A great B2C or B2B marketing strategy doesn’t have to be difficult to implement. Case in point: the abundance and growing popularity of marketing automation software tools, a class of technology that removes rote work from the equation and makes it much simpler for brands to track and improve their marketing strategies.

Whether you’re a marketer yourself or just someone who’s interested in learning how brands have gotten so good at marketing outreach, here’s a helpful guide to marketing automation, including a look at marketing automation benefits and strategies for both B2C and B2B companies. 

What is Marketing Automation and How Does It Work?

Marketing automation is a software tool that’s used to streamline a business’s digital marketing efforts. It accomplishes this by automating workflows and taking on repetitive tasks, the latter of which can include everything from emailing prospects to posting on social media to bidding on ad space. Currently, 68% of businesses automate their marketing in some way, and 92% of marketing agencies are putting more time, money, and resources toward automation integration.

The ultimate goal of marketing automation is to make a marketing team’s job easier, maintaining consistent outreach with their audience and churning out a wealth of useful insights that can then be used to make data-backed strategic improvements. Results include more effective lead nurturing and scoring, which in turn enables sales, boosts revenue, and, ideally, provides customers with a better user experience.

Important to note is that while it’s nice for marketers to have this sort of technology by their side, marketing automation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tool. Marketing teams work with automation software and are constantly monitoring input and performance. Once fully integrated, these tools can be a brand’s best resource for ramping up lead generation and conversion efforts and can also free up time to focus on strategy rather than just checking off a never-ending to-do list of routine tasks.

Marketing Funnel Automation

As for how marketing automation actually works, it largely comes down to enacting a more productive sales funnel.

The marketing automation funnel looks just like your standard sales funnel. At the top of the funnel are marketing leads—individuals who are aware of a brand but need more information about the value of their product or service. At the bottom are converted customers who have made a purchase but who can continue to be nurtured for retention. Each step in between the top and the bottom is occupied by individuals who are making the incremental journey from marketing lead to customer.

Marketing funnel automation facilitates movement from the top to the bottom, providing well-timed content through multiple marketing channels to help urge leads along. It’s much the same as what marketing teams do themselves, except the content is rolled out automatically based on an individual lead’s actions and behaviors.

You can’t operate a successful business without a steady stream of leads. The marketing automation funnel ensures that these leads keep coming—and that they’re guided through the customer journey in an efficient manner. This results in higher conversion rates than those achieved through non-automated funneling, with 77% of marketers noting an increase in conversions and 76% reporting a positive ROI (return on investment).

Marketing Automation Workflows

If moving an individual from the top to the bottom of the funnel is the goal, the marketing automation workflow is the designated process that makes that happen.

Marketing automation workflows are a series of actions triggered by various touchpoints in the customer journey. When a lead takes an action—for example, visiting a brand’s website or requesting a demo—marketing automation software responds in a way that’s designed to spur them on to the next step.

A marketing automation workflow is set up in advance. Marketing teams must strategize to determine what the triggers are and what happens as a result. They must also create content for each possible response. It’s a lot of work at the outset, but it ensures efficiency throughout the marketing funnel—and that every lead behavior is properly responded to.

Workflows in Action: Marketing Automation Examples

What does a sample workflow look like? Here are some marketing automation examples that a team might use.

Example #1:

  • Trigger: A lead provides their contact information to sign up for a brand’s email newsletters.
  • Response: A welcome email is automatically sent out to the new subscriber thanking them for joining the brand’s community.

Example #2

  • Trigger: A lead signs up for a free trial of a brand’s service.
  • Response: An email is sent with content on how they can make the most of their trial period, including links to articles and videos with more information.

Example #3

  • Trigger: A prospect looks at a product page for several minutes but doesn’t end up making a purchase.
  • Response: Digital ads for the product appear on their social media feed, followed by a personalized email offer.

A lot of the time, marketing automation workflows involve multiple steps, each triggered by the preceding action. In example #1, a few days after the welcome email a lead may receive another email with personalized product recommendations, and several days later, a coupon for 10% off their first purchase. Their response (or lack thereof) to each message will determine what comes next.

Benefits of Marketing Automation

There are a lot of marketing automation benefits—so much so in fact that the marketing automation software market is expected to jump from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $11.46 billion in 2027. With so much spending going into it, it makes sense that businesses have high expectations for what they’ll get in return. And based on current benefits, they have good reason to believe their investments will pay off.  

Here are some of the biggest benefits of automation software to date.

Increases in Lead Quantity and Quality

Businesses that use marketing automation software see a 451% increase in number of leads. Not only that, the leads they obtain are more qualified, spending 47% more on purchases than leads who don’t go through an automated workflow.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

Putting marketing and sales teams into separate siloes doesn’t benefit anyone. Marketing automation, on the other hand, benefits both. The software can track all lead interactions and integrate with a business’s CRM (customer relationship management) software so that sales reps can see who’s worth reaching out to directly and how to do so.

