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Hackernoon logoMarketing Automation for Non-Technical Professionals [The No-Nonsense Guide] by@Nicolas-Vargas

Marketing Automation for Non-Technical Professionals [The No-Nonsense Guide]

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@Nicolas-VargasNicolas Growth Marketer

I develop Growth Marketing Strategies Using Online Channels.

Chances are, you need better strategy, not more tools. Marketing Automation (MA) historically has been perceived as a magic solution for most businesses' growth problems. Many business and marketing “experts” are obsessed with automation, preventing them from strategically thinking about their customers and instead relying on tools to automate as much as they can without a clear or realistic goal in mind.

Regardless of all the noise made by mainstream media and marketing technology companies, marketers still struggling with their jobs.

According to Hubspot, 40% of marketers have issues proving the effectiveness of their efforts to their bosses.

The Problem

Why are they struggling? In simple terms, their approach is wrong. Most marketers lack a strategic approach to marketing automation and instead focus their attention on tools.

This rather common approach leads businesses to automate their customer journey without context, forcing automation through the  funnel with arbitrary touch-points and  irrelevant content, generating friction points, jeopardizing customer relationships, and increasing CAC in the long run.

The Solution

This guide will teach you how to use marketing automation to acquire, convert and retain users and distills the overwhelming world of marketing automation into something easily actionable. By executing the concepts in this article you will have the apparatus to focus your attention on long term results while saving money on tools that aren’t contributing to your bottom line.

To make this guide a complete reference for marketing automation, I’ve spent a few months fine-tuning it to include case studies and software reviews.

You’ll learn what the research says about:

How to use marketing automation on any type of business and how successful businesses use automation.How to take advantage of marketing automation without paying a fortune.How to use marketing automation to significantly improve customers LTV while reducing CAC.

Interested? Good. If you aren’t willing to spend one to two years paying for tools/courses to get results with MA this guide is for you.


Before we dig deeper into marketing automation as a concept and its implications, it is important to define it:

Marketing automation (MA) is an optimization process of the user journey through the application of technology to monitor, control and deliver meaningful marketing activities (automation). It aims to easily connect and map customer interactions across multiple touchpoints, in order to direct or influence the end-to-end experience.

Important Considerations

Before we get to specifics on how to effectively use marketing automation, I’d like to briefly cover three important concepts:

Business LifecycleCustomer Lifetime ValueCustomer Acquisition Cost

Business Life Cycle:

According to HBR, most businesses go through four phases:


Everything you do should be prioritized based on your business phase.

The Diagram Above Represents the Business Life Cycle & Marketing Automation Framework

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

CLTV is a metric aiming to measure the profit your company can make from a customer over time. It is crucial for service-based economies as businesses increasingly generate revenue from the creation of long-term relationships with their customers. The whole purpose of marketing should be maximizing customer lifetime value and customer equity.

Customer Lifetime Value — Visual Representation

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC is a calculation of the total cost of acquiring a new customer and it must include the total marketing cost over the actual number of acquired customers. CAC will help you identify profitable marketing channels and activities.

Source: D2C brands are driving up customer acquisition costs — and it’s time to course-correct

How To Use Marketing Automation — A Step by Step Guide

Now that you understand the above concepts, let’s determine whether or not you should start using marketing automation in your business

As a rule of thumb, you should not invest in marketing automation if your business hasn’t achieved the following milestones:

Value Proposition Validation (Product/Marketing Fit)Established two to three profitable acquisition channels — There’s no point in automating marketing when you don’t have a steady number of users coming to your site every month.Your business is generating a consistent MRR (monthly recurring revenue) at least $1000+ dollars over the last 6 months.You haven’t manually established processes for the marketing activities you need to automate.

Marketing Automation Process

  • Step 1: Identify Your Users’ Need (Jobs to Be Done Framework)
  • Step 2: Define Your Customer Journey Map
  • Step 3: Automate Marketing Activities

(Marketing Automation process)

Step 1: Identify Your Users’ Need (Jobs to Be Done Framework)

First of all focus on audience needs. Remember, your audience is your business judge, jury and executioner. Every user within your audience is unique, but you can use certain attributes and behavioral triggers to predict what their pain points and expectations are.

Use the Jobs To Be Done framework. for categorizing, defining, capturing, organizing all your customer’s needs, and tying them up with customer-defined performance metrics.

Source: The Jobs-to-be-Done Market Discovery Template

Step 2: Define Your Customer Journey Map

A customer journey map is a visual representation of every experience your users have with your business regardless of the channel or device. Building a comprehensive customer journey map will help you assess your overall business experience from a customer’s perspective.

