning allowed for personalization on an unprecedented scale. We are just witnessing the revolution of marketing automation.

An infographic showing the six elements of digital marketing

What is a marketing automation system?

A marketing automation system is a tool that allows you to integrate most of your marketing activities in one place. These tools “feed” on the vast amount of data that each user leaves on the Internet. The data is collected in one system and used to conduct effective and personalized communication.

Such software has very many benefits from the perspective of professionals, marketing managers, and the overall organization of the marketing team. One of the primary benefits of marketing automation is working in one ecosystem and collecting data from multiple sources in one place.

Marketers know that keeping communication in multiple sources (social media, Google Ads, email marketing, domain positioning data, or website traffic) often makes it impossible to effectively analyze this data and make the most effective business decisions. So we can say that automation optimizes all marketing processes.

The development of marketing automation tools also goes hand in hand with more and more advanced artificial intelligence and the development of machine learning. By analyzing data using these techniques, marketing automation tools learn data and are able to automatically reach the user with the most effective marketing messages.

Will marketing automation platforms revolutionize digital marketing?

It can be said that the topic of marketing automation has already revolutionized digital marketing, both in B2B and B2C. First and foremost, marketing automation has given marketers the ability to personalize messages on an unprecedented scale. In the past, it was impossible to create an individual message for each of the company’s potential customers. Messages were sent in bulk, which had a negative impact on the effectiveness of such campaigns.

There are also obvious benefits of using a marketing automation system when it comes to managing potential customers. With the collection of data in one place, conducting communication using various sources from one marketing automation system, and the connection with a CRM tool, we gain full control over the marketing and sales process.

Some statistics about marketing automation

In a survey conducted by Social Media Today, as many as 75% of representatives of companies from various industries declared using any automation tools. From the 2019 House of Marketing survey, you can learn that 48% of companies use marketing automation systems. And according to Moosend, 63% of companies that use marketing automation systems report higher ROI and better sales results. According to Salesforce, the Marketing Cloud system helps increase sales productivity by an average of 14.5%.

The report, “The Benefits and Challenges of Marketing Automation,” included the results of a survey that asked about the biggest benefits of marketing automation systems. As many as 68.5% of respondents cited increased targeting of their communications. Improved customer satisfaction came in second, followed by improved lead qualification. Popular responses also included getting more leads, improved marketing metrics, higher conversions, or better collaboration between sales and marketing. The results of the survey can be seen in the image below.

Bar chart showing the results of the survey on the greatest benefits of marketing automation

“The Benefits and Challenges of Marketing Automation” report also contains another interesting study, during which the authors asked representatives of companies that do not have a marketing automation system implemented about the reasons for such a decision. As many as 55.5% of the respondents answered that the main reason is the lack of know-how. This challenge can be easily solved by cooperation with implementation partners of companies developing these solutions.

In the second place came the lack of human resources and in the third – the lack of marketing automation strategy. Popular answers were also lack of financial capabilities, insufficient data about their customers, or lack of content. The results of the survey are presented in the image below.

Bar chart showing results of the survey on reasons for not implementing marketing automation tools

Functions of marketing automation tools

Marketing automation tools are generally characterized by complexity and numerous functionalities. After all, marketing automation is a range of tools that are meant to focus all marketing activities in one place. Typically, a marketing automation solution (such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud) is really a series of smaller tools with different functionalities. It could be running email marketing campaigns (Email Studio), acting on social media (Social Studio), or creating complex customer journeys (Journey Builder). Below, we describe the most important functionalities of marketing automation tools.

Infographic in the form of a circle, showing the products included in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud system

Email marketing

Communication via email marketing seems quite outdated. After all, email messages appeared back in the early days of the Internet. However, it is still a very useful tool in conducting marketing activities because of the possibility of high personalization of messages and lack of competition for users’ attention with other advertisers. It is characterized by a very high open rate and high returns on investment. Campaigns that use personalized messages are particularly noteworthy.

