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Think about the dozens of emails you receive in your inbox from various brands every day. The marketers behind each email marketing campaign not only send them to you, but to the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people on their email list. 

Imagine if they had to send each email one by one. They’d check their email contact database, type out your email address, write an email subject line, paste in the content, make sure to format it nicely, check all looks good, and finally hit send. Then they’d do it again for the next person on the list until they’ve exhausted the database. 

That would be impossible. Just think about how it would occupy quite literally all of their waking hours to do. Digital marketing automation is a powerful tool that not only negates that, it has a whole host of other benefits and can be used across far more areas than email marketing alone.

I have a decade of experience in tech, ecommerce, and B2B marketing, even working as a team of one for five of those years. Running lean, I’ve learned how to pick the right tools and rely heavily on digital marketing automation. In this article, I will share an overview of not only what it is, but how to apply it in your marketing strategy and the best practices to follow.

What Is Digital Marketing Automation?

If marketing is a machine, think of digital marketing automation as the grease! Marketing automation software can help marketers complete repetitive tasks with minimal energy and makes certain tasks possible at a large scale even for smaller teams like those in small businesses. In a nutshell, it’s the use of software and tech to automate various digital marketing tasks. 

It helps marketers save time and resources while still delivering effective results, if not better ones. Digital marketing efforts can be used for a variety of activities, including email campaigns, social media posts, website content updates, and more. But before we get into the various types, let's explore the benefits of digital marketing automation in more detail.

Benefits Of Digital Marketing Automation

Streamlined Processes 

Digital marketing automation is a great tool that allows marketers to streamline their processes, cut down time spent on manual work, and reduce costs. 

Automation helps marketers save time by instructing a computer program to handle their most repetitive and time-consuming tasks. This can be creating and sending batch emails, scheduling social media posts, or tracking customer data. It also allows for more targeted campaigns that are tailored to individual customers’ needs and preferences, helping with engagement and retention.

Improved Efficiency

Automation can improve efficiency by eliminating manual processes such as entering data into spreadsheets by hand (which invites the potential for human error) or manually sending out emails. This saves time and money while ensuring accuracy in the process. 

Additionally, automation enables marketers to quickly respond to customer inquiries or requests with automated messages that provide helpful information without requiring additional resources from the team. Automated messaging tools or “chatbots” can even automate the routing of messages to the appropriate team member if it’s necessary for a human to get involved. 

Enhanced Customer Experience

Automation also helps to improve the customer experience by providing personalized experiences based on customers’ past interactions with your brand or products. By using automation tools to segment audiences based on interests or demographics, you can create highly-targeted campaigns that will resonate better with your audience than generic messaging would. This, in turn, results in higher customer engagement and other metrics.

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Maximized ROI

Due to the benefits like those we’ve outlined above, digital marketing automation can ultimately increase the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing activities. With the right approach, digital marketing automation can help you test marketing messages, channels, and strategies to find the best ones. In doing so, you can reach your marketing goals faster.

Where Can I Use Digital Marketing Automation?

Digital marketing automation can be used to automate many different kinds of global and localized marketing processes such as email campaigns, social media management, and even website updates. A few examples include: 

  • Email lists organized into segments and emails triggered by stages in the customer journey
  • Post scheduling and basic customer support on social media channels
  • Scheduling website pages like blog posts and landing pages to go live when you’re offline
  • Leverage SMS marketing software to alert customers when an item they are interested in is on sale automatically

Email Marketing

infographic for digital marketing automation

Email marketing automation tools allow marketers to automatically create emails with a drag-and-drop editor that are sent out at predetermined times or in response to certain triggers. These emails can be personalized with customer data such as name, location, and purchase history to make them more effective than traditional, one-size-fits-all email blasts. According to Campaign Monitor, personalized subject lines alone improve open rate by 26%.

Additionally, they can be used to send out segmented newsletters or promotional offers based on user behavior or preferences. In this case, Campaign Monitor also cited that marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.

In the case of intricate nurture sequences, triggered emails, or “drip campaigns,”  a series of emails are sent over a specific time interval, triggered by a specific event. The goal of these sequences can range from converting a potential customer, re-engaging a customer, sending a welcome message series to educate the customer on their new purchase, upsell or cross-sell, etc.

