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How has marketing automation developed?

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 05 Apr, 2018
Essential Essential topic

Marketing is the lifeblood of business. After all, your product or service won’t promote itself!

There are many ways to market your products to your target market. Brands will use anything from storytelling to price in order to attract new customers. One of the most effective strategies is forging deep connections with your potential customers. This results in more engaged and longer lasting customer base.

The downside is creating and maintaining these deep customer relationships become much more difficult as your business scales. Marketing to each customer on a 1:1 basis used to require building large teams who conduct labour-intensive duties.

That was until the invention of marketing automation.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation refers to the tactics and software used to automate marketing tasks. In the past, these tasks required staff to sift through large data pools and repeat tasks like creating email templates and reporting.

These repetitive and sometimes mundane tasks were extremely cost prohibitive and inefficient. Marketing automation gives teams the ability to accomplish complete these tasks with a click of a button which gives them time to focus on overall strategy and analysis to improve performance.

MailChimp paved the way for marketing automation

MailChimp started out like any other app in 2009 — wishing to seek answers to the most prominent problems of its time. In this case, it's the challenge that SMBs had with existing email marketing platforms. Competitors at the time like Constant Contact still required marketers to create their HTML email templates, only had simple segmentation and minimal reporting.

While MailChimp didn't yet offer automation the way it does today, the platform was revolutionizing email marketing with an easy to use interface, mobile-ready templates, and integrations with disparate business systems.

This made MailChimp a staple for every entrepreneur and marketer ten years ago. In fact, MailChimp is considered as the father of marketing automation, proof of how influential it was.

MailChimp opened a lot of opportunities for automation in the business sector. It laid out the foundations for autonomous marketing. Other brands were quick to react, and the marketing automation revolution started from there.

Today’s sophisticated marketing automation

Marketing automation has grown from once being an "option" to now becoming a staple of every business. According to statistics, around 55% of B2B businesses use automation to improve their marketing campaign. Use of marketing automation is also growing at an annual rate of 8.55%. By 2019, this will become a $5.5 billion-dollar industry thanks to its many uses.

marketing automation adoption

Image credit: EmailMonday.com

Data, data, data. Data has been the catalyst for marketing automation’s rise over the last few year. As more data has become available about individuals new marketing automation technology has been developed to leverage that data so marketers could personalize messaging based on demographics, geo-location and behavior. While MailChimp may have been one of the first, automation tools like GetResponse have upped the ante by providing a fully integrated marketing automation suite.

Sales Funneling

Marketing automation is commonly used to develop a sales funnel. Segmentation is done through data a brand already knows about a customer. The expressed interests, qualifications, and other behavioral cues let you know who the “profitable” clients are. It’s all about focusing on the right candidates who are most likely going to purchase your offerings.

Paper Style, a retail invitation, and stationary shop sets up a sales funnel that automatically sends out emails to customers who were planning a wedding. The shop followed customers throughout the wedding process and sent out emails that fit their needs. As a result, Paper Style was able to increase its open rate and revenue by 224% and 300%, respectively.

These types of sales funnels require a very integrated approach. Driving traffic to landing pages, converting that traffic to an email subscriber and segmenting that subscriber to the proper email marketing workflow gives you the foundation for success. It’s this foundation that email platforms like GetResponse have taken to the next level with automated workflows that send each email based on how a subscriber behaves on the previous email.

For example, let’s say Paper Style sends a welcome email to all new subscribers which includes links to blog posts about different ways people can use their service. This could include things like party, wedding and baby shower invitations. If a person clicks on the baby shower invitation link then Paper Style may assume they’re planning a baby shower. Their email automation tool could be set up to automatically send that person baby shower specific content and offers in the next email.

Tip: Define your buyer persona is before you develop your sales funnel. Correctly identifying who your potential buyer is will help you develop a sales funnel optimized for conversion.


Marketing automation has become smarter thanks to the recent developments in artificial intelligence. One of the developments of AI in marketing automation is lead scoring. Instead of manually reviewing whether a prospective buyer is warm enough, marketing automation tools nowadays offer the convenience of predicting whether a lead is on the verge of becoming a customer without human intervention. You can then focus on setting up triggers that will send out emails to leads with high enough score so you can convert more efficiently.

ActiveTrail saw 25% more opportunities and 20% more sales after implementing lead scoring. The email marketing platform was able to see the warm inbound leads from their various campaigns such as Adwords and others. No longer do they have to guess which among the leads they generated were warm enough for the sale.

Tip: Aside from using lead scoring, you need to determine which CRM platform you need to use. In the example above, ActiveTrail used Pipeline CRM to identify their leads while a separate tool was used to score leads as they went through their email funnel.

MailChimp was a pioneer in the technology but today options like GetResponse are taking things to the next level. Automation is inevitable in today’s digital landscape but teams need to remember that engagement is still king in creating lasting customer relationships.

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