What is marketing automation?

In 2024, marketing automation is steadily growing, with spending reaching billions every year. And with the revenue of marketing automation solution vendors forecasted to reach $6.6 billion by 2026, there are no signs of it slowing down.

To truly harness the power of marketing automation, it's crucial to first understand what it is and how it works.

At its core, marketing automation refers to the use of software platforms and technologies to automate repetitive marketing tasks and workflows. These tasks can include email marketing, social media posting, lead nurturing, customer segmentation, and more. By leveraging automation, marketers can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and deliver more personalized and timely interactions with their audience.

However, marketing automation is not just about replacing manual tasks with automated ones — it's about enhancing the overall customer experience and driving meaningful engagement throughout the buyer's journey. It enables marketers to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, based on their behavior, preferences, and stage in the sales funnel.

Given its endless abilities, it's no wonder that big companies like Netflix and Amazon embrace marketing automation.

Why you need marketing automation

If you’re thinking that marketing automation is just a buzzword, think again. Around 9 in 10 marketers say marketing automation helps them achieve their objectives, proving it’s a strategic imperative for businesses looking to thrive in the digital age.

Here are the most important benefits of marketing automation:

  1. Enhanced efficiency: Marketing automation allows you to streamline repetitive tasks and workflows, freeing up valuable time and resources for your marketing team. By automating processes such as email marketing, lead nurturing, and social media management, your business can operate more efficiently and focus on high-impact activities that drive results.
  2. Improved lead management: Who doesn’t want to capture, nurture, and qualify leads more effectively? By implementing automated lead scoring and nurturing workflows, you can identify and prioritize high-quality, qualified leads, reducing manual effort and ensuring a seamless transition between marketing and sales teams.
  3. Personalized customer experience: Personalization is key to delivering highly targeted and relevant content to their audience based on factors such as demographics, behavior, and preferences. From personalized email campaigns to dynamic website content, automation enables your business to create tailored experiences that drive customer engagement.
  4. Scalability and consistency: As your business grows, you will want to maintain consistency across marketing efforts. Marketing automation provides scalability by allowing you to automate processes and campaigns as your business expands. Whether reaching hundreds or thousands of customers, automation ensures that messaging remains consistent and on-brand across all touchpoints.
  5. Data-driven insights: Among other features, marketing automation platforms offer robust analytics and reporting capabilities, providing valuable insights into campaign performance, customer behavior, and ROI. By analyzing customer data and metrics, you can make informed decisions, optimize marketing automation campaigns in real time, and continuously improve your marketing efforts.
  6. Cost-effectiveness: While marketing automation may require an initial investment, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. By reducing manual labor, improving efficiency, and increasing ROI, automation ultimately leads to cost savings in the long run.

Marketing automation best practices

Time to dive into the 10 expert strategies that will elevate your automation game and drive results.

1. Define your objectives
Defining your business goals and objectives is the crucial first step toward successful marketing automation. After all, it’s not by chance that marketers are 414% more likely to report success when they document their marketing strategy!

Without clearly defined goals, you risk implementing automation tactics that may not contribute to your desired outcomes or deliver tangible results. Whether it's lead generation, customer retention, or increasing sales, having clear objectives will guide your marketing automation strategy and help you measure success.

2. Create buyer personas
Buyer personas are essentially fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. Think of them as detailed profiles that capture the key demographics, behaviors, preferences, and pain points of the people you're trying to reach with your marketing efforts. Creating buyer personas involves putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience and understanding what makes them tick — what challenges they face, what motivates them to make a purchase, and how they prefer to engage with brands.

By developing these personas, you can tailor your marketing strategies and messages to resonate with your audience on a deeper level, ultimately driving better results and stronger connections with your customers. This personalized approach not only increases engagement but also fosters stronger connections with your audience, ultimately driving conversions and loyalty. Also, it increases click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%, thereby driving 18x the revenue of broadcast emails.

3. Create engaging content
Content is the backbone of any successful marketing strategy. Creating engaging and relevant content that resonates with your audience is essential for capturing attention, building trust, and driving action. Whether it's blog posts, videos, infographics, or social media posts, focus on providing value to your audience by addressing their pain points, answering their questions, and offering solutions to their challenges.

Ann Handley, a pioneer in content marketing, emphasizes the critical role of quality storytelling in engaging consumers:

“Good content isn’t about good storytelling. It’s about telling a true story well.”

By consistently delivering high-quality content that educates, entertains, or inspires your audience, you can establish your brand as a trusted authority in your industry and keep your audience coming back for more.

Some of the most popular examples of engaging content are:

  • Educational blog posts that address common pain points, provide solutions to challenges or offer insights and tips related to your industry or niche.
  • Interactive quizzes that provide personalized recommendations or insights based on their responses.
  • How-to guides/tutorials that walk your audience through specific processes, tasks, or techniques related to your products or services.
  • Case studies/success stories showcasing real-life examples of how your products or services have helped customers overcome challenges, achieve their goals, or drive results.
  • Webinars on topics of interest to your audience, such as industry trends, best practices, or product demonstrations.

