Listen to Justin MacDonald’s appearance on the ActiveCampaign podcast.

“The only real shortcut is to do it right the first time.”
After an early career as an English teacher and football coach, Justin MacDonald became a marketing automation wizard. His company, SixthDivision, shows small businesses how they can use automation to save time – even if they’ve been burned before.
His approach in a word? Clarity.
In small business, there’s always more to do. There are a million things you could be doing – that isn’t the challenge.
The challenge is finding the time to do the work that makes a difference.
That’s why Justin focuses on clarity. Automation can do a lot. What should you be using it for?

“Automation done right makes you profit – automation done wrong makes you tired.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “We need a landing page for this. Let’s do a landing page.”
  • “I can’t get this webinar launched. The tech is overwhelming me.”
  • “We should hire someone from Odesk or Upwork to figure this out for us. Once I get this technology set up, everything will just work.”

Justin sees these kinds of comments every day – but they’re traps.
Instead of asking how to set up a webinar or a landing page, Justin argues that you should take a step back. Zoom out, and look at all the processes of your business.
It’s easy to learn one strategy and think “THIS IS IT! It will work for everything.”
It’s easy to lose the forest and focus on the trees.

Yellow Forest Trees “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

Looking at the big picture gives you clarity.
And when you finally have clarity, you can:

  1. Fully understand your strategy
  2. Make every action you take more productive
  3. Create a better experience for your customers
  4. Keep customers around for longer
  5. Grow your business (without growing your headache)

That’s why “know where you’re going” is one of SixthDivision’s core values.
Sixth Division Core Values

When you can see where you’re going, it’s easier to get there (there’s even psychology research on how goals affect performance).

Brian Tracy, a well-known productivity author, has listed his three keys to high achievement: clarity, clarity, and clarity.
How do you get clarity? Ask:

  • What do you want to be doing? As Justin says, “You can do anything you want in your business. You just can’t do everything you want in your business right now.”
  • What are the growth constraints of your business? Where are your limiting factors?

Once you have clarity, how do you automate?

“At any given time, the input that is most important to a system is the one that is most limiting.” – Donella Meadows

You probably don’t feel like you have enough time. Because no one does.
For most businesses, that’s the limit to your system. When you’re fighting with the tech to run a webinar, you’re stealing time from other parts of your business – but what if there was something else you could automate to win that time back?

“Well, instead of figuring out and trying to brute force through how to get this webinar launched, is there another place in your business you could automate? That could save you or someone on your team a tremendous amount of time really quickly.”

At a small business, you wear a lot of hats – it’s a never-ending state of “figuring things out.” But if you can automate big chunks of your business, you can free up enough time to make “figuring things out” less overwhelming.
How do you know what to automate? Look for:

  • Tasks that take up most of your time
  • Tasks that you find yourself repeating often

How do people like you use automation in their businesses?

1. Save time by talking to the people most likely to buy

Not everyone wants to buy from you. But when someone submits a contact form or wants to schedule a meeting, you still need to take time out of your day to talk to them.
Maybe.
What if, instead, you could automatically qualify those leads? If you could identify which people are likely to waste your time (through automation), you could free up a ton of time to spend on everything else.

When you can clear out “zombie” leads, you free up a ton of time

When people fill out your contact form or subscribe to your email list, trigger an automation to qualify them.


Heather Read used an automation like this one to save 10 hours every week. Read her story here.
When you can spend your time talking to just the people who are most interested, you’ll have way more time to figure out that webinar.

2. Manage your team’s workflow with automation

How can you keep track of everything that everyone needs to do?
Automation can help make sure work gets done on time (without needing to send countless follow-up emails).


Automations like this one make sure that each team member has all the information they need to get work done.
Instead of constantly managing assignments, let automation take care of it. Repetitive tasks are a great opportunity to automate.

Start with clarity

“To ultimately not to set it and forget it, but to enhance and expand the, ultimately, the experience that we as business people, that we can create for our customers, our clients, our leads and our prospects and the fact that you guys think that way, you understand that, your technology understands that is what’s most exciting for us because that’s where the power of marketing automation really comes in.”

When you start with clarity, you don’t need to worry about “figuring out the tech.” The question changes from “What should I use this for” to “How do I solve this problem.”
Technology can be tricky for small businesses. In an ActiveCampaign guest blog, Justin laid out his 6 laws of implementation:

  1. Always wear glasses. Keep everything in focus, clarify your vision.
  2. You’re not the plumber. Specify your role in the process – don’t try to do everything.
  3. You’re not a snake. Don’t swallow things whole – break them into digestible pieces. This makes them easier to understand (and to fix when they go wrong)
  4. You cannot implement a strategy. Create an executable blueprint instead.
  5. Ninjas don’t start as ninjas. Things take time. Prioritize, organize, optimize, customize.
  6. The map appears when the car is in motion. You never have all the information you need before you start. Iterate. Refine. Repeat.