Marketing Automation: What it is, Examples & Best Practices

25 Feb
Marketing Automation: What it is, Examples & Best Practices

Connecting with customers and speaking to them on their level is one of the most powerful ways to keep them around. 

For marketing teams that have thousands and thousands of customers to nurture, creating marketing campaigns that really speak to them and spark their interest isn't easy. But there is an answer—marketing automation. 

Marketing automation helps teams automate the more strategic, complex, and—let's face it—tedious parts of a campaign. If you implement it correctly, it can become your team's secret weapon, from segmenting thousands of customers in seconds to scheduling social media and blog posts. 

In this piece, we're going to look at: 

  • What Marketing Automation Is
  • Essential Marketing Automation Tools 
  • 3 Marketing Automation Best Practices 

Let's get started 👇

What Is Marketing Automation? 

Marketing automation is a collection of tools that automates manual tasks like segmenting, emailing, and data processing. 

Setting up marketing automation gives your team back their most important asset—time. 

With automation, you'll be able to customize your customer communications, so every piece of content they see is personalized. Every lead is nurtured. And every piece of data is collected and analyzed to help make your next campaign even more powerful. 

Let's take a closer look at 5 ways marketing automation can supercharge your campaigns. 

1. It nurtures leads 

Ever wanted to collect and nurture leads in your sleep?

With marketing automation, you can. 

Let's start with collecting leads. Marketing automation includes tools like chatbots and forms to funnel leads into your email lists. Once they're there, triggers can automatically send out welcome emails, SMS, and other marketing messages to help you turn leads into customers. 

Tasks like these, which usually take your team hours, can be put on autopilot. And thanks to A/B testing, you can also see which automation is working best and improve your nurturing strategy as you go. 

2. It helps implement complex content strategies 

Regularly reaching out to customers is a great marketing strategy. But it also takes up a lot of time. 

Messaging customers at the right time, like after they've made a purchase, is harder than it sounds. Marketing automation can help teams deliver complex content strategies by triggering messaging based on customers’ behaviors. 

Teams can build workflows to match their ideal customer journey, so every message has a purpose and is sent at the perfect time. As workflows can take advantage of segmentation, lists, and tagging, messages sent to customers can be personalized down to their buying behaviors, interests, and past purchases. 

Marketing automation doesn't just make this level of content strategy possible—it makes it easy to implement. 

3. It streamlines processes 

Forgotten email trails. Half-baked marketing strategies. Missed leads.

A lot can go wrong with marketing and content, and if every process is done manually, it can also take a lot of time. 

Marketing automation makes it possible for teams to offload a lot of the manual work involved in creating strategies and nurturing customers. Once an automation plan is in place, campaigns can run on autopilot, and data is collected in the background so when it's time to launch the next one, you know what you need to tweak. 

Example of a new customer welcome funnel automated in Sendlane

4. It captures data and analytics 

Tracking customer data is one of the best ways to get inside their heads and understand what they're thinking—and what they really need. 

Tracking and analyzing data manually is well… impossible. You need to access thousands of data points to make decisions about customer pain points, personalized workflows, and content strategy. There's just not enough time in your day to track and analyze these data points. 

Thankfully, marketing automation can do this for you. Every customer's data is tracked, analyzed, and stored within a marketing automation tool. You'll be able to see how they entered your funnel, what products they're interested in and how they're interacting with your brand. 

With this information, you'll be able to build a content and marketing journey that speaks directly to them and their needs—and win them over along the way. 


5. It improves customer service

Customers do a lot of research before they buy a product. 

They'll look at your competitors, read your testimonials, and mull over your pricing. Chances are, they'll spend days or weeks deciding on whether or not your product is the right one for them. 

Winning them over with fantastic customer service can help get you over the line. Marketing automation can trigger emails to new subscribers or give faster answers to questions, so potential customers get a warm welcome to your brand. 


Essential Marketing Automation Tools 

The type of marketing automation tool you choose should be based on your brand's needs. 

Do you need help crafting complex content strategies, or are you looking to automate your customer nurturing and boost their experience?

This all comes down to your toolkit—here are four of the most powerful features out there👇

Email automation

Email nurturing sequences (or funnels) are a great way to win over new customers and keep them coming back. 

Automating email outreach allows your brand to send out individually tailored post-purchase upsells to customers, along with discounts, promotions, and updates—all without manual effort. You'll be able to send a message to your customers and have it land in their inbox at the perfect time, like enticing them to make a repeat purchase with a discount code or reminding them of an abandoned cart

These types of automations work when a customer meets the criteria to set off a "trigger" (e.g. new email subscriber or first-time buyer). Your workflow will automatically send them emails based on the sequence you've created. 

An example of a simple email automation workflow in Sendlane

If you want to build your own email and SMS automations, start by including: 

Welcome messages

A welcome message to new subscribers and customers is one of the best ways to introduce your brand, encourage engagement, and drive customers down your buying journey. 

Bite welcomes customers using a mix of charm and product placement: 


The brand managed to introduce its product and its benefits by tying it directly to its uniqueness. The customer is left feeling that they can make a difference in the environmental impact they're making—all it takes is buying a glass bottle of Bite. 

Cart abandonment reminders

Recover lost sales by reminding your visitors what they're missing out on.

A cart abandonment reminder can be automatically sent to your customers if they don't complete their purchase. Automating these emails is a great way to claw back lost sales without having to manually follow up with every customer to see if they're still interested in your product. 

We love how Nomad uses a simple, engaging message to remind customers that they've left their cart behind:

Post-purchase appreciation

If a customer buys something from your site—always say thanks.

