Guide to Marketing Automation – Use Cases, Steps to Automate, Choosing Between Marketing Automation Tools

Let's first get the elephant out of the room right now. I know what the words 'marketing automation' conjure up in your mind as soon as it is said:

Marketing automation is email marketing, right?

For some reason, when I place those words together, people gravitate towards email marketing.

Well, you're partially correct. Many automation tasks are handled by email. Marketing automation is not just autoresponders and emails. The fact is, there's a LOT more to marketing automation, and I'll explain below.

Let's start by clearing the air on what it isn't first.

What Marketing Automation Isn't

It is more than email marketing.

Like I said earlier, marketing automation is not just about email.

A good marketer does not push spam into people's emails.

While automated, it is personalized and delivered only to those looking for more information on a product or service.

It does not replace your sales/marketing team or any of your team members.

Unlike manufacturing automation in a factory, implementing marketing automation will not replace people. So your job as a marketer is safe.

Now let's look at what it really is.

What is Marketing Automation

Marketing automation automates and optimizes your daily repetitive workflows and tasks to empower all your team members to perform at their best while ensuring your company delivers a consistently amazing customer journey throughout.

Let's break the definition down into its three manageable components:

  • automates and optimizes daily repetitive workflows and tasks
  • empower all your team members to perform at their best
  • deliver a consistently amazing customer journey throughout

The first component is pretty straightforward. You're looking to automate the repetitive and mundane tasks to free up time for activities that only humans excel at doing.

The second component is a benefit that's not so obvious at first until you implement the solution. Many tasks don't require active human involvement. Automation frees up your team to service more customers and better focus on delivering higher value-added activities, thus enabling increased capacity.

The third component deals with the stages in the customer journey. Marketing automation fills in the gaps and helps your customers gain an enhanced product or service experience at each stage of the customer journey. We cover more detail about the customer journey below.

Why Is Marketing Automation Important?

Let's look at some statistics to see the benefits companies get from marketing automation to see the view from 30,000 feet.

Over three-quarters of all companies online deploy some form of marketing automation.

To be clear, we are not talking about jumping on the bandwagon because we think it's a fad. The use of marketing automation technologies has only increased over time because many businesses see the benefits.

That's why 63% of marketers plan to increase their marketing automation budgets, and 40% of those not currently using marketing automation plan to start.

Marketers who use automation outperform marketers who don't. Businesses that learn to use marketing automation see increased leads, conversions, and sales.

People like to buy, but they don't want to be sold. It's human psychology. Marketing automation nurtures your prospects and avoids the hard-sell tactics that turn many people off.

Business2Community found that the average increase in qualified leads increased by 451% because of marketing automation.

According to Marketo, 76% of companies generate a return on their investment within the first year after marketing automation implementation. What's even more astounding, 44% of them see a return within six months!

Invesprcro discovered that 77% of companies experienced an increase in conversions due to lead nurturing.

Nucleus reports that marketing automation boosted productivity by an average of 20% when it came to productivity.

Specifically, concerning sales and overheads, companies that use automation see increased sales productivity of 14% and 12% in marketing overheads.

Tasks such as market research, lead nurturing, and analytics can be done mostly by data-driven software. When your team members refocus their energies and time saved into serving more customers, your profitability increases without hiring more team members.

Now, let's take a more in-depth look at what automating workflows does for your business.

How Marketing Automation Specifically Impacts Your Business

In this section, we'll cover specific areas of impact on your business - bottom line, productivity, customer experience, etc.

Increases your capacity and, by virtue, your productivity:

It aids in training your team for tasks and frees up your time to work on the details or exceptions. You increase your efficiency to enable the ability to scale your business more effectively.

Helps you focus on higher value-adding activities:

Focusing your energies on helping your customers succeed with your product or service enables you to grow as well. With more time available to dedicate to higher-level activities, your customers get the maximum value for your time spent with them.

Generates more revenue for your company:

When productivity increases, you naturally produce more with what you've already got. More personalization means your customers feel special and derive a more positive experience with your company. More time saved means you have more time to talk with your customers about how else you can help them. Better customer experiences lead to increased revenue.