There are many tools with automation features for email marketing, including Mailchimp, Pardot by Marketo, Eloqua, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Hubspot, Sendinblue, and Salesforce by Oracle. Thankfully, we've already done a lot of the research to create a list of the best email marketing software for you.

Social Media Marketing

Similar to email automation, social media automation is critical for a successful digital marketing strategy that involves managing several social media accounts. Again, you’ll need to find a suitable tool, depending on how often you want to post and the degree of automation you require.

The most common form of social media marketing automation is post scheduling, which allows you to schedule multiple forms of content—from videos and static images to text tweets, carousels, and stories—to multiple different social channels, all from one single, easy-to-use platform.

As well, basic customer support and service requests can be handled by automation software on social media. Bots can be trained on answers to your most frequently asked questions, then respond to comments as necessary. While you will still want to respond as an actual human being to most of your comments and messages to keep engagement quality, this can remove some of the repetitive tasks and free up your time for more interesting conversations.

Common marketing tools for social media automation include Hootsuite, Buffer, and SproutSocial, among others. These platforms allow marketers to schedule posts across multiple social networks simultaneously and track the performance of those posts in real-time. 

Content Management Systems (CMS)

When it comes to your website, a CMS like WordPress provides an easy way to manage content without needing any coding knowledge or technical expertise. They enable users to quickly create new pages, update existing ones, add images and videos, and optimize SEO settings from one centralized dashboard, saving valuable time when creating content for websites and blogs alike.

With a CMS, you can also schedule web pages to be published in advance, so you don’t have to be online for your next blog post or landing page to go live.

SMS Marketing

Have you ever been sent a text message from a brand you’ve expressed interest in? While the United States’ TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) explicitly states that you must get consent in writing before sending commercial text messages to any customer, this is a powerful tool for reaching those who do opt-in to hear from you.

Just imagine that you’re out for a walk around the city and receive a text that one of your favorite stores is having a flash sale for 24 hours only. If you’re in the area and the discounts are appealing enough, you may very well stop by. Catching potential customers in real-time can have a very different effect than, say, sending an email they may not read until they’re back home.

As with other areas of automation, there are a number of SMS marketing tools you can use. These include Omnisend, SimpleTexting, and Attentive, to name a few, but again we've done our research to provide our top recommendations.

SEO Marketing

SEO (search engine optimization) helps businesses improve their search engine rankings by optimizing webpages so they appear higher in search results when people use specific keywords related to the business's products, services, or content topics. Though set-it-and-forget-it automation doesn’t exist for SEO, there are ways you can leverage automation to streamline your efforts.

Popular SEO tools that help include:

  • Keyword research software that identifies relevant keywords
  • Link-building software which helps build backlinks
  • Analytics tools that automatically measure website traffic and keyword rankings (it would be humanly impossible to know which keywords you rank for without it)
  • Meta tag generators which generate HTML tags containing information about the page's contents
  • Sitemap generators which automatically generate XML files listing URLs within a site

Surveys and Feedback

Lastly, there are several tools that marketers can rely on to automate the creation and sending of customer feedback surveys, from TypeForm to SurveyMonkey. Through these tools, you can develop a survey and designate a trigger that sends it. For example, after the tenth time someone uses your mobile app, you can use an automated tool to send them a feedback survey. 

How To Implement Digital Marketing Automation

Convinced on setting up digital marketing automation now? If so, implementing it will require careful planning and execution, regardless of whether you run a small business or a large enterprise. 

Start by identifying your goals and objectives for the campaign before selecting the right tools for your needs. Don’t forget to consider budget constraints when selecting a tool or platform to use, as well as how it will integrate with your existing systems such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software or email service providers (ESPs). 

Once you have chosen the appropriate technology, create an automated workflow that outlines each step of the process. This includes: setting up triggers that initiate actions based on user behavior or other criteria, creating personalized content, sending transactional emails, managing lead nurturing activities, tracking performance metrics, optimizing campaigns in real-time, and sending follow-ups and measuring results against established KPIs.

To ensure successful implementation of digital marketing automation strategies, don’t forget to also be mindful of data privacy regulations such as GDPR in Europe or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Additionally, regularly review analytics reports to identify areas where you can make improvements over time and make sure all automated processes are running smoothly without any glitches or errors.