“The end goal of a CJM is to improve customers experience at each touchpoint”

Source: Customer Journey Maps: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 3: Automate Marketing Activities

Marketing automation can be used throughout the whole customer journey, from building awareness to cultivating a dedicated user base. It is especially powerful in the conversion stage, helping you boost revenue.

Source: The New Sales Funnel: How to Revitalize Your Messaging to “Wow” Today’s Consumer

Marketing Automation for User Acquisition: Content Creation and Distribution

Goal: Acquire as many qualified users as possible at the lowest possible CAC

In early acquisition stages, marketing automation can help you identify successful marketing activities and content ideas/types that attract your audience around the product or service you’re offering.

Once you are aware of effective marketing methods and content ideas, the distribution and optimization of these messages can be easily managed with marketing automation. Things like relevant posts on Facebook, the right blog post in the specific period of the month or a delivery method that fits the customers’ lifestyle could be a detail that makes a difference.

Source: How to Acquire Customers: 19 “Traction” Channels to Start Testing Today

Marketing Automation for User Activation

Goal: Generate active engagement from acquired users before they’ve reached the point of buying intent (increase users’ probability of becoming a high-quality sales opportunity).

Websites and products activate users by providing value. Marketing automation helps you address customers’ needs and expectations by easily delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. Make sure you always give your audience a reason to read your emails or visit your web pages, so your engagement metrics are good and customers don’t lose interest in your product over time.

Generally speaking, a metric like TTV (Time to Value) will help assess your activation process — A short TTV normally means customers get a return on their investment of time faster — and that means they are more likely to stick around!

Source: Time To Value

Marketing Automation for User Retention

Goal: Once you activate your users, you need to make sure users continue to use your product or service.

Marketing automation uses customers' attributes and behavioral information to deliver personalized content/messaging (Follow-up email campaigns, A/B testing, etc) and optimize marketing operations. In short, everything is automated based on specific segments.

Your Retention Rate depends on your business model and the product/service you’re offering, in general businesses with high ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) tend to have the lowest Churn Rate (a business with high churn rate would by default have a lower retention rate).

Source: The world’s largest study on SAAS churn

Marketing Automation for Revenue Generation

Goal: User Monetization

There are multiple monetization models (see image below), however marketing automation will help you monetize your audience regardless of the model. With marketing automation, you can automate cross-sell, upsell and promotions activities based on user behaviors by defining triggers and workflows — triggers are key events in the customer and business lifecycle and workflows are a series of automated actions that you can trigger to occur based on a person’s behaviors or contact information.

Source: Digital Business Models Map: The Most Popular Digital Business Model Types

Marketing Automation for Referral Marketing

Goal: Encourage existing customers to drive their friends, colleagues, and family members to buy from you.

Positive word-of-mouth can significantly drive your business growth when leveraged through a systematic rewards program for fans, customers, influencers, and affiliates. MA helps you optimizing the user segmentation process and automate the incentivization process via emails, landing pages or chatbots.

Source: Dropbox grew 3900% with a simple referral program. Here’s how!

Are You Ready For Marketing Automation? Interactive Checklist

We have created an interactive checklist to help you find out whether or not marketing automation is a good idea for your business:

Marketing Automation Interactive Checklist

How Marketing Automation Tech Works

“Marketing automation historically has really focused on static experiences while requiring the business to create every unique experience. “ —Jason VandeBoom, Founder and CEO at ActiveCampaign

Nowadays every website collects lots of customer data through user interactions like emails, website visits, app usage, etc. This data is the lifeblood of a business and it is used by marketing automation tools to easily streamline the journey for multiple users providing a unique experience based on their attributes and behaviors. Here’s how marketing automation techs work:

Three functional attributes every marketing automation system should provide :

  • Marketing intelligence: Tracking, experimentation and data segmentation This is an essential function of marketing automation tools. It helps you analyze and understand who your customers are and provides intelligent insights for marketers to improve communications strategy and UX.
  • Marketing automation: Content and Communications personalization —personal and smart touchpoints based on user behaviors and attributes.
  • Advanced workflow automationOrchestrated and repeatable marketing activities—scalable design and delivery of personalized customer journeys.


“Marketing automation” as a concept was first introduced by John D.C. Little in a presentation at UC Berkeley in 2001. The concept initially referred to an automated marketing decision-making process supported on the internet and solving one essential problem: “What do we tell retailer X to do when customer Y arrives on Monday morning?”

He suggested businesses need to analyze the digital footprints of customer Y and use appropriate models to come up with meaningful managerial touchpoints across the whole purchase funnel.

