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November 23, 2016

Marketing Automation: The Underrated Gem of Digital and Social Marketing

Marketing automation as a concept is not new but, in this digital era, its role as a tool to convert prospective customers to actual ones is growing. It has been touted as a marketing trend to look out for. In 2015, marketing automation was estimated to be worth $5.5 billion, as a result of its success in lead generation and prospect nurturing. By automating and integrating repetitive sales and marketing tasks across multiple online channels – social media, website, e-mail and mobile apps time is saved and efficiency is optimized. Marketing automation helps in building robust communication ties with potential customers, and existing clients, by facilitating personalized messaging. Effectively used as a strategy of Customer Relation Management (CRM), marketing automation has the power to turn your brand into a star.

Despite the buzz around marketing automation, only few companies are realizing its potential and getting on board. A survey conducted by Smart Insights (a resource for actionable marketing advice) in 2015 found that only 14 percent of the respondents used marketing automation to its optimum potential, with the rest using it moderately, less or not at all.  Furthermore, those who do use it, might not be getting the most out of it. As content marketing evangelist Joe Pulizzi states in his article on the biggest content marketing trends to be witnessed in 2017: “Simply put, most of us are using marketing automation the wrong way.”  This is a conclusion he has come to based on his deep knowledge of the industry.

What could possibly be the reason for not embracing such a game-changing technology? There are certain myths associated with marketing automation that tend to prevent business owners and marketing managers from adopting it.

Some of the common myths that plague marketing automation include:

1. Marketing automation is often considered cold and impersonal.

This is far from the truth. Marketing automation is a great tool to supplement your content strategy. It needs to be leveraged in the right way to make the best use of it. You can’t depend solely on scripted responses that lack a personal touch. It is important to strike the perfect balance between automation and interacting with customers on a personal basis. For instance – customised auto-responses to clients are a simple way to make your customers feel special while also being efficient.

2. Marketing automation is the same as e-mail marketing.  

While e-mail might be one of the most widely used channels when it comes to marketing automation, it is not one and the same. Marketing automation is meant to generate leads and help brands close the gap between those leads and making a sale, irrespective of the channel. Hence, it is just as effective when used with lead generation efforts, social media platforms, website landing pages, management activities, and more. For instance – On Facebook, through the ‘Shop now’ button, you are directed to a particular brand’s website from its Facebook Page. This feature provides easy access to the shopping portal, and enhances the buying experience for customers.

3. Marketing automation is a one-time investment. 

Not true. It is technology that supports your customer engagement efforts, and not a stand-alone solution that will take care of all your marketing efforts on auto-pilot mode. Marketing automation makes it easier to reach your customers, existing and potential; but engages them, and discovering the best platforms to interact with them on is something that needs extra time and effort on a regular basis. For instance, as a brand, ‘you will eventually put off your followers if you only put out great content (using marketing automation), but don’t interact and be involved in the discussions that arise as an offshoot of that great content.

4. Marketing automation encourages spamming your prospective and existing customers. 

Only when used incorrectly. Marketing automation, in fact, gives brands the kind of detailed information about customers that helps them tailor messages to specifically target those customers, and personalize the experience. Sending out the right message to the wrong person is spam, but sending it to the right person gets you a lead. For instance, randomly buying e-mail lists and constantly spamming the inbox of everyone on the list is counterproductive because those who have no need for your product or service will only be put off. On the other hand, getting in touch with those potential customers who have visited your website and expressed an interest in your offering is far more effective, with a lesser chance of putting them off.

Nothing demonstrates better the usefulness of a technology like marketing automation than with a real-life example.

E-mailing done right: E-mail is one of the oldest forms of online communication used by brands to get in touch with prospective and existing clients, and build lasting relationships. But, the potential is often underrated, especially with newer and shinier concepts like SEO and social media coming around.  According to research, e-mail is said to have higher ROI and click-through rates than other channels.

An interesting case study showcasing the power of e-mail published by Spokal (a contenting marketing tool) revealed that a company,, (stationary and invitation card makers) was able to increase its revenue by 330 perceny by using marketing automation to target brides, brides-to-be, and their friends based on their actions in e-mails and on their website. How was it done? As the article mentions, “Based off of their customer’s actions, a tailored e-mail was sent – in a timely manner – to the customer with relevant marketing messages. For example, if a bride had purchased favours, they would then receive an e-mail regarding “thank you” cards a few days later. But if it was a friend of the bride who purchased bachelorette tiaras, for example, then they would receive wedding gift ideas.” Sending the right message to the right person at the right time makes all the difference.

Simple and effective, this example proves how marketing automation when exploited correctly with a clear goal and strategy in place can provide real and measurable benefits.

The Future

As more and more companies realize the potential of marketing automation in helping them scale their business and manage their marketing efforts, the technology involved is bound to evolve and get better.

An expert in the field Vik Singh, the CEO and co-founder of Infer, a leading predictive sales and marketing platform, believes that by 2018 a new era of marketing automation technologies will emerge. He says, “I predict that the prevailing marketing platform of 2018 will be predictive-first, will deliver full-circle recommendations and will embrace open platforms.” These improvements will be driven by data science, predictive intelligence, machine learning, and open source APIs among others.

With a whole gamut of technologically-forward concepts involved in changing the face of marketing automation for the better, it won’t be an exaggeration to say this tool has the ability to dramatically improve a business’ efforts in acquiring and retaining customers. And with a broad range of marketing automation software available in the market, there is something for everyone.


Madarapu Nagaraju is a co-founder and director at KnowledgeHut. With more than seven years of experience, he possesses a bias for innovation and has an ability to connect the dots between thinking up strategies and executing them on the ground. He has played a pivotal role in building international alliances and expansion of the learning business overseas from one centre in Bengaluru to more than 90 countries. A strong proponent of the lean practices, he strongly believes in the quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”