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What is Marketing Automation?

If you search for "marketing automation" on the Internet today, you will quickly find what you are looking for, but you may wonder whether an article from 2000 is still up to date, what is "hot" at the moment or where you can get more useful information.

Today I would like to shed some light on the topic of "Marketing Automation" and what it actually is.


I would like to start with the situation in which people in marketing have to assert themselves today. The topic of customers and channels that need to be covered. Channels and communications were easy to define 20 years ago, as they were very clear with mail, telephone, fax, online, SMS/MMS and e-mail. Today, we are also talking about online ads, (chat) bots, social media channels, messengers, games, etc. that make the range of marketing tools, but also the communications with prospects and customers, more complicated.

Many CRM projects in the 2000s probably failed due to the lack of MA functionality, because only very expensive tools were able to send campaigns. Even today, this function is still missing in many so-called CRM systems.

Whether B2C or B2B orientation, it helps to be guided by the customer journey. The task of marketing is to persuade the customer to buy through targeted communication.

Fig.1 Customer journey off- and online with supporting systems

When we look at the customer journey, as marketers we often don't know what stage prospects and customers are at. Who knows exactly if customer X is just back on the website, prospect Z is looking at an online ad or following an Insta post to our website.

This is where the use of a marketing automation solution can be helpful from our experience. Marketing automation is software support for communicating with prospects and customers along the customer journey and beyond.

MA does not replace advertising measures, but it bundles the interested contacts in one solution and tries to persuade them to buy. Depending on the status of the person, it may take several steps before a buyer feels confident.

Fig.2 Involving a MA in the lead process.

  1. ATTENTION /TRAFFIC ACQUISITION In this phase, the focus is on how to use different channels (e.g. SEO/online advertising) to generate attention and direct potential customers to the company website.

  2. MARKETING AUTOMATION 1 (MA1) This is primarily about converting anonymous contacts into leads via the company website. (e.g. by displaying pop-ups or notes and storing possible interests of our leads after a customer action).

  3. INTEREST When the prospect shows an interest in a product /or service, a targeted campaign is launched.

  4. INFORMATION Through the prospect's interaction, disclosure of interest, specific modules are sent to them in the campaign.

  5. MARKETING AUTOMATION 2 (MA2) As soon as a lead becomes a customer, MA comes into play again to persuade the customer to make the next purchase and the cycle begins again (e.g. through targeted campaigns with a cross-selling and/or upselling character).

  6. PURCHASE/CRM In combination with a CRM, MA enables an intensification of customer relations, as well as relations with service users, partners and suppliers. (e.g. through targeted campaigns based on customer value and customer interests).

Prospects need to get used to your company. If they become customers, you want to be spoiled!

Basics of Marketing Automation (MA)

Marketing Automation (MA) is systemically a software solution that enables you to communicate with prospects & customers based on their behaviour, certain rules, events or triggers as precisely as possible. Events can be used from the lifecycle of a person (job change, marriage, birth of a child, birthday), the product lifecycle (purchase, warranty update) or the customer lifecycle (new customer, subscription buyer, sleeper).

It is actually a campaign solution matching a CRM system, combined with a tracking unit. This tracking unit secures the online movement data of the customer, whether woman/man opens a newsletter or woman/man moves on the website. Marketing Automation uses a first party cookie and often a website analytics tool (Google Analytics, Webtrekk or others) to do this. Of course, offline events can also drive campaigns, requiring Marketing Automation to pass on this information, e.g. purchase in a shop, visit to an event, etc.

MA extends the IT landscape without affecting the operational business. MA works repetitively, i.e. an action/campaign that has been defined once is played out or not depending on the customer event. For example, a customer who has a birthday, calls up a certain website, buys products or makes an enquiry to the service centre.

The most important functions of an MA are

  • the monitoring of the website (tracking of website visitors/scores)

  • the campaign module (POP-IN, e-mail and messenger)

  • the customer database (anonymous and identified prospects or customers)

  • the document management (assets)

  • Landing pages (for campaigns)

  • Interest management

As a marketer, I have always wanted marketing automation. It would have achieved ROI much faster than a CRM system in many client projects. This is because of the way I look at the data universe. In a CRM, I often work with the active prospects and customers. Website visitors, but also inactive customers, are often not a priority for the sales department.


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