You'd be forgiven for thinking "marketing automation" is an odd if not contradictory term. Until recently, those two words were rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same breath. The goal of marketing is to increase awareness for products and services, a mission often carried out via labor-intensive creative work. Meanwhile, automation is defined as making things happen with as little human intervention as possible.
But the shift to online media opened the door for automation to
trickle into the world of
In the digital realm, marketers can see not only what messaging works but who responds and how those people have interacted with the brand in the past. By bringing all that data together and mapping the various consumer paths, marketers can automatically personalize content to prospects and customers.
That personalization of content at scale, and smart engagement with prospects based on the way they interact with content, sits at the core of marketing automation.
"It's about engaging customers on any channel or device with an orchestrated approach based on data," said Gordon Evans, VP-product marketing at Salesforce.com's ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, which offers marketing-automation software.
The power of these platforms has turned them into attractive acquisition targets for software behemoths like IBM, Oracle, Salesforce and Adobe, which have all snatched up at least one marketing-automation company in the past two years. When connected with other software platforms, such as CRM, a marketing- automation system can make an entire organization more effective in the way it communicates with prospects and customers.
The practice is already popular with b-to-b marketers, but the tools are beginning to be used by b-to-c marketers as well. Ad Age will be offering a Crash Course on Marketing Automation at the upcoming CMO Strategy Summit in San Francisco.