Have you ever set up an automated email to respond to subscribers? Do you have a chatbot enabled for your business’ Facebook Messenger? Do you use a social media dashboard to schedule posts when you are out on vacation? 

You’ve already dived into marketing automation!

Any software that assists you in automating your marketing function is part of the large Marketing Technology universe. A universe comprising over 8000 solutions! 

Marketing automation is part of this Martech universe, with over 200 platforms and counting. 

In this guide we look at comprehensive marketing automation platforms that help marketing teams with executing most of their daily tasks within one software solution.

What is Marketing Automation (and Why Does it Matter)?

Marketing Automation is a technology platform that enables your marketing and sales teams to work together, to automate and optimise your potential leads as they move from being unidentified website traffic to sales qualified leads and finally paying customers. 

From Fortune 500 companies to a cupcake shop, every business today has used marketing automation in one form or another. Mailchimp, Hubspot, Sharpspring, Marketo, ActiveCampaign, Pardot, Zoho, the list goes on.  Whether you want a simple email sending tool or a comprehensive dashboard that tracks website traffic to sales conversion, there exists a software to suit your needs. 

With all your marketing activities in place, potential leads & clients can engage with your business on your website & social media channels via various traffic sources. This includes traffic from social media promotions, search, referrals, events and PR. Ideally, you would engage these leads through email nurture or remarketing channels. 

To effectively track, nurture and convert these leads into customers a comprehensive marketing platform comes into play.

Implementing a marketing automation platform for your business can also help you save time and money. Automating repetitive tasks such as sending emails, scheduling client appointments, upselling and post purchase nurturing can free up your time to focus on more important tasks. 

Common features that most marketing automation tools offer are email marketing, social media management, paid media advertising, and analytics.  Housing these different aspects of marketing strategy within one platform not only saves time but also helps track your marketing spend and program effectiveness.

The History of Marketing Automation

While early platforms were primarily focussed on email alone, the marketing automation tools of today have become significantly more powerful.  The rise of social media has caused marketing automation vendors to think beyond email marketing. With the number of social media users rising to 3.96 billion in 2020, automation vendors have jumped onto the opportunity and have integrated social marketing software into their systems. 

Mobile commerce, cloud-based A/B testing, cloud-based landing page development, and webinars have also increased in popularity. With all of these different marketing tools and channels increasing in popularity, marketing automation tools have developed to integrate several features, and in some cases acquired their way to becoming all-in-one marketing and sales services.

The growing need to automate repetitive marketing tasks, customer retention, marketing personalisation, and predictive lead scoring are some of the main factors that have driven this development.

The size of the global Marketing Automation market is expected to reach $6.6 billion by the year 2025. 


Terms to Know

As we have discussed in the previous sections, Marketing Automation platforms bring together various aspects of marketing onto a single platform. Let’s take a look at what these are and how they can benefit from being on a single marketing automation platform. 

Email Marketing + -

Email marketing is a core marketing functionality that marketing automation platforms offer. There are several email automation only platforms available if you are a beginner in marketing automation. A basic email automation solution can help you design and send out emails to a list of contacts. With advanced email platforms you can set up automated emails that are triggered to be sent upon a certain action taken by a contact on your website or any other social property, such as filling out a form, visiting a certain webpage or downloading  content. 

Here are a few examples of stand alone email automation solutions : CleverReach, SendinBlue, GetResponse, MailChimp, Zoho. 

Lead Nurturing + -

Engaging with your target audience and offering them with relevant information to support their needs is at the core of Lead Nurturing. To this end, most marketing automation platforms provide features such as database management, drip email campaigns and task alert automations. Advanced lead nurture features such as lead scoring and segmentation further help with nurture and conversion.

Analytics & Reporting + -

The key advantage of marketing automation is getting in-depth analytics across all of your marketing efforts. Website analytics shows how the full spectrum of your marketing campaigns have influenced your website traffic, conversion and ROI. It can also help you understand the impact of SEO changes on your website content and keyword targeting. 

You are able to analyse performance across all marketing channels on a single platform. with data derived from social media, PPC, emails, calls, events and sales activities. Marketing automation tools allow you to track marketing spend, attribute revenue, and analyze conversion rates by channel and buyer segments. 

CRM + -

Customer Relationship Management (CRM ) software such as Salesforce, provides a solution to store a database of  contact records and processes to organize client conversations and relationships. Most marketing automation platforms now include their own CRM, or integrate with a CRM already in place. Having a single platform for both Marketing and Sales is helpful in data transition and performance analytics. 

Social Media Marketing + -

Stand alone social media platforms such as Hootsuite and Buffer enable you to draft & schedule posts to all of your social media accounts from a  single interface. They can also assist with social listening where the tool looks through all social media sites for mentions of your product, brand or specified keywords. This comes in handy to not only understand your brand reach but also with competitor analysis. Having access to all your social properties within a single interface can save time and help you respond to your customer’s queries or messages quicker. 

Paid Media Marketing + -

Facebook ads, Instagram advertising, Google ads etc are a way of life for a digital marketer. You probably have different accounts for each paid advertising platform and have to switch between them to setup, monitor and report on these. Most marketing automation platforms have now started to integrate paid media marketing within their system. With a single login you can create and schedule ads to Facebook or Adwords from within the marketing automation platform. It certainly helps to have all of the data consolidated in a single interface for analytics.

Sales Enablement + -

A key metric and the end goal of all marketing activities is Lead to Sale conversion. To this end a marketing team’s sales enablement activities are critical. A cohesive strategy needs to be in place for a marketing team to empower their sales team to interact better with prospects. This is achieved by providing sales with critical data and information about customer activity that allow for more meaningful conversations. Marketing automation can help achieve this end goal in the form of lead scoring, life of lead and content consumption trends. 

