How to Implement Marketing Automation

Paul Kiernan

In the shell of a nut, marketing automation refers to tasks and efforts that have been automated by software. Typically, these tasks or efforts are triggered by the customer’s action. Actions could be anything from making a purchase to filling out a questionnaire or even subscribing to a blog. Marketing automation makes life easier for marketers, allowing them to connect quickly and directly to customers, but it should be used with caution.

One of my first jobs was sitting in a small room, just two computers and a self-proclaimed Swede named Sven, a professional wrestler. Sven was neither Swedish nor a wrestler, he just liked to call himself that, and now and then, out of the blue, he’d leap from his chair on the other side of the room, scream “flying elbow,” and attack me with, what I can only imagine was a flying elbow. The flying elbow consisted of Sven almost hitting me on the neck with his elbow then warning me, “That could have been it, dude, lights out for you.”

Our job was to respond in real-time to customers who had purchased something from a store on our client list. We’d get the information from the store and immediately send out a prewritten email thanking the customer and offering them a deal on their next purchase.

Those days are long gone, if they ever existed at all, and now, that email you get immediately after making a purchase, well, that is what’s called marketing automation.

What is Marketing Automation

Image of a old time player piano wooden roller.

In the shell of a nut, marketing automation refers to tasks and efforts that have been automated by software. Typically, these tasks or efforts are triggered by the customer’s action. Actions could be anything from making a purchase to filling out a questionnaire or even subscribing to a blog.

So when you’re late-night, should be in bed, shopping, and you buy something, that merchant has a prewritten, automated email ready to shoot through the interwebs, land in your inbox, and thank you for your purchase. Or, if you sign up for their newsletter, or give them vital personal information about you and your family, again, an email finds its way into your inbox almost immediately. That is marketing automation.

Other forms of marketing automation include social media, advertising, and SMS marketing automation. There are also forms of automation that help with the internal tasks of managing the whole marketing operation.

Marketing automation makes life easier for marketers, allowing them to connect quickly and directly to customers, but it should be used with caution.

The Savvy Consumer

The increase in technology and the customer’s familiarity and comfort with that technology come with higher expectations. They certainly appreciate the immediate emails, the thank yous, and the deals that can be scheduled into the automation process, but they are not willing to give up on the human touch.

Tech smart, savvy consumers, can quickly see through the mass, robot-written emails and get turned off by the coldness and the impersonal feeling that can often happen when marketing automation completely usurps the human touch.

Over-used imagery or stale messages can turn the pleasure of getting thanked for purchasing a cynical; I bet you say that to all the customers, feeling. Yes, automation has made life much easier for marketers, but it should never fully replace the benefits of human interaction. Balance is the key. Automation should be a supplement to your marketing campaign, not a full-on replacement.

How it is used

pen & ink & watercolor image of marketing flow charts

n a marketing campaign, there are many tasks, such as emailing, posting to social media, collecting information about customers or potential customers, organizing internal tasks, and more. If these tasks were once again done by hand, the time it would take, the workforce it would require would make most marketing strategies nearly impossible to complete.

There are a ton of benefits that come with marketing automation. Again, as we share this, we caution you not to let your marketing become totally automated; your customers will miss and need the human touch. Here are some of the benefits;

  • Efficiency. Repeating tasks can take time and waste it. Automation makes these tasks efficient and effective. Saving time, workforce, and money.
  • Nurturing leads. Nurturing every single lead is absolutely vital to a marketing campaign. It takes a significant amount of time and energy to do it right. With Marketing automation, you can nurture your leads on a mass scale and still personalize communication with each lead and specify their experience with your brand. Automation allows for better targeting with customer communication.
  • Increased revenue. The way to increase revenue is to convert. With marketing automation, you can reach more people with targeted messages quicker, and thus, you have more chances to nurture leads that convert. More conversions mean more revenue.
  • Better reporting. A marketing campaign is sort of useless if you’re not analyzing the date and making adjustments. Without that, you’re making the same mistakes again and again and wondering why they aren’t working. Marketing automation can streamline results and give you hard data to analyze and review so you can adjust and improve.

That’s just a taste of how marketing automation is used. There are more uses, and you may discover benefits that are unique to your business or brand.

Now, let’s take a quick look at some of the types of automated marketing.

Marketing Automation byType

Marketing automation takes on multiple forms; let’s break some of them down here.

