Marketing Automation in Plain English (With Real-world Examples)


If you are a digital marketer or marketing manager, chances are high that the term “marketing automation” has made its way into your vocabulary.

Today, the term has become synonymous with “working smarter not harder,” and “leveraging technology to improve efficiency.” Our team at Formilla has embraced this concept. We’ve published an extensive list of best practices to help you get the most out of marketing automation strategies and have also broken down this concepts ins and outs.

But if you’re determining whether to make marketing automation a major part of your marketing strategy, it helps to understand its real-world applications.

Yes, at its core, “marketing automation” is a combination of conditions and actions. However, what does that actually mean for you and your marketing teams? What are the benefits of marketing automation systems? How should they apply to your current marketing strategies?

If you are still on the fence about whether marketing automation is the answer, read on for our explanation of marketing automation and the real-world examples that reveal its benefits.

What is Marketing Automation?


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You may have seen marketing automation explained in a variety of ways, using all kinds of complicated terminology. However, the core of its function is much more straightforward. Marketing automation is simply using technology to automatically send out marketing messages to your audience across several different mediums and devices.

Let’s say that you wanted to make sure you didn’t miss a friend’s birthday. So, you find an app that can send out a personalized message from you on that day. In this scenario, the condition is that it is your friend’s birthday, and the action is that the app will automatically send out a message from you.

Marketing automation follows the same basic principles as this example. It’s all about setting the condition for actions. Some of these conditions can be things like the purpose of your campaign, buyer behavior, and demographic data. The resulting action could be a personalized message, an invitation to join an email list, or emailing a contact a link to an online store. Whatever the specific content, these actions will depend on the conditions you have set.

Marketing automation aims to automate processes that free up your marketing team from taking on repetitive tasks while ensuring that communications with your audience don’t fall through the cracks. It’s the reason why tools like live chat bots and automated emails exist.

Marketing automation systems come with a variety of benefits. However, the one that is likely the most valued by marketers from most sectors is its positive impact on time.

Marketing Automation Gives Back a Valuable Resource: Time


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There’s a reason why the saying “time is money” is quoted often. Whether you are paying your workers hourly or by salary, each moment they spend manually sending out routine emails or answering repetitive customer questions is time they don’t have to handle more advanced—and revenue-generating—marketing tasks.

According to surveys of marketers by both Adestra and GetResponse, the top benefit of investing in marketing automation is saving time.

How does a solid marketing automation strategy save you time? Let’s look at two scenarios:

Example 1: Chat bots to help and direct customers

chat bot location question

Streamlining the customer service experience has been significantly impacted by marketing automation, especially with the use of tools like chat bots. Think about the times you have interacted with a company that used a chat bot to understand your needs and direct you to the person you need to speak with.

This process saves time in two ways. First, it keeps you from searching around the company website to find a number or email—improving your customer experience and getting your issue resolved more quickly.

Second, it allows customer support professionals to spend time fixing problems and handling complaints instead of only routing people to the correct location. Bots can handle the routine interactions, and agents can jump in as needed if things are more complex.

A great example of the type of chat bot that can save your team time is an AI-based conversational bot, a tool that mimics a real agent’s responses by using customer questions and keywords to provide relevant answers. The Formilla Helper Chat Bot is an example of this type of service.

There is also a menu chat bot option, which uses a button or menu to guide customers through a predetermined path. You can learn more about menu-based and hybrid bots in our article covering the different types of chat bots.

Example #2: Emails to remind customers about abandoned carts

Email automation is another significant way that marketing automation systems save you time. There are various ways to use email to do this, and customer behavior emails are a popular way to use this technique.

Think about this: what if you had to manually send an email each time a customer left your website with a full cart, without completing their purchase? Even a mid-sized company would have a challenge keeping up with this task. Behavior-driven email automation enables your team to act on lead behavior instead of managing the actions that bring it about.

Emails—sending and receiving them—take up a large part of the workday. An email automation tool can cut out the task of manually sending out emails based on customer behavior.

Ultimately, marketing automation saves you time and frees your team up to focus on more important customer interactions, which allows you to boost both customer satisfaction and work productivity.

The Uses of Marketing Automation: Explained


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Marketing automation can save you time and money. But to properly capitalize on what it has to offer, you need to understand the different aspects of it. Again, discussions about marketing automation can be tricky, but we will break down the technical attributes of the process and strategy to get to the core of its benefits. We’ll also illustrate each form of automation with concrete, easy-to-understand examples.

Email automation

As mentioned above, setting conditions for when emails go out to your audience based on their demographic information or behavior is one of the most popular forms of marketing automation. This option allows you to automate messaging and responses without having to send out each email manually. One real-world example of this is the use of onboarding email sequences to introduce customers to your brand and what you offer.

