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Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.
Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes which are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing especially inbound marketing. Marketing Automation platforms are used as a hosted or web-based solution, and no software installation is required by a customer.
The use of a marketing automation platform is to streamline sales and marketing organizations by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions.
Marketing automation is a platform that marketers use to plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of their marketing campaigns, both online and offline. It is often used along with lifecycle marketing strategy to closely manage and nurture generated leads, aiming to convert leads into customers.
Marketing Automation is a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management (CXM) that focuses on the definition, segmentation, scheduling and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible. Marketing Automation can be defined as a process where technology is used to automate several repetitive tasks that are undertaken on a regular basis in a marketing campaign. A tool that allows an individual to design, execute and automate a time-bound marketing workflow can be called a Marketing Automation platform.
Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to automate and simplify client communication by managing complex omni-channel marketing strategies from a single tool. Marketing Automation assist greatly in areas like Lead Generation, Segmentation, Lead nurturing and lead scoring, Relationship marketing, Cross-sell and upsell, Retention, Marketing ROI measurement.
There are three categories of marketing automation software:
- Marketing intelligence
- Uses tracking codes in social media, email and webpages to track the behavior of anyone interested in a product or service to gain a measure of intent. It can record which social media group or thread they followed, which link was clicked on in an email or which search term was used to access a website. Multiple link analysis can then track buyer behavior - following links and multiple threads related to product A but not B will show an interest only in A. This allows more accurately targeted response and the development of a nurturing program specifically targeted towards their interest and vertical market. This allows businesses to more efficiently and effectively reach target consumers who show, through their internet history behavior, that they will be interested in the company's products. Due to its interactive nature this has been described as Marketing Automation 2.0.
- Marketing automation
- Has a focus on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom of the funnel. Prospects are scored, based on their activities, and receive targeted content and messaging, thus nurturing them from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and is really the marriage of email marketing technology coupled with a structured sales process.
- Advanced workflow automation
- Encompasses automation of internal marketing processes. These include budgeting and planning, workflow and approvals, the marketing calendar, internal collaboration, digital asset creation and management and essentially everything that supports the operational efficiency of the internal marketing function. Typically these systems require a CRM or COM administrator to set up a complex series of rules to trigger action items for internal sales and marketing professionals to manually process (designing files, sending letters, sending email campaigns). This type of system increases marketer's ability to deliver relevant content to relevant individuals at relevant times. Limitations may apply, based on the human resource capacity of an organisation and their level of commitment to the tasks as they are assigned.
- Effects of GDPR on marketing automation
As of 25th May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect,  this has had a large impact on the way marketing teams and organisations can manage their consumer data. Any organisation using marketing automation tracking is required to ask consent of from the consumer as well as provide transparency on how the data will be processed.
In order to effectively aid marketers in fully understanding customers and subsequently developing a strategic marketing plan, marketing automation tools (MAT) are designed to perform eight key tasks:
- Development and analysis of marketing campaigns and customers
- Management of marketing campaigns
- Appropriate customer data organization and storage
- Moving contacts from leads to customers
- Lead Scoring
- Integration of multiple touchpoints such as email and social media
- Lead management
- Campaign performance analytics (i.e. open rate or click-through rates on emails, conversion rates on landing pages)
- Demand generation
- Inbound marketing automation
- Lead scoring
- Outbound marketing
- Online marketing platform
- Real-time marketing
- Predictive analytics
- Customer retention
- Data Integration
- Mobile marketing automation
- Email marketing
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- Bagshaw, Anthony. "What is marketing automation?" (PDF). Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years". eugdpr.org. November 2018.
- "Advanced Marketing Automation" (PDF). SAS. Retrieved 31 March 2011.