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September 27, 2013
What Is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation seems to be one of the newest buzz terms to join the marketing lexicon. But what is it exactly? If you were to look up the term on the interwebs, Wikipedia would tell you that “marketing automation refers to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks.” Another article referred to marketing automation as a “solution” for marketers. Maybe it’s the practice or use of such software.
I really don’t think there’s any one exact definition that we could all agree on. But it’s my belief that use of the term has increased as of late when in fact it’s something smart marketers should have been doing for a long time.
Is this specialty of marketing anything more than auto-messaging? Again, that depends on if you think the term strictly applies to the software. Maybe “marketing automation” is just a fancy way of saying “triggered messages.” I know a lot of folks would argue with that one.
I sincerely hope someone reading this thinks “marketing automation” isn’t lazy-speak for “hit autopilot to send crap blindly.” It’s only going to take one idiot to ruin the party for the rest of us.
Let’s do a recap of what marketing automation can or should be (my lawyer wants me to give the disclaimer that this isn’t an all-inclusive list):
  • A software program that’s used to trigger emails based upon a contact’s profile and/or their place in the sales cycle.
  • A means for intelligently marketing to your prospects with the right message at the right time.
  • The practice of using software to automate electronic messaging to various audience segments.
  • Autoresponders on steroids.
  • A drip campaign.
If you’re going to head down this path, please, please take these things under advisement:
Use marketing automation software in conjunction with a customer relationship management system. Without such a set-up, the (electronic) brains of the operation are likely missing. Sending messages on autopilot without any thought to making sure a tailored message is delivered is a sure-fire way to erode any previously generated goodwill. Without the CRM system directing traffic, marketing messages will be a one-size-fits-all approach, which defeats the purpose of making use of marking automation in the first place.
For the love of all that is relevant and holy, think of your contacts as individuals and not a mass group. Marketing automation is meant to be a 1:1 dialogue. It works best when you think of the individual and not the masses. Again, this is where the CRM system is key to helping to develop profiles and driving targeted messaging.
And last, but not least, work as a team. Marketing automation is meant to bridge marketing with sales and there’s no better way to achieve the desired results than by the two groups working together. As with other marketing disciplines, if automated emails are designed and deployed with a silo mindset, you’ve taken the first step on the path to irrelevancy. And that is the worst sin of all.
What are your thoughts on marketing automation?

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Sandi Solow has over 15 years of professional experience in marketing, web content development, and media relations. Before focusing on email, Solow worked in marketing for a Big Four consulting firm and as a web content producer for CNN.com and CNNSI.com. She is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AiMA). Check out her blog at isendyouremail.com/blog. Connect on linkedin.com/in/sandisolow and Twitter @sandisolow.
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