What Is Marketing Automation?

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to software platforms that help businesses automate their marketing and sales engagement processes to generate more leads, convert those leads to sales and optimize ROI.

Marketing automation reaches its full potential when it helps move leads through the inbound marketing funnel. Your strategy should be dedicated to one central focus: Your customers. 

When using a marketing automation platform, you should research your target audience and create a complete buyer persona to tailor your campaigns directly to them. 

SharpSpring feature wheel

What Marketing Automation is NOT

The marketing automation definition is broad and sometimes leads to misconceptions about the system. To help narrow it down, let’s look at what marketing automation is not. 

Marketing Automation is Not Spammy Email Marketing

Marketing automation is not meant to spam your contacts. Not only is spamming bad marketing form, but it can also reduce customer loyaltyMarketing automation is most rewarding when you’re using it to send customized, relevant content to your contacts, not annoying, spammy emails. 

Marketing Automation is Not a Tool with a Singular Function

There are many marketing automation types; it isn’t just a pseudonym for email marketing. Marketing automation encompasses an entire suite of tools to help companies drive more leads, convert those leads to sales, and maximize spend. This includes features like landing page builder, built-in CRM, reporting capabilities, social media management, and so much more. 

Marketing Automation is Not a “Set it and Forget it” Solution

One of the biggest marketing automation myths is that once you set it up, you never have to think about it again. While marketing automation is an incredible tool that often helps businesses achieve real results, those results don’t occur without the right processes, strategies, and efforts set in place. Marketing automation objectives are meant to enhance and support marketing and sales, NOT completely replace the human factorDon’t sit back and expect marketing automation to reach your business goals without you implementing marketing automation strategy—and sticking with it. 

How Does Marketing Automation Work?

The short version is that marketing automation generates leads and converts them through customization. It allows you to search for potential leads automatically, then automatically and manually dig through your options to narrow down your list to your best possible leads. 

By paying attention to your engaged leads and their behaviors, you can craft targeted campaigns that meet their needs, and ultimately, capture conversions. 

What is Marketing Automation Primarily Used For? 

Marketing automation can be used for a variety of objectives, but the three most significant are its ability to drive more leads, convert those leads, and maximize how your marketing money is spent. Today, 67% of marketing leaders use a marketing automation platform, and 75% of marketers overall use at least one automated tool. 

Drive more leads

Convert leads into sales

Maximize marketing spend

Driving More Leads

Up to 80% of marketers employing marketing automation strategies found their number of leads increased after starting to use these methods. 

Converting Leads Into Sales

Of those same marketers, 77% saw their conversion rates go up. 

Maximizing Marketing Spend

Many marketers discover their marketing automation ROI is quite high. For instance, Brytons Home Improvement saw their ROI increase ten times over after partnering with SharpSpring for marketing automation. 

What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?

There are many benefits of marketing automation, including creating more valuable relationships, proving value to clients, and generating recurring revenue for each month.  

Create higher-value relationships

Prove value to your clients

Generate monthly recurring revenue

Create Higher-Value Relationships

Marketing automation’s efficiency can allow your marketers to expedite communication with initial leads and spend more time building relationships with their strongest options. 

Prove Value to Your Clients

When we perform marketing automation case studies, one thing we consistently hear is using marketing automation has helped our partners to prove their value to their clients. For instance, Tom Huggins of Greenroom Digital said that by using automated marketing, they “have managed to get major industries to rethink the way they classify success and unlock wider opportunities previously missed.” 

Generate Monthly Recurring Revenue

When you provide automated marketing services, you can charge a monthly fee to your clients. This provides recurring revenue via their subscriptions and, since they’re in a contract, the income is predictable until they decide to renew their subscriptions or not. 

According to SharpSpring’s research, 45% of agencies rely on marketing automation platforms to show ROI, with 42% of respondents noting client acquisition as a top objective in their marketing automation strategy. 

Agencies Have Their Eye on ROI

Agencies Have Their Eye on ROI

What are the most important objectives of a marketing automation strategy?

Get the Free Marketing Automation Guide of Terms From A to Z

Your cheat sheet to demystifying marketing automation.

