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Green, blue, and purple gears float against a pink background in this image for a blog about marketing automation.

The Guide To Marketing Automation

TJ Kiely

Apr 21, 2024

As a small business owner, your time is probably stretched to its limits. With so many tasks to complete, you might see your marketing efforts fall by the wayside. That’s why more business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies are embracing marketing automation these days.

Marketing automation gives your time back to you and provides a much-needed boost to your marketing. Key features let you schedule your email campaigns and social media posts ahead of time. They also let you schedule them for when your audience is most active.

So how can marketing automation software help you nurture relationships with your customers and prospects? Here’s a closer look at what marketing automation can do for your business.

Table of Contents:

What Is Marketing Automation?

Automating work.

Let’s start with a definition: What is marketing automation, exactly?

In its simplest form, marketing automation is AI-powered software that performs marketing tasks with little to no manual involvement. It does much of the heavy lifting, freeing up time for you to focus on other things.

Examples of key features of marketing automation software and marketing automation systems include:

AI-powered marketing automation software is mostly used by marketing teams — and even sales teams — to make light work of repetitive tasks. It’s more efficient than doing those tasks manually, plus it delivers a more consistent experience to your customers.

Types of Marketing Automation Software

Typing on a laptop.

There is a wide range of automated marketing tools tailored for various marketing automation strategies and needs. Here are some examples of marketing automation tools and platforms, along with our picks for the best marketing automation software:

Email Marketing Software

Your email marketing process has a lot of steps: writing the email content, designing each email, choosing the best time and day to send them, and tracking click-throughs and conversions, among others. If you’re sending emails as part of a sales funnel, keeping track of where each prospect is in the buyer journey can complicate things even further.

Marketing automation platforms can be your second brain, handling the optimization of your email marketing with very little strategy on your part. You can automate entire workflows, from the moment leads enter your funnel via landing pages to the time they’re ready to buy.

Customize your engagement workflows to the actions each customer takes. That way, you can keep the conversation going and offer exactly what they need based on their unique buyer journeys.

Here are our top picks for email automation software:


Intuit Mailchimp logo.

Free to get started, Mailchimp makes it easy to design attractive emails and entire drip marketing campaigns with no coding required. Drag-and-drop features, pre-designed templates, and built-in data analytics make it easy to deploy and track campaigns.


For sales teams, Mailshake puts lead outreach on autopilot. You can automate your entire prospecting and outreach funnels, each touchpoint personalized to the individual.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

CRM software is a given for any sales and marketing team that leans on inbound marketing. It serves as a database for all of your customers, leads, and contacts, plus it keeps a track record of the actions they’ve taken on all of your marketing outreach. Most CRM solutions are customizable so you can build your own marketing processes to meet your needs.

Today’s CRM software is largely cloud-based, letting teams access their customer data from anywhere. Send emails and other content at the right time based on where recipients are in the customer journey. Then, access real-time insights to see where all of your leads are and how your marketing is working.

Here are our top picks for CRM:

Zoho CRM

Best for growing a business, Zoho CRM is a cost-effective, end-to-end CRM with powerful features. Specifically, a marketing automation platform, Zoho CRM simplifies lead segmentation and lead nurturing so you can cross-sell, upsell, and market with ease. Connect it to your Google Ads campaigns, email campaigns, and even your events to manage all of your marketing from a single place.

Tip: See other Zoho Social alternatives.


For businesses of all sizes, HubSpot offers free, sales-ready features for marketing automation, including lead generation and email marketing. Its ease of use makes it best-in-class, allowing you to automate and maximize your marketing faster.

Social Media Automation

Finding time to make social content is hard enough for B2B marketers, not to mention finding time to post what you create. Social media automation tools ease the burden by allowing you to schedule posts ahead of time and even optimize your posting times per channel.

Check our top picks for social media marketing automation tools:


Meltwater publishing information.

