Marketing Automation Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely thinking of entering the world of marketing automation.

If that’s the case, I’m sure you have questions, like ‘how do I use marketing automation?’ and ‘what is marketing automation.’

Thankfully, I have answers.

In this guide, I’ll share my marketing automation secrets with you and give you step-by-step instructions to use automation to revolutionize your online marketing strategy.

What is Marketing Automation?

Before we dive into the world of marketing automation, we first have to define what ‘marketing automation’ actually is.

Truthfully, I could spend all day comparing different definitions, so let’s go with this one from Hubspot:

Marketing automation is all about using software to automate marketing activities.”

At its best, marketing automation allows your marketing department to automate repetitive and time-consuming marketing tasks while helping you deliver personalized messages to customers and leads through social media and email. Here is a small handful of the most popular marketing automation platforms.

  • Hubspot
  • Pardot
  • Marketo
  • MailChimp
  • SharpSpring
  • SurveySparrow
  • SEMRush

As the science of the web continues to develop, we will likely automate more and more. For now, I recommend you stick to marketing automation through two primary mediums: email and social media messaging.

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Image via Inmantech

But what can marketing automation software allow you to do? There is a broad range of marketing automation software options. Some of these are off-the-shelf, some are software-as-a-service (SaaS), and some are open source. Generally, every marketing automation software allows you to send out:

  • Welcome messages and payment confirmation.
  • Abandoned cart reminders.
  • Personalized product recommendations and care guides.
  • Feedback surveys.

Unlike software that allows you to send newsletters to your mailing list on mass, marketing automation sends a message when a customer triggers it. Common marketing automation triggers include:

  • When a customer signs up for your mailing list.
  • When a customer leaves their cart full for 24 hours.
  • Six months after a customer bought a product.
  • After a customer receives their product in the mail.

Marketing automation isn’t a single marketing campaign. It’s a strategy you use to run multiple campaigns. Automation software doesn't have to be based entirely on one platform, either!

Good marketing automation software will allow you to integrate your CRM (customer relationship management) system, social media, and email into one KICKASS marketing machine.

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Image via Brand Chemistry

Benefits of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is pretty cool – but can it do for you?

Marketing automation is great for businesses of all sizes, from sole traders to multinational companies. The benefits of marketing automation will be subjective to your business, but in general, it allows you to:

  • Send personalized messages

Marketing automation can allow you to send a personal welcome email, feedback survey, and product recommendations simultaneously. Personalized messages are the way of the future. They generate six times more revenue than non-personalized emails do. What would that mean for your business?

  • Outsource repetitive marketing work

Customers love seeing their name in emails, but sending out personalized emails to every customer is time-consuming (not to mention borderline impossible without a ginormous customer service team). Marketing automation is both cheap and fast – not to mention

  • Get leads with the latest tech.

Marketing automation is an ever-developing science, which means you get the benefit of technology at its best. Most off-the-shelf marketing automation software now allows you to rank your customers on ‘lead scoring’ systems, which helps you identify which of your customers you should focus on marketing to.

Use Cases for Marketing Automation

Marketing automation isn’t an exact science, and the way you should implement it into your business depends on a few factors. That includes whether you’re B2B or B2C, how your sales funnel works and what you’re actually trying to achieve.

For B2C Businesses

Marketing automation for B2C businesses gives you a lot of freedom and a lot of choices. Your customers are also really looking for how your product benefits them. They want to see:

  • Exclusive sales and personalized discount codes.
  • Giveaways and competitions.
  • Engaging graphics and edu-tainment.
  • Quizzes and interactive content.

If you get stuck, simply think of it this way: what kind of message would you want to receive if you were a customer?

Instead of sending out thousands of messages, I also recommend you focus your efforts on small groups of customers. Remember, a jack of all trades is a master of none.

Tips For B2B Businesses

When it comes to automation, managing the delicate balance between ‘hello’ and ‘hard sell’ can be tricky. I recommend the B2B businesses I work with only use marketing automation to send out informative and educational content. That includes:

  • Free products like eBooks.
  • White papers and case studies.
  • News and video content.

If you’re a B2B business, your marketing automation will look a little different from conventional marketing. Instead of advertising to a single person, you are advertising to a group of people who will form different opinions of your brand.

While it may seem tempting to send out discount codes and abandoned cart reminders, these aren’t appropriate for your customers.

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Image via stripo

Steps to create a marketing automation strategy

Once you’re ready to get started with your marketing automation strategy, you’ll need a step-by-step guide on designing your campaign. This is that guide.

#1. Identify and structure your goals

Before you can start your marketing campaign, you’ll need to set some SMART goals. That’s a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

If you don’t measure your progress, you aren’t going to know whether your marketing strategy has been successful – and that’s true for marketing automation.

There are two types of goals relevant to marketing: summative and formative goals. Summative goals are measured during your marketing campaign, while formative goals are measured after your campaign is over.

Measuring your revenue may seem like the most important way to measure your marketing, but it isn’t. Revenue is decided by several factors, such as the season, the socio-economic landscape, etc. It’s simply too difficult to use as a metric – so what do I recommend instead?

