What is marketing automation anyway?

by GlassHive - Aug 11, 2021

Automation is the big “it” word right now. Automating our schedules, notifications, reminders, lights, and coffee machines.

So what do we mean when we talk about marketing automation?

Automation can be anything that you used to do manually that software can do automatically. For instance, sending the same email to a massive list of people simultaneously is, technically, automation (though we’re not going to try and tell you this is revolutionary).

At the end of the day, when we hear automation we think efficiency. Fewer things we are doing manually means more time to do other, perhaps more important, things. Automation can mean cost-savings, increased productivity, or more opportunities.

So, is automation doing any of that for marketing?

Yeah, it is. With the right marketing software, you can automate things like contact research, organization and ranking; create email journeys that automatically send to a lead and react to specific actions the lead takes; and brand content and collateral with your logo and company colors. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Before we go knee-deep into what you can automate, let’s take a quick detour to discuss why marketing automation matters to your business.

Marketing automation and you

Marketing automation is a relatively new benefit modern software and algorithms bring to businesses. And year after year, we are seeing more and more types of automation being added to software to address new and emerging needs,

Because of this diversity in options and approach, automation can affect every business a little differently. In general, marketing automation offers three key benefits to businesses: 

  • Scalability
  • Improved ROI
  • Predictable and consistent marketing outcomes

Let’s dive into each of these.


The most challenging thing for any part of your business is scalability. Whether it’s scaling your services, assembly line, workflow, or staff, scalability is the most persistent bottleneck any business encounters.

In a perfect world, our companies would be instantly scalable to match our exact needs at any given moment. The reality is we are limited by our resources. Primarily time and money.

What if we told you that with the right set of marketing automation tools you can give your business more time and more money? 

Think about it: automating email journeys, marketing plans, branding, and lead prospecting take out some of the most tedious and time-consuming tasks in your marketer’s day. You can eliminate the human resources that you used to need to do all those things. This means smaller, more agile teams can create marketing strategies, create content, and automate most of their marketing process.

Don’t just take our word for it; HubSpot reports that email automation alone is among the top three tactics used by marketers to improve performance. 

Automation also helps your marketers achieve better results. Scaling up marketing means sending more emails, reaching more prospects. That means more revenue opportunities for your business.

Email marketing alone offers a 42x ROI, and sending more emails to more prospects is always better.


Maximizing ROI

For many companies, especially SMBs, their marketing budget doesn’t rank very high in their overall budget.

We get it. It’s hard to find the budget for marketing when you’re a small business. It’s even more difficult if you lack marketing experience or processes to set expectations and begin generating results.

We all intuitively know that marketing is needed for revenue growth. And, generally, the more you put in, the more you get out. But let’s assume you don’t want to change your marketing budget just yet. How can you get more ROI from your marketing dollars?

That’s a question every business is asking. The quickest way to expand the impact of each dollar spent in marketing is to lower the amount of time and effort it takes to carry out marketing tasks. 

Yeah, becoming more efficient means better ROI, duh. But automation can make you more efficient right now instead of months or years down the road.

Consider how much time it takes to do contact research and organize your leads. If most or all of that process were automated, that could give you anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour back every day. What if your marketing software detected where leads are in your marketing funnel and automatically sent them emails that pushed them further down the funnel? That could be hours saved each week. 

Marketing automation lets you get even more from your marketing budget, giving you simple-to-deploy efficiencies that near-instantly transform your workflow.

47% of SMBs spend less than $10,000 on digital marketing.


Repeatable outcomes

A lot of marketing, especially early on, can feel like shooting in the dark. We all want consistent and repeatable outcomes, but without a solid process and some experience under your belt it can feel like more of a grind.

But, you guessed it, marketing automation software is here to save the day again! Instead of each email, campaign, or marketing plan feeling like a one-off affair, you can harness data and analytics from every campaign to craft improved emails, journeys and marketing plans that you can use for months or years and continually improve on them.

Marketing journeys, for instance, can be used to automatically put leads on a tailored path of emails marketing specifically to their interests. 

Say a lead clicked on a link in your most recent email. With a marketing journey in place, the lead will automatically be sent follow-up emails at a pace you determined, moving them further down your marketing funnel. You can even create different messaging and paths that react to every new action a lead takes.

With enough journeys and marketing plans in place, you can automatically carry out most of your marketing, creating a persistent funnel where MQLs can grow into SQLs. 

It’s a level of consistency that every business aims for.

automated calendar

So, what can you automate with marketing software?

