What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation doesn't have to be an enigma

What is marketing automation?

A pragmatic question deserves a pragmatic answer. Marketing automation is software that helps businesses streamline their marketing communications and management processes through automated tasks. This often includes things like email marketing, customer segmentation and customer data management.

Businesses adopt marketing automation tools in order to:

  • Scale repetitive tasks
  • Increase email marketing efforts
  • Improve lead management
  • Enhance targeting and personalization
  • Improve multi-channel marketing
  • Attain and measure analytics
Marketing automation leverages technology to increase revenues

How do you know if your business needs marketing automation?

B2B marketers use several different channels to generate both inbound and outbound leads—website, email marketing, social media, SEM, webinars and the like. To do this successfully means generating a mountain of content, analyzing data, segmenting prospects, qualifying them and working with sales. Not easy things to do.

If your business is generating a steady flow of leads, it might be advantageous for you to start scaling your marketing efforts so you can focus less on the heavy lifting and more on turning leads into customers.

Is your business ready for marketing automation?

Here are some qualifying questions to ask to know if you're ready:

  • Are you generating a steady flow of leads?
  • Are you spending more time creating content than you’d like to?
  • Is there confusion between marketing and sales about lead qualification?
  • Are you having trouble effectively mapping your buyers’ journey?
  • Are you able to track customer/prospect engagement across all of your marketing channels?
  • Do you feel like you should be getting more out of your lead nurturing strategy?
  • Are you tired of assuming your data and sales stories are correct?
  • Do you need an accurate, measureable way to track ROI?
  • Is your sales cycle too long and/or convoluted?
  • Do you have a scalable way to prioritize leads?
  • Do you find your marketing team and sale team are in disagreement about the sales pipeline?

If you’re answering yes to some or all of these questions, chances are, your business is ready to adopt marketing automation. For a deeper look into marketing automation, check out this free resource on the rise of nice marketing automation to learn more.

Sales funnel bottleneck

Why 7 out 10 marketers are unhappy with marketing automation

Industry expert David Raab says 70% of marketers are not satisfied or only marginally satisfied with their marketing automation platform.

For most marketers, the belief is that they’ll unwrap the software, set it up and it’ll instantly become a marketing machine capable of running the marketing department all on its own. This misconception isn’t the marketer’s fault—that’s how marketing automation providers are pitching their story.

But the majority of marketing automation platforms fail to deliver on their readymade promise. Most solutions lack automation, and they’re too deep and complex to use optimally. Marketing automation lacks automation, go figure!

Why does marketing automation often fail?

Marketing automation lacks automation. It’s a sad state when we’re addressing situations like this. It’s like using the drive-through at Burger King and being told to go inside to pick up your Whopper—it defeats the whole purpose. It’s not what you were expecting, it’s more manual than it’s worth and it’s not what you wanted.

The same goes for marketing automation. Users expect their solution to simplify and streamline a good chunk of their marketing efforts, but there’s a lot of conflicting data that suggests the opposite. It seems most marketing automation solutions’ implementation process, training programs and content creation is anything but automated.

Obstacles that Prevent Effective Use of Marketing Automation

*Source: B2BOnline, Marketing Automation: Best Practices in a Rapidly Changing World

of businesses take up to six months (and 17% up to a year) to fully adopt and implement a marketing automation platform, and 61% agree the implementation is difficult.
of marketers say ease of use is the most important criterion when choosing a marketing automation platform, yet 44% claim they're not satisfied because their software is too hard to learn.

Uncovering the Content Piece

Marketers say the number one barrier impeding their marketing automation success is the lack of content. Content is the most critical component for any marketing campaign. It needs to be relevant, timely, valuable, personalized and permission-based.

But consider the fact that content is extremely expensive and difficult to scale.

When you add up the costs of creating something as simple as a four-email campaign, you see that the expenses of the associated labor, licensing and strategy work can total thousands of dollars. And even if you’re doing a ton of content development work, chances are it’s not even personalized for your recipients beyond a few variable tags and rudimentary segmentation.

When it comes to the current platforms on the market, many of them boast a plethora of features to help you with these scaling issue. One leading system claims it has forty-five features, only a few of which cover email delivery. On top of that, there’s a list of advanced features users can tack onto their system, bringing it to a total of sixty-eight features to optimize their solution. While it may be extremely flexible and customizable, it may also be too convoluted for what most businesses are trying to achieve with marketing automation.

