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What Is Marketing Automation? A Definition

Before automation came along, there was quite a bit of guesswork in marketing. Processes were long and tedious, often relying on manual tasks. This made it challenging to target the right audience, time messages effectively, and measure campaign success with confidence.

Marketing automation has changed the game. It’s transformed the world of marketing and ushered in a new era of efficiency, precision, and data-driven decision-making. So, let’s get into the marketing automation definition, its goal, and the history that’s brought us to where we are today.

Marketing Automation Explained

So, what is marketing automation? It’s an approach that leverages software to automate marketing processes. Marketing automation is used to automate tasks such as sending mass emails, setting up ad campaigns, posting on social media, and analyzing customer data.

And what is a marketing automation platform? A marketing automation platform is the software or tool that makes all of this possible. It equips businesses with the tools they need to carry out automation strategies, making it easy to handle, run, and assess marketing campaigns across different channels.

Automation streamlines the process of determining which message or action to send to individuals and groups by relying entirely on technology rather than manual control. Decisions are made based on customer relationship management (CRM) or product usage data, such as purchase history, interactions, and user preferences.

Computer algorithms analyze this data and make informed decisions based on it. This process ensures each individual receives messaging or actions personalized just for them. These algorithms, driven by advanced AI and machine learning, keep getting better at decision-making. They don’t just look at the past; they predict future actions by spotting data trends.

They’re the brains of a marketing automation platform, making interactions more personal and effective. This high level of personalization and predictive ability sets modern marketing automation platforms apart, making customers more engaged and delivering better results for businesses.

What’s the goal?

Marketing automation is all about simplifying and streamlining marketing tasks. It enables marketers to do more with less. By automating repetitive processes, marketers can focus their efforts on other tasks. This not only frees up valuable time and resources but also makes marketing processes more effective.

It also helps ensure opportunities don’t slip through the cracks. Automated actions happen at the optimal moments, which boosts the likelihood of your business acquiring new leads, driving sales, and improving your marketing ROI. Every potential opportunity is effectively identified, captured, and nurtured by running everything automatically.

To sum it up, marketing automation streamlines marketing processes, making them more efficient and effective. It empowers businesses to allocate resources wisely and seize every opportunity, all while maintaining consistent and adaptable marketing strategies.

The History of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has come a long way. Let’s take a look at the milestones and changes that have shaped marketing automation into what it is today.

Before 1999: Unica

Prior to 1999, marketing automation was in its infancy, with limited tools available. Unica, founded in 1992, was one of the pioneers in this space, providing early solutions for customer data management and marketing automation. However, this was just the start. Most businesses hadn’t ventured online yet, and the Internet was still in its early days of growth.

1999-2010: "SaaS CRM" is born

By the late ’90s and early 2000s, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for CRM started to crop up. When Eloqua came on the scene in 1999, other companies soon followed suit. Salesforce, Marketo, and Pardot became major players during this period, offering cloud-based CRM solutions that provided more accessibility and scalability to businesses.

2010-2020: "Event tracking" enters the scene

By 2010, the focus shifted towards event tracking. Marketing automation platforms emerged that allowed companies to closely monitor what users were doing on websites, mobile apps, or software. This made it easier to record and keep track of user actions and interactions.

One of these platforms, Segment, simplified access to data. It offered a toolkit to help organize data collection, merge user details, and send customer data wherever it’s needed. Vero, Braze and Customer.io also came into the spotlight, enabling businesses to track and respond to user actions and behaviors in real time. This era emphasized the importance of personalized and data-driven marketing.

Vero helped bridge the gap between high-end and low-end email marketing automation platforms by offering a mid-market solution to help businesses make the most of customer interactions. Braze started off as a project in a hackathon and evolved into a platform built to help companies engage with customers across various channels. Similarly, Customer.io played its part in introducing innovations in marketing automation and helping to reshape how businesses interact with customers.

2020+: the future

In recent years, marketing technology has moved towards a product-led growth approach. This strategy places product data as the primary "source of truth," prioritizing user behavior and interactions over traditional CRM data.

More and more companies are embracing warehouse-native solutions such as Rudderstack, Hightouch, and Census. They recognize the benefits of working with data directly within the warehouse, eliminating the need to relocate, clean, or modify it before conducting queries.

How Is Marketing Automation Different Today?

Marketing automation has come a long way from its early days. One key change is the range of data sources it taps into, including CRM data, product usage data, and data from platforms like Stripe. There are a ton of SaaS tools at our disposal nowadays and an abundance of data, offering deeper insights into customer behavior.

Nowadays, marketing automation expands well beyond its roots in email marketing. It relies on a multi-channel approach, including social media, SMS, and web notifications. This change is all about meeting people where they are and making marketing more personal and effective.

Marketing automation platforms simplify the process by centralizing communication channels and automating tasks, allowing businesses to engage with their audience smoothly and efficiently.

Tips for Getting Started With Automations

When it comes to marketing automation, taking a gradual and thoughtful approach is often the wisest choice. Similar to how Rome wasn’t built in a day, your automation strategies should start simple and gradually evolve over time. Jumping headfirst into numerous segments and complex automation can easily overwhelm both your customers and your team.

It’s best to take baby steps and ensure your technology setup is in good order. Take a close look at your key data sources and consider the nature of your organization—are you more sales-oriented or product-focused? Given that marketing automation relies heavily on data, selecting software that aligns with your data types and sources is essential.

Showing empathy towards your recipients is vital. Take a moment to think about how your automated messages will come across to your audience. It’s important that these messages are not only relevant but also timely so they provide value without being over the top.

Lastly, always bear in mind the age-old adage that with great power comes great responsibility. Marketing automation is powerful, but it’s important to wield this power in a way that fosters goodwill with your audience rather than creating a negative experience.

So, find the right balance between automation and a personal touch. While marketing automation makes things more efficient, remember that success comes from connecting with your audience in a meaningful way. By using automation wisely and tailoring your approach based on your customer’s preferences, you can build strong relationships and stand out from the crowd. Vero can help! Sign-up for free to learn how.


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