Have you heard the phrase ‘marketing automation’? Wondering what it means?
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is the use of software programs and technologies to automate marketing processes, such as customer acquisition, nurturing and segmentation, sales monitoring, and overall campaign management. It refers to marketing processes that would have otherwise been performed manually but are now done more efficiently from one dashboard with automated, data-driven software.
As you might expect, marketing automation has quickly become an integral part of business management because it enhances marketing efforts and makes some new processes possible.
Rise of Marketing Automation
According to EmailMonday’s “The Ultimate Marketing Automation Stats”  (2016) on average 49 percent of all companies are currently using marketing automation, and more than half of B2B companies (55 percent) are adopting the technology  to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows.
Small and mid-sized businesses  (SMBs) make up the largest growing segment in the space right now, and thousands of companies even smaller than that across all industries are using marketing automation as well to add more personal touches to their campaigns and enhance brand-to-customer relationship.
One of the reasons marketing automation is steadily growing in popularity is because strategic, data-driven lead nurturing through automated marketing is more effective than spamming people with impersonal email blasts or other communications and hoping to get some conversions.
Marketing automation software offer businesses and marketers a huge amount of data (often real-time data) that they can use to create accurate and relevant marketing communications for their leads, including a lead’s location, what products a lead is interested in and email marketing statistics.
In addition to this, businesses and marketers that use marketing automation are able to manage their time and staff more effectively. By automating repetitive tasks such as social media, sending out nurture communications and monitoring prospects to find out those that are ready to buy and those that aren’t, businesses can save time, resources and focus on other important tasks that can’t be automated.
Check out the infographic below by Marketing Automation Insider  for more industry insights:
How Marketing Automation Works
Classic marketing automation is focused on acquisition and retention of sales-ready customers using automation platforms like HubSpot, Act-On, MailChimp and Marketo that are designed for different types of businesses. These automation platforms allow businesses to score prospects based on profile and or behavior and communicate with them accordingly, say via event-triggered messages.
The top four areas marketing automation is traditionally used are email marketing (89 percent), lead nurturing (84 percent), integrations such as customer relationship management (CRM), mobile, social etc for accumulating customer intelligence across channels (80 percent), and cross-channel campaign management (82 percent), according to Regalix’s “The State of Marketing Automation ” report (2014).
While much of the information or data gathering that drives marketing automation platforms is done online, it doesn’t have to be digital only. All sources of information and all marketing channels can be utilized to inform automation, including direct marketing via print and catalog.
The best marketing automation campaigns make use of all the available data and send out messages that engage leads in a more natural way, by appealing to their interests, industries and buying power. The best automation efforts also take into account the evolving needs of customers.
Business Uses and Benefits of Marketing Automation
Among the core goals of marketing automation is to nurture business prospects for the long-term, and increase revenue using fully automated, data-driven marketing . Marketo, best-in-class marketing automation software, says companies of all types can expect three core benefits of automation: more pipeline, more productive Sales reps and higher revenue.
In a benchmark study by eMarketer cited by Marketo  on its website, research found that B2C marketers who are using marketing automation — including everything from birthday emails to cart abandonment programs — have seen conversion rates as high as 50 percent.
Furthermore, the marketing automation software company that has its headquarters in San Mateo, California writes  that 95 percent of companies reported some benefit from marketing automation, according to Nuclear Research. The study found that companies can expect to achieve an increase in marketing staff productivity between 1.5 and 6.9 percent and increase sales productivity by an average of four percent.
“Marketing automation brings value and ROI to your numerous marketing efforts. The right marketing automation platform, combined with smart organizational and process alignment, makes it possible to connect the dots between that promotional email you sent last month, that webinar you hosted last year, and the revenue your CEO sees this week or can expect to see next quarter,” Marketo stresses.
Most marketing automation platforms have free-trial options you can try before you buy the full service.
Marketing Automation  Photo via Shutterstock