Impacts ALL customer journey stages in your company:

When you enhance and improve the customer experience to engage and excite them at EVERY stage of your customer journey, you effortlessly move your prospects to become customers and customers into raving fans.

customer value journeyOur Customer Journey encompasses eight distinct stages. When you implement marketing automation to handle the mundane tasks or even provide value-added information, you help them get more out of their purchase achieving a better buying experience.

Too often, automation builds only focus on the front end of the customer journey - bringing the customer onboard.

Remember to balance your automation processes on existing customers because a better experience leads to greater loyalty, sales, and referrals.

We work with customers to review all aspects of their customer journey and optimize marketing automation for the next stage of their growth cycle - scaling up the business.

Empowers your team:

Repetitive tasks or answering the same questions other customers asked before no longer bog down your team members.

Lifting these distractions, your team only focuses on delivering the best service or product. They focus on tasks requiring your team members' unique expertise, such as interaction and strategic planning.

When Do You Need Marketing Automation?

If you aren't sure if there is a place for this solution for your company, consider these questions:

  • Do you have technology-led processes to train/retrain team members on many mundane tasks?
  • Can you identify, track, and engage individual buyers online?
  • Can you prioritize your customers based on the likelihood of purchasing?
  • Can you qualify leads based on the level of engagement and interest?
  • Can you measure the revenue contribution of your marketing campaigns?
  • Do you currently have repetitive processes done with each customer that is automated?
  • Do you have automated processes to "wow" your customer throughout the customer journey?

If you answered no to any of these questions, marketing automation is right for you.

Common Marketing Automation Use Cases: Here Are the Popular Ways Many Found Beneficial

If you're trying to figure out what aspect of your business to automate marketing, consider the most popular use cases for marketing processes. There is room for creativity but if this is your first venture into marketing automation, try to stick with these real use cases for a start.

These are some things you could deploy marketing automation for in your business, and they are by no means comprehensive.

Social media post scheduling:

Ever wonder how companies can post regularly on social media and at several times a day? They don't hit 'post' multiple times of the day to Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.  They use social media management software platforms to schedule posts, plan their content, and track their results.

Email marketing/SMS text message:

Automatically send out messages once someone enters into your list. It frees up your time from having to answer questions the message sequences can handle on your behalf.

Lead generation:

Systematically identify the right prospects and place them into your sales funnel.

Once you have a proven lead generation process in place, automate it. It'll save you time from monitoring and managing the daily grind of lead generation so you can focus on customer fulfillment.

Segmenting customers:

Customers demand more personalization in marketing today. And personalization pays big. Automatically divide your email subscribers into smaller segments to personalize marketing based on their geography, purchase history, interests, etc.

Lead nurturing and scoring:

Using automated email sequences to warm up prospects and pre-qualify them saves your salespeople from chasing leads who aren't ready.


Deliver on-demand customer support, order tracking, appointment setting, technical assistance to your website visitors.


Up-sells and cross-sells are examples where you can increases sales with minimal extra effort. Offer products that most other customers of yours choose to buy in addition to the one your new customer just bought.

Your customer will save some time from needing to come back to ask you later. You can also opt to give them a special one-time-only upgrade price as an extra incentive to buy, increasing each new sale's margins.

Customer onboarding:

The entire customer journey experience is a part of the marketing strategy.

Whether for a product or service-based business, onboarding is an essential element for customers to get the most out of their purchase. You want your customers to benefit from the product or service they just purchased. For products, offer some training videos on how to use a product. For the sale of services, consider providing tips to maximize their buying experience.

Customer reviews:

Make things simple for your customers. When customers start to see the benefits of using your product or service, send them a direct link to your Google My Business page or Facebook page to post a review.

Pro tip: Take the time to look through the reviews you get and approach those customers personally who write glowing reviews for a video testimonial. You can leverage the video testimonial on your website or social media.


Automate the process of asking for referrals where your best customers become your promoters. If you ask customers who love your product for referrals, you'll get a positive response. You'll never forget to ask for a referral again.

Specific Example Of A Marketing Automation Build

Here's a simple example of how automation could look like:

After building a list of prospects for your company through inbound marketing, it is now time to put an automated system in place.

First, you send them an email offering a free download of a guide/ebook to the product or service they might be interested in based on how they entered your email list.

Second, your email automation segments those who downloaded your free offer and emails them a simple thank you.

Third, you send them a follow-up email providing them more free information a few days later. This time, you offer a case study on the product or service in use so they can visualize how it solves their problems.

