How to plan marketing automation implementation. The truth few marketing automation companies want to admit

So you’re starting your journey with marketing automation! While doing some research you may have come across marketing automation software offers in which their providers say how much easier life at your company will become immediately after you have started to use their solution. Like a magic wand, a marketing automation platform is said to solve all your operational problems, take the heat from your overwhelmed marketing specialists, generate high-quality leads when you sleep and, most of all, let you earn more money… We surely don’t want our article to damp your enthusiasm down as we strongly believe that marketing automation technologies are amazing 🙂 But let’s face a few facts!

The untold side of marketing automation

First, marketing automation is not only about marketing. Marketing automation platforms offer possibilities of automating work of marketing, sales and customer support teams.

Second, in most cases, there is more than just one business decision maker that decides by short yes or no. As those platforms are often all-in-one tools with plenty of application options, stakeholder conflict might happen; many are usually involved – from CEOs, marketing, sales and IT participants to accounting or purchase departments.

Third, due to different types of tasks that need to be performed, like, among others, establishing processes and confirming responsibilities, creating automation paths or managing projects’ execution, there is really A LOT of work required to set a new platform up. On top of that, a great variety of tools and options available, like for example many types of campaigns, different communication channels or a lot of content strategy ideas, do not make the implementation process any easier. We can briefly summarize it as follows:

So yes, you definitely can achieve all those goals described in the first section.

But the truth is, proper implementation of any marketing automation platform is a good deal of work.

Now, once it has been said out loud, there is also good news. To make the marketing automation implementation as smooth as possible you need a good plan. And in this article we will help you come up with one! 🚀

Max Benz, CEO at BankingGeek also adds: “Without a plan, it can be difficult to know what needs to be done in order to set up marketing automation effectively. A plan can help you determine which tasks are essential and ensure that they are completed in a timely manner. Additionally, a plan can keep you on track as you implement your marketing automation strategy, making it more likely that you will see success.”

Phase #1: don’t overcomplicate the technical part

For many automation companies the obvious point to start at is defining detailed list of business goals and sketching a plan for technical implementation of marketing automation software. Some involve their IT teams in reading and analyzing every piece of technical documentation before they even know whether their company will at the end stick to the platform. And they do that without a second of testing! We believe that in most cases it is simply a waste of money and valuable time.

There is no doubt clear strategy, defined KPIs and technical documentation are extremely important and, if one, having successfully completed the testing phase, decides to fully implement the tool, using its full potential with clear set of goals we want to achieve thanks to marketing automation for sure pays off. But do not overcomplicate it at the very beginning.

Starting with the good basics and quick check of what a given tool really does is by far a better strategy than investing resources in the solution you may even no longer use after the trial ends. Quickstallation and possibly simplest set-up are in most cases enough to test whether everything works in a correct way and whether a marketing automation software satisfies our business needs to the extent we had expected. You can check different functionalities and confirm whether you’re able to track and process these data and information pieces that you really need. You will be able to check what exact types of data you can collect and, which is no less important, whether the user interface is intuitive and simple enough so that all your operational stakeholders can work with the tool.

Instead of starting with detailed strategy and defining business goals, do the quick testing phase first as often this is enough to decide whether the tool is what you’ve been looking for.

Phase #2: define goals, scope of implementation, user stories, data structure and assets

Once the Phase #1 has been successfully completed and you have a tool or shortlist of tools you like, it’s the right time to go into details! Defining clear goals you want to achieve by using marketing automation software and describing the scope of implementation are crucial on the way to truly beneficial use of the platform at your company. The very wrong approach many organizations take is “I want it as it’s trendy” and “I want it ALL and I want it NOW.”

The fact that a solution is complex and combines many different tools does not mean that you have to make use of all of them. What is a rational reason for using functionalities your business does not need?

Using tools that do not bring any additional value for the sole sake of being able to say to yourself: “I use everything as I pay for it!” is pointless.

We can compare it to saying that one will use MS Excel only when they use all its features because they pay for it. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? 🙂 Why not to focus only on those elements of marketing automation software that really help your business grow and instead of using everything somehow start to use selected features smartly? Like we all do with MS Excel – the aim is not to use all the advanced features available but to use those that help us reach our goals in an efficient way.

With marketing automation implementation you should define your goals and scope you need at the very beginning and stick to an old rule of eating an elephant one bite at a time. The problem is that many companies starting their journey with marketing automation solutions simply do not know what they want to achieve and what they expect from the platform.

