Marketing Automation: What Does It Mean and Why Is It Important?

Marketing automation software enables you to streamline and measure your marketing workflows for new and existing leads. It can ultimately save you time and money, and fast-track revenue growth for your company.

In this article, we look at exactly what marketing automation is, the differences between B2B and B2C automation and how CRM can be compared to it. 

In this marketing automation guide, you’ll discover:


What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation can be defined as streamlining, automating, and measuring marketing tasks and workflows, to increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.

All organizations have the same desire, higher revenue and faster growth – at a lower cost. Many companies struggle to align their people, processes, and technology to achieve these goals, however.

Marketing automation solves this problem. It’s designed to allow organizations to market on multiple channels more effectively and automate repetitive tasks.

It enables many modern marketing practices, including:


Why marketing automation is essential.

According to marketing expert John McTigue, without the use of automated marketing, you are just guessing and hoping that people will take the bait and be ready to buy your products.

“Statistics show that buyers don’t do that,” he says. “They want to learn at their own pace and be reached when they need more information or are ready to buy. A well-constructed marketing automation strategy makes that a reality.”

Marketing automation is one of the fastest-growing technologies out there, according to Forrester’s Marketing Automation Technology Forecast, 2017 to 2023. Initially used for large enterprises, marketing automation tools have become more prevalent and scalable for small and mid-sized businesses.

No wonder marketing automation is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s essential. 

The stats speak for themselves:

  • Marketing automation technology is expected to show a 14% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years.
  • The highest growth for “through-channel marketing automation” platforms will reach 25% annually, with “lead-to-revenue automation” platforms at 19.4%.

Common problems that automation can solve.

Many marketers today are overworked, dealing with issues like being unable to track engagement and chasing unqualified leads, just to name a few.

Automation can assist by helping you scale your programs, delivering more personalized marketing and targeted communications, aligning with sales, and measuring effectiveness.

Below are some common problems that marketing automation can help solve.




I need to do more with less.

In a fast-paced digital environment, marketers feel pressure to do more with less. They need to generate more leads, grow revenue, and close deals faster.

Once one program is finished, another follows immediately. Marketing automation frees up marketers’ busy schedules with automated tasks, so they can focus on strategic work and let software manage leads. 

I don’t have a way to track or optimize user engagement.

Tracking user engagement is essential, and automation allows you to capture, track, manage, and score leads coming in the funnel environment. This lets you create, manage and automate marketing processes and conversations across online and offline.

You’ll then be able to optimize your programs and demonstrate the ROI of your efforts. Use retargeting and recirculation to optimize engagement and connect with the buyer, alongside automation to provide the right content to the right person on the right platform, where they are open to engaging with you.

My leads aren’t converting, or I have a leaky sales funnel.

60% of B2B marketers say that challenges generating leads cost them time and money. Dealing with leads that aren’t converting or a leaky sales funnel is frustrating but can be fixed.

Marketing automation allows you to nurture prospects with relevant and useful information across multiple channels, until they are ready to buy. Done well, nurturing can result in 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead.

My leads aren’t qualified.

Marketers can’t solely focus on top-of-funnel lead generation and awareness-building strategies. They also need to make sure these leads are a good fit for the company, as it’s pointless increasing lead generation if the leads have no possibility of converting to sales. Automation helps you better understand your prospects and buyers. You will be able to personalize each individual buyer’s journey, from the first touch to the sale and beyond, with marketing analytics and data, lead nurturing, and lead scoring capabilities.

I’m experiencing marketing inefficiencies and tech gaps.

If you are experiencing marketing inefficiencies, marketing automation can help. By automating certain manual workflows, your staff are free to focus on strategic work that will help to improve overall processes, innovate marketing campaigns, and boost the bottom line.

The automation of communications like email and mobile marketing makes sending targeted messaging quick and simple. With buyer personas, you can ensure you deliver personalized messaging at each stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Learn more about the Top 10 Reasons to Consider Marketing Automation.

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Components of marketing automation.

Marketing automation has many useful features and capabilities that allow marketers to deliver results that prove ROI, including:

  • Central marketing database. A place for all your marketing data, such as detailed prospect and customer interactions and behaviors. You can segment and target the right message to each customer. Think of this as a system of record for all your marketing information. 
  • Engagement marketing engine. An environment for the creation, management, and automation of engagement marketing processes and conversations across online and offline channels. Consider this as the “orchestra conductor” for your customer interactions. 
  • Analytics. A way to test, measure, and optimize marketing ROI and impact on revenue. This is where you go to get clear analytics on what worked, what didn’t and where you can improve.
  • MarTech. A collection of all of the effective, collaborative, and scalable marketing applications that you need to help you achieve your goals. It’s the main place where you can use tech to stay connected to your buyers and deliver marketing­-sales alignment. 