CMS + -

Content Management Systems (CMS) are used to manage the creation and modification of digital content, such as websites, blogs, and media. WordPress, the most common CMS, is widely used to host websites and as a blog publishing system. As with other marketing related tools, Marketing Automation platforms now have CMS integrated, so that you can create website pages, blogs, landing pages, and organise your lead magnets within a single interface. 

To execute marketing activities effectively you would need each of the above marketing solutions. Signing up for each, keeping track of them, and getting data & analytics from each solution individually and multi-tasking can be cumbersome. Not to mention the costs associated with each individual subscription. Marketing Automation platforms string together each of these solutions in to a single interface, that not only makes life easy for marketers but also keeps costs down.

The Pros of Marketing Automation

If you are still considering whether a marketing automation system is for you, here are a few advantages to consider.

1. Improve accountability 

With clearly defined processes, and a birds-eye view of the pipeline on one platform, marketing automation holds both marketing and sales teams accountable. Marketing captures qualified leads and nurtures them to become Sales Qualified Leads. Sales can look at the lead’s activities, lead score and intention to buy and make the right decision. This enables the teams to also set up a consistent feedback loop of what works for them. 

2. Consistent messaging across multiple channels

With social media, chat, email and CRM available one interface, you can reach your customers across different channels with consistent messaging. Create a marketing sequence and schedule it to be sent to customers on email, tweet, post, chat or phone call when they reach a desired stage in their customer journey. 

3. Boost customer lifetime value 

With marketing automation you can set up a post-sales nurture strategy to up-sell and cross-sell products and services.  A one time setup can dramatically impact your customer lifetime value.

4. Reduce lead conversion time

Tracking the life of a lead, along with lead scoring and nurturing, can reduce the time it takes for a lead to convert to a customer. You’ll be able to see when a lead is thinking about your business, by tracking when they visited your website, how long they have spent on site, and which pages they have visited. These insights enable sales teams to call qualified leads at the right time to convert.

The Cons of Marketing Automation

With all its virtues Marketing Automation could be considered a cure all for marketing woes. But is it really? Let’s look at why you may still be hesitant to dive into procuring a Marketing automation platform. 

1. Marketing Automation can be expensive.

One of the primary concerns for most businesses is the cost involved with implementing a robust marketing automation system. Sure there are a few services that are free. But these usually come with basic email marketing tools only. To even set up a lead nurture or a drip campaign, you would have to level up your subscription at a price. 

2. Over communication

With the ‘set and forget’ features of drip campaigns, you may end up over communicating with your customers. They may get overloaded with a constant barrage of emails from different campaigns and ultimately unsubscribe. If you have many campaigns running things can quickly get out of hand and you may have trouble untangling the mess.

3. Technology is complicated

As with any software, there is a learning curve to marketing automation platforms. You will need an automation specialist who has previously worked with such platforms or invest learning hours to master the details yourself. As much as automation helps you save time and eases your work, it won’t do the work for you. You will need to invest time and effort to constantly monitor and adjust your strategy based on campaign performance.

5 easy tips to excel at marketing automation

You’ve scrolled through and read this far! So let’s not get you down with the cons of automation. 

Here are 5 tips on how you can grow with marketing automation.

1. Automate responder emails 

Setup an auto responder email for all customer communication and enquiries. A simple “Thank you for contacting us” response email will assure your client that their request has not disappeared into an internet blackhole.

2. Capture leads with gated content

Offer valuable content to your client in return for their contact details. Relevant content based on the buyers journey – like a product brochure, a case study, a how-to video – can gain you new leads and also establish our business as an expert in the field. Automating content marketing can also help you measure the effectiveness of your assets,

3. Engage high converting leads with lead scoring

Leverage lead scoring to rank your leads based on their engagement with your marketing efforts. This enables your sales team to identify leads that are ready to buy versus leads that still need time to make a decision. 

4. Nurture leads

Stay engaged with leads that are in their buying process but not ready to buy yet with a nurture campaign in play. Provide them with relevant content at timely intervals based on their website activities.

5. Become a social media ninja

With social media listening and scheduling features, continue to be on top of your audiences’ timeline. Gain followers and increase social engagement with scheduled posts and reminders. Include your social properties in your emails and landing pages.  

An Example of Marketing Automation Workflow

Here’s an example of a marketing automation funnel that we have setup for one of our clients

At first glance it looks complex, doesn’t it? Different tools, ad copies, email templates and landing pages. You would have to set up ads separately in Linkedin, Facebook, Adwords, Display marketing. Then you would have to design landing pages on a CMS. Setup emails on an email marketing tool. Finally connect all of these with a workflow. Once the campaign has completed its run, you would have to gather reports from all of these various tools and look at data between different platforms. 

Phew! That sure is a lot of work. 

What if you could do all of these tasks on one interface, without having to switch between different tools and solutions? Marketing Automation platforms such as Hubspot, Sharpspring, Marketo, Eloqua will help you accomplish this complex task easily.

You can setup the ads, create landing pages, email templates, workflows, notify sales and report campaign performance all from within a single solution. Using marketing automation makes it easy to work with different marketing features and with all data flowing through a single database reporting is a breeze. 

Get started with marketing automation 

Whether you’re a startup, a small business, or a large company, you can benefit from marketing automation. When looking to start using marketing automation, consider your business’ needs and map out a strategy of what you want to accomplish. This will help you be prepared in choosing the right automation solution. Do your research to find a tool that best fits your needs. With the right marketing automation platform in hand, watch your business grow!