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What Are the Different Types of Marketing Automation Software?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are three core kinds of marketing automation software: those that simply compile lists, those that facilitate the transfer of information to those listed individuals, and those that maintain several versions of these lists to deliver messages designed to have some personal relevance to the recipients. In each instance, the software program has the same goal: namely, to deliver ad content to potential customers. The difference is in the specificity and sophistication of the targeting.

Marketing automation software is a computer application that is programmed to identify and target individual consumers for commercial solicitation, whether through the mail, over the phone, or via e-mail. The programs all either send out e-mail messages, generate printing and distribution orders, or actually place automated phone calls, often known as “robocalls.” Many programs can also do much more. Anything from targeting different demographics selectively to generating complex marketing analysis reports is within the realm of most marketing automation software platforms.

Sending out ads and blind solicitations is an important part of many companies’ marketing strategies. As customer bases expand and market competition grows ever fiercer, however, the list of potential recipients can number well into the thousands. Inputting this many addresses or phone numbers by hand can take an enormous amount of time and generally carries a rather high frequency of inadvertent errors and inaccuracies.

In many respects, marketing automation software was created to alleviate this input burden. Many of the most basic software programs are little more than database compilers: they acquire names and contact information from central repositories, such as phone books, property tax rolls, and subscriber bases. The programs then amalgamate the lists, check them for errors, and forward them to human marketing managers.

Marketing automation software can also itself direct the delivery of advertising material in many cases. This is particularly true where e-mail is concerned. The vast majority of unsolicited commercial e-mail is sent by a computer rather than a person. A person initially authors the message, of course, but then gives the program the go-ahead to blanket its distribution to all names on the central distribution list. This is also the process for most mass-market mailings and computer-generated solicitation telephone calls.

The most sophisticated marketing automation program software programs can narrow the distribution list to more nuanced grouping of similar individuals. These sorts of programs have the ability to identify and sort names based on age, sex, and geographic location, among other things. Demographics are usually filtered using a complex algorithm that borrows data from various public sources. This kind of software program is a valuable business tool for large companies with multiple products to sell, or companies with various iterations of a similar ad designed to appeal to different sectors of a consumer base.

Marketing automation software can often be used in more ways than are allowed by law. Many countries around the world have laws or regulations governing when and how consumers can be targeted and solicited. The onus is almost always on the software owner to ensure that the marketing approaches undertaken by the program are marketing techniques that are within the contours of prevailing laws and regulations.

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