Email Marketing Automation

Think about how time-consuming emailing would be without automation. From greeting emails to thanks for buying emails and re-engagement emails, if all these were done manually, you’d need an email department in your marketing department working 24/7.

Email automation is the most common form of marketing automation, and the possibilities are numerous. Automated emails are triggered by time or customer action. Post-purchase emails are an example of action-based where time-based emails would be special birthday greetings or emails about discounts for holidays.

Email automation has multiple benefits; they generate leads, increase revenue, but most importantly, they save immeasurable time and energy.

Social Media Marketing Automation

Image of a sign on the back of a truck reading "follow me."

Social media marketing is highly time-consuming because, in order to do it right, you have to do it non-stop. This is where automation comes in. With sites like HubSpot, you can schedule content, set social media monitoring filters, and in some cases, you can find sites that allow you to automate your response process. A bit of caution here, having automated responses is excellent as a placeholder, but your customers will quickly get frustrated if they don’t hear from an actual human.

Advertising Automation

Retargeting. This is a prime example of advertising automation. Retargeting automation takes control instead of going into every advertising platform and changing copy, graphics colors, etc.; it automatically adjusts and improves its strategy in response to customer behavior.

When a customer visits your website, it notes and catalogs the browsing behavior. Then, using that new behavioral information, it displays relevant ads on the next site the customer browses. We’ve all seen this; you absent-mindedly look for a gift online, and then you’re on your social media page, and you see ads for the same things you just casually looked for. It can seem like magic, but it’s automation.

Mobile Marketing Automation

SMS marketing is becoming more popular and effective. Text messages can also be automated to engage due to action or time. As an added bonus, text messages have a higher and much faster open rate than emails.

Better CRM with Automation

This may seem counterintuitive with all the cautions we’ve laid down about not losing the human touch; however, automation and CRM go hand in glove or foot in shoe.

Updating your database can trigger a slew of internal tasks such as lead scoring and notifying the sales team of potential new prospects. Your CRM can also be used to trigger email workflows based on user data or user action.

Automation Software

That’s all well and good, you’re thinking, but how do I implement marketing automation. Easy, automation software. Marketing automation software is the tool that makes your marketing life easier and your customers happier.

If you’re checking out marketing automation for the first time or even if you’re looking for a few new tools for the box, here are a few marketing automation tools we like.


Specializing in e-commerce marketing automation. Drip is primarily used for email marketing and email automation workflows, multi-channel marketing, full campaigns, and much more.


With this software, you’re going beyond email marketing. ManyChat allows you to build an intelligent bot to engage potential customers on Facebook Messenger or over SMS. Do not use this in place of the human connection, but it’s a great way to get the conversation started and capture information that can feed your CRM.


An omnichannel marketing platform that was built for e-commerce. Pre-built templates get you up and going quickly while keeping online merchants in focus.


Business automation software for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs with CRM and marketing automation functionality. But wait, there’s more. There are myriads of other features to help run a small business, like email marketing, landing pages, reporting, and e-commerce. Ontraport also gives you a look at the performance of your campaigns.


An integrated email marketing, marketing automation, and small business CRM. ActiveCampaign’s flexible marketing automation functionality is one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market. Not a beginner’s or low-tech-minded tool, it will take a bit of time and effort to learn, but once you do, it is powerful stuff.

There are many more out there, do soem research and find the one that best suits your business and personal needs.


Depending on the tools you decide to use, your marketing strategy will vary. If you employ a lead nurturing tool, your strategy will be focused on converting those leads using information relevant to their needs, goals, or purchases. However, no matter what your strategy, you’ll want to keep these critical points in mind.

  • Know your audience. Automated or not, if you’re building a campaign, you’ve got to know your audience’s pain points and how to solve them. Build your audience persona before you build an automated workflow.
  • Know your customer journey. Meet your lead wherever they are. Map your customer journey and match your marketing automation to those lead stages.
  • Review regularly. Your automation must change as your business, products, and customers do. Do let this get too hands-off. Review your workflows on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.

ThoughtLab Does Marketing Automation

There’s a lot to think about and digest. If you’re just starting out with marketing automation and you’re completely lost, it may be better to trust it with folks who have a wealth of experience. And, if you’re already familiar with marketing automation, but it’s not performing to its fullest, talk to experience, and maybe a new set of eyes can help.

Either way, ThoughtLab has the experience you need to make your marketing automation fire on all cylinders. Contact us today for a free consultation and get the full benefit of a well-oiled automated marketing campaign.