This free marketing automation guide covers: 

  • Marketing automation features 
  • Commonly used industry terms 
  • Essential marketing automation metrics 
  • Bonus: Specific terminology for agencies 
Download the Free Guide

What are Common Marketing Automation Features?

Email Automation

Built-In CRM

Social Media Management


Blog Builder

Lead Scoring

Sales Notifications

End-to-End Reporting & Analytics

Dynamic Form Builder

Landing Page Builder

Anonymous Visitor ID

Dynamic Emails & Landing Pages

Dynamic Lists/Segmentation

End-to-End Reporting & Analytics

Campaign Optimization

When it’s time to get started with marketing automation, your success depends on three primary factors: 

How to Maximize Marketing Automation Success


Marketing automation should be part of your overall marketing plan and can't function alone. If you implement a marketing strategy supported by marketing automation, it may be easier to integrate marketing automation software into your plans and potentially increase your reach and conversions.


Your marketing automation strategy needs to build in time to analyze customer behaviors and personalize messaging accordingly. Without personalized messaging, you'll likely miss out on a significant number of conversions.


The beauty of marketing automation is its ability to inform you about what's working and what's not. To maximize your success, be sure to make adjustments based on the data you collect. This way, you can focus on the marketing tactics that work.

Free Marketing Automation Resources

Before investing your time and money in marketing automation — or if you already have invested and hope to keep learning more — here are some free resources to help you understand and improve your automated marketing skills.   

Free Marketing Automation Resources

When is the Right Time to Invest in Marketing Automation?

When you think of adopting marketing automation for your business, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have an inbound marketing strategy set in place?
  • Is my sales team having trouble keeping track of all our leads?
  • Do the marketing and sales teams sometimes feel disjointed?
  • Is it a challenge to discover hot prospects and quality leads?
  • Do I have clear visibility into how effective my marketing and sales strategy is?
  • Am I currently using a stack of disparate apps and software to help meet my marketing and sales goals?
  • Could I benefit from driving more leads, converting more leads to sales and optimizing my spend?

These questions help highlight just a handful of the many ways marketing automation can help your business grow.

Why Should I Choose SharpSpring for My Marketing Automation Needs

SharpSpring is an all-in-one platform offering not only marketing automation but also: 

  • Sales automation and CRM 
  • Tracking and analytics 
  • Unlimited users, support, and training 
  • Open API 
  • Hundreds of integrations 
  • 5X emails per contact per month 

And that’s just at our Small Business level.  

At our Enterprise level, for companies with more than 20k contacts, you can get additional integrations, a rebrandable interface, and an optional sales dialer and private IP. 

If you need our Agency level services — for businesses using SharpSpring for other clients — you get even more features specific to your agency needs. 

The icing on the cake is our pricing systemSharpSpring’s Agency pricing model is as little as 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of others.  

Partnering with SharpSpring is just that: A partnership. We’ll send business referrals, help you create a features bundle that meets your specific needs, and strive to improve your ROI. 

Contact us to schedule a demo today. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can use marketing automation?

Marketing automation is truly for everyone. Companies of all sizes can benefit from a marketing automation platform, and marketing agencies in particular find value.

Marketing Agencies

By offering marketing automation and related services, you’ll become an integrated and indispensable partner to your clients. This helps you move from unpredictable project work to retainer-based relationships, helping you grow your agency and boost your monthly recurring revenue. Marketing automation also provides you with comprehensive reporting and analytics, so you can prove the value of your services to your existing clients as well as prospective ones. Some marketing automation platforms are built specifically for marketing agencies, so there are some important things to look out for, including flexible agency pricing, a rebrandable interface and domain, and much more. Agency-focused features include agency support, joint sales calls, platform rebranding, white-labeling, shareable email templates, rebrandable sales materials, and a multi-client management console. The marketing automation console or dashboard is a platform interface to manage all of the agency’s marketing tasks in a single location. Other professional services that marketing automation offers to agencies include technical tasks such as HTML, CSS, development services, data restoration, import and sync services. Shareable email templates are pre-formatted with sample text for agency use. This eliminates the need to create new emails for each client communication.


