How to Build a Marketing Automation Plan

Plan ImageMarketing automation is not just a new tool you can buy. It’s a new way of marketing, a new mind set, and it requires a fresh look at your operation before you begin. When considering implementing anything as disruptive as marketing automation I’d suggest that you take a good look at your current operation and draft a solid plan. Here are five questions you should answer that will help you have a much smoother implementation.

Step 1: What are your goals?

As any good marketer knows, you always have to start with a goal. Getting into marketing automation is no different. I’ve worked with too many companies who hear “marketing automation” and “300% ROI” and jump right in without defining their goals. They buy a tool first and then ask their provider second about how they can use the tool to accomplish their goals. I beg you, please don’t do this!

Start by getting a grip on your current marketing situation.  Start very high level. What are your goals for marketing? Do you want to generate more leads? Do you use PPC? Do you leverage SEO?

From there, get more granular around techniques and mediums. Outlining your goals will help you to see what your real needs are so that you can pick tools which help you accomplish those goals. Don’t buy a tool because other people use it; buy a tool because it will help you accomplish your goals best. To do this you must know what your goals are before you buy.

Step 2: What are your current processes?

Analyze why you do the things you currently do. You likely have many processes which can be eliminated with new technology. If you recognize why your processes are in place this will help you identify your real needs. If you skip this step you are likely to buy new technology, only to find yourself bogged down by workarounds to maintain your status quo. This would be the equivalent of buying your first car, and building your new car a feed trough because your horse had one.

Knowing why you do things and understanding which processes can be eliminated will help you correctly leverage marketing automation. Otherwise you are likely to spend a lot of money automating horrible work flows.

Step 3: What are your ideas?

Ideas are important at this stage. The first two steps are more about looking at the current state of affairs. This step is all about looking into the future.

What are your plans for the future? What type of goals are you trying to accomplish, and how do you want to accomplish them? What are the crazy ideas you want to try, and how do you plan on marketing in the future?

You should ask yourself these questions while imagining yourself in a perfect world where everything is possible. Write all of these items down and refer to them while you are assessing features of different tools.

Step 4: Forget everything.

This is a very odd thing for someone to tell you, but follow along.  I’ll use ROI as an example.

ROI has been the standard marketing metric for years. We answer to our bosses this number saying how well we did with the money they gave us. It’s that simple. In the new world of marketing automation ROI can’t be calculated for many campaigns, nor should it be.

Before marketing automation you had leads and you had sales-ready leads. It was very hard for you to have any other levels in between because you couldn’t track where they were. We used ROI to track when leads became sales-ready, and used ROI to identify those campaigns. This is an okay way of reporting when you only have two lead stages, leads and sales-ready leads.

Now with behavioral based tracking and lead scoring we can see exactly how close leads are to sales-ready, allowing us to make our marketing more targeted. Now we have campaigns designed to take someone from ‘lead’ to ‘lead stage 1’ and so on. When the immediate goal of a campaign isn’t to end in a purchase but to nurture someone to a new stage, ROI for the campaign is a failed metric. There is no money exchanged when the prospect gets one step closer to sales-ready. But that doesn’t mean the campaign didn’t create value.

When building out your marketing automation plan you need to have a solid idea of how to nurture leads and also how to report on those campaigns.

Step 5: Start Slow.  

This is the best advice I can give you, and I stole it from a Turtle.

In the old story of the rabbit and the turtle we all know that “slow and steady” is the way to go. When building your plan, start slow. Pick your top 3 things that you want to accomplish and work on those. Then slowly work on other items. If you try to redo your whole marketing department all at once, you will end up with a mess, you will lose all of your hair, and you will go crazy. I’d advise against this.

Use these five steps to help you build out your marketing automation plan. I would also suggest reading as much as you can on modern best practices so you can open your eyes to better ways of doing things. Remember marketing automation is not just a tool, it’s an entirely new way of marketing.


Mathew SweezeyAbout the author: Mathew Sweezey is a Marketingspecializes in B2B marketing research with an emphasis on Marketing Automation. He currently speaks on Marketing Automation and has spoken at Salesforce’s Dreamforce, SugarCRM’s User Conference, and also writes for You can follow Mathew on Twitter @msweezey.



  1. says

    Step 4 made me laugh! Forget Everything! One of the things I’ve learned in this brave new world of Modern Marketing (soon to evolve to Modern SMarketing) is that just like the computer programs we work with, one has to Un-Install the OLD program before you can install the NEW one! Thanks for bringing this back to surface – Dahhh!

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