This phrase seems to be making the rounds these days in the email and online marketing space. In and of itself, marketing automation is a strategy, but many use the phrase in conjunction with software to make it all happen.

As a strategy, marketing automation is the process of thinking through a complete cycle of marketing activities that are automatically triggered based on action or selection. Sounds confusing, right?

Let me paint a picture as sometimes that helps make more sense of the concept. Let’s say you want to host a webinar. Beyond the technical elements that get set up, you also have to figure out how to market the event. So you come up with a drip campaign. You send an email to your current list. If someone opens the email, but they don’t register, you send them down a certain automated path. This path could be a reminder a week later.

On the other hand, if someone opens the email and clicks through to register, you then send them down a specific email path. The day before they get an email to remember to attend. After the event you send them an email thanking them for attending with a link to the recording and a special offer.

The options from there are limitless!

The true value of marketing automation is that you’ve taken the time to think through the user experience and guide them down a path that you want them to go. These efforts warm up your lead and directs them through your website or through your buying cycle to make sure they don’t lose momentum.

There are a ton of different marketing automation software platforms out there to choose from (Marketo, Hubspot and Eloqua to name a few). The move to actually automating your marketing activities is something that big business does really well, but small business can play just as well.

Doing business online doesn’t mean that everything is cheaper/free, but it does mean that there are some amazing tools at your disposal when you’re ready. You can grow your email list to reach thousands and extend your business for decades. You can be strategic in how your reach them. Maybe your email frequency will be less than a competitor, but with automation as part of your strategy your communications will be more thoughtful and more purposeful.

Photo credit: urbangarden

With over a decade of experience, I have managed online marketing for a wide range of industries including biotech, high-tech, financial, higher education, non-profit, manufacturing, hardware providers, and startups. My specialty is helping business make the right turn with their online efforts focusing on lead generation and analytics.

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