Adding a thank you email to every automation doesn't just make your customers feel special (although that's a big bonus!). It also gives you a chance to introduce yourself, talk about new product launches, and give them a heads up on what to expect from your brand next. 

Don't be afraid to keep it simple, like this thank you email from Pink Lily:

Customer journey 

Marketing automation allows you to visualize the entire customer journey and plot where you want your touchpoints to be. 

Creating a genuine journey for your customer and personalizing the content they see can increase loyalty, boost their satisfaction and increase lifetime value and revenue. 

Your marketing team can build individualized journeys based on where the customer is at. New customers can be nurtured with welcome emails, educational content, and product demos, whereas existing customers may be sent exclusive offers for newly released products and loyalty discounts. 

Let’s use another Pink Lily email, for example:

The email does a great job of explaining what Pink Lily is and what the brand is all about. The different sections like "Who We Are" and "Our Promise" help new customers feel comfortable with the brand and warm them up to buy Pink Lily's products. 

While it's a perfect email for someone who has just entered Pink Lily's marketing funnel, it would be wasted on a loyal customer who has shopped with them for years. So, Pink Lily may send them something like this instead: 

This email is targeted at current shoppers to incentivize them to spend more through a loyalty program. If they buy something, they'll start earning loyalty points or discounts to use for future purchases. It's a nice, simple message that explains to consumers the benefits of joining Pink Lily's loyalty program—and can help turn them into lifetime customers. 

The best part? It's all done on autopilot, thanks to marketing automation

Scheduling messages

Automating your content calendar is a game-changer for marketing teams—you'll never forget a product launch or big calendar event again.  

From automated emails to uploading blog posts and social media announcements, scheduling your content makes sure you don't forget an announcement. Your entire content team will be able to jump in and see what's coming up, and scheduling content allows you to plan for important events in advance. 

In Sendlane, for example, and email campaigns that are scheduled have labels on when they'll be going out: 

Once it's sent, it'll change to green, and Sendlane will start to gather analytics like open rates and clicks. 

Not only does this keep your entire team in the loop about the progress of every campaign, but it'll also make sure you never miss a big launch or holiday again👌


Have you ever felt like your Facebook or Twitter feeds know exactly what products to advertise to you?

This is thanks to retargeting. Brands drop a cookie into your browser so they can personalize ads that retarget you on social media platforms or over email, so you're shown products that you're interested in. 

With marketing automation, you can use retargeting to personalize email campaigns for products and services to increase the chances of a purchase. These emails show your customer the item they were checking out, remind them what they're missing out on and then build a pathway back to your website so they can complete their transaction. 

Check out this retargeting email campaign from Peloton

There isn't much text or information about the product as Peloton already knows the potential customer has checked out the bike and app on its website. Instead, the email runs through what the person will get if they make the jump and become a Peloton customer, the price for the membership package, and how to sign up. 

It's a great example of a brand hammering home the best bits of its offer to a visitor who is on the fence about buying their product!

Peloton even retargets potential customers on social media channels to get their attention:


Using a tool like Sendlane's Facebook custom audience integration, brands can create segments to retarget on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. If a visitor leaves your website without making a purchase, Sendlane will then retarget them using email and social media using a customized workflow like this: 

It's the easiest way to retarget visitors with tailored ads and messages to remind them what they're missing out on!


3 Marketing Automation Best Practices 

1. Make your data and analytics your campaign's superpower

Collect and analyze your data so your marketing team can make smarter decisions. 

Tracking metrics like open and click rates as well as ROI will give you a better idea of how successful your campaigns are. 

Sendlane’s Dashboard Analytics allows marketing teams to view data from the past 7 days, 1 month, 3 months, 1 year, or 5 years to keep an eye on how campaigns are progressing. If you have automated campaigns set up, Sendlane will track how often each sequence is triggered, click/open rates, and the overall revenue of the campaign: 

Having this data in the palm of your hand allows you to make data-driven decisions for your business. 

2. Segment your audience so every email is super personalized

Marketing automation truly brings home the bacon when every campaign is targeted and personalized for your audience. 

This can be done automatically if you have optimized your opt-in phase for customers and subscribers. Asking the right questions about their age, gender, occupation, and interests at the beginning of their customer journey will make it easier to personalize every piece of content that you send to them. 

With the right tools, you can also segment customers by their behavior. Sendlane's advanced segmentation tools allow you to create campaigns based on activity and engagement. You can trigger emails to be sent if a customer has clicked on a product link in the past or the date they subscribed, so the content in your email is more relevant.  

Sendlane's advanced segmentation tools give you tons of options to personalize emails based on customer behavior and engagement

3. Test everything so you can improve each campaign

Not every campaign you launch will be 100% perfect the first time around. 

Testing and tweaking how well your emails are working using tools like A/B testing allows you to see what copy is working best on your audience. The only way to get this right is by experimenting with different variables like subject lines and CTAs until you get a formula that's just right. 

With Sendlane's multivariate testing tools, you can test several elements of your marketing campaigns at once. Experiment with different subject lines, preheader text, images, and body content. This is how an example from Straightforward would look inside Sendlane: 


After the experiment ends, Sendlane will automatically send the remaining portion of your audience the most engaging version! Your campaign reporting will show all the analytics on how your campaign performed. 

Optimizing your email campaigns has never been easier!

Ready to put your marketing campaigns on autopilot? Try out Sendlane's powerful email & SMS marketing automation tools for free today—sign up here! 

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