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of every little marketing activity you can automate. Instead, we want to help identify the marketing automation that can have the most significant impact on your business.

Lead organization and ranking

Easily one of the most tedious tasks for your sales and marketing team is keeping up with lists. 

Lists are the lifeblood of your marketing efforts, but ensuring all the information is current, accurate and actionable is a time-consuming task. Maintaining a healthy, current list can significantly increase your ability to convert MQLs to SQLs.

Luckily, automation can help you keep your lists up to date.

Automating your lists can take several different forms. The most time-saving automation is likely automatic contact research. For each lead you enter into your list, a marketing software (like GlassHive) can scour the internet using as little as an email address, automatically finding information including:

  • Business
  • Title
  • Seat size
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Location

All of this is vital information for organizing and filtering leads for marketing. These essential analytics help dial in messaging and tone to maximize lead conversion. 

Alongside lead research, marketing software can automatically record and organize lead activity. Every open and click is tied to the lead, and you can view exactly what campaign or collateral piece they reacted to most.

Each of these activities is assigned a custom score that automatically ranks your leads according to temperature, helping you quickly identify when a lead is ready for sales follow-up.

Brand building and lead experience

On average, it takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember your brand. And that’s if your branding is consistent.

Delivering a consistent brand experience is more than a logo in the header of a document. Consistent branding for your outbound marketing includes:

  • Logo
  • Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors
  • Line styles 
  • Text styles
  • Footer and signatures
  • Shapes
  • Copy tone

This level of branding usually costs businesses tens of thousands of dollars to develop, but automatic branding can help you punch above your weight. 

Some of the best marketing automation software gives you the ability to develop a brand entirely on the platform and set it as the default for all emails, collateral, and communications for your business. This means any time you create an email or piece of collateral, you can automatically style it to match your brand. All it takes is selecting a template or clicking a style button.

You ensure prospects are getting the absolute best brand experience when anyone in your company can send a professional-looking email that matches your overall brand. 

Marketing plans

Marketing plans are your all-inclusive strategy for marketing during a set period. Marketing plans include everything from general topic clusters, emails, whitepapers, blog posts, videos and other collateral pieces.  All of this information is organized and scheduled to maximize the effectiveness of outbound marketing.

Now, if you’ve ever created a marketing plan, you know what a drag it is to execute one. 

Manually executing marketing plans is a level of tedium that agile marketers trying to maximize their ROI simply do not have time for. If you’re able to automate those plans, on the other hand, you can get more out of them than ever before.

Advanced marketing automation software gives you the tools to create every piece of a marketing plan, including:

  • Emails
  • Collateral
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Automatic call to action linking

This means you can do all your work up-front and click one button to execute an entire marketing plan.

Email Journeys

Email journeys are the “choose your own journey” of email marketing.

Automated journeys can be an extreme time-saver, as 53% of email marketers say it takes their organization more than two weeks to create an email.

53% of email marketers say it takes their organization more than two weeks to create an email.


If it takes you that amount of time to create reactive email marketing, you’ve missed your window.

Journeys are pretty straightforward: You have a chain of events, each step of which is triggered by a specific action. For example:

You send email 1. The recipient clicks the call to action. After a delay, the recipient receives email 1a. This time, they don’t click. After another delay, the recipient receives email 1b.

You can customize this chain of events and triggers to create elaborate journeys that tailor your email marketing to what the prospect is most interested in — all without manual follow-up. 

Marketing funnel

Automation may impact your marketing funnel more than any other item we’ve covered in this whitepaper.

Single-handedly, automation allows you to change your marketing funnel’s scope, depth, scalability, adaptability, and effectiveness. How does it do it?

We’ve covered how automation can streamline many of your core tasks, but all those optimizations ripple through your funnel. 

First, all this automation gives you live data to work with. This lets you quickly optimize your strategy and funnel as you go. Normally, it could take months of marketing to create a report that had enough depth of data to inform future strategy. 

That’s not the case anymore, as you can see immediately how effective your campaigns are. We still recommend manipulating one lever at a time (such as send time, subject lines, or content style), but it still only takes three or so emails to start seeing actionable trends.

You can also scale your funnel much easier; almost effortlessly! Because marketing automation software lets you take actions that are shared platform-wide, building marketing plans and email journeys takes much less time and can be rolled out instantly once created. This sort of scalability means your reach won’t exceed your grasp.

And because everything you do is saved on platform, you gain much more insightful, deep analytics the longer you market. There is no such thing as wasted energy when a campaign you sent two years ago can inform the structure of a campaign you’re sending next week. 