Shameless plug, we know, but Meltwater's suite for marketing professionals is life-changing for a busy marketer. Our easy-to-use marketing automation platform works across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, allowing you to schedule your posts ahead of time. Get a bird’s-eye view of all of your social content and how it’s performing, as well as optimal times to publish so it gets seen.


For help coming up with catchy social blurbs, MeetEdgar automates your strategy in more than one way. It not only publishes on your social media channels, but it also generates copy ideas.

How Marketing Automation Software Improves Your Social Media

One of the biggest challenges marketers face right now is resource management. Content marketing budgets are growing in 2022, but the size of teams is staying largely the same. This means that marketers are expected to produce more content and more results. Competition for online visibility is fierce. Consumer preferences have shifted quickly and often over the last couple of years.

It's a lot for any marketer to navigate alone. Finding even small ways to reduce the workload can have an impact. Here’s how an all-in-one marketing automation platform can help fill the gaps.

Divide and conquer

Some marketing automation technology lets you segment your customers by demographics, helping you create more targeted content. For example, let’s say you design and sell clothes online, and you just created a new line of scarves. Your marketing automation platform could go back through your contacts, find buyers who purchased coats recently, and target them with an ad that encourages them to buy a new scarf to go with their coat.

The text on your emails would be more personalized. Your tailored landing pages would give viewers that VIP feeling. The ads would appear to be created specifically for your customers and their needs. When you know more about buyer behavior, you can better customize communications, offers, and the overall customer experience.

Minimize your marketing needs

Working on a laptop.

One of the biggest reasons small business owners do not use social media? It is far too time-consuming. What’s more, many lack enough capital to hire a marketer or marketing team to make social media work. Marketing automation tools fix this problem as well.

For the business owner doing the marketing, these tools make the work quick and easy. Even if you are not a social media wizard, you can easily learn to use marketing automation tools and link up all your accounts. Whenever you want to post or schedule a post, you can do so on each site all at once or just on one or two.

For the small business, marketing automation makes a one-person marketing team extremely efficient. That person can focus more effort on creating content rather than posting it. They can also target certain sectors of your buyers more easily.

Constant and consistent

While many small businesses have social media accounts, chances are they aren’t posting very much. As a result, customers are not engaged with them online, and their profiles and pages look more like ghost towns.

Marketing automation lets users schedule their posts ahead of time so they never forget. Their pages look fresh and active so followers will remain interested. With automation tools, small business owners only have to devote about an hour or two of time per week to schedule a post for every day.

Posts can be scheduled to hit as many viewers as possible and target followers in different time zones. If part of your audience is on the other side of the world, you can schedule posts for their working hours without having to get up at 3 am.

Observe and report

One of the best features of marketing automation is that it provides you with reports on all aspects of social media and email marketing activity. Want to know how many likes a post on Facebook got? Your one-stop-shop marketing automation tool will tell you. Need to know how many people shared your Instagram photo? Your marketing automation tool knows.

Different tools use different methods and advanced features to show you your progress. Some use graphs, charts, or statistics to give you a clear picture of how well your marketing efforts are working. These visualizations help you create more tailored posts and show you which ones get the most attention.

A marketing automation solution takes a lot of the guesswork out of marketing. It simplifies the process so even the smallest of small businesses can take advantage of social media marketing, letting business owners focus on what's important: creating meaningful relationships with customers.

Tip: Consider using image recognition software to add more data to your marketing automation and learn more about image recognition.

Putting Marketing Automation to Work

Choosing the right marketing automation platforms begins with understanding what you want to get out of it. Automation can help with everything from email marketing to lead generation and nurturing to social media and more. Take a look at the type of marketing you’re already doing, then explore how you can automate certain tasks to take back your time.

At Meltwater, we’re big fans of efficiency. With all the extra time our solutions save, businesses can focus on generating more value, getting to know more about customers, creating more relevant, higher-value content, or experimenting with new marketing strategies.

Discover how Meltwater helps you take back your time! Get a free demo today.