Marketing Automation: Key Terms To Stay Ahead of the Curve

Marketing Automation: Key Terms To Stay Ahead of the Curve

By Maren DickeyApr 26 /2018

Marketing Automation has been around for some time now and as a marketer you’re likely utilizing it to help you accomplish the numerous tasks on your to-do list. However, it’s important to step back every now and then to re-examine the capabilities, its benefits and how it’s expanding to keep up and explore new opportunities for your business. That is what we will discuss here.

To revisit the definition, marketing automation is software created to help marketers automate daily tasks in an effort to work more efficiently. While automation cannot do everything you do as a marketer, it can help you work more efficiently. Some of its capabilities include planning and scheduling content ahead of time, assigning lead status and owner, sending internal lead emails to your sales team and enrolling contacts in other workflows that may be relevant to them.

With marketing automation being such a broad and consistently growing topic, we made this helpful list of must-know terms to help you better understand the pieces and parts that make it work.

Top Marketing Automation Terms You Need to Know

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial IntelligenceArtificial intelligence (AI) is made up of computer systems meant to mimic human behavior and intellect. It is what’s used to power bot intelligence and machine learning. We as people understand different words and phrases may have the same meaning or a certain intent. AI helps computers do the same. Using data gathered over time, AI can be applied to help computers better understand the use of natural language and keyword variations to help you find what you’re looking for. AI is used in several different ways in our everyday life, including our email spam filters, map apps (that take into account traffic or road closures), and mobile check deposits. Another common example you might be familiar with is voice search. If I ask Siri when the next HubSpot conference is, I would instantly be given me information about HubSpot’s upcoming event (even though HubSpot isn’t in the title).

Behavioral Data

Behavioral data is what brings all of our marketing efforts together. It can be used to create targeted messages and help artificial intelligence make the most relevant suggestions. This data includes information based on visitor behavior like conversions, time on page, emails clicked and other action-oriented tasks.Behavioral Data


Bots are computer programs that use chat to communicate with people. Bots or chatbots typically use an existing messaging app like WhatsApp or Slack but can also be programmed for live-chat purposes on your website. Some use pre-set algorithms or mapping to provide responses, while others use artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In either case, bots are meant to provide assistance in a more conversational way using commands and questions, rather than random words or phrases. This also allows marketers to connect with prospects in real time. Rather than waiting for visitors to fill out a form and following up with them later, bots can respond immediately (even help qualify them) before passing off to a sales rep. If you’re not quite ready to invest in your own bot for business, you can still take advantage of bots for things like ordering pizza, finding out the weather forecast, or for marketers, using GrowthBot to help research and set reminders.

Machine Learning

Machine learning refers to the analysis of large amounts of data to make predictions and “learn” from situations by adjusting its predictions on an ongoing basis. The more data that is collected over time, the more computers are able to make accurate predictions or assumptions. Machine learning is what’s used to power artificial intelligence.

Marketing Automation Software

Platforms like HubSpot, Pardot and Marketo are big name players in the Marketing Automation space, but there are several others that can be used to automate different tasks. Your goals, scale and target market can be helped to determine the best software option for your business.

Natural Language Processing

Previously, we used to search using keywords and phrases, but as computers get smarter, we’re able to use natural language (like we would with other humans) to search. For example, you may have said, “good restaurants near me” in the past, but now you can simply say, “where should I go to dinner tonight?” As computers’ capability to understand common language increases, it will be easier to ask questions and speak sentences versus the traditional use of keywords.

Progressive Profiling

When filling out a form, it’s a best practice to only capture only the necessary information from your contacts. This keeps it short and sweet and visitors are more likely to convert. Progressive profiling allows you to keep a queue of questions handy for the next time a contact converts. For example, a contact may fill out an initial form with name, email and company. Next time they come to your site to download something, the form will keep the data it already has and instead ask new questions, like phone number, company size and industry. This allows you to keep the forms short for your contacts, but gather more information each time they visit.

Progressive Profiling

Smart list

A smart list is a dynamic list that actively updates itself based on criteria. For example, you could create a smart list of all the people in your database who have filled out a particular form, who clicked on a link in an email or became a lead in a particular month. Smart lists help segment your contacts and allow you to send more targeted content, like a re-engagement campaign for those who haven’t opened any of your emails lately or a coupon for anyone who hasn’t purchased.


Lead Sales Rotator

While workflows are often used to send emails, you can also use them for other purposes, such as setting lifecycle stage and HubSpot owner, or notifying your team if a contact takes a desired action and may be ready to buy. Workflows function like flow charts, triggering actions based on specific enrollment criteria, if/then statements and timing. 

For example, if a person fills out a form to download a guide from your site, you could enroll them into a workflow that sends a follow up email a week later. Or if they’ve filled out a request for consultation, you could set their lifecycle stage to lead, and have a workflow set up to assign a sales rep in round robin fashion.

Marketing tasks that used to take hours now take minutes. That is the beauty of technology and automation coming together.

Marketing automation is something that is constantly evolving, much like the technology that powers it. And while this is not a cumulative list, these are important terms that will help you better understand this topic as it grows.

Learn how you can best include marketing automation in your digital marketing strategy with this helpful guide.Download How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

Maren Dickey
The Author

Maren Dickey

Maren excels in creating cohesive environments in which creativity flows and people thrive. By helping to build emails and workflows, she has a strong grasp on how things work in HubSpot as well as the purpose of campaigns and assets. This backend knowledge enables Maren to provide recommendations on how to improve performance and deliver better results to clients.