Marketers in businesses of all sizes have found success using marketing automation to automate and integrate online marketing efforts, cutting down on manual processes and freeing marketers up to try new approaches. By integrating email, search marketing, lead generation, social campaigns, CRM and Web analytics into one system, marketers can work smarter, not harder.

Whether you're completely new to marketing automation or already approaching pro status, there are several things you can and should be doing.

Here are a few ways to integrate and automate your digital marketing, along with a few tips for beginners, intermediate users, and automation experts.

Automated, yet Personalized, Email Marketing

Marketing automation is an interesting paradox in that it enables you to become more personal by automating your communications. Using the detailed information the system collects from prospects and site visitors, such as industry and page visits, marketers can ensure that only relevant, targeted email messages are sent—at exactly the right time.

So what are a few ways you can automate your emails?

1. Beginner: Set up autoresponders to automate simple messages, such as welcome and thank you emails, along with any emails that can be triggered by a form submission.

2. Intermediate: Use lead nurturing programs to "drip" content to prospects over time based on their actions and interests.

3. Advanced: Use segmentation to send highly targeted emails to specific groups based on interests, geography, and stage of the sales cycle.

Integrated CRM and Web Analytics

Prior to using marketing automation, many marketers use disparate CRM and Web analytics systems (among other applications, such as social media monitoring services). By integrating those systems with your marketing automation solution, you will have a holistic view of your prospects' activities, including what's driving them to your site and what content interests them once they're there.

By integrating your CRM and Web analytics with your marketing automation system, you'll be able to...

1. Beginner: View all of your prospect activity within your CRM, automatically assign leads to sales reps, and automate lead qualification using lead scoring and grading.

2. Intermediate: Gauge the ROI of each individual marketing campaign, map closed deals back to the campaigns that created them, and see which outlets bring in the most qualified prospects.

3. Advanced: Automate regular reports and consolidate all of your important metrics into one system, including common metrics, such as click-through rates, and more-detailed metrics, such as cost per lead and conversion rates. Use those key performance indicators to track and measure your success.

Improved Lead Generation Tactics

Using marketing automation to power lead generation efforts can open a lot of doors for marketers. Instead of monitoring your paid search campaigns, display advertisements, landing pages, forms, and emails in separate tools, you can integrate them all into a single interface and keep tabs on them with just a few clicks.

Once you've started using marketing automation for lead generation, try a few of the following:

1. Beginner: Create landing pages and forms to collect prospect and visitor information, and  then use that information to tailor sales conversations and email messages.

2. Intermediate: Track the ROI of your paid search campaigns to see which outlets and keywords perform the best, and then adjust your strategy accordingly.

3. Advanced: Use more-sophisticated drip campaigns to move prospects through the sales cycle, upsell current clients on another product, or create campaigns targeted toward specific geographies.

Responsive, Automated Social Media

Integrating your social media efforts into your automation strategy can free up time while still giving you the ability to be responsive and personal. If you've started automating your social media efforts, here are a few ways that you can ensure that you're minimizing time spent while still maintaining a consistent presence:

1. Beginner: Post to multiple social networks all from within the same interface. Doing so will save time and give you the chance to check on your networks and respond in real time, later.

2. Intermediate: Start scheduling social posts at natural time intervals. For such scheduled social posts, you'll want to stick to content such as blog articles or event promotions.

3. Advanced: Alternate between scheduled posts and real-time communications to ensure that your social media efforts don't become overly automated. Your followers and fans want to see the human behind your brand, not the machine!

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No matter which stage of marketing automation you're in, there are always more ways that you can improve your automation efforts, whether building up your content library, exploring the fun-filled world of dynamic content, or venturing into more robust A/B testing and spam analysis.

Adam Blitzer is vice-president of B2B marketing automation at ExactTarget

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Adam Blitzer is a co-founder and VP & GM of Pardot, a company.

LinkedIn: Adam Blitzer