Formilla uses an automated email onboarding process to welcome and guide customers after signing up for a free trial of our services. We initially send an email that welcomes customers and introduces them to what we do. Each additional email teaches them about more advanced features related to our live chat, chat bots, and marketing automation services. The goal is to help our trial customers understand the different aspects of Formilla so they can have a great experience with our product, without overwhelming them with too much information up front.

Whether you are sending a welcome email, offering tutorials after purchasing your product, or providing extra information as added value, email automation is a popular form of marketing automation.

Profile-based targeting


This term may sound complex, but it is merely focusing your messaging based on criteria you have set for your audience. An example of this that you are likely aware of—and may even have experience using—is Facebook Ads. Facebook enables you to create ads for your company that target specific customers.

You can select various demographic customer attributes like age, location, and employment status—as well as psychological characteristics like lifestyle and interests. Once you construct the persona of the person you want to reach out to, you can then publish the ads to then be pushed out for people in these groups to see. The Facebook Ad algorithm automates the profile-based ad targeting process.

You can do the same kind of profile-based targeting with on-site messaging with marketing automation tools like Formilla. Through integration with the customer data in your CRM, you can display messages that are especially relevant to specific groups of site visitors, to help increase the effectiveness and conversion rate of your in-app messages. Once you’ve created a profile for a group of customers – such as “previous purchasers from cold-weather climates who haven’t yet bought winter clothes” – you can use marketing automation tools to target the right messaging at that group. It’s probably worth telling that profile group we just mentioned when you have a special discount on winter clothes, for example!

Personalization with dynamic content

Automatic personalization is one of the best reasons to use marketing automation tools, since personalized content has been proven to be more engaging and effective. A survey by House of Marketing found that marketing automation is the third most popular method that marketers use to create personalized experiences.The creation of dynamic content is a standard way of using personalization to engage with your audience.

An example of dynamic content that you likely have sitting in your email inbox right now is a product recommendation from a retailer like Amazon. The company uses your buying habits to create personalized suggestions, automatically sending you messages highlighting related products. In contrast with the profile-based messaging mentioned above, this kind of personalization is often specific for you as an individual, based on your specific habits, rather than messaging aimed at a larger cohort.

Dynamic personalization ensures that you see content relevant to you. Email automation tools can create and send out thousands of emails – or even more – per day, crafting them with recommendations tailored for each individual customer without a human marketer needing to be involved.

Marketing content is “dynamic” in the sense that it is tailored on the fly for different customers. When you visit an ecommerce store, for example, you will likely see different recommended products than what someone else might see, because the store’s marketing automation tools have data suggesting products that will interest you. All of that happens without any manual control needed – just the power of marketing automation at work!

Marketing Automation Strategy: The Power of Predictive Analytics


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Your marketing automation efforts’ success depends on data and the conclusions you can draw from this information. This step is where concepts like predictive analytics come into play. Predictive analytics is the process of projecting future results based on historical data.

A real-world example of this is if you watch a sports game—particularly football. If you visit a sports website like ESPN during the game to track the game’s progress, you will notice a win percentage for each team. This percentage is determined based on the team’s past performance throughout the game until that point—this is a form of predictive analytics.

In the world of marketing automation strategy, here are a couple of examples of how predictive analytics plays a role:

Chat bot AI

One reason why AI-based chat bots are growing in popularity are because of the ability of those bots to adapt to customer questions. The machine learning algorithms that determine an AI bot’s responses look for cue words and particular phrasing in questions that site visitors ask, and that enables the bot to provide an appropriate answer even when it’s never seen a question phrased a particular way before.

A chat bot “learns” based on information and interactions from the past. You can set up a chat bot with variations of common customer questions, then continue to improve it over time with new variations so it will get better and better at predicting what response will best serve a customer. In this way, AI-based chat bots are predictive analytics in action, turning past data into effective marketing and customer service in the present and future.

Our team went through the process of training one of our own chat bots to improve its responses to customers. You can check out our methods, challenges, and results.

The use of content intelligence

Another area where predictive analytics can benefit your marketing automation strategy is the use of “content intelligence,” which refers to the strategy underlying the original content your team produces, and how that content is deployed. You can use a CRM platform that leverages customer data and communications to create actionable recommendations for the type of content you should produce and whom you should create it for. These content recommendations could include things like blog post topics or video marketing ideas. Content intelligence can even help you decide if taking on another marketing medium like a podcast or live video makes sense.

Again, technology like AI and machine learning plays a huge role here. The AI capabilities of content intelligence systems allow them to use data points to recommend—or predict—the best content for audiences. Your content intelligence analysis would take past performance of different types of content into account, potentially broken down by topic, platform, and social media engagement, to help you understand where you can get the most bang for your buck going forward. In this way, much of the previously manual process of brainstorming topics and analyzing content performance can become part of your marketing automation workflow.

Making Your Data Work For You


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For predictive analytics to benefit you, your organization must have a reliable data collection strategy. The information you collect from your customers is how you can get your marketing automation strategy moving in the right direction. In your CRM you’ll likely have data on past customer orders, previous interactions between your staff and a particular customer, and demographic information including country of origin, just for starters. Aligning this data with the goals and past performance of your different marketing campaigns is key to making the whole system work.