Digital Marketing Automation Best Practices

As useful and sophisticated as automation can be, if you take a misguided approach or set up too many automations too fast, you'll overcomplicate your life and wish you had never set it up. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that!

Here are some best practices when using digital marketing automation tools in order to maximize results.

Use Accurate Data

Ensure that all data is accurate and up-to-date from contact information to customer preferences and purchase history, etc. Having incorrect or outdated data can lead to inaccurate segmentation and targeting of customers which will reduce the effectiveness of campaigns.

Test Strategies

Test different strategies before launching a full-scale campaign in order to determine what works best for your target audience. This could include testing different messages or offers on small groups of customers in order to measure response rates before rolling out the campaign across your entire database. A/B testing small, specific components can also return some great results.

Track Performance Metrics

Track performance metrics regularly so you can measure success and make adjustments as needed throughout the course of a campaign. This could include tracking open rates (OR), click through rates (CTR), conversion rates (CVR), cost per acquisition (CPA) or any other metric relevant to your goals such as website visits or app downloads.

By following these best practices when implementing digital marketing automation tools, you can get maximum value from your campaigns while reaching your desired outcomes efficiently and effectively.

A Few Other Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between digital marketing and marketing automation?

Digital marketing is the use of digital channels such as websites, search engines, social media, and email platforms to promote products or services. It involves creating content that appeals to customers and driving engagement with them through various online platforms.

Marketing automation is a software-based process that automates repetitive tasks associated with digital marketing campaigns. It helps marketers manage customer relationships more efficiently by streamlining processes such as lead generation, segmentation, scoring and nurturing. Automation also enables marketers to measure the success of their campaigns in real-time so they can make adjustments quickly for maximum impact.

What is the difference between digital marketing automation and AI?

Marketing automation technology refers to software that automates repetitive digital marketing tasks to simplify processes while boosting efficiency. 

Automation can be complemented with marketing AI tools, which are a type of marketing technology that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze customer data and automate the marketing decisions you make based on that data. Basically, it helps with the strategy behind the automation that you want to implement, empowering you to make even smarter decisions.

For example, AI could help answer questions like, “Should we send Lucy an email about our new product or remind her about her abandoned cart?” It helps you to provide relevant content along the entire customer lifecycle. 

As the AI revolution continues, you will see more and more marketing automation tools boast AI-supported features. There is also a whole new generation of marketing AI tools, especially like Copy.ai and Jasper.ai that use templates combined with AI to help automate the writing of marketing copy. 

Will digital marketers be replaced by automation?

No, digital marketing will never be fully automated. Someone has to think of what workflow to automate, which tools to use, and what is in the business' best interests. Don’t think sales teams can be bothered to rely on marketing automation tools alone to help them generate demand! 

While automation can play a role in streamlining certain processes, it cannot replace the creativity and strategic thinking that goes into successful digital marketing campaigns. Human involvement is still essential for developing strategies, creating content, analyzing data, and making decisions based on insights. Automation is simply there to help marketers work more efficiently.

The Bottom Line

Automation can be used across various digital marketing functions to save time and resources while still delivering high-quality results. By understanding the different types of automation available, implementing your marketing automation solution properly, and following best practices for its use, marketers like you can maximize the potential of this technology to drive success in digital marketing and inbound marketing campaigns. 

Digital marketing automation has become an essential part of any successful modern marketer's toolkit, so make sure you're taking advantage of it. From campaign management to content marketing, it’s impossible to live without!

But, remember, automation is just the beginning. In modern digital marketing, it is at the very foundation of your tech stack. These days, it’s worth checking out tools that help you incorporate AI to make the most out of your real-time data and make hyper-targeted campaigns across all of your marketing channels.

Are you ready to implement your own marketing automation? Let me know on Twitter and don’t forget to stay up-to-date with TheCMO.com. Subscribe today!

Kalei White
By Kalei White

Kalei White is a content marketer and bunny mom in San Diego. She’s helped global B2B ecommerce companies build authoritative brands and generate demand resulting in massive growth. Today, she runs content at Trovata, an AI-powered fintech platform.