Dynamic content

Data captured through marketing automation has revolutionized email marketing. An undeniable advantage of using marketing automation tools is dynamic content. With this functionality, marketers gain the ability to write a single message template that will vary depending on who receives the email. In other words, if we plan to send promotional shoe offers in a newsletter, we can send gender-specific shoe examples in the same template. Then, the male part of our target audience will receive suggestions for men’s shoes, and the female part will receive suggestions for women’s shoes.

Graphic showing sending emails in marketing automation tool – Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Email marketing tools that are part of marketing automation systems also feature great ease of message creation. These tools often use the drag&drop method so that no programming skills are required to create communications, and dashboards for creating communications are intuitive and easy to use.

Screenshot from marketing automation tool - Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which shows a dashboard for creating emails

SMS marketing

SMS messages are characterized by a relatively short and visually unattractive form. On the other hand, they have a great advantage in the form of a high open rate. This, combined with personalization, can result in a very high conversion rate. SMS messages work great for remarketing.

Imagine that someone on your electronics e-commerce site opened several tabs with different phone models, but ultimately did not make a purchase. After a few days, he or she may receive a message with a link to your site that compares the specifications and prices of both models. Thanks to the added value delivered to the user in the form of facilitating his purchase decision, the chance of finalizing the transaction in your store increases.

SMS also works well for location-based messaging. For example, if someone is near a pants store, you can send them a message with a discount on a specific model of jeans.

Social media marketing

One of the biggest advantages of marketing automation tools is the ability to do most of your marketing from one place. Same thing with maintaining a profile in social media, with which most marketing automation tools have signed agreements. With this, we get the ability to publish posts or measure key statistics in social media marketing activities.


Communication in social media based on marketing tools is not only about organic posts, but also – paid advertisements. This gives great ease in analyzing the performance indicators of individual campaigns, especially in terms of comparing activities carried out in different social media channels. This makes it easier for marketing managers to make optimal decisions regarding budgeting for the most profitable campaigns.

Social listening

Marketing automation tools also allow for social listening – listening to what is being said about you and your competitors on the internet. The tools monitor what is happening in social media in real-time and the user can see all the collected data on dashboards.

Thanks to social listening solutions, we get information about trends, hot topics (such data is very useful in real-time marketing), or what is being said about our brand and competition. This undoubtedly speeds up the process of responding to the rapidly changing situation in social media.

Screenshot showing a marketing automation tool – Salesforce Marketing Cloud, dashboard for social listening

Dynamic content on a website with marketing automation

What if a user coming to your company’s website saw personalized content? For example, there is a store that has its own website. On the first page appears a banner with a promotion on shoes, personalized based on behavioral or demographic data (age, gender). In other words, on the same tab on the website, men will see suit shoes and women will see stilettos. In this way, we can personalize content depending on the audience.

Implementation of such solutions with a marketing automation tool is not that complicated and can result in better efficiency of marketing activities, reaching the right person with the right message, or increasing sales. It also increases the level of customer engagement with the brand.

Marketing automation tools enable omnichannel marketing communication

Omnichannel marketing is most often equated with multichannel marketing. In practice, these two terms are not the same. The multichannel marketing strategy is based on sending the same message through different channels. Thus, a company (for example, a store) can communicate through social media ads, as well as email and SMS.

Omnichannel marketing is the next step forward. The whole strategy is based on communication with the user not only online but also offline. It allows sending messages, but also collecting customer feedback about the company. The aim of the omnichannel marketing strategy is to accompany the customer throughout the decision-making process, to follow their actions, and, consequently, to increase sales.

What are the examples of omnichannel marketing in practice? First, they are characterized by combining online and offline channels. Examples include ordering a product online and picking it up in a stationary store, receiving discounts via e-mail that can be redeemed in a brick-and-mortar shop, or viewing products in a stationary store and then ordering them online. An omnichannel strategy fundamentally changes the way marketing activities are evaluated. It stops evaluating separate marketing messages and starts measuring the entire process that leads to increased sales.