4. Collect the right data
Data is the fuel that powers effective marketing automation. From demographic information to browsing history to purchase behavior, gather data from various sources, including website analytics, CRM systems, and social media platforms. By leveraging data effectively, you can segment your audience, target your messaging, and tailor your offers to specific customer segments, increasing the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and driving better results.

5. Understand your customer’s journey
To effectively engage with your audience, you need to understand their journey from awareness to conversion and beyond. By mapping out the various touchpoints and interactions that customers have with your brand, both online and offline, you can gain valuable insights into their behaviors, preferences, and pain points.

This understanding allows you to tailor your marketing efforts to meet customers' needs at each stage of their journey, whether they're researching solutions, evaluating options, or making a purchase decision. By aligning your messaging, content, and offers with the customer journey, you can deliver a seamless and cohesive experience that drives engagement, builds loyalty, and ultimately leads to conversion.

6. Map your lead flow
Knowing the journey your leads take from filling out the initial form to becoming a closed/won deal, as well as the time it takes for this marketing process is an important strategy. But how do you achieve this?

Mapping your lead flow means figuring out the steps your leads need to take along the way, from first hearing about your brand to making a purchase (and hopefully sticking around for more). Think of it as plotting out a roadmap with stops at different checkpoints — each one designed to nudge your leads closer to conversion.

This allows you to create targeted content and automated campaigns that guide leads through the sales funnel, addressing their questions and concerns along the way. By aligning your marketing efforts with the buyer's journey, you can optimize conversion rates, shorten sales cycles, and ultimately drive more revenue for your business.

7. Set up lead scoring
Once you have a lot of leads, you need to start prioritizing and focusing your efforts on leads that are most likely to convert into customers. That's where lead scoring comes in.

By assigning numeric values to different lead behaviors and attributes, such as website visits, email opens, and form submissions, you can identify which leads are most likely to convert and deserve attention from your sales team, saving time and boosting the chances of making a sale. Plus, it helps marketing and sales teams work together better by giving them a common way to decide which leads to prioritize.

8. Create multichannel experiences
Meeting customers where they are is important both for them and for your company because it enables you to reach your audience wherever they prefer to engage, ensuring that no opportunity for connection is missed. And with 72% of consumers saying they would rather connect with brands and businesses through multiple channels, delivering multichannel experiences is a must.

Creating multichannel experiences means engaging on your website, social media platforms, email inbox, mobile devices, and more. By delivering consistent messaging and branding across all channels, you can reinforce your brand identity, increase visibility, and stay top-of-mind with your audience. Additionally, by integrating your marketing automation platform with various channels and touchpoints, you can track customer interactions and behaviors across channels, gaining valuable insights into their preferences and journeys.

9. Embrace A/B testing
Chris Goward, Founder and CEO of WiderFunnel, said "If you're not testing, you're guessing." Can the importance of A/B testing your campaigns get more self-explanatory? A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a powerful technique for optimizing your marketing campaigns and improving performance.

Whether it's tweaking the subject line of an email, changing up your landing page copy, or trying out a new CTA (call-to-action), A/B testing lets you experiment and see what works (and what doesn't) in real time, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and refine your marketing efforts for maximum impact.

It's all about learning what makes your audience tick and fine-tuning your approach to drive better results. Crossing your fingers isn’t a strategy.

10. Consider email reputability
Email marketing is a powerhouse in digital marketing, with its enduring relevance lying in personalization and automation. It tops the list of most effective channels for marketing, and 79% of marketers put it in their top 3.

And as Neil Patel (one of the top 10 marketers according to Forbes) once said, “email is the most scalable way to make sales with new customers and build deeper relationships with existing ones”.

But sending automated email campaigns is only half the battle. The real challenge lies in ensuring they successfully land in your audience's inbox. Effective email automation is not just about hitting 'send' and hoping for the best — it's about building a positive reputation with internet service providers (ISPs) and email clients, to avoid being flagged as spam.

Factors that contribute to email reputability include:

  • Sending relevant content
  • Avoiding spammy practices such as misleading subject lines or excessive use of images
  • Regularly cleaning your email list to remove inactive or invalid addresses.

Additionally, monitoring metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates can help you gauge the effectiveness of your email campaigns and identify areas for improvement.

Wrapping up

The takeaway here is that mastering marketing automation involves more than just setting up automated workflows and campaigns. It's about understanding the intricacies of each aspect, from defining clear goals and creating engaging content to ensuring email reputability and optimizing multichannel experiences.

By following the best practices we mentioned, your business can leverage marketing automation to its fullest potential, driving engagement, nurturing leads, and ultimately achieving its marketing objectives.

Remember, marketing automation is a journey, and success lies in continuously refining and optimizing strategies to adapt to changing customer needs and market dynamics. With a solid foundation and a commitment to excellence, you can harness the power of marketing automation to drive growth, build lasting customer relationships, and stay ahead of the competition. Learn more about how Sitecore can help you engage your audiences with automated email and messaging campaigns here.