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Article first published October 2016, updated April 2019.

Marketing automation is an incredibly powerful way to engage customers, but the technique has a reputation of being expensive, clunky, and challenging to manage and execute. However, we’re witnessing a monumental shift now that marketing automation has become easier to afford, scale, and implement.

Making Sense of B2C and B2B Marketing Automation

In this guide, we’ll explore how brands use B2C and B2B marketing automation in different ways to drive tremendous results.


Chapter 1

What is B2C and B2B marketing automation?

Marketing automation refers to software that automatically sends emails or email campaigns to customers and prospects behind the scenes, based on rules you define.

Marketing automation uses “customer journeys” that start with a trigger, like signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or sharing an email. These journeys are designed to be more relevant to the recipient than just a mass email campaign.

They’re easier for marketers to execute since journeys are set up only once. This style of email marketing is also valuable because it creates an ongoing conversation with your subscribers and customers and builds brand loyalty.

B2B and B2C marketing automation generates ROI, revenue, and results.

A brief look at B2B and B2C marketing automation history

Today, it’s more commonplace for marketers to use marketing automation to send personalized, timely, and relevant messages because people become more engaged with your brand, and they tend to spend more money.

However, historically, these tools have been hard to use and reserved for big companies. Access to a B2C marketing platform used to be very expensive, hard to use, and difficult to implement. The best B2B marketing automation cloud software solutions still exist for giants like Target, Ford, and Intel, but automation is now much more accessible for medium-sized businesses.

Marketing automation was first introduced in the early ’90s but really started coming into its own around 1999 when some big-name automation vendors started to become players. The growing success of these first vendors and the increasing popularity of cloud-based tools gave rise to a slew of new vendors in the mid-2000s.

Today, we are all familiar with marketing-focused, cloud-based activities like A/B testing, landing pages, and webinars because they’ve become a trusted part of every marketer’s technology stack.

The age of acquisition and behemoths

Another important chapter for marketing automation occurred between 2010 and 2014, when over $5.5 billion worth of industry acquisitions took place. This led to a few big behemoths taking control over every major B2B and B2C marketing automation platform, making the technology inaccessible to small brands without large budgets and teams to match.

Today, the B2C and B2B marketing automation technology landscape has exploded and continues to grow. Examine this supergraphic from Scott Brinker from

With more and more companies entering the market, the technology has become more accessible for mid-size businesses, and it’s easier to use, accessible, and affordable.

How B2B & B2C companies have adopted marketing automation

There are a number of benefits to using marketing automation. In fact, B2C marketers using automation have seen conversion rates as high as 50% according to eMarketer Email Marketing Benchmarks report.

With numbers like these, you’d think everyone would be using marketing automation. However, this isn’t the case.

If you look at adoption by company annual revenue, it’s highest at the top with the Fortune 1000 companies. After that, it trails off, but there are millions of other businesses out there who want to see the same growth and return.

At the top, you have mega-vendor marketing clouds, and, at the bottom, you have less sophisticated, mass email marketing tools with basic triggers or autoresponders.

Mega-vendor marketing cloud suites are known for being challenging to implement and maintain. They require time, money, and massive resources.

At a previous F1000 company, we spent $1M, one year, and had a team of 10 people to implement one of these systems,” said Kraig Swensrud, CMO at Campaign Monitor. “It was a total nightmare, and no one even knew how to send a simple email campaign.

Now that we understand how companies have adopted marketing automation, we’ll discuss how B2C and B2B businesses use marketing automation to achieve their business goals.

Chapter 2

B2B vs B2C marketing automation business processes

B2C and B2B companies all use marketing automation to send more personalized, timely, and relevant messages that result in higher engagement and revenue. No matter what tool or platform is used, marketing automation can be distilled to three core components: triggers, rules, and content.

3 core components to marketing automation

If these are the three core components, then what is the difference between the way B2C brands use marketing automation and the way B2B companies use it?

The focus and tactics of B2B vs B2C companies and how they use marketing automation are considerable, yet they have similar conversion-focused goals.

