Wikipedia defines marketing automation as referring 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.
There does appear to be agreement among the vendors as well that it is software or technology aimed at making the marketer’s job easier, more efficient and more accurate. In oversimplified terms, it automates your marketing; it does not create it nor does it ensure that the message is what you need. One of the benefits not mentioned is that it also helps to make sure that your marketing is Cohesive; all your campaigns working together to relay a consistent message to the viewer.
In the past, literally before online anything, marketing practitioners relied solely on outbound campaigns that used creative messaging and visuals aimed at specific demographics in the hope of getting them to contact you. Rates of return were quite low and more often than not, very hard to measure.
Initially, automation was used in conjunction with email, focusing on sending batches in blast format and again hoping to gain some traction with the recipients. At least there were some tools available that could help in understanding a limited subset of the behaviours but it was still very limited as to did you influence the prospective buyer of your products or services.
With the prevalence of online today, most buying decisions are made prior to contact with any vendor, never mind the one from whom they will eventually make a purchase. So now you need to find ways to influence and affect the buying decision without actually knowing the customer before they buy.
The software can help us do this but in a lot of cases, a poor campaign is being automated only to fail quicker but fail none the less. So when looking at your marketing vendor, their capability and their tools keep in mind the tools are available to gather data to help understand the buyer’s behaviour and the signals they are sending but the concepts have not changed. Automating a poor process means you have an automated poor process; automate a great one and you may have a winner. You still need to know who your prospects are, where they are and what their likely buying behaviour is going to look like; that we can help with.