Infographic showing the differences between omnichannel and multichannel

Building Customer Journey with marketing automation

The advantage of marketing automation solutions is, as we mentioned earlier, the ability to run your entire marketing activity in one ecosystem. Since we’re moving from a “per campaign” to a “per customer” approach, we have the opportunity to build a fully automated and optimized customer journey.

What is a customer journey? It’s taking the customer through the entire process of engagement with our brand (marketing funnel). It starts with the first contact with the company (e.g. creating an account or signing up for a newsletter) and ends with remaining a loyal customer of the company. To carry out this type of strategy, it is necessary to optimize messages for the user. And this is where optimization comes in. This is because tools “know” who SMS, email, or Facebook ads work best on.

Run lead nurturing campaigns with marketing automation

The concept of lead nurturing focuses primarily on educating and staying in touch with users who are not ready to make a purchase at the moment. This solves a fundamental problem that arises especially in B2B in the cooperation between the marketing and sales departments. The marketing team often passes cold, low-value leads to sales, and such leads are difficult to process. The key to solving this challenge is to conduct lead nurturing campaigns.

Drip programs

How can a marketing automation system help in such situations? The answer to this question is the so-called drip programs (lead nurturing programs).

The drip program is a system of informative and educational messages about the services and benefits of cooperation with the company, the sending of which can be easily set up in the marketing automation tool. Thanks to the segmentation in the tool’s database, we can send differentiated messages depending on the customer segment: we will send different messages to SMBs and to corporate clients.

Such messages can be sent using email marketing, for example. You can send a link to your company’s website with valuable content from your blog. The marketing automation tool monitors and provides you with information about whether the user clicked on the link and whether they have read the article.

Analyzing this data allows the marketing team to perform valuable customer segmentation. Thanks to this, the sales department will receive only valuable leads, which will have a very positive impact on the conversion rate of marketing and sales activities.

Improve CPC, CTR, ROI, and ROAS with marketing automation

Improving the performance of key marketing metrics, especially those that indicate the effectiveness of paid efforts (such as CPC, CTR, ROI, ROAS) is influenced by two factors, mentioned earlier:

  • content personalization,
  • marketing automation.

Let’s imagine two email marketing campaigns. Their goal is to increase traffic to landing pages promoting a webinar hosted by your company.

The first one involves sending mass, identical emails to the members of your database.

In the second, you send emails to the same mailing base. The difference is that in the second campaign, you will use dynamic content. Thanks to it, messages sent to prospects will be automatically personalized according to the industry in which the recipient works (e.g. listing other challenges that a potential client may face), job position, or company size.

In addition, messages will be sent at the time of day when the recipient most often looks at the e-mail, and the landing page on your website will be different depending on the filters (for example, those listed earlier). What’s more, contact forms will be added to the page, personalized for specific groups of recipients.

It’s a safe bet that the messages sent during the second campaign will be opened much more frequently (better CTR), and the personalized landing pages will convert better, which will have an impact on the ROI and ROAS of the campaign.

This was just an example of how marketing automation can be used to increase the effectiveness of key marketing metrics. Such examples can be multiplied, remembering that the infrastructure of the solution allows you to run campaigns not only using e-mail marketing.

Marketing automation allows you to segment customers using lead scoring

We’ve mentioned that marketing automation tools “feed” on a huge amount of data. But where do they get that data from? It turns out that each of us, while browsing content on the Internet, leaves behind a trail of information.

Marketing automation tools are able to check what we do on the Internet thanks to cookies. They monitor which pages we navigate, what we click on, track mouse movements, etc. Thanks to the IP address, each of us has this data assigned to our individual number. The tools are not able to associate this data with a particular user (name and surname) as long as the user does not leave personal data on the website (for example, by signing up for a newsletter or creating an account on the website).