Have you ever run into the problem of having multiple separate Excel spreadsheets and needing to combine all the information into one place? This is the problem that tactics like data consolidation solve. It’s all about taking information from multiple data sources and combining it into one location for tracking and updating. This usually happens in some form of centralized CRM, which pulls in data from different sources and then integrates with different automation software platforms and services, like the chat bots and in-app messages provided by Formilla.

Lead scoring

An example of how this process works within a marketing automation strategy is lead scoring. In this case, data consolidation brings together different data points to allow you to decide the value of a lead—resulting in a score that can guide further automated and manual marketing and sales activities.

We do this regularly at Formilla. One way that our marketing team will sort leads is by scoring them according to the following criteria:

  • Is the customer is a Shopify user?
  • Is the individual from or living in the United States?
  • Have they visited our page within the last two days?

Based on analysis of past leads, we have learned that prospective customers fitting these three criteria represent a specific type of lead that we know has a high probability of converting. This is just one type of lead scoring that we do, and using our different scored leads, our sales agents can focus their time on customers that are closest to the sales finish line, maximizing profitability and minimizing wasted time. For other leads that we have identified as not quite ready to convert, it may be best to target them with further automated marketing campaigns.

Data consolidation methods are critical to any marketing automation strategy, but failing to figure out how to do it properly can be an obstacle. According to SmartInsights, data integration from sources and systems is the top barrier to adopting marketing automation. Many businesses out there have a lot of data about their customers and marketing campaigns in different places, but struggle to properly bring it all together. Popular CRM services like Salesforce are critical here, and you can use integration services like Zapier to make sure everything connects together.

Tracking Your Progress: The Most Useful Metrics for Marketing Automation


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Famous management consultant Peter Drucker and statistician W Edwards Demings are credited with saying: “You cannot manage what you don’t measure.” These experts had the right idea. For your marketing automation strategies to work, you have to have a mindset of continuous improvement.

This step means that you have to take the proper metrics. Here are a few crucial measurements that need to be a part of your marketing automation strategy:

Conversion rate

“Conversion rate” allows you to answer the question: did website visitors complete the action we wanted them to? Most often that refers to an actual purchase, but different campaigns can have different goals. For example, you may have created a landing page that invited visitors to sign up for your email list. This action triggered a welcome email with a link to your online store. Did they click the link and purchase an item? If so, they converted.

While a conversion can be the completion of any action that you asked your visitors to do, the most important metric is if the action led to a purchasing event.

A customer calling your business, interacting with you on live chat, or visiting your website a second time can lead to a purchase—which would count as conversions. Conversion rate is usually expressed as a percentage. You calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions (or purchasing actions) by the total number of visitors and multiplying this number by 100%.

Revenue generated

Another important metric is how much money your marketing automation activities are generating. While you want to have a decent conversion rate, you ultimately want to know if these actions generate revenue. Tools like Google Analytics can help you track revenue by marketing channel with the use of ecommerce tracking and UTM parameters and tags. Alternatively, for enterprise-level companies, Adobe Analytics is a viable and standard option for tracking revenue and capturing critical data insights.

However, an additional way you can determine the value of these channels is by taking the ROI of your marketing automation strategies (or its components). While you likely understand the basics of calculating ROI, the challenge comes in understanding all the costs that should be included in the calculation. For example, ROI should include costs like a recurring subscription for an email automation platform, the hourly staff cost to maintain it, and even the expenses associated with creating content for it. The calculation should consider any money you spend on maintaining this marketing automation tool. This action will give you an accurate view of the ROI and the platform’s contribution to your revenue generation strategies.

Leads generated

How many leads are being generated by each marketing automation activity? In plainer terms, this metric is about how many individuals are expressing interest in what you do and are acting on this interest. This situation is where the metric of lead generation comes into play.

A useful metric for lead generation is the number of leads that you get divided by the total number of visitors you received through a specific marketing campaign. An example of this is if you are capturing leads through a landing page, you will divide this by the total number of visitors to the page to see the rate of leads you have generated.

Again, it’s hard to know if your marketing automation strategies are successful if you are not intentional about the metrics you use to track them. Make this a priority when you are preparing your marketing automation systems.

How to Get Started With Marketing Automation

Take the Next Step in your Marketing Automation Journey

Understanding the role marketing automation can play in your interactions with your customers can help you simultaneously increase revenue and customer satisfaction. It has various benefits, but the top one that can benefit you and your team and lead to other significant perks is time savings. Marketing automation can handle routine tasks and free your teams up to manage actions that require more personal human attention.

Ultimately, tools like email automation, lead scoring, and chat bots can help you efficiently connect with your customers. For help getting started with automated in-app messages and an AI chat bot of your own, we invite you to sign up for a free trial of Formilla. Let us know how we can help!

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