What is Marketing Automation?

“Marketing Automation” and “Sales Automation” are terms that have become quite prevalent on the web in relation to Marketing and Sales.  Since those two tactics often intersect, it’s important to understand the different types of automation available for each of the two.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a system that allows companies to nurture prospects using highly personalized, valuable content that helps convert these prospects into leads, and turn those leads into customers.  Marketing Automation has been reported to gain a 53% higher conversion rate on average.  The distinguisher between marketing and sales automation is that for marketing, it’s about nurturing leads.  With sales, it’s about selling to those leads.  Where the main intersection occurs is in the personalization factor.  Relevant content at the right time for leads across the entire spectrum.

Where Marketing Automation is most effective

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Lead Generation
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Metrics and Analytics
  • Management Activities

There are a number of growing companies that are producing valuable marketing automation tools. Among them, Hubspot, which offers a suite of products for both marketing and sales including landing pages, forms, social management, email marketing and more.   Hubspot pricing ranges from $200 a month for 100 contacts up to $2400 a month for 10,000. The site also includes an “academy” with valuable tips and learning about marketing and sales automation.

Autopilot is another, providing what they call multi-channel marketing software. Their marketing automation focuses primarily on email and lets you capture leads and data from any website, blog, or app such as salesforce without rebuilding content. Prices range from as little as $5 to $3000 a month depending on the amount of contacts you have.

Sharpspring offers a wealth of features including  Email Nurturing, Alerts to teams, Dynamic Email content including cart abandon emails, as well as a CRM for sales, and other in depth analytics and lead profiling features.  Pricing ranges from $400 a month for 1500 leads and $800 for unlimited leads.

What is Sales Automation?

As shown in the company profiles above, sales and marketing automation intersect at many points, but at the sales end, there are other features that are more keyed in to selling, lead management and sales flow with Sales force automation. Sales force automation (SFA), is a technique of using software to automate the business tasks of sales.

Where Sales Automation is most effective

  • Contact & Customer Management
  • Information Sharing
  • Inventory Monitoring and Control
  • Order Tracking
  • Sales Forecast Analysis
  • Employee Performance Evaluation

Leading in this area is Netsuite.  Among their features: Opportunity Management which connects sales and buying. Also available is Sales Forecasting, Quote and Order Management, and Incentive Compensation Management to assist salespeople in tracking their incentives more easily.  Although Netsuite also comes complete with its own CRM, there is often some confusion between CRM and Sales Automation.  The two do not always go hand in hand.  CRM is more focused on customer service for existing and new customers, while SFA focuses specifically on the sales cycle needed to prospect, attract, and sell to new clients. In order for these to work in tandem, they usually require some sort of integration of two systems.

Differences between CRM and SFA


  • Tracking current campaigns, capturing data for future sales and marketing campaigns.
  • Customer profiling with purchasing and shipping history.
  • Searchable account data.
  • Sales history, both in company sales and individual customers.
  • Data warehousing.
  • Customer/Agent/Salesperson communications tracking.
  • Customer service tools and support, designed for customer retention.


  • Tracking salespeople’s activity and providing actionable goals and targets.
  • Closing ratio information to improve closing percentages.
  • Customer contact management and records including cold calling.
  • Appointment scheduling and tracking.
  • Sales targeting and prospecting by industry.
  • Lead assignment.
  • Information sharing between sales departments.
  • Calendars and to-do lists.
  • Knowledge base of sales and product information.

There is also Engagement Automation, which is similar to Marketing Automation in that it provides a nurturing element, but focuses primarily on how users interact with your site.  Read More 

The key to automation in sales, marketing, and engagement is that they allow for personalization of messaging and communication. Without the laborious tasks of manual design of marketing and sales campaigns that in many cases are done by loose segments and blasts, salespeople and marketers can tailor an individual experience that leads to individualized action.  Making customers and leads into real people with real ROI increase, while at the same time streamlining and unifying the processes is why automation is becoming a real and key business need, and no longer a simple buzzword.