I recommend you use a selection of these metrics to track your marketing automation success:

  • Email open rate.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR).
  • Sales-conversion-rate.
  • Cost-per-mile (CPM)
  • Funnel conversion rates.
  • The lifetime value of customers (LTV).
  • Marketing spend per customer.

#2. Identify your consumer’s needs

Similar to setting goals, you will need to establish a target audience before you design your strategy. For this, you’ll need to segment your audience into groups. This will depend on your product, but you can generally segment by geographic area, demographics, and consumers’ behaviours.

Geographic segmentation is most suited to businesses with physical stores, but it can include entire countries of customers. A great example of this is Black Friday sales. Demographic segmentation includes separating consumers into groups based on their age, country, education, income, race, occupation, and gender.


Image via Single Grain

If I’m honest, behavior segmentation is the most useful. This includes segmenting customers by their past consumer behavior. Here are some useful segmentations:

  • Repeat customers.
  • Customers who follow you on multiple platforms.
  • Customers who respond to surveys
  • Customers who bought during a sale.

Once you’ve got your segmentation, it’s time to define their needs. For this, you’ll need to create a user story. The best user stories use this format:

“I’m a _______________, my goal is ____________ and I want ____________.”

For example, “I’m a repeat customer of BedsWarehouse, my goal is to save money on a mattress, and I want a 15% discount.

#3. Define your customer journey through map flows

How you design your marketing automation will also depend on which part of the sales funnel you are targeting. The sales funnel generally follows these four steps.

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Action

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Image via Freshworks

If you’re a B2B business, your sales funnel will be longer, so focus on the long term communication over a quick sale.

It’s also essential to design your automation around your customer journey. A customer journey is how your customer progresses through the sales funnel as a direct result of your marketing automation.

Here’s a great example:

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Image via CMS

When designing your marketing automation, focus on a final goal – the end of your sales funnel. As I wrote in my guide to building compelling sales funnels, you need a story, value proposition, and a unique selling proposition to direct your customer journey.

#4. Automate suitable activities and processes

Once you’ve mapped out your customer journey, you’re ready to get started. Marketing automation software can send messages for you – but you still need to write them.

I recommend following a straightforward sandwich structure. That includes three sections:

  1. The teaser.

In this section, you’ll want to start with a sweet teaser to get your readers’ interest. This will appear in the message’s description, so make it interesting. Good teasers are short, compelling, and interesting. Bad teasers are spammy, boring, and wordy.

  1. The story.

Every piece of marketing automation needs to engage the reader enough to direct them to your website. On average, you have roughly 5 – 10 seconds to do this, so keep your story short and interesting. Some ideas include:

  • Videos.
  • Stories.
  • Pictures.
  • Snippets of posts.

Bad stories tend to waffle on, which will lose the readers’ interest and lead them to click away. If you’re having trouble writing compelling email copy, make sure you check out my guide to writing great copy here.

Pro-tip: A quick easy way to improve your content is by leveraging content tools like Grammarly that have checks for grammar, tone and more.

  1. The hook.

The hook is the part of the message where you invite the reader to your website. This may include wording like ‘click here’ or ‘read more here,’ but try to sweeten the deal by using language like ‘click here to get a 15% discount’ or ‘read our full list of bag care tips here.’

Of course, you don’t want your readers to get lost; you make sure you include a link!

Here’s a great example of the sandwich method in practice.

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Image via MailBakery

#5. Evaluate your progress and celebrate

After you’ve set up your marketing automation software and started your new (amazing!) campaign, it’s time to evaluate your progress!

Evaluating your progress is as simple as working out whether you met your goals using those metrics we spoke about earlier. If you haven’t met your goals, it isn’t the end of the world – just go back to step 2 and try again.

Best Practises for Marketing Automation

Finally, I want to give you my three best tips for AMAZING marketing automation.

Don’t look spammy

Promise me this: you won’t buy a purchased email list. Purchased email lists may look like a dream come true, but they are a great way to ruin your brand’s credibility. They are also illegal in some countries.

That brings me to this: the CAN-SPAM act. US-based businesses are bound by the CAN-SPAM act, but other businesses should take note of these guidelines too. Here are their seven requirements:

  1. Don’t use misleading or false headers.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
  3. Identify the message as an ad.
  4. Include your physical address.
  5. Include a VISIBLE ‘unsubscribe’ button.
  6. Honor the ‘unsubscribe’ button.
  7. Make sure your marketing automation is honoring the CAN-SPAM act.

Another great way to avoid being spammy is to steer clear of spam words like “FREE” and “CONGRATULATIONS.”

Gif via Gfycat

Stay proactive

My second tip is to keep a close eye on your marketing automation. Ensure you are changing up your marketing strategy regularly, keeping up-to-date with best practices, and sending appropriate messages.

Make sure you don’t send messages too frequently, either. The law of diminishing returns applies to marketing automation.

Retain the human element

Finally, I recommend you test your messages out before you send them to ensure you are keeping your marketing automation human-oriented. Try sending the message to one of your (non-marketing) colleagues from your brand’s account.

If they don’t open it, ask why, and make changes where necessary.


Ultimately, it’s easy to overthink marketing automation. It can be an excellent tool for boosting your brand, but your marketing should always align with your other marketing strategies.

Use your brain and my best marketing automation tips, and you can’t go wrong.

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