More Personalized Content

Batch-and-blast emails where generic content is sent out to thousands of leads at once is a thing of the past. Eighty percent of consumers say that a personalized experience makes them more likely to make a purchase, and marketing automation can do just that, triggering ads, content, and actions based on each individual lead’s unique preferences and behaviors.

Smarter Data

Marketing automation for B2B and B2C companies provides a mass of data that can be used to improve ongoing strategies and campaigns. These software tools also act as analytic hubs, bringing all of a brand’s digital marketing data into one place for the most prescient and actionable data possible.

Designing a Marketing Automation Strategy

An impactful B2C or B2B marketing strategy is one that’s constantly evolving to meet the needs of both brands and their prospects and customers. And while the specifics of a B2C marketing automation plan will look a bit different from a B2B marketing automation plan (and vice versa), they share a lot of strategic similarities.

There are four essential steps to optimizing marketing automation for B2B and B2C purposes. All of them serve an equally important role in making sure that brands benefit from their automation software, teams shouldn’t skip over any step if they want to see the best results.

So what are they? These are the four must-follow steps to designing a successful B2C or B2B marketing automation strategy.

  • Planning and Research: A lot of work has to happen before a company can start to put automation into practice. For starters, they need to select the right software for their needs and their budget, taking into account what features they’ll require and how large they intend to scale their efforts. There also has to be extensive research into current lead and customer behaviors, preferences, and challenges. This helps with content creation and is crucial for designing effective workflows.
  • Content Generation: Now it’s time to put all that research to work and actually create workflows and the content that goes into them—including emails, ads, and graphics. Fortunately, many marketing automation software options include templates that a marketing team can plug information into. Key here is that brand identity remains consistent through each separate material, both visually and in terms of tone.
  • Implementation and Data Tracking: With workflows and content in place, a business can actually start to implement their automation. Once it’s up and running, attention shifts to monitoring the data that comes in as a result. This includes conversion data, of course, but also data related to qualifying and nurturing leads. Teams should always be on the lookout for patterns that point out workflow inefficiencies, including unanticipated barriers to conversion.
  • Optimization: With data in hand, it’s time to tweak the strategy and bring in improvements. Remember, a successful B2B or B2C marketing automation strategy is always evolving. Data is what drives this evolution, and it’s the marketing team’s job to assess and amend as needed so that those aforementioned inefficiencies are removed from the workflow and leads are guided through the funnel with ease.

Automated marketing doesn’t mean less work overall. Instead, utilizing automation for B2C or B2B marketing frees up time for more productive pursuits. Whereas a marketer might once have spent hours switching between marketing, CRM, and analytics tools, they now have everything running together in one place and can work faster and more intelligently.

Types of Marketing Automation Tools

Choosing the right software is just as crucial as setting up the right workflow. Fortunately, B2C and B2B marketers have a ton of different automation tools to pick from—it’s just a matter of figuring out which tool best aligns with their brand, budget, and big picture goals.

Check out these leading marketing automation tools and get a quick look at what’s available.

Email Marketing Automation

This is one of the most cost-effective automation tools, since excelling with emails tends to offer higher revenue potential than excelling with other digital marketing mediums. Some of the big benefits of email automation tools include the ability to easily personalize messages for their recipients, as well as seamless contact list segmentation.

Popular email marketing tools: MailChimp, Constant Contact, Sendinblue, Drip 

Social Media Automation

Social media is super time intensive. By automating it, brands can plan, post, and engage more efficiently, particularly across multiple social media sites. They can also access deeper analytics than they might be able to get on social platforms themselves.

Popular social media automation tools: Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Falcon 

Customer Journey Automation

It’s not always intuitive how to best move leads down the funnel. Customer journey automation takes the guesswork out of generating and nurturing leads, and can also help with qualifying leads for sales teams. These features mean better mapped journeys—and by default, better structured funnels and workflows.

Popular customer journey mapping tools: Lucidchart, Custellence, Smaply, Mapovate 

Ad-Buying Automation

Ad-buying automation helps brands optimize their digital ad strategy. It assists with both the creation of ads and bidding on placements; and like other automation tools, it provides a wealth of data in return that can be instrumental in bringing about improved outcomes.

Popular ad-buying automation tools: Salesforce, Acquisio, Smartly, Optmyzr 

All-in-One Automation

All-in-one automation tools offer all of the above capabilities in one single piece of software. These are as comprehensive as it gets, and are great for businesses that are actively pursuing an omnichannel marketing strategy—or that plan to once they get the most effective tools in place.

Popular all-in-one automation tools: HubSpot, Marketo, Act-On, GetResponse 

Ready to Get Started? 

If your marketing plans include automation—and we hope you’re convinced that they should!—do your research before investing so that you can be sure you find your right fit. Most automation software providers will allow you to do a free trial, which can be useful as you test out features and figure out what suits your needs.