Take it from us: as a marketing agency, whatever scales and makes your marketing funnel more effective is a huge ROI generator.

Email marketing effectiveness

Improving how well your emails perform requires quite a bit of trial and error. You need to run extensive tests establishing control groups and single-variable changes that can be tested 1-to-1. Running involved email performance tests takes a ton of time to do effectively.

Well, before automation they did, anyways.

Now, automation can make every campaign you send its own performance test.

Automatic A/B testing tools let you calibrate your emails in different ways and see how they perform using a segment of your full list for a test. Generally, you can compare either subject line performance or email body performance, and the winner of the A/B test is automatically sent to the full list.

This lets you really dial in your messaging, especially if you have a few ideas you can’t decide between. For instance, say you’re wondering how question subject lines perform versus statement subject lines. Well, you could make your next three or four campaigns do A/B tests between the two types of subject lines and get some solid data.

Since 35% of emails are opened based on subject line alone, finding the right subject line can be a huge improvement for your overall marketing effectiveness.

Or maybe you want to compare a design-heavy email versus a content-heavy. You can create two emails and see how your list reacts, ensuring the best one gets sent out to your full marketing list.

There are a lot of ways to use A/B testing to make modest but consistent improvements in your marketing results. You can get extremely granular, changing headings, logo placement, images, or call to action to really dial in performance.

automation management


Having all of these automation tools at your disposal is a great opportunity for your team. But without a solid set of management tools to go with it, it’s just that: opportunity. If you want to take advantage of that opportunity, you need to be able to automate management as well.

There are a lot of ways to leverage automation to make management easier and more effective. Some of the most popular things to automate to streamline management are:

  • Data gathering and reporting
  • Tasking
  • Lead handoff and escalation
  • Workflow and processes

Data gathering and reporting

If your team is consistently marketing and following up, there is a ton of data flowing into your organization. And truthfully, most of this data is important, but you won’t be able to leverage it without gathering, organizing, and analyzing.

Your sales and marketing software can automatically ingest and organize this data as it comes in. We’re talking about a huge variety of data points, including:

  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Call info
  • Form fills
  • Email follow-ups
  • Newsletter opt-ins
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Lead information
  • KPI status
  • Possible monthly revenue in the pipeline
  • Website analytics
  • Lead heatmaps

All you have to do is filter for what you’re looking for. This live, actionable data means you can start making more informed decisions quicker than ever.


Setting tasks for salespeople usually requires some haranguing. Convincing them to navigate to another platform or trying to flag them down via email or team chat is hit or miss. 

The right sales software will have tasking built right into the system. This way your reps are automatically notified when a lead has a new task assigned to them without taking them out of their core sales workflow.

You’ll be able to set due dates and the type of task, as well as tying it to specific leads and sales reps. No more excuses about missed tasks.

Lead handoff and escalation

Nothing is more frustrating than an SQL languishing in your MQL list. Time is vital, and when your MQLs mature into SQLs you need to be sure they are assigned to a sales rep for follow-up.

Manually doing this is a crappy task. Normally, your marketing team will be handing these off to sales, but the visibility to know the qualifications of the lead and how quickly it was handed off is lacking.

That’s why you should automate your lead ranking and pipeline.

When you have a consistent lead scoring system that automatically updates according to lead activities and interaction, you can know the instant that an MQL becomes sales-qualified. And instead of needing to rely on your team to manually hand these off in a timely fashion, the leads automatically move over to your salesperson’s plate once they cross that threshold score.

Workflow and processes

As a manager,  your number one priority is improving the sales and marketing process of your team. And, I hope we’ve established by now that automation is a great way to do that for teams of any size.

Suffice to say that everything that has been covered so far in this whitepaper can be used to augment and improve your sales and marketing processes. 

Automations that scale your efforts, save your team time, increase your reach and effectiveness, and just make life all-around easier for your team.

If you are looking for ways to improve your processes consistently, automation is a great place to start.

Find the right marketing automation software for your business

Alright, we covered a lot of automation opportunities within marketing. Now, what platform can check off all those features?

Well, being honest, there aren’t many that tick all those boxes. And each does some of them a little differently from the next. What we can say is that GlassHive has all of these marketing automation features baked into the platform. 

Businesses of all sizes make use of GlassHive’s automation every day, from big names like Apple, IBM and Cisco, down to local SMBs and mom-and-pop shops. If you want a platform that gives you scalable, simple and fun marketing tools at a price tag that doesn’t make your stomach drop, check out GlassHive. You can sign up for a free account today or reach out to a rep to learn more about the software.