If the user decides to leave such data, the tool is able to assign the previous activity to the user. Moreover, it scores each of them, assigning a point value indicating their engagement with the brand. In other words, the higher the engagement, the higher the scoring. The distribution of points over time is also important. If a given user has earned many points, but they were assigned in the past, it indicates that the company has lost a customer.

To sum up, with marketing automation tools, it is possible to segment customers based on user engagement with your brand.

Graphic showing an example of customer scoring

Marketing automation and the sales process

As you know, the marketing process is really the beginning of the sales process. We conduct marketing activities to attract potential customers, increase sales and pass leads to the sales department. By collecting data about potential customers in the tool, we can improve the cooperation between these two departments very easily.

Thanks to scoring, the marketing automation system also gives very significant information to the sales department. Salespeople can receive a notification that it is time to start communicating with potential customers whose scoring has exceeded a predetermined value.

Infographic on digital body language

Use data to increase sales among prospects

Customer needs change over time. They depend on many factors, such as age, current living situation, and other demographics. How then can you be sure that the data collected in your marketing automation tool is up-to-date?

This brings up another issue of automation made possible by marketing automation tools. Data about the recipients’ interests, age, or needs are updated in a timely manner. Thanks to this, we can always reach the recipient with the most relevant message.

Such a possibility is most useful in an online store, where there is the most data about users. In e-commerce, we collect data not only on user behavior on the website but also on what products they add to the shopping cart and their purchase history.

Dedicated e-commerce campaigns

Let’s imagine that you run an e-commerce store that sells shoes. A year ago, a user bought shoes for a newborn baby boy on your company’s website. This gives us information that our customer had a baby a year ago, so now the toddler is one year old. The marketing automation platform updates this data and will prepare a dedicated campaign for such users, with a message containing information about shoes for children aged one. 

As a result, the user receives an offer tailored to their needs, which, from the perspective of the e-commerce store, results in an increased likelihood that the user will perform a specific action (i.e. make a purchase).

Personalization is one of the biggest benefits of marketing automation tools

Scoring provides great opportunities to personalize communication. Different messages should be delivered to regular customers and others to people just beginning their interaction with the brand. In addition, dynamic content allows you to use data about users for personalization. Such procedures significantly increase the conversion of marketing activities.

Marketing automation tools allow for personalization on three different levels: time, content, and communication channel. In other words, we have the ability to influence

  • the timing of the delivered message (optimizing it to increase the likelihood of the user opening the message);
  • dynamic content;
  • delivery channel (sending the message through a medium in which the probability of reading the message by a particular user is the highest).
Infographic showing customer touch points with a marketing automation tool

Is marketing automation for everyone?

It may come as a surprise, but the answer is no. Marketing automation tools most often require a lot of money and increased fixed costs for the organization (among other things, to purchase licenses). As we mentioned earlier in this article, a large amount of data is required for marketing automation to work properly, segmenting customers and personalizing messages.  Small businesses may not have the need for such technology.

Still, the big advantage of marketing automation tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud is that it’s actually a collection of smaller solutions. This means partners don’t have to implement complete tools – instead, they can focus on a tailor-made implementation. In other words, they can introduce only those solutions that will benefit their customers the most.

Not only for corporations

That being said, you don’t have to be a corporation to benefit from marketing automation systems. It is likely that some functionalities will also apply to your company. Such features as audience segmentation or message personalization are useful in every industry and for every type of business.

It’s also a myth that marketing automation tools are only for B2B companies. Salesforce has two different solutions in its offer:

  • Pardot – dedicated to B2B,
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud – dedicated to B2C.

These two types of businesses differ in their need for marketing automation technology. At first, it was B2B companies that saw the need for these types of tools, but over time the differences began to blur. At this point, B2C companies are taking advantage of the potential of marketing automation systems in a huge way because of the ability to collect and use huge amounts of data about users. And today, this data is a highly coveted currency.

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