There’s no denying that marketers have a lot on their plates. Fortunately, marketing automation can help take some tasks off their to-do lists, streamline their workdays, and provide some much-needed stress relief. Marketing teams have even seen up to 40% more efficient processes with Wrike. If you’re curious how, take Wrike for a spin with our two-week free trial and see first hand.

What is marketing automation?

Everything you need to know is right there in the name: Marketing automation involves using software and digital tools to automate repetitive marketing activities.

The most significant marketing automation trends of 2023 involve using AI, machine learning, and data analytics to improve campaign performance, internal workflows, and productivity as well as increase customer engagement, repeat sales, and revenues.

For example, maybe you set up an email that’s triggered when a customer’s credit card expires which reminds them to update their payment information. Or, perhaps you’re using a social media scheduler that automatically repurposes and reposts your most popular content.

Those are both marketing automation examples because you’re handling a marketing task without needing to invest a ton of manual effort. 

You automate by setting up workflows that will get the work done for you (on autopilot!). At the most basic level, each marketing automation workflow will include a:

  • Trigger: An action needed to cue the automation (for example, abandoning their online shopping cart)
  • Action: What your marketing automation platform does in response to the trigger (for example, sending an abandoned cart email to that shopper)

Project automation engineering is increasing in popularity across all industries, and marketing is no exception. Social Media Today’s 2019 State of Marketing Automation Survey found that 75% of companies already use at least one kind of marketing automation tool. A separate study found that, of the companies who aren’t using marketing automation tools quite yet, 40% plan to adopt one soon

What is digital marketing automation?

Digital marketing automation processes refer to the different marketing tasks that you can automate with the right software. Because so much marketing happens online today, a ton of marketing processes can be automated, including (but certainly not limited to):

  1. Email marketingEmail automation is a powerful marketing automation tool that lets you send the right message to the right people at the right time, using automated workflows. This is extremely effective for lead nurturing, and ultimately, to drive sales from potential customers as well as existing ones.
  2. Social media managementSocial media automation is the process of optimizing social interactions using specialized tools. This can include scheduling social posts ahead of time or republishing popular articles.
  3. Lead tracking and nurturingAutomated lead nurturing is automatically sending follow-up emails and forwarding relevant resources based on the user's place in the buyer journey. Companies can reach potential leads at the right moment with the right information.
  4. Performance monitoringAutomated performance monitoring involves the measurement of performance over time against indicators of performance or KPIs in real time. This will help spot poor performance or budget issues and pivot quickly to drive up your ROI.
  5. Customer onboarding and retentionAutomated customer onboarding is about creating a structured experience that guides your new customers through every step of your onboarding program – without any manual effort – to improve customer retention rates.

While there are plenty more ways to use automation, your best bet is to pay attention to tasks that take up a lot of your team’s time and energy. 

Can you optimize online marketing automation?

Here’s the short answer: absolutely. But, before we get into the details, let’s make sure we have a shared understanding of what it means to “optimize” online marketing automation.

When we say “optimize” your online marketing activities, what we really mean is to make the most of them. You can do that in a number of different ways, including:

  • Developing a sound strategy. Marketing automation software is helpful, but keep in mind that it’s a supplement to your marketing strategy — not a substitute. In one survey, 64% of marketing professionals agreed that creating a successful strategy is a top priority for optimizing marketing automation.
  • Remembering customer needs. Rather than falling victim to “shiny object syndrome” and signing up for every digital marketing automation tool available, always come back to your customers’ needs. How will this automation serve them better than what you’re currently doing? If you don’t have an answer to that question, that particular automation likely isn’t the right one for you. 
  • Using integrations. Chances are, you’ll end up using a variety of different online marketing automation tools. They can be confusing and overwhelming if they don’t play nice together. Check out tools that integrate well with each other, or use a solution like Zapier to bridge the gaps between your different platforms. For example, with Zapier, you can create Wrike tasks from HubSpot form submissions.
  • Measuring results. Like anything else, the best way to know if you’re effective (and how to improve) is to keep a close eye on results. If you notice that your email open rate is way lower on your automated messages than it is on the ones you’re drafting in real-time, then that’s a red flag that you need to reevaluate and tweak your automation efforts. 