Fourth, your email automation segments those who downloaded the case study in your list and send an email notification a few days later to follow up with a call to check on this list of highly segmented prospects.

Compare this to blasting emails en masse to your entire email list detailing the same offers. You'll end up burning through that list, annoying many potential prospects, and getting marked as a spammer.

How Do You Determine Which Tools Are Right For Your Marketing Automation Needs?

Realizing that marketing automation may involve several different tools, documenting your repetitive processes will help you decide which solution will best fit your needs.

For instance, you may apply various means such as video, email, and up-sell/cross-sell technology to power a process.

We recommend being crystal clear on what objectives, processes, and requirements before you embark on selecting the right tool.

If you don't know what specific requirements you need to meet, how will you know when you've found the right solution?

Therefore, prior to shopping for any tools or signing up for any free trials, be sure to follow these steps.

8 Steps To Building Your First Automation

Follow these steps for success with your marketing automation buildout.

1. Consider what the goal you are trying to achieve with marketing automation is and how it fits your business strategy.

What is marketing automation's role in your overall marketing strategy? The sum of the business parts is greater than the whole. Always focus on building systems that enhance the customer's experience.

Well-executed marketing automation solutions often deliver better business performance in more than one aspect. If it saves time, you can invest that time saving into a profit-generating activity, thereby increasing sales.

Be clear on the objectives upfront to know what success is supposed to look like when a solution gets rolled out.

Whether it is to nurture sales leads automatically, save time in servicing customers, or automated sales appointments, make sure it is a time-resource intensive activity done repetitively in your business.

2. Evaluate and select the workflow you'd like to automate based on what consumes the most time or generates the most issues for your team members.

Selecting your teams' most repetitive marketing tasks to automate first is highly recommended. You'll realize the significant gains from your first automation experience.

Only build one workflow at a time. Make sure the process is working well before moving on to the next.

A quick win gives you the confidence and motivation to automate other aspects of your business as well. Once you feel more comfortable with the steps to take, you can certainly speed things up a bit.

3. Document the repetitive process you intend to automate in detail from start to finish.

Make sure to document the workflow thoroughly. Run through the documented process a couple of times to ensure nothing is left out.

Time invested in double-checking things over will save you time and money later.

4. Optimize your workflow.

Look for any areas of waste where you can optimize for better efficiency. Simplifying the process also makes it easier to implement a solution because you'll have fewer steps in your workflow to handle.

It'll save you time now to go through it because you lessen the need to revisit the process and fine-tune it again shortly after putting it to work.

5. Develop your requirements from your documented process.

Now that you have a well-documented process note all the requirements for each part of this process.

6. Prioritize the requirements necessary from your documented process

It would be best if you now prioritized the must-haves in your marketing automation tool.

This step is vital to avoid being distracted by any extra features a solution offers. Focus on your actual needs.

7. Match your business requirements with what is available presently with each of the automation tools

Make a list of the marketing automation tools you find. Use the requirements you identified earlier to match them up with the features of each solution.

8. Try out the software.

Once you've decided on the solution that best meets your requirements, take it for a spin.

Many offer free trial periods or two-weeks or more, so you can give it a go before deciding for sure. Make sure to try out the software first before committing to purchasing any solution.

The best automation software will offer free-trials, so you avoid taking unnecessary risks in choosing one. Realize there will be a learning curve to get started with any solution. It's part and parcel of getting set up with one.

Once you've got your workflow automated, train your team members on using the new automation regime.

Remember to sell them on the benefits of the workflow efficiency created to help them perform at their best. Getting team members on board with the program and using it actively ensures the benefits fully materialize from your automation.

To ensure your automation processes are always up-to-date, conduct periodic reviews of what's working and what's not so you can fine-tune and adjustment where necessary.


It's the best time to dive into marketing automation now with the phenomenal benefits possible for your business if you haven't done so already.

Data backs it up - marketing automation helps you be more efficient, serve customers better, and boost your bottom line.

While it may be a time-consuming task to document and choose the right marketing automation solution, it will pay huge dividends in the long run and serve you well for many years.


About the Author: Anthony Yap is a digital marketing specialist who uses his detail-oriented approach to create and optimize automation workflows.

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Guide to Marketing Automation – Use Cases, Steps to Automate, Choosing Between Marketing Automation Tools

time to read: 11 min