Marketing Automation is basically a programmable strategy that can be easily integrated in your website and email marketing campaigns. They have the advantage of taking your email newsletter campaign past the 'spray and pray' approach to becoming more targeted.
For example, sending out a newsletter every 2 weeks will probably have an effect, but if you are able to seperate the emails so people receive different information after they click on a link. Then you can make your campaigns far more targeted than normal.
An example is an electronics store that sends out an email catalogue. Some people will look at computers and others will look at TV's. Now, instead of sending out a similar email multiple times, if the electronics store is able to automatically send out a computer catalogue to one group and TV catalogue to the other based on what each person was interested in, they would probably sell more products.
This level of tracking is possible with marketing automation and a good system will require no programming to create your strategy. They usually use diagrams to create a customised automated strategy.
I am sure you can imagine the possibilities, so what is the catch?
Marketing companies make this system extremely expensive, but their are some cheaper options available. One of them is x2engine.com it is for small businesses and it has an integrated customer relationship management package as part of the software.
I believe marketing automation will be a huge influence on future technologies to come.
I have included a youtube video to help clarify what marketing automation is.