A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Marketing Automation

Chances are good you’ve heard about marketing automation. Maybe you’ve heard how powerful or time-saving it is. Maybe you heard the term and felt it was a bit too complex to deal with currently.

While automation sounds complex, it can be easy to leverage it in small ways that make a big difference in your marketing workflows. So no matter what size, shape, or industry you’re in, marketing automation can increase your efficiency and help you grow revenue faster.

What is Marketing Automation?

By definition, marketing automation is technology that allows a user (or company) to simplify, automate, and track marketing tasks. From massive technology stacks to free tools, automation has been improving (usually time-consuming) operations for marketers in so many ways. If you aren’t already, now is the time to get in on the action yourself.

marketing automation

NOTE: The most commonly used marketing automation features are email marketing (89%), lead nurturing (84%), integrations with other software (CRM, mobile, social media, etc.) for centralizing customer intelligence (80%), and cross-channel campaign management (82%). -Regalix

All types of businesses can use marketing automation in a variety of ways. Some of these processes are possible at small volumes without marketing automation, but technology becomes necessary if you wish to scale your business.

Types of Marketing Automation Workflows

Tracking and recording all of your marketing data.

Assisting with creation, engagement, and promotion of content.

Connect apps, devices, and software to work together.

Test, measure, and optimize marketing ​ ROI.

Retain and extend customer relationships.

Nurture leads that aren't ready to buy.

​When is a Good Time to Invest in Automation?

​Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business. If you answer, ‘Yes’, it’s a good sign that marketing automation could work for your business.

  • ​Are you generating a steady flow of new and qualified leads?
  • ​Is your sales team overwhelmed with the number of quality leads you’re passing along to them?
  • ​Has marketing and sales agreed on what conversations should happen with marketing and which with sales?
  • ​Are you tracking your leads’ digital body language across every touch point and marketing channel (not just email)?
  • ​​Do you have an efficient content strategy mapped to your buyer’s journey?
  • ​Do you have a proven lead nurturing strategy that you want to scale?

The best part to marketing automation is the array of free marketing automation software on the market. Though if you do need automation software that is robust enough to handle a bigger workload, there’s plenty of highly sophisticated options as well...

But before we start comparing the automation technology itself, let’s look at some of automation’s benefits.

Marketing Automation Benefits

The most broad benefit of marketing automation is that is helps users and teams work more efficiently. Though the marketing and sales departments can benefit the greatest from the integration of some time-saving automation.

NOTE: 80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in the number of leads, and 77% had an increase of conversions. -VentureBeat

​Beyond its time-saving and efficiency benefits, marketing automation helps with business processes that are essential to any marketing department. For B2B business, automation assists in lead generation, nurturing, and lifecycle management. For B2C companies, automation can be used to help with upsells and customer retention.

However for all companies, marketing automation will save time and money so your team can focus on the more important things: like scaling and generating more revenue.

NOTE: Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. -Nucleus Research

Marketing Automation Software

Even letting automation take over a few small tasks such as email personalization, social listening, and analytics, will save you such an incredible amount of time that you’ll be eager to automate more.

When choosing automation software, it's important to consider what best fits with your business and its unique goals. Don't focus on a program’s individual features--focus on business results and the long-term picture.

There are so many options for marketing automation software though. That’s why it’s best to stick with the broadest options. Know that the marketing automation is a journey, not a light switch that is flipped on. It’s best to start automating a few of the small tasks before adopting and adapting to more advanced tools.

For beginner’s, we recommend starting with either Zapier or IFTTT. Two automation tools we use daily in our businesses. IFTTT is free and easy to use for casual marketing automation. Zapier, on the other hand, is the best choice for beginners looking to get serious use for their business.

NOTE: Want to see more advanced marketing automation options before making a decision? Explore G2Crowd’s Marketing Automation Software Grid here.


Free and Easy to Use for Casual Marketing Automation

Our biggest recommendation for those just beginning to use marketing automation is IFTTT. IFTTT (which is short for, if this, then that) is one of the most user-friendly automation software options.

It’s free and integrates with hundreds of other apps and devices. Plus, it’s a platform that is open so you can build your own applets or share your service as an IFTTT partner.

ifttt automation marketing

IFTTT calls each automation task an applet, and each applet integrations with services which are apps like Facebook or devices like Amazon’s Alexa.

​IFTTT Automation Workflow Examples

  • ​Share your new YouTube videos to a Facebook Page.

  • ​Keep a Google Doc that records any mention of a Twitter handle.
  • ​Log how much time you spend at specific locations to automatically add a row of info to a Google Drive spreadsheet each time you arrive at or leave.
  • ​​Post a reminder to a Slack channel 15 minutes before an event starts.
  • ​And even fun options such as getting a notification from NASA every time an astronaut enters space!
ifttt automation


Best Choice for Business and Professional Beginners

More advanced than IFTTT, Zapier is an ideal next step to automating advanced marketing processes. While IFTTT is heavily based in connecting apps with devices, Zapier connects apps with other apps. Plus, Zapier is constantly adding new automation options every week. Currently there’s over 1,000 which should cover many of the apps you currently use in marketing!

NOTE: Only 8% of business are using marketing automation to nurture existing customers. -SiriusDecisions

IFTTT is more of a task-based automation software but Zapier can automate several tasks into a workflow in a few clicks. It’s incredibly easy if you know what you want, but if you don’t there’s plenty of ‘Automation Inspiration’ available in this guide from Zapier.

​Zapier Automation Workflow Examples

  • Share new Shopify products with an Image Tweet.

  • ​Use Wufoo entries to create MailChimp email subscribers.
  • ​Tag Infusionsoft contacts when attendees check-in with Eventbrite.
  • ​Get Gmail notifications for new Typeform entries, then send a notification to Slack channel.
  • ​Create new accounts and contacts in Salesforce from new Facebook Lead Ads.
zapier automation

To set up an integration, Zapier will walk you through these steps:

  1. Define a trigger: The first event that instigates another action. The trigger might be something like “A New Email in Gmail” or “A New Payment in PayPal.”

  2. Define an action: An action is what happens after the trigger. It might be something like “Create a Contact in Infusionsoft” or “Send an email to the sales department.”

  3. Continue to add actions and triggers to complete your automation workflow.

  4. Finally, check to make sure your Zap works and then you’re all set. Zapier will monitor for the trigger and complete the actions associated.

What are Your Thoughts on Marketing Automation?

As you know, keeping up marketing activities can be a tedious task. However, marketing automation tools can streamline a variety of processes, enabling you and your teams to focus efforts on important tasks that will drive more revenue.

In this post, we’ve identified two great tools, IFTTT and Zapier, to get you started automating time-consuming marketing activities right away. However, the technology is rapidly advancing and developing to be easier, faster, and smarter.

Whether your business’s annual revenue is $10 million or you still have your eyes set on hitting that 6-figure mark, you should be using marketing automation to propel your business to new heights.

What do you think about automation?  If you’ve given marketing automation a try, I’d love to hear about your experience and your favorite workflows for marketing, eCommerce or anything else. Share with me in the comments!


Caitlin is an Austin-based digital marketer and writer with a passion for content. She is the newest member of the Performance Marketer team and brings years of marketing experience, as well as the best recommendations for where to go for lunch.


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