Learn more about what marketing automation can offer in our Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.

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B2B and B2C marketing automation.

B2B marketing has traditionally relied on close relationships between businesses and their suppliers due to the complexity of its products and decision-making processes. Lead generation and nurturing is therefore essential to B2B marketing.

This is where automated marketing can shine. Targeted messaging, campaign tracking, lead scoring and personalized customer experiences can build relationships over longer periods and help drive conversions.

B2C marketing relies on a more fast-paced approach, capturing an audience’s imagination and converting them quickly. Marketing automation can therefore be used to track consumer behavior before a campaign, and then help facilitate a quick conversion.


CRM and marketing automation – what’s the difference?

CRM (customer relationship management) and automated marketing software may seem like they have a lot of overlap. However, there are a number of key differences to bear in mind.

  • Marketing automation focuses on raw leads, targeting people early in the sales and marketing funnel. Your lead may have simply visited a website, clicked a link or filled out a form, for example. It helps gather data at this early stage for targeted marketing and automates many of the marketing tasks themselves.
  • CRM is generally focused on sales. It manages interactions with customers at lower down the sales funnel to facilitate conversions. It also handles existing customers and tracks their engagement.

Used together, CRM and marketing automation software are powerful tools, helping gain and nurture leads, facilitate sales and maintain brand loyalty.


ROI of a successful marketing automation program.

The ROI of marketing automation is clear. It allows organizations to save money and time, reduce marketing resourcing efforts, and grow revenue efficiently.  

Marketing automation:

  • Optimizes marketing investments. It can help reduce administrative overheads to savings of 3.4% on average, with most companies saving between 1.5% and 5.2% (Lido).  
  • Contributes to faster revenue growth. Companies that implement this kind of lead scoring enjoy 28% better sales productivity and 33% higher revenue growth, than companies without lead scoring (MarTech Alliance).
  • Saves money and time. Done well, automating the nurturing process can result in 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead (Madison Logic).

Learn more about how marketing automation contributes to the bottom line in our Buyer's Guide to Marketing Automation.

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How to plan, implement, and optimize your marketing automation program.

To get started, you need to think about your goals and how you will achieve them. Determine what you want marketing automation to help you do. Getting your marketing automation going can be achieved in four steps.

Step 1: Plan.

If you can lay out exactly what you’re looking for and what you’re trying to accomplish, it will be easier for you and your stakeholders to evaluate and select an automation platform. Make a list of needs and wants and see which solution matches the most essential criteria.

When doing this, make sure you ensure sales and marketing alignment. Remember, both teams need to work together, in order to deliver results.

Step 2: Implement.

Once you have chosen the platform, figure out who on the team needs to use the system and train them accordingly. Someone needs to be the owner of the technology and the point person for questions.

The right marketing automation solution helps unite all the people, tools, and processes on your marketing and sales teams. It should be a solution that integrates your:

  • CRM system
  • Lead scoring
  • Sales insights
  • Cross-department workflows

Once the marketing automation is up and running, check in frequently to ensure it’s working as desired.

Step 3: Measure.

Reporting and marketing analytics help you prove the impact of your marketing efforts. They make sure you measure all necessary data, account engagement, and the combined impact of sales and marketing activity.

Understand which key performance indicators (KPIs) are the most important to track, and which areas of marketing provide the best ROI.

Step 4: Optimize.

Once data and KPIs start coming in, you will have the opportunity to optimize for better results. When you are able to spread the revenue over multiple activities, you know which marketing activities are effective for top of the funnel versus bottom of the funnel.

For example, you could determine that event marketing is your go-to. Trade shows may be great for getting leads, while webinars, are more effective for pushing leads through the funnel.

Without multi-touch attribution, it’s hard to learn this information, and your campaigns may not be as successful. Know your audience and what works for them.


Frequently asked questions about marketing automation.

What is the definition of marketing automation?

The meaning of marketing automation is software designed to automate marketing tasks. These could include:

With automation software, marketing teams are able to save time, build a more detailed picture of their customer base and provide more personalized experiences. 

What is an example of marketing automation?

A good example of marketing automation is a feedback form you might receive after buying a product. These could be sent automatically after a sale has taken place, to capture key information from the consumer.

What is the purpose of marketing automation?

Put simply, marketing automation is there to manage and scale marketing activities across channels, without the need for additional resource. It frees up staff for other tasks and reduces human errors that might occur when handling large amounts of consumer data.

Learn more about how to get marketing automation working for you.