If you're in business, you rely on marketing in some form. Whether it's something as basic as signage on your storefront, word-of-mouth, sandwich boards, television ads, direct mail or email, marketing is a critical part of your relationship with your customers.

As your business grows, you may choose to also grow and improve your marketing strategy. That's where marketing automation comes into play. Before we delve into what that means for your business, however, let's make sure we really understand exactly what it is.

According to Wikipedia, marketing automation is defined as "software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks."

What that means for your business is this: As you grow, it can become harder and harder to maintain one-on-one relationships with every single customer. Some of them may be coming to you through your social media presence, your website or even through word-of-mouth. Keeping track of every single conversion path for your customers on your own becomes impossible. Sure, you could hire a marketing team to do it for you, but unless you're already bringing in millions, that's probably not an option. That's where marketing automation comes in.

In a nutshell, marketing automation is any technology that can help you scale an increasing number of marketing channels. It is typically made up of three primary components. First is a central marketing database. This is where all your marketing data - your prospects, your customer behaviors and any other pertinent data resides.

This database is then coupled with an engagement engine that allows for the creation and management of all your marketing processes - email marketing, social media, workflow setups, etc. Optimally, your engagement engine will easily integrate with other platforms you may use or wish to use in the future.

Next is an analytics engine, which helps you test, track, measure and optimize the return on your marketing investment.

Many marketing automation products are all-in-one, meaning you don't have to worry about finding different products that will integrate seamlessly into your current or future marketing tools. They can be expensive, however, and many small businesses don't have the need for the vast array of tools some of these products offer.

If you're unsure just what your needs may be now and in the future as you grow your business, here's a handy guide on how to choose marketing products that are right for your business needs. [NOTE: ADD LINK TO ROUNDUP ARTICLE HERE]

Editor's Note: Looking for Internet Marketing Services for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Editor's Note: Looking for Internet Marketing Services for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

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