Similarities include:

  • To build their brands by sending relevant messages to their subscriber lists and to stay top of mind
  • To get the metrics that tell the story of what’s working and what’s not, for more successful future campaigns
  • The desire to increase efficiency
  • The desire to increase revenue

But there are clear differences:

  • B2C marketing automation focuses on personalized, highly relevant messages, whereas B2B campaigns are often more mass-oriented
  • B2C is all about the customer journey and where the individual is in his or her unique process, whereas B2B marketing automation is more about education and value-sharing for a large group and focused on nurturing a lead through a sales funnel

Now that we know some of similarities and differences, let’s explore how a B2C marketing automation platform drives real business results.

How B2C marketing automation works

Growing B2C businesses like Rip Curl, Birchbox, Jaybird, Virgin Experience Days, Nissan, and others use marketing automation to power revenue-generating campaigns that directly impact their bottom line.

These leading B2C companies use marketing automation to send automated emails to customers based on time or action-based triggers that create instantly engaging and compelling messages that drive revenue with every send.

Consider the following examples:

VIP offers

Sephora, a cosmetics company, uses marketing automation to automatically send a series of special offers to their best customers once they’ve reached VIP status, which is triggered by a spending threshold.

Using automation, they take their customers on a personalized journey that is tailored to each individual subscriber’s behavior. For instance, if a customer reaches VIP status, they receive a different email than a customer who doesn’t reach the spend threshold.

Sephora then continues that journey based on how the customer engages with each message.

Birthday offers

Jewelry retailer Monica Vinader uses marketing automation to offer customers tailored product suggestions and send special birthday greetings. The retailer triggers this email based on birthdate data that they collect in their checkout process.


Nissan auto dealerships use marketing automation to email new car buyers a service reminder six months after their car purchase. Then the customer journey continues based on whether or not a service was booked, and follow-up messaging can be sent out (with an additional reminder or an offer for another service, such as a tire rotation.)

What makes B2C marketing automation so effective

The reason marketing automation is so effective for B2C marketers is that marketing automation pairs personalization and automation to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, which generates more revenue with every send.

Data shows that personalized emails are 26% more likely to be opened and that they can produce a 760% increase in email revenue. Not only that, but almost half of customers admit they get angry or frustrated when brands don’t provide them with personalized content.

It’s also important to keep in mind that growing B2C brands aren’t looking to bust their budgets, but want powerful marketing automation. They want automation that is simple to use and integrates with systems they already leverage, including e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce. In a recent survey of over 500 marketers, they resoundingly answered that they want products that can be set up and used by people with minimal technical skills.

Marketers at B2C brands can power incredible customer journeys and deliver massive revenue back to their businesses without having to create and send each and every email, all while delivering an excellent customer experience. That combination is priceless for busy B2C marketers who wear a lot of hats and juggle competing priorities on a daily basis.

Now let’s examine how B2B brands use marketing automation.

How B2B brands use marketing automation

B2B marketers use marketing automation in different ways. Often, B2B marketers aren’t striving for a personalized experience that’s as tailor-made as we saw in the B2C examples. They’re usually trying to provide value to leads, partners, and to educate and onboard users.

Unlike B2Cs, there’s not necessarily a need for ultra-personalized content. The objective is to keep things more broadly applicable for a wide range of recipients. B2B companies also use marketing automation to send campaign-based emails that are aimed at driving free trials, sign-ups, onboarding, and, ultimately, revenue.

B2B companies often tend to send education and event-based automated emails that can be sent out to subscribers to encourage attendance and build awareness around events.

How and why marketing automation works for B2B companies

82% of marketers turn to best-of-breed tools when it comes to marketing automation, according to our recent survey data. So, instead of working with a single vendor or cloud-based solution for all of their marketing needs, they’re finding the best B2B marketing automation resource (or B2C) to meet  specific needs, whether it’s email marketing, landing pages, or social media.

