How to Transition from Email Marketing to Marketing Automation

How to Transition from Email Marketing to Marketing Automation

Table of Contents

    The Education team previously published a guide to the difference between email marketing and marketing automation, which went into the differences and explained how to determine which will best meet your current and future business needs.

    We put this guide together as a follow-up for those working at the email marketing level and now want to take their marketing to the next level by harnessing the additional benefits of full marketing automation and are now ready to dive deeper into those capabilities.

    Marketing automation provides a lot of flexibility and function, which is why it can also be confusing when you’re trying to get started. This guide will help you navigate through that confusion by presenting a straightforward approach that gets you off to the right start and enables you to continue to get the most out of automation.

    It all comes down to three simple steps:

    1. Document

    Labeled 3x4 cards

    Sit down and document all of your current marketing and sales processes. No process is too big or small. Write it all down. Dedicate some time to step away from your marketing platform(s), grab a notebook, a blackboard, a drawing pad, sticky notes—whatever your preferred brainstorming tools are—and record every single process in place required to convert a prospect to a customer.

    Don’t worry about how it all fits together or what may need to be improved—just get it all recorded so you can see clearly, before you, what all of your processes are.

    We highly recommend purchasing a notebook and making it your “Automation” notebook. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated notebook because you’ll be using it not only in the beginning but throughout your entire journey with automation; as your business grows and your needs change, it’ll come in handy as you brainstorm ways to scale your processes, ways to enhance your automation, and new ideas to experiment with.

    When you’re going through this process, make sure to include all of your contact-facing processes, such as contact forms, lead magnets/gated content, sending your weekly newsletter, and managing unsubscribes.

    It is essential you document all the behind-the-scenes administrative tasks you have in place as well, as these are equally important and might include notifying a sales rep of a hot new lead, applying tags to contacts, collecting contact data, and remembering to respond to a contact’s email. (Think: What are all the tasks a virtual assistant would handle for you?)

    Note: A lot of people don’t realize that automation can be most effective at helping you with all those administrative tasks and running your business as a whole—not only your email communications. But if you’re reading this guide, you already know that! So, this is just a reminder to focus on all aspects of your business as you work through this step. Document it all.

    And don’t worry about getting it all written down in the order in which you employ each process—we’ll focus on that in the next step.

    If you find you’re struggling with this step, don’t worry; this is a skill and takes some time to master. Write down what you can and then move on to the next step as you can always come back to it.

    2. Clarify

    The next step is to make some time to sit down with the company stakeholders or reach out to our CX team. Use this time to help you clarify the sequence of all the tactics you’re employing and exactly where you can bring automation in to see the greatest benefit.

    Plan to come out of this conversation with all your business processes separated into two groups.

    • Customer Journey processes (contact-facing processes)
    • Administrative processes (all the behind-the-scenes processes)
    4x3 card explaining the customer journey

    Examples of Customer Journey processes include site messages, contact forms, lead magnets, weekly newsletter campaigns, personal email sends, and SMS messages.

    Examples of Administrative processes include collecting and organising contact data, identifying hot leads (Lead Scoring), notifying sales reps of hot leads, applying tags to contacts, tracking contact behaviour on your website and identifying where leads come from (Site Tracking) and reminding to follow up with specific contacts/respond to an email.

    3. Build

    Once you’ve finished documenting and clarifying all of your marketing and sales processes, you’re finally ready to go into the platform and build.

    Start with the “Customer Journey”. Begin at the point where a contact is added to your database, and build out all the steps to convert a prospect to a customer in sequence from there. For instance, are you having contacts submit a form? Or are you using a site message on your website asking them to subscribe to your email list?

    Whatever your chosen tactic here, make it your starting point. Then, build out the rest of your steps sequentially, in the order in which they are employed along the customer journey to take a contact from prospect to customer.

    Customer journey and administrative process flow

    It is also an excellent opportunity to use the Split Testing action in an automation. If unsure of the best way to design a process, use an A/B split testing action to determine a winning path.

    Once you’ve completed the customer journey steps, you can move on to building out your administrative steps.


    Transitioning to marketing automation is an ongoing process.

    You will make mistakes and find Automations that need to be improved along the way, and that’s fine! It’s all part of the practice. Continue to document all of your marketing and sales processes, generate new ideas, and make experimental tweaks in our platform to discover the best possible solutions for your business.

    It is essential to iterate continuously and keep an eye on the performance of your automations to make sure that they are performing well.

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