9 Steps for a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy

Marketing automation has the potential to boost your brand awareness and help your business build new relationships. But only if it’s done right. Here’s how.

Written by Erik Michal
Published on Jan. 24, 2024
9 Steps for a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Thanks to marketing automation, the days of manually writing your company’s next ad and hitting “send” are a thing of the past. Software has turned email marketing and other ad blasts into highly coordinated, fine-tuned work, unleashed to the public on a tight schedule.

If you’re a large, consumer-facing company with a multi-million dollar advertising budget, you probably utilize a well-oiled automated marketing campaign (or several). For newer companies looking to build out their automated marketing efforts, or for organizations looking to start over after a false start, begin by targeting a specific area of opportunity.

9 Steps to Build a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy

  1. Define your opportunity.
  2. Determine your goal.
  3. Define your audience.
  4. Nail down your channels.
  5. Identify your data needs.
  6. Plan your data and communication framework.
  7. Build your communication collateral and framework.
  8. Test your automation.
  9. Launch, monitor and continuously improve.

Companies large and small are leveraging automated marketing campaigns to boost brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers and deliver more relevant information. Those systems weren’t built overnight. Start with getting specific about your opportunities.


9 Steps for a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy

Follow these nine steps to build a successful marketing automation approach.


1.  Define Your Opportunity

Start by looking at your current business environment and identifying areas for improvement. This means examining your typical buyer’s journey and looking for these things:

  • Where buyers might be falling out of the sales funnel.
  • Where a lot of manual updates are happening.
  • Where there might be a disconnect between the information customers need and the information they’re getting.
  • Where there might be holes in your data pipeline. For example, is subscriber data easily accessible?

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2. Determine Your Goal

Once you’ve identified an area of need, set a specific goal for your automated marketing campaign. Besides being required for an automation workflow, a goal is how you will measure the campaign’s success. Keep in mind, you can always move your goalposts when you have more data. 

Choose a specific, measurable goal. For example, “Increase web traffic, sales conversions or subscriber engagement by x percent.” 


3. Define Your Audience

Clearly defining your audience helps you understand what channels are needed to build an automated campaign. 

What segments can you create to help you better target and serve your audience? Do you offer different promotions based on location? Are you targeting specific age groups with specific products? Do you reach out to recent conference participants? Are new product campaigns targeting your most engaged subscribers?


4. Nail Down Your Channels

Channels are where you hold your data, as well as where you execute your messaging. Your websites, apps, social media, and messaging platforms (email, SMS and push notifications) are all examples of channels you can leverage when executing marketing automation.

The goal of this step is to determine where your target audience is consuming content, then zero in on what marketing will be most effective. Use demographic information about a channel’s users to inform your messaging. How frequently should you provide new content? What channel do specific groups, such as age, interest group or product/service type group, most engage with? Where does each channel fit in your customer journey? Be mindful of how your customer data should flow through each channel.


5. Identify Your Data Needs

Now that the basics of your automation have been defined, it’s time to answer the big question: Where is the data?

Answering this may take some time. Once you identify what data you need, you might find the data doesn’t currently live where your marketing automation platform can access it. As a result, an important part of this step involves figuring out how to get that data where it needs to be in order to be used by the automation.


6. Plan Your Data and Communication Framework

This step involves building out a data visualization to show the flow of the data triggers and communication collateral involved in the automation. This is helpful as a planning step to make sure everything is properly articulated for the build, but it also serves as a documentation step for the sake of stakeholders. Seeing a visualization of the automation will help it come to life.

Data is complicated and often troublesome for marketing teams. A bad data pipeline can absolutely cripple a marketing team. Be sure to give your data pipeline ample consideration before implementing.


7. Build Your Communication Collateral and Framework

This is where it gets fun! Now that you’ve laid out a detailed plan and identified and located the data, it’s time to build out the automation. The build-out includes connecting data streams, creating the triggers, and crafting communication collateral such as emails, SMS messages, postcards and PDFs.

Be mindful of where you can pull existing assets, like email templates, landing page templates and existing data flows. Use existing resources to scale your communications efficiently. While content should be consistently changed or refreshed, you shouldn’t be re-inventing the wheel each time.


8. Test Your Automation

With your automation built, run test subjects through the entire automation workflow to make sure data is being managed the way you expect and the automation process is triggered appropriately. 

Pay careful attention to how splits and segments operate. Use a variety of contacts and contact properties to test every facet of your automation.

Test your emails thoroughly. Emails can react very differently in each inbox. It’s imperative to create a consistent experience for users of every email application.

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9. Launch, Monitor and Continuously Improve

It’s launch day. Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off with an actual automated marketing campaign you can be proud of.

Celebrate, but don’t stop here. One benefit to automated marketing is that, if you’ve built it to track the correct analytics, you can monitor its success and make adjustments as needed.

Keep your goals from Step 2 close. They will allow you to measure your success going forward. Goals and expectations may shift over time, but it’s important to give your campaigns several weeks to bring in enough data to operate with.

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