Lindsey Witcherley

[Ask Me Anything] What is marketing automation and why should I care?

by Lindsey Witcherley on April 09, 2015

What is marketing automation?

If you’ve bought something from a major online retailer chances are you’re now receiving regular marketing emails from them. If you bought a book, the emails might recommend books in the same genre or by the same author. They might also include special offers on accessories or regular purchases.

These emails are sent using an automated system, and you can use a similar system to improve your marketing efforts.


One of our Ask Me Anything experts, Inbound Director Lindsey Witcherley, answers 5 basic questions about how automating your email marketing boosts effectiveness and ROI.

1. What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a way to nurture prospects and customers with personalised emails.

Using specialist email software that links with your prospect and customer database, you can slice and dice contacts based on factors such as job role, sector and stage in the purchasing process – so they receive the right information at the right time.

Automating and personalising email marketing in this way increases the effectiveness of your campaign. Jupiter Research found that relevant emails delivered through marketing automation deliver 18 times more revenue than traditional email blasts (Reach Marketing).

2. Why would I want to automate my email marketing?

LinkedIn conducted research into how the individual steps of the sales process affect revenue generation.

Interestingly, the survey found that only 2% of sales are made on first contact, whereas 80% of sales are made on 12th contact – meaning that winning business relies on a myriad of touchpoints.

For most medium-sized businesses, devoting sales time to such a large number of touchpoints leads to a very high cost of customer acquisition. It’s simply not scalable for ambitious growth.

Automating many of those touchpoints with personalised communication builds relationships in a way that’s cost effective in terms of qualification and education. Because prospects have received multiple communications from you, you’re much closer to closing the sale when the sales person gets directly involved. Thus, automated marketing makes the sales process for cold leads closer to that of referrals.

Wider research also supports this. Forbes reported that personalisation boosts individual intent to purchase by 40%+, and HubSpot found that 63% of companies that are growing faster than competitors are using marketing automation.

3. How does marketing automation work?

By following this process:

  1. A contact enters your database, for example by filling out a form on your website or following a conversation with your telesales team
  2. It’s classified based on customer type and lifecycle stage
  3. The contact receives a series of emails (called a workflow) with tailored content, sent at regular intervals. Sales messages are interspersed with educational content based on the stage in the buying process. Importantly, there’s always the option for recipients to opt out

4. How do I know what workflows to develop?

Think about the different types of contacts in your database and look for common denominators. For example:

  • New prospects
  • Prospects that have met with your sales team but, after a defined period, haven’t converted
  • Existing customers, to improve ongoing communication
  • Lapsed customers

Other common segmentations are by job role/persona (if there are key stakeholders with distinct goals and challenges involved in the purchasing process) or by sector (again, if there are different goals and challenges).

5. What systems do I need to automate my marketing?

You need 2 different systems:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) system

A CRM system is a database that acts as a central repository for information about prospects and customers, tracking them through their journey. It collates information on all contacts you have, so you can see, for example, which sales emails they received and which customer service representatives they’ve spoken to.

  • Email system

There are several different marketing automation systems on the market. We use HubSpot at Cognition. It links to your CRM and groups contacts into lists. Then it automatically sends workflows to the lists you define and gives you information on the outcome. For instance, it will tell you exactly who’s opened an email and clicked on a link, so your sales team can follow up if relevant and timely. It will also give you information on trends, so you can see, for example, which topics are the most popular.

Seeing the software in action really brings the process (and its benefits) to life. If you’d like a demo just drop us a line and our digital team will get straight back to you.

The Ask Me Anything series

Have questions about marketing? We’ve been helping SMEs with marketing for more than 18 years, and have decades of experience across our team. In our Ask Me Anything series, Cognition’s experts common questions our clients have posed over the years.

If you have marketing questions you’d like answered, just send them along using this form.



Talk to us today about how we can help you generate increased awareness, demand and sales.

Get in touch 

Recent Posts

Subscribe to Email updates and get our newest blogs straight to your inbox!

Lindsey Witcherley

This post was written by Lindsey Witcherley

As Inbound Director, Lindsey is responsible for driving overall inbound strategy and marketing automation.

Connect with Lindsey Witcherley