If you’re just getting started with digital marketing automation, keep it simple. Start with automating just one activity with a straightforward workflow. When there are more than 8,000 marketing technology solutions available, it’s way too easy to bite off more than you can chew. 

Why is marketing automation beneficial to companies and marketing agencies?

Marketing automation solutions are gaining some major traction. But, their skyrocketing popularity isn’t because these tools are trendy. They can make a real impact for organizations and agencies that want to streamline their marketing activities. 

Here are just a few of the advantages marketing automation solutions bring to the table.

  1. Automations reduce stress and workload: A whopping 80% of marketers say they feel both overworked and understaffed. One of the biggest benefits of marketing automation is that it removes work from your team members’ plates and helps them save time — so they can stop feeling buried under their to-do lists and focus their energy and time on other priorities. 
  2. Automations offer great ROIIf you’re going to do something, you want it to be effective. Fortunately, marketing automation offers positive ROI relatively quickly. 76% of companies generate a return on their marketing automation investment within one year. Even more impressive? 44% see a return within six months. 
  3. Automations make reporting easierMost digital marketing automation tools have built-in analytics and reporting so that you can gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns and activities. That information would be difficult and time-consuming to collect manually, so having it at your fingertips is a huge benefit.  

Top marketing automation tools to consider

There are tons of different marketing automation tools that you could explore, but each of them generally falls into one of these two buckets:

  • A tool to automate a specific activity (such as social media management or email marketing)
  • An all-around marketing automation platform that will take care of a suite of marketing activities, including lead scoring, email actions, and even serving as a CRM

You’ve likely heard of a bunch of different tools in that first category, like Buffer for social media or Mailchimp for email messages. But, let’s focus on that second category in particular.

A search on Capterra for “marketing automation” returns over 12,000 results, so rest assured that you have plenty of tools to choose from. Some of the most popular options include:


Marketo offers marketing automation software primarily used by account based marketing). With a focus on email marketing, lead nurturing, and lead management, customers of Marketo often find their analytics and automations helpful in streamlining and analyzing the efficacy of their marketing campaigns.


HubSpot brings the customer journey inside your CRM, giving you the tools to give your marketing a personal touch and set up efficient internal processes without burning the midnight oil. HubSpot allows you to break through the noise with compelling marketing campaigns, powered by real-time customer data.


Marketing Cloud Account Engagement powered by Pardot gives you the tools to win customers with scaled, personalized outreach across marketing, sales, and service. With Pardot, you can spend up to 50% less time creating email audiences and deliver personalized moments automatically with relevant content.

Ortto (previously Autopilot)

Ortto, previously Autopilot, help businesses deliver remarkable experiences across the customer journey and brings together data, messaging and analytics on a single platform. With Ortto, you’ll engage your audience with targeted messages and automate repetitive actions.


ActiveCampaign lets you connect every channel you use in your business. Pull in data from email marketing, social media, digital advertising, and your website, then use automation to segment your contacts, personalize your messages, schedule marketing campaigns, and create stronger customer experiences.

Like any other software option, each of those has its unique benefits, drawbacks, and of course, price tag. Do your research to figure out which one is best for you and your team. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of free trials to thoroughly evaluate their features and usability. 

Why Wrike helps with the marketing automation process

When we talk about marketing automation, a lot of the attention is focused on customer-facing activities. Your customer takes a specific action, and that triggers some sort of marketing effort or message that gets delivered to them.

It’s also worth automating some of your internal processes to help your marketing team make the most of their time — and that’s where Wrike comes in.

Wrike helps you and your team keep all of your marketing projects on track with clear task assignments, due dates, statuses, and more. It’s easy for your entire team to get a high-level view of your project, or drill down to specific milestones.

Wrike Dashboards offer a bird’s eye view of project status and tasks.

You can also automate common workflows within Wrike. These workflows allow you to use a planned pattern of steps for your repeated marketing projects. For example, if you always produce webinars the same way, that workflow will already be set up and ready for you to use. It not only saves you time, but also ensures you don’t miss a crucial step. 

Ready to complement your marketing automation efforts with a project management platform like Wrike? Start your free trial now.