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What Is Marketing Automation And How Does It Work?

You've heard of marketing automation. But what is it, and how does it work? Here's everything you need to know about marketing automation.

What is marketing automation

​​Want to boost the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, create more efficient team processes, and upgrade your customer experience?

You need marketing automation.

Marketing automation has become popular over the past decade, and for good reason.

As marketers face an ever-growing number of channels and platforms where they need to meet their customers, marketing automation presents a helpful opportunity to save time. It allows them to offload manual tasks so they can focus on high-priority projects.

In this article, we’ll look into what marketing automation is and how it works, highlight some popular marketing automation tools, and cover a few examples of what it looks like in the real world.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a catch-all term for software and tools that manage marketing tasks, processes, and workflows without needing human touch.

Marketers have busy schedules and must accomplish many tasks on any given day. By leveraging marketing automation software to handle simple, repetitive activities, marketers can free up their time to focus on more important and time-consuming priorities.

This doesn’t just benefit individual marketers or marketing teams; it also helps maximize efficiency across an entire organization and, ultimately, boost your business’s bottom line.

Marketing automation can help businesses in several ways, including:

  • Speeding up marketing team processes and saving time.
  • Improving team and individual productivity.
  • Generating and nurturing relationships with leads.
  • Improving customer experience and retention.
  • Reducing operating costs.

From email marketing campaigns to prospect segmentation, marketing automation simplifies business processes to deliver a better customer experience.

Is Marketing Automation The Same As A CRM?

While marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) software are closely related, they are not the same thing.

The two serve different purposes – though, when used together correctly, they can be extremely complementary tools that supercharge your customer journey.

So, how exactly are marketing automation and CRM different?

While marketing automation is focused on automating and optimizing marketing-related tasks, CRM software is primarily used to bolster the efforts of your sales and customer service teams.

Your CRM provides a home for your customer and prospect data, such as information about them, their purchase activity, and notes from any interactions or sales calls. It provides a single source of truth for your sales, service, and marketing teams to oversee customer relationships across the sales funnel.

This is separate from marketing automation workflows – but both can be integrated to optimize your marketing efforts based on customer data.

Often, CRM companies will also offer marketing automation tools, as they are designed to work hand-in-hand.

What Does Marketing Automation Do?

Marketing automation enables businesses to optimize their marketing strategies and campaigns and contributes to lead generation and nurturing by automating marketing workflows.

With a marketing automation platform, you can create a more personalized customer experience without all the manual effort.


You can set up the software to gather information about every lead or prospect and use that data to serve each individual the right content at the right time.

You simply tell your marketing automation tool what data to gather and how to put that data to good use.

A few common things you can do with marketing automation:

  • Boost your email marketing by automating your email campaigns. You can set up workflows where customers or prospects are sent timely, personalized emails based on particular actions they take. For example, if you go to a website and put an item in your cart and then leave, that business could use marketing automation workflows to trigger an email to you saying, “Don’t forget about that item in your cart!”
  • Optimize your marketing campaigns through workflows that serve leads with specific messaging based on where they are in their journey with your business and what channel you’re meeting them on – be it social media, email, in-app, or elsewhere.
  • Gather insightful analytics on the performance of your marketing campaigns and how effectively you’re generating and converting leads. Marketing automation can provide deeper insights into how well you’re engaging your customers, and where the gaps you need to fill are.

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

So marketing automation sounds great, but how does it actually work?

Every interaction you have with customers or prospective leads – whether it be an email exchange, a website visit, or a social media engagement – provides you with data on that person.

Marketing automation platforms don’t just store that data; they analyze it and then put it to good use.

With marketing automation software, you can segment your leads based on specific criteria such as interest or behavior.

Then, you can set up campaigns to automatically serve tailored messaging to these leads based on different trigger events, actions, or customer journey stages.

You can create workflows based on pre-configured templates or build them from scratch based on your specific needs.

Once you have set up the workflows you need, you can rely on your marketing automation software to do the rest. All you have to do is check on the analytics and reporting regularly to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workflows.

Marketing Automation Platforms

There are a variety of different marketing automation platforms that exist, offering a range of different functionalities and features.

For the sake of this article, we will highlight just a few.


ActiveCampaign is a popular marketing automation tool that lets you pull data from channels like social media, live chat, landing pages, SMS, and more.

Some key features include:

  • Advanced reporting to discover which marketing campaign automation is working best for you.
  • Sign-up forms. With custom forms and landing pages, you can collect emails, segment your audience, and trigger automation.
  • Notification emails let you know when to follow up with your leads.


With Klaviyo’s marketing automation capabilities, you can deliver personalized messaging to your customers at the right time.

Key features include:

  • Behavior-based automation that initializes messages based on specific data and events.
  • Advanced segmentation that allows you to target people based on a specific demographic profile.
  • AI-driven optimization that uses data prediction to help you proactively reach out to customers. helps you improve your messaging workflows by automating them for you across emails, push notifications, SMS, and more. Some key features include:

  • In-app message automation that can be combined with email, push, and text.
  • A visual workflow builder to help you design a better customer experience.
  • Ad audience sync that tracks your ad audiences across platforms and syncs them with your segments without any need for CSV files.


Best known as an email marketing platform, Mailchimp also offers a number of different marketing automation tools, including:

  • Retargeting ads which are designed to re-engage people who have visited your site and encourage them to return.
  • A customer journey builder where you can create automation workflows that work best for your customers and your goals.
  • Transactional emails to communicate with your customers when they take a specific action.

Examples Of Marketing Automation

Now that we understand more about what marketing automation is and how it works, let’s cover a few quick examples of different marketing automation workflows.

Reminder And Re-Engagement Emails

You buy a skincare product from a brand. Based on customer data, the company knows that most customers will run out of the product within three months.

So, it uses marketing automation to automatically send you an email around three months after your purchase to encourage you to buy a new product.

Feedback Surveys

You attend a webinar hosted by a tech brand.

Once the webinar is over, you receive an automated email with a survey asking you to rate your experience and provide any feedback. This data is then submitted to the company.

Offers And Deals

You sign up for a loyalty program through a brand. You immediately receive an SMS with an offer for 15% off as a new customer.

Onboarding Information

You sign up for a new service. Within a few days, you receive an email offering tips for how to best use the service as a new user.

Enhance Your Marketing Strategy With Automation Tools

We could all use more time in the day, and this is especially true for marketers. With so many simultaneous responsibilities and tasks to attend to, marketers can use all the help they can get to streamline their day.

It’s no surprise, then, that marketing automation has become such a powerful and beneficial tool for businesses across industries.

With marketing automation, you can optimize your marketing efforts and give your team time back.

But more importantly, marketing automation can help you create a seamless, delightful customer experience that will turn prospects into leads, and leads into loyal customers.

More Resources: 

Featured Image: Andrey Suslov/Shutterstock

Annabelle Nyst

Writer, digital marketer, and content strategist. Annabelle has 8+ years of experience in social marketing, copywriting, and storytelling for best-in-class ...

What Is Marketing Automation And How Does It Work?

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