We could say that marketing automation implementation is like a filmmaking process. And before the first day of shooting so creating automation paths, you surely need to set goals, think about limitations, write scripts and prepare props. In order to help you with that part, in the further course of the article we will discuss real-life examples of goals and implementation scopes for 3 industries: service companies, SaaS and e-commerce.

After defining goals and implementation scope, we will add the next important element which are user stories so clear descriptions of how, when and where marketing automation platform helps as a user interacts with your website or application. And then, for each user story we will define data structure, so information on which exact data types are needed or collected and what is their source or destination, and assets, which are content elements or files you need to prepare and later feed to the platform to achieve goals.

Below we’ve created a separate section for each of the three industries:

  1. Service companies,
  2. SaaS,
  3. E-commerce.

In each section you’ll find a detailed industry-specific example of 1 goal, along with its implementation scope, related user story, data structure and assets. Then, at the end of each section we’ve included the Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas with a bunch of other common examples typical for a given industry.

We’ve as well prepared a blank and ready-to-use Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas for you.

Get the Canvas

Service companies

Let’s start with online service companies and have a look at one of the most common examples of industry goal, implementation scope, user story, data structure and assets.

A. Goal

  1. Collect more contact details from current traffic

And that determines the following scope of marketing automation implementation:

B. Scope of implementation

  1. Basic contact information collection through exit intent popup

C. User story

  1. When an anonymous user is on my website and is about to leave (exit intent) without subscribing to newsletter or submitting a detailed contact form, a pop up with basic data inputs (name, email, phone number) appears. If a user leaves contact data, they receive a thank you email with a free e-book.

Then, let’s focus on data structure and assets.

D. Data structure

  1. 1. User attributes: name, email, phone number
  1. 2. Event: exit_intent

E. Assets

  1. 1. Popup form with content
  1. 2. Free e-book
  1. 3. Thank you email campaign

Here you can have a look at other common examples for service companies:

Download in PDF


Now, let’s move on to SaaS businesses.The example below is mentioned by the majority of our clients.

A. Goal

  1. Effectively structure our messy sales processes

Basing on that we can define elements or modules of a marketing automation system SaaS companies need in that case. So, in other words, we can define the scope of implementation.

B. Scope of implementation

  1. CRM set-up – our sales will be working with deals and activities

The next step is to prepare a user story strictly related to our goal defined above.

C. User story

  1. Until now (the moment of CRM set-up) our activities and processes related to sales haven’t been managed. All potential deals were passed to my sales team and the reps have contacted potential clients by emails. We haven’t calculated nor tracked conversions from “sales-qualified-lead” to “purchased”. Also, we haven’t counted time needed for different activities of particular sales reps, we also haven’t had any idea how much time it usually takes for a given lead type to convert. We needed to organize it in structured and repeatable processes so we create our main pipeline which is composed of 5 stages. Every time there appears a potential deal, it is created in the marketing automation system, along with additional details, like related company, related user, responsible sales agent, value of a deal etc. A sales agent adds the deal to a correct stage of the Sales Pipeline. Each past and future activity connected to that deal and additional information pieces about them are stored, i.e. calls, meetings or scheduled demos. The whole Sales team is able to see the status of a given deal and its stage in the Pipeline as well as all its additional characteristics and related information. Whenever a particular agent is assigned to a given activity, like for example call with a client, they are notified automatically.

Having that part ready, let’s now focus on data structure and assets. To provide you with a clear view, we have attached a few screenshots to better illustrate the example.

D. Data structure

  1. 1. Deal attributes: name, value, assigned_to, stage, status
  1. 2. Company profiles with at least basic information pieces
  1. 3. User profiles with at least basic information pieces

E. Assets

  1. 1. Sales Pipeline and its 5 stages created
  1. 2. All sales agents invited to the (and actively using the CRM)

To explore more examples from SaaS companies, have a look at the SaaS Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas:

Download in PDF


Similarly to the way we’ve done it for service companies and SaaS, let’s now focus in detail on e-commerce. We’ll discuss an example of e-commerce goal, implementation scope, user story, data structure and assets. At the end of the section you’ll find the Canvas with a few more cases.

A. Goal

  1. Generate list of newsletter subscribers (from current traffic)

Having that in mind, we can come up with scope of implementation.

B. Scope of implementation

  1. Popup with discount for new newsletter subscribers

Now, it’s time to prepare a related user story.

C. User story

  1. When an anonymous user enters my website (any webpage), after 5 seconds a popup appears. It includes an email input field and invitation to sign up for newsletter and thus get a 10% discount for the first purchase. When a user provides their email address, they are added to a newsletter mailing list. Also, right after the signup, a thank you email campaign with discount code is sent. If a user clicks “unsubscribe” in the email, they are removed from the newsletter list.

