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What is Marketing Automation?

Let’s look at some factors to help you determine when and how your company should take the plunge into marketing automation.

Marketing automation is a buzzword you probably hear at every conference and seminar. You may know that marketing automation holds great potential for increasing your marketing success and growing your business. However, it’s okay if you’re still a little fuzzy on the meaning. As with terms like “machine learning” and “AI,” it’s frequently used but often misunderstood. 

It’s hard to say exactly when and where marketing automation became “a thing,” but it gained traction in the mid 2000s with HubSpot and other CRM platforms promising to make marketers’ lives easier. As technology grows it allows marketers to segment their customers and learn what makes them tick--pretty standard marketing stuff, actually--but on a much larger scale than previously possible.

Today, using a marketing automation platform, you can gather useful information about leads and customers as they interact with your digital presence. For example, you might learn which pages of your website they visit or which links they click in an e-newsletter. Then, you can send them information that you tailor to their exact interests and behavior… automatically.

Marketing automation relies on “if, then” logic. If a prospect does x, your platform sends them y.

Technology sometimes seems to create more work for marketers--such as by offering more and more new channels to test for lead gen--but ultimately, it should reduce the workload. Or, at least, it should shift your focus onto more meaningful marketing work and away from repetitive, inefficient tactics. Marketing once involved a certain element of “throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Marketing automation, if nothing else, will keep your walls a lot cleaner.

HubSpot reported that, in 2019, slightly more than half of marketers were using automation. However, even those using it currently may not be using it to its full potential. Many people associate it only with lead generation. And while it is certainly a powerful lead gen tool, that is only one use for it.


Examples of How Companies Use Marketing Automation

  • Nurture campaigns: Walk a warm lead through the sales funnel, demonstrating exactly what your product can do for them, so they almost can’t help but convert.
  • Abandoned cart strategies: Re-engage those shoppers who disappeared and get them to convert to delighted customers.
  • Personalized offers: Send a lead just the right coupon or incentive, at just the right time, to tip them into making a purchase.
  • Product demo scheduling: Let interested people select a time to see a product demo, without having to do anything on your end. Follow up automatically after the demo.
  • A/B testing of messages: Automate the comparison of headlines, subject lines, offers, days of the week, and any other factors that affect buyer decisions.
  • Lead scoring: Know which leads are worth your sales team’s time and which are going to cost you.
  • Reporting: Produce robust reports about how visitors are interacting with your website and other digital communication channels, with information you can use to refine your strategy.

How you use marketing automation depends entirely on your goals. Let’s look at some factors to help you determine when and how your company should take the plunge into marketing automation.

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Determining if You're Ready for Marketing Automation

The best approach to marketing automation is to use it to amplify what already works for your company. If nothing seems to be working right now, you might need to take a step back and consider other issues. Evaluate your content strategy and ensure that your website meets current best practices.

To succeed with marketing automation, you also need a steady supply of leads. Too often, marketers try to skip this top-of-the-funnel step. Buying a list of leads might seem like a quick fix, but this practice usually yields extremely low ROI. An inbound marketing strategy is the most productive way to attract leads.

Once you’re certain you can provide a positive user experience, and you have leads rolling in, consider the following list.

Sure signs you’re ready for marketing automation

  • Your sales team wastes a tremendous amount of time chasing down unqualified leads
  • You’ve worked to boost your search engine ranking or otherwise increase website traffic, but the new traffic doesn’t convert
  • Your current lead nurturing strategy works, but it’s not scalable
  • Your current emails have a low open and click-through rate, indicating that you’re targeting too broad an audience, or the wrong one entirely
  • Visitors frequently add items on your site to their cart without completing a purchase
  • You have marketing personas, but if you’re being honest, you don’t really know who your customers are and what they want

If anything on this list rings true for your company, next consider your capacity to run a successful marketing automation campaign.

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FAQs About Marketing Automation

If you’re still not sure whether you’re ready to move forward, answers to questions like these might offer you some perspective.

