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What is marketing automation?

This is a trickier question to answer than it at first appears. If you’re a marketer, then you will have no doubt heard of the term at some point – but what does it mean exactly?

In trying to find an easy-to-understand definition of the term, quicksprout.com searched the internet and returned these 5 answers from various sources, and I repeat them here to help you before we go any further:

“Marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so that companies like yours can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”


“Marketing automation is the use of software to automate marketing processes such as customer segmentation, customer data integration, and campaign management. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would have otherwise been performed manually much more efficient, and makes new processes possible. Marketing automation is an integral component of customer relationship management.”


“Marketing automation is the use of software and Web-based services to execute, manage and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.”


“Marketing Automation a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) that focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible.”

“At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon – that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation typically generates significant new revenue for companies, and provides an excellent return on the investment required.”


So, What Is It Exactly?

The reason there are so many definitions is that Marketing Automation is actually quite a broad discipline. But, if you read through the above 5 once again, you will see that there isn’t really much actual difference between what they are each trying to express, more that they are all just expressing the same thing differently (which, to be honest, says more about the complicated glory of the English language than it does anything else).

So, let’s just focus on HubSpot’s definition for the moment, as I think that provides the clearest explanation.

HubSpot cites the likes of Amazon as leading the way in terms of Marketing Automation. So, let’s think about how Amazon achieves this.

We’ve all bought something from Amazon in the past – a book, a phone, an accessory, a CD. Now, based on our past purchases, every time we login to our Amazon account, we are presented with recommendations of what else we might like to purchase. We’re even given those lists that say: “Customers who bought [your most recent purchase] are also buying [X, Y and Z].”

Now, it will probably come as no surprise to you to learn that those recommendations are not being produced manually. Of course they’re not – just think of how long that would take (as of last year, Amazon had 244 million customers).

No, this type of very specific, real-time, personalized marketing is done algorithmically, robotically, automatically – it is, as HubSpot says, Marketing Automation at it’s very best.

What Else Does The Term “Marketing Automation” Cover

Well, here is where things start to become a little complicated – and for some reason a little misleading too.

Marketing Automation covers every aspect of marketing that chases down all of a company’s unique conversion paths – be they blogs, emails, social media likes and followers, whatever. The idea is that Marketing Automation will nurture all of these prospective clients in the long-term by creating personalized content and sending it directly to extremely targeted segments of your aggregate audience.

It’s designed to make communication – and personalised communication, at that – stronger. It improves the quality of your direct messaging and campaigning tenfold. And it does so by collecting data on your existing and potential clients’ expressed interests – such as when Amazon create personalised recommendations for future purchases based on past ones.

Where it starts to become a little misleading is when marketers start to think that Marketing Automation is nothing more than a glorified spamming technique. That, because it is “automated”, it is somehow inhuman, impersonal and cold.

In fact the opposite is true. Marketing Automation can help you produce very targeted and personalised offers, segment your clients into more meaningful groups based on their purchases, behaviours and demographics, and generally engender a better user experience for everyone who interacts with your brand online.

It’s Not A Tool For Cutting Corners, However

Another way that marketers get misled when they start getting excited about the prospects of Marketing Automation is that they can think that, again, because the process is “automated”, all they have to do is invest in some of the latest software, and then sit back and watch their customer loyalty and engagement grow and grow and grow.

This is simply incorrect. It is still imperative that you do everything that you can in order to garner organic leads like you always have. What many companies end up doing is purchasing lists of email addresses and sending out automated emails in the hope of arousing engagement. But, this type of Marketing Automation simply doesn’t work. When companies start trying to automate the delivery of unsolicited emails, very little engagement is actually generated and they begin to gain a reputation for being nothing more than spammers (which, when done like this, is essentially true).

Look out for our upcoming eBook where we will be delving deeper into the subject of Marketing Automation, and be guiding you through the varying concepts in greater detail to help you make the most out of it for your business.