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Marketing Automation Fundamentals

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation used to be known simply as email marketing. This was understood about 10 years ago as gathering many, many, many email addresses and mass sending messages out to these email addresses in the hope that’s some people would engage with those emails.

However, marketing automation is now much more sophisticated, and it needs to be. Gartner Research is predicting that by 2020, 85% of people will interact only with technology and not with a real human being. This means the power of marketing will be through tools and not through real interaction with a person.

Beyond email marketing, what does marketing automation involve?

  • Blogging
  • Landing pages
  • Site pages
  • Campaigns
  • Social media publishing
  • Social media monitoring
  • List management
  • Lead scoring
  • Lead nurturing
  • Forms
  • Data gathering forms
  • Online tracking
  • Reporting
  • Sales and marketing alignment

What it will and will not do

One of the important things to know about marketing automation is that it’s not going to do your marketing for you. It provides you with tools that help you to scale up efficient marketing processes that you already have in place, and give you the data insights in order to improve upon those processes. So it will not do your marketing for you. That is the biggest misconception out there.

Second, it will solve all of your marketing problems for you. It solves a lot with regards to understanding where you’re having issues with gathering the results of your marketing campaigns, with understanding how to segment to make it more approachable or appropriate for your contacts. It will also improve your marketing in general through personalization and targeting. You’ll learn how to take pieces of information that can be quite generic and replace that information with things that matter most to the segments you’ve created.

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for mass production. If you think about a car assembly line, first, you break the car into pieces and then you move them along together and assemble it at the end. This is how you can visualize what marketing automation will do. It will break your marketing campaigns into singular pieces that you can double, triple, quadruple and then put together and drive results over and over again for your website.

Uses of marketing automation

There are five primary uses, but you will discover many, many more for your business as you apply it.

Enable sales

Sales enablement means that you’re assisting your sales team directly with content or with assets that help them to close a deal. This is the bottom of the funnel. When you are trying to help your sales team out, you need to be able to detect when it is necessary to serve the right piece of content at the right time in order to close a sale. This is how marketing automation can help you out. You can use the properties to detect those moments and deliver the right messages to your sales team and also to the contacting question.

Generate leads

Marketing automation also helps you generate leads by setting up good conversion pathways. A conversion pathway means, from the point a person arrives at your website, and studying all of the steps they take throughout, before they make a purchase or become a customer; what that pathway is, where it is narrowing, or where it is wide, and identifying where to apply improvements.

Without the data that marketing automation can provide for you, it’ll be very hard for you to understand where your website is functioning well and where it isn’t.

Nurture leads to MQLs

MQL means a marketing qualified lead, which is a much higher qualified lead than just lead. We’ll get into this in more detail later. It means taking the first leads you get into your website and identifying the better ones from that group. Within marketing automation, you can create tailored pathways or tailored email series based on information you know about these leads that convert along those conversion pathways much higher than if they were just left to their own devices upon your website.

Manage leads

Marketing automation is also fantastic for sorting and segmenting your leads. Previously, marketing automation was just known as email marketing where you blast a list with generic content and hope for a result. Within marketing automation, you will be able to apply properties to your different contacts, identify which of these properties surface valuable leads, and then segment into different lists and be able to create experiences on your website and through your communications that are appropriate for those contacts.

Drive customer evangelism

Customer evangelism means allowing your customers to promote you, your company and your products throughout their own social networks. You want this to happen more. You want to know when it’s happening so you can give them what they need in order for it to happen. It’s a very powerful thing because one of the greatest ways of marketing is getting your own users and customers to do it for you. With marketing automation, again, you can identify those actions, behaviors and properties that will result in you being able to know who these evangelists are, what an evangelist looks like digitally, and understand what you can send them and how you can assist them, how you can reach out to them and discuss with them how to do more with you.


There are five things that you need to consider before you decide to jump into marketing automation.


First, you must consider how long it’s going to take for the onboarding. Marketing automation tools, as in the full suite of marketing automation, are quite complex and require a lot of training and time to really start to understand how powerful they are and get the benefits out of them. This is not something that you should be taking lightly. You should do extensive research into how long it will take and how complex it is to make sure that your team has the skills and has the time to be able to use this tool properly.

Extensive training

Marketing automation is not just learning off a set of tools. It is also understanding a methodology which makes them work best. You want it to be as powerful for your business and your brand as it possibly can because none of them come cheap. You need to be able to commit to deep training, not just the lightweight stuff, in order to really, really get the benefits out of this.

Importing the data

Depending on how large and how complicated your data is, it could be taking quite a while or it could be quick to import it into this new system. Depending on how many integrations are required and how fragmented your data is, it could take some time for the sales engineers to make this happen.

Synchronizing the data

This will also be a sales engineer question. Can you easily synchronize your data between the CRM you’re currently using or other tools you are using that are required for your business, and your new marketing automation platform? Usually this can be done with some nifty tweaking, but you should explore when you’re in the buying process, is it possible.

Learning correct reporting

One of the biggest mistakes people can make when using marketing automation is not understanding how to correctly dig into all the data they now have at their fingertips and surface information that they need to report on their successes. Marketing automation is strongly tied to delivering ROI or return on investment. Previously, digital marketing has been very difficult to count as a contribution towards business. Marketing Automation is trying to solve for this, but you need to understand how to dig into complex data sets and see where those ROI notes are.

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Andrea Francis

Inbound marketing manager @ Poppulo

  • Inbound marketing manager in employee communications technology 
  • Worked at Relayr as a senior marketing manager, creating and implementing a global inbound marketing strategy
  • Worked with Hubspot as a marketing manager and funnel optimization specialist focusing on converting leads to qualified leads for the EMEA region
  • Content marketing and blogging with various SaaS startups at Startupbootcamp Amsterdam

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

You will not be assessed on this content in your final exam.


    Marketing Automation
    Andrea Francis
    Skills Expert

    This module begins with the fundamentals of marketing automation and looks at how businesses are using marketing automation tools with CRM software to create significant sales enablement, lead nurturing, and customer relationship management opportunities. It provides in-depth coverage on generating, managing, and nurturing leads, including topics on importing and managing contact lists, lead scoring and tracking, segmentation, retargeting, and using marketing automation data and social media automation tools to drive campaigns and to detect new business opportunities.