Once they find the tool that meets their needs, they’re getting their automated processes set up so that they can regularly stay in touch with their contacts and keep them up to date with company news, events, and educational resources that help them get the most out of all they have to offer.

Chapter 3

Why B2C and B2B need different marketing automation tools

Do B2C and B2B use marketing automation differently? Yes, but both get incredible benefits that help improve efficiency, revenue, and keep their businesses top of mind.

The power of marketing technology is in its ability to meet the specific needs of every organization, so it’s no surprise that growing B2C and B2B organizations need different tools to achieve results.

Today’s marketers need to be agile, testing their approach and changing direction quickly to keep up with customer expectations. They want the flexibility to choose the tools they need for customization, personalization, and automation.

Despite the lofty promises of big marketing suites, the future of automation for growing B2C brands is a well-curated marketing stack of hand-picked technologies.

As we move toward a world of increased automation, marketers need automation technology that delivers on its promise. With sophisticated, yet easy-to-use tools at our fingertips, every marketer now has the ability to create powerful customer journeys that can accomplish many outcomes—from nurturing a lead to reminding a consumer that they left an item in their shopping cart.

Chapter 4

How do you create a marketing automation strategy?

The nuts and bolts of your automation strategy will be unique, due to the personalized nature of the content you’ll provide. To get started designing your custom strategy, break up your subscribers into three groups: less-engaged prospects and leads, actively engaged leads, and current customers.

These three groups will dictate your goals and strategy.


  • Interested but less-engaged prospects. Provide these subscribers with personalized content that helps build authority and trust in your brand. Those focused on B2B marketing automation may have to devote more effort to this group.
  • Actively engaged leads.  These subscribers show significant promise because they’ve browsed several products on your website or asked questions through replies or other platforms like WhatsApp.
  • Current customers.  Your goal here is to follow up with these subscribers post-purchase through marketing automation and maintain their loyalty.
Chapter 5

What are the best practices for B2B and B2C marketing automation?

Like any new technology, marketers should ease themselves into automation. Too many brands have jumped the gun by automating too much, too quickly, with poor results. Stick with these B2C and B2B marketing automation best practices to yield the best results.

Keep your tone conversational.

Imagine your email content is a sales associate or customer service representative and speak to your subscribers in a one-on-one conversational tone. Although B2B marketers will want to keep the tone professional, it’s still important to remember that you’re speaking to real humans with feelings. Everyone appreciates acknowledgment and validation.

Don’t overwhelm your subscribers.

If you’re feeling confident in your content, you might be tempted to send more emails. This is a mistake. When asked why they unsubscribe from lists and mark emails as spam, 45.8% of people claimed the brand sent emails too frequently. Focus on quality and consistency over quantity.

Use your data charismatically.

Your subscribers want personalized email. They don’t want to feel like you’re watching their every move. Take data from sources like Facebook, Google Analytics, or Salesforce and incorporate it into your B2B or B2C marketing automation platform. Just remember that this data is personal, so use it with some discretion.

Uber sends great automated emails after every purchase. The rideshare company shares some pretty intimate data (a map of the subscriber’s GPS coordinates), but it’s not intrusive because users expect Uber to collect and use this type of information.

Source: Really Good Emails

Track your results.

B2C and B2B marketing automation isn’t a failsafe for engaging and keeping customers. You still need to track your open rates, click rates, conversions, and other important metrics. Analyze what works and what doesn’t so you can tweak your content. Remember that human nature is fluid, so the best B2B marketing automation strategy will adapt to behavior trends over time.

Wrap up

Whether B2C or B2B, marketing automation is a powerful tool for maintaining a conversation with customers while engaging leads across the sales spectrum, and this technology is now perfectly accessible to mid-size and even small businesses. Customers today expect personalized content from brands. Selecting a B2B or B2C marketing automation platform and implementing custom content is crucial to stay ahead in the modern landscape.

Are you ready to design beautiful customer journeys and optimize engagement? Check out our automation features to see why major brands trust Campaign Monitor for their personalized triggered campaigns.

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