Costs for a simple email drip campaign

Task Costs
Strategy & Planning $50 / hr / person x 1-2 days
Labor* $50 / hr / person x 2-3 days
Image licensing $50 - $100
Opportunity Cost ???
Total $5000+

*design, copywriting, email testing, etc..

What should you look for in marketing automation solutions?

Without splitting hairs, when it comes to marketing automation, marketers should expect their platforms to be easy to use and, well, automated. Emerging now are thinner, cleaner and smarter solutions that are focusing on the gaps the larger platforms have failed to deliver on.

When it comes to implementation and training, people want a prescriptive experience. These streamlined platforms offer plug-in and play methodology, where the software is smart enough to guide the user through adoption with very little vendor support. Some companies are fully onboarding their customers in under eight days.

Vendasta's Snapshot report

In terms of content creation, this is where things are getting really cool. Through one simple data point (e.g., phone number), specialized platforms are automating and personalizing the content creation stage, as well as intelligently sourcing prospects who are indicating their interest in specific products and services. Think of it as Marketing Automation 2.0. We’re not talking generic emails with a few variable tags. We’re talking full-scale reports with highly personalized insights that prospects are incredibly interested in.

Check out this prime example: the Snapshot Report. It’s a detailed analysis of a business’s online presence that provides key insights about the state of their digital marketing needs. All of this data can be auto-generated and auto-emailed with as little as a business’s phone number. Not only does a system like this nearly eliminate the cost of producing content, but imagine the power of knowing when local businesses start engaging with these reports. Platforms like this are a direct roadmap to your hottest leads.

What is the best marketing automation solution for my business?

Most marketing automation platforms are large monolithic platforms built to service a broad range of industries, programmed with generalized data and functionalities. In other words, they’re not designed for specific markets. Not an ideal situation, as marketing is about personalized interactions and providing value. Generalized technology doesn’t cut it anymore.

So let’s call it like it is: the marketing automation solution that’s best for you is one that’s designed specifically for your business.

Niche companies are emerging from their start-up shells and gaining market share from the legacy platforms who’ve ruled the space for years. Why? They’re building platforms for specific markets—programming them with industry data, robust APIs and partner integrations that align with the niche movement.

An example of this in the local space, where agencies and media companies that serve local businesses are starting to see marketing automation tools built to source personalized data about their prospects that provides them with relevant information in order to instantly create lead opportunities and a clear path to conversion. Again, look to the Snapshot Report for a clear example.

If we haven’t convinced you yet of the benefits related to niche marketing automation platforms, check out what happens when businesses take advantage of them.


Modesto Bee Digital Agency

730 outbound emails to local businesses
Generated 34% open rate
Achieved 49.4% CTR on first email
Converted 59 recipients into qualified leads

Modesto Bee Case Study Coverpage


Kansas City Star Case Study

Kansas City Star Case Study

500 outbound emails to local businesses
Generated 51% open rate
Achieved 79% click-through rate
20% of opportunities turned into customers

What are the keys to marketing automation success?

To quote industry experts Greg Sterling and Neal Polachek, “Traditional companies that fail to actively restructure and innovate around sales and sales automation today will see a further erosion of market share tomorrow, ceding revenue to the growing list of digital competitors and alternatives in the local digital market.”

Never has that been truer than right now. If you haven’t explored niche marketing automation platforms yet, remember the following:

  1. Adopt a platform that’s actually automated. One that you can implement and start marketing with in a short time frame, and creates content for you.
  2. Look for platforms that are streamlined and focused on scaling, ease-of-use and ready-to-market out of the box.
  3. Use marketing automation designed for your business, not someone else’s. Use technology that knows your business, market and customers.
Profit trends from successful usage of marketing automation

Is your agency ready for marketing automation?

Vendasta provides a marketing automation platform built specifically for agencies and media companies that sell to local businesses.

Talk to a specialist today

For more information about the past, present and future of marketing automation, check out these three free resources:

Why Agencies Need
Marketing Automation

Adapt, Adopt, Automate

It’s clear in today’s market traditional media companies need to adapt to the digital environment to grow their market share.

Read More

The Rise of Niche
Marketing Automation

The Rise of Niche Marketing Automation Platforms

Get key insights into why it’s critical for agencies & media companies to use marketing automation designed for their business.

Read Now

Marketing Automation
in 2016

Marketing Automation in 2016

2015 was deemed, The Year of Marketing Automation. Here are some of our predictions for what is to come in 2016!

Learn More

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