Once we have a user story written down, let’s take care of data structure and assets.

D. Data structure

  1. 1. User attributes: email, unsubscribe_from_emails
  1. 2. Events: newsletter_signup
  1. 3. Newsletter subscription mailing list

E. Assets

  1. 1. Ready popup with content
  1. 2. Thank you email campaign

For more examples, have a look at the E-commerce Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas:

Download in PDF

The preparation work we have just performed above will very much help you to carry out the marketing automation implementation smoothly and possibly painless. Do not want to prepare everything from scratch? Not a problem! As said, we have prepared a blank Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas you can use and fill with your own goals, scope of implementation, user stories, data structure and assets in a well-organized way.

Get the Canvas

Phase #3: do take care about the technical implementation

Having the final marketing automation tool selected and having completed the Phase #2 so having defined all necessary elements, it’s now the time to focus on the technical part in more detail. You now know what granular goals you want to achieve by marketing automation platform. You are as well aware what exactly you need as you’ve written down scope of implementation, user stories, data structure and assets.

Before proceeding to the next phase, you should do checks with your IT team and make sure the marketing automation software has been installed everywhere you need it (your main website, blog, app etc.). Having in mind the defined data structure, decide what is the best way to integrate your marketing automation platform with other systems you use (like accounting system or external applications) so that you’re able to pass all the data types you need.

Phase #4: create automation paths & test

Only now, having completed phases #2 and #3, it’s the time to create automation paths in the marketing automation software. And to make them live on your website or app. Once the preparation has been made correctly, dragging & dropping automation modules and activating the paths is an easy ride.

However, like you don’t start film shooting unless there is a script ready, you also shouldn’t take care of automation paths before having all the necessary elements like goals or user stories. Many businesses get it wrong here and  start with automation paths without even thinking about goals or potential user stories.

Once you’ve created automation paths, don’t forget about debugging and testing. Use the preview mode to double check whether all content elements are right and in place. Then, activate the automations on your website and test them with your team! Thanks to incognito mode you don’t need any help from developers – it’s easy and… exciting. 🙂If you spot any mistakes or think about small improvements, it’s the right time to make amendments!

If you need some additional inspiration on automation paths, take a look at the library of our ready-to-use automation templates!

Phase #5: analyze & optimize

The work doesn’t end with activating your automation paths. Once you’ve completed phases #1 to #4,  it’s time to see how your customers respond to those new elements. At this stage you should define clear KPIs and track the performance over time.

Not everything works as you had expected? Don’t panic! Thanks to observing how your users interact with your website or app enriched with automated processes, you can identify white gaps or improvement areas. If you want to compare the performance of alternative versions of a given element (like button color, text or icon) carry out quick A/B tests. If your customer support agents notice that it’d be useful to collect additional event attributes, don’t hesitate to add them. Stay agile and open to improvements. You can of course make automation paths more complex with time, modify their original versions or add new ones. It’s important to track and analyze how your users react to the automations and related content you’ve implemented at Phases #2 and #3. And optimize them to better meet the expectations of your customers

Not all companies pay attention to analysis & optimization phase. And they often lose in mid- to long-term. This phase is a very important (and often underestimated!) part of creating the top-level user experience. It also lets you constantly improve your marketing, sales and support processes to respond to the changing user preferences.

Do you really need to get the Oscar?

We could well compare the elements of preparation for marketing automation implementation to film shooting process. In both cases you need to specify goals and implementation scope, which for movie industry can be defined by budget, timeline or equipment limitations. For marketing automation implementation you need user stories, while for film shooting you should definitely have a script. A counterpart of our data structure and assets for professional movie makers are cast, dialogues, costumes and props.


And once everything is properly set up and prepared, creating a single automation path, similarly to performing one shooting day, is relatively easy and quick. But considering all those preparation steps you need to take care of in the first place, the vision of magic marketing automation platform solving all your business problems in the blink of an eye is nothing more than nice marketing babble.

There will always be companies claiming they need it all and now. But ask yourself whether your business really needs that all.

Not every great actor gets the Oscar. But despite that they can successfully develop their careers and earn a lot of money. If we may have one final suggestion for you, it is – do not overcomplicate marketing automation.

Keep it as simple as possible to achieve your goals. As simple solutions usually work best.

🏆 P.S. Remember you can save a decent amount of time with our predefined Marketing Automation Implementation Canvas.

Get the Canvas
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