Such an automated marketing decision support promises enhanced productivity, better decision-making, higher returns on marketing investments, and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty through customization of marketing activities.

Industry Overview — Trends and Statistics

Marketing automation has been a growing trend for the last two decades. According to Google Trends, the interest over time around marketing automation has grown exponentially around the world.

Marketing Automation Trends From 2014 to 2020

As Scott Brinker pointed out in his 2019 research on the marketing technology landscape, even though the landscape has grown by double digits year on year it seems like the industry is plateauing as the overall growth for 2019 was 3%.

This isn’t the case for Marketing Automation Platforms, where over the last four years we have seen more and more evolving and tools entering the market (most traditional email marketing platforms now offer marketing automation solutions).


2017 vs 2015 = 42% growth

2019 vs 2017 = 35% growth

Evolution of Marketing Technology

Source: Is martech headed for its “dot-com moment” in 2020?

As shown above, the future of marketing automation looks promising and it is expected to be adopted for more and more businesses as the industry evolves and prices decrease over time. But if you’re not familiar with MA, you might not be convinced that it’s worth your time or money. Here are some interesting stats highlighting the key benefits it offers your business.

The average increase in sales productivity is up to 14.5%, which is a number that speaks about the power of automation.“Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.” Adobe“91% of marketers say that marketing automation is very important to the success of their marketing campaigns.” Instapage“44% of companies that implement marketing automation see a return on investment within six months, and 76% see it within the first year.” Marketo

Case Studies — The Value of Marketing Automation on Small, Medium, and Large Businesses

Some general benefits are obvious in the long run, and these are:

  • Productivity — Productivity is an obvious benefit because the whole point of automating a process is to delegate repetitive tasks to machines.
  • Customer Experience — Customer experience is another positive result of marketing automation, as it is easier to segment customers and send personalized content and communications.
  • Revenue — Revenue represents the ultimate result of an effective marketing automation strategy. With the right revenue insights, your automation software can predict the future increase in sales. With these predictions, you can plan future investments for more effective marketing campaigns.

Here are more specific examples across different types of business and how they are using marketing automation to grow:

Small Business


Platform: Keap

Marketing Activities:

Landing Page OptimisationLead QualificationEmail Marketing


30x lead flow velocity30% closing rate

Medium Size Business


Platform: Autopilothq

Marketing Activities:

Landing Page OptimisationLead QualificationContent MarketingEmail Marketing


Automation marketing journeys for a few different types of usersProductivity Improvements

Large Business


Platform: Hubspot

Marketing Activities:

Landing Page OptimisationLead QualificationContent MarketingEmail Marketing


Website Traffic ImprovementsLead Generation Improvements5% increase in sales after 2 years

Marketing Automation Tools—An Interactive Database

Today, you can find an endless number of marketing automation tools, but there are only a few of them that are reliable according to the users. You will be surprised how a simple platform can dramatically increase your chances to get more customers in the long run. Find out more about the best platforms in this list.

By clicking on the link above you’ll be able to easily filter important attributes for the most popular marketing tools in the world.

Marketing Automation Tools — Interactive Database

Top 3 Performers According to and Capterra

1. Marketo

Target customer: Medium Size Business to enterprise-level in a variety of industries — recommended for companies generating $5000+ MRR.

Product Overview

  • Cloud-basedMarketing Activities include Email Marketing, Lead Management, Consumer Marketing, Account-Based Marketing, and Marketing analytics
  • WYSIWYG editor for email and landing page creation
  • ContentAI add-on application uses AI to recommend content across the web, based on CRM data

2. HubSpot

Target customer: Medium Size Business to enterprise-level in a variety of industries — recommended for companies generating $800+ MRR.

Product overview

  • Free CRM
  • Lead capture, management, scoring, nurturing, analytics, A/B testing, blogging, content management, social monitoring and publishing, email marketing and paid advertising
  • Workflows and Automated Communication Solutions
  • Email tracking from the user’s inbox, notifications when leads view site pages, and in-line information on competitor sites and emails users receive
  • Mobile apps and integration with 100+ apps

3. Mailchimp

Target customer: Mainly SMBs Recommended for businesses generating 0 to 1000 MRR.

Product overview

  • Integration with Ad platforms and Landing Pages
  • Signup forms and basic customer relationship management
  • Automated Workflows — Automated emails based on marketing triggers
  • Testing: Provides A/B and multivariate testing tools to optimize campaigns
  • Advanced Analytics and Segmentation Features


I hope this guide helped you better understand the marketing automation world.

Now I’d like to turn it over to you:

What was your favorite concept or resource from this guide?

Or maybe you have an excellent piece of content that you think I should add.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.


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