Q: What is the benefit or goal you would like to achieve by deploying a marketing automation strategy?

A: In conversation with your sales, customer service, or other relevant teams, decide what you want. Set clear, measurable objectives.

Q: What information can you use to educate customers throughout your sales process?

A: Your marketing automation strategy requires content. You may already have plenty; take stock of any how-to guides, white papers, blog posts, checklists, or webinars that you might offer to prospects to educate them as they move through your funnel. 

Q: Do you have the bandwidth to do it right?

A: While marketing automation definitely saves time, it still requires some attention. In the beginning, it requires thoughtful strategic planning, as well as monitoring as it unfolds. This is where an agency partner can provide the heavy lifting. 

Q: What is your internal process for closing leads?

A: Make sure you have sufficient sales and customer service staff to handle the flood of new business you wish to see. Consider points in the customer journey where a personal touch is required. And, make sure your product offerings can keep up with demand.

Q: Do you have a CRM where your customer or prospective customer data is stored?

A: You will need to make this one a “yes” before you can succeed. Many CRMs also provide marketing automation, so your activities are seamless. If you currently have disparate or outdated customer records, such as in spreadsheets, you will need to find a method of consolidating and cleaning your data.

If you feel confident in your answers, then move on to choosing the right automation software platform.

Popular Marketing Automation Software Tools

The search for the perfect marketing automation software can quickly become overwhelming. If you already use a product that you’re happy with, it’s a good idea to start by exploring its capabilities. Otherwise, you can look for reviews or ask for recommendations.

Ultimately, if you partner with a marketing agency, they can advise you best. At Bayshore Solutions, we work with numerous automation platforms and keep up with changes in the industry. We’re also a HubSpot certified agency partner, because we believe strongly in HubSpot’s quality and service. We would be happy to help your company figure out the best fit for you. Below, we list a few automation software options to explore.

Take the time to test out the platforms you’re considering. In most cases, you can request a demo for a set period so that your team can get a feel for the platform.

HubSpot Marketing Automation: HubSpot truly is the leader, both in terms of power and popularity. Its sales software, marketing software, and support software all integrate with its CRM.

Marketo: As part of the Adobe brand, Marketo integrates with other products you might already use. It’s a large, powerful platform best suited to enterprise companies.

Pardot: Another solution tailored to larger companies, Pardot integrates with Salesforce. It offers powerful B2B lead scoring, email marketing, and other automation features.

Drip: If you want a customizable solution designed for ecommerce, Drip might be for you. 

Mautic: If you’re looking for an open-source platform and have the resources to customize it to your exact needs, take a look at Mautic.

Ontraport: This more affordable platform offers email automation, landing pages, and reporting for small businesses and solopreneurs. 

SendinBlue: Have you considering integrating an SMS strategy into your marketing efforts? SendinBlue will allow you to do that, among numerous other functions.

Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Automation Partner

When you’ve run through all of the considerations above, and you see the potential that marketing automation offers, you will likely wish to partner with a digital marketing agency. Find the right partner and discuss expectations and costs thoroughly. It’s important to find the right fit for your company.

Start by asking any prospective agency what software tools they recommend, and share with them your team’s comfort level with different platforms. Everyone will need to work together using tools they can agree upon.

Ask them what kind of marketing automation strategy will best serve your company goals. Make sure they clearly explain the steps to creating the strategy, including developing any content you will need.

Find out what is needed from your own team. Ask who should be involved in calls and meetings and how often you and the agency will touch base. 

Discuss reporting. You need to know whether any marketing efforts you undertake actually work. Ask for clear expectations about how long it will take to get your automation strategy up and running, and how quickly you can expect to see results. Your agency partner should provide you with regular reports as the plan unfolds.

Need help creating or managing your marketing automation strategy?

We would love the opportunity to partner with you on your strategy. We want to see your business grow, and we can bring more than two decades of experience to making that happen. We have helped numerous companies succeed with marketing automation and can do the same for you. Think of us as your extended team of digital experts!

Contact us today


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