If your company has a small, in-house marketing team, don’t let resource constraints prohibit you from getting the most out of your marketing efforts. Marketing automation is great for growing your contact base and managing email campaigns. Comprehensive reporting and analytics help you improve the effectiveness of all your marketing campaigns, meaning more opens, clicks, shares, etc. Some platforms have flexible and affordable pricing models to help companies with restrictive budgets grow at their own pace. Also, if the platform is too much to handle in house, don’t worry – there are many marketing agencies that specialize in automation that can help you maximize your return. Make sure you choose a platform that agencies embrace, so you can get assistance beyond the vendor’s own onboarding program and have an ongoing resource to guide you through campaign

Small & Medium Businesses

Marketing automation offers a number of specific benefits for small and medium businesses (SMBs). First, it helps you monitor the effectiveness and ROI of your digital marketing campaigns, so you can find out what’s working and what’s not. Next, it automates many activities – like lead follow-up, email campaigns, list segmentation, lead scoring, etc. – saving you tons of time and effort. Marketing automation also has great tools to support drip marketing campaigns. It enables you to build quality emails and landing pages, and then track your campaigns from start to finish to see how leads are moving through your funnel.

Large Companies

If you are running a larger business, chances are you already have a sizeable database of contacts. A marketing automation platform can connect with your CRM to streamline your data and eliminate any cold contacts from your email marketing process. Similarly, if you’re already managing multiple campaigns and websites, automation software can provide you with powerful data on which landing pages are converting the most, which emails and posts are working best, and which content is getting the most downloads. Automated segmentation is also a helpful tool to ensure that you’re sending relevant content to your leads, especially if you provide different services or operate in different countries.
How can marketing automation help with social media?
One of the key features of marketing automation is its ability to link with many different social media platforms. Essentially, it integrates all social media accounts into a single platform for easier management. It can also help to increase conversion rates and boost engagement.
What is behavioral-based automation?
Behavioral-based automation is when marketing automation is used to track a lead’s online activity. This includes clicking on an email that kicks off an automated email campaign, visiting a website that puts that lead on a list, or filling out a form that triggers the release of certain content.
How do I choose the right marketing automation provider for my business?
When you’re considering marketing automation platforms, you need to find the provider that best meets your specific goals and business needs. While it’s important to consider individual features and functionalities, your focus should be on finding a platform that is cost-efficient for you in the long run, as well as scalable, so it can grow in tandem with your business. Here are some resources to help you make your choice:
How do I choose the right marketing automation provider for my agency?
Marketing automation can eat up a significant portion of your client’s budget, leaving less room for your agency’s retainer. (Psst...SharpSpring’s agency pricing model is as little as 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of others). You’ll want a platform built around the needs of agencies to help you create higher-value relationships, generate monthly recurring revenue and prove your ROI. Look for a provider that lets you reinforce your brand by rebranding the platform interface, domain, login screen, and notifications. The vendor should treat you like a partner, including sending you new business referrals. You will also want a marketing automation provider that offers a pricing model that is inclusive and simple. A solid pricing structure will enable you to bill your clients without interrupting the client-agency relationship. It also gives you the flexibility to choose your price points and bundle packages accordingly.

Good Marketing Automation vs. Bad Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is all about how much effort you put into it. So there are techniques that work and ones that don’t.

Bad Marketing Automation

Bad marketing automation loses sight of your customers and prospects. Often, it involves sending non-targeted spammy messages. Bad marketing automation fails to utilize all the customer data it has collected to create meaningful relationships and therefore, loses out on many potential conversions. All the most advanced marketing technology can’t help a cold, disruptive, marketing strategy.

Good Marketing Automation

Good marketing automation reaches its full potential when it helps move leads through the inbound marketing funnel. Your strategy should be dedicated to one central focus: Your customers.

How does marketing automation work?

The best marketing automation works to snag leads and convert them through customization. By paying attention to your engaged leads and their behaviors, you can craft targeted campaigns that meet their needs, and ultimately, captures conversions.

Ready to see marketing automation in action?

Schedule a personalized, live SharpSpring demo today.