How to Transition from Email Marketing to Marketing Automation

How to Transition from Email Marketing to Marketing Automation

Table of Contents

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

    This guide is a follow-up for those who have been working at the email marketing level, but see the 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 without the proper guidance.

    This guide will help you navigate through that confusion by presenting an easy approach that gets you off to the right start and helps you continue to get the most out of automation.

    It all comes down to three simple steps:

    1. Document

    51t4bujv7 step1 document

    Document all of your current marketing and sales processes. No process is too big or small. Write it all down. Take 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 thinking through it all, include all of your contact-facing processes, such as contact forms, lead magnets/gated content, sending your weekly newsletter, and managing unsubscribes.

    But don’t forget to write down all of the behind-the-scenes, administrative tasks you have in place as well—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 your virtual assistant handles 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 really struggling with this step, not to worry either. Go ahead and jump to the next.

    2. Clarify

    It’s time to set up a one-on-one with an ActiveCampaign Customer Success representative. Use this time to help you gain clarity on 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 of your business processes separated into two groups

    • Customer Journey processes (contact-facing processes)
    • Administrative processes (all the behind-the-scenes processes)
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    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 collect and organize contact data, identify hot leads (Lead Scoring), notify sales rep of hot leads, apply tags to contacts, track contact behavior on website and identify where leads come from (Site Tracking), and remind to follow up with certain 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” processes. Begin at the point where a contact is generated in your database, and build out all the processes in place 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 processes sequentially, in the order in which they are employed along the customer journey to take a contact from prospect to customer.

    x8cl3xpch customer journey

    If you like, this is also a great opportunity to take advantage of the Split Testing action in an automation. If you’re 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 tasks, you can move on to building out your administrative tasks.

    Additional resources to help you along the way:

    • Drop into an Office Hours session to learn in a question-and-answer format alongside other ActiveCampaign users. Director of Education Chris Davis hosts Office Hours every Tuesday at 10AM CST and Friday at 1PM CST.
    • Attend an upcoming Customer Success webinar, held every Wednesday at 11AM CST. The popular “Getting Started with ActiveCampaign” webinar also runs every Tuesday at 2PM CST and Thursday at 10AM CST.
    • Plus, Professional and Enterprise-level ActiveCampaign users have monthly one-on-one sessions with a Success team member built into their plans. A great use of these sessions would be to dedicate that individualized time to building out your processes in the platform.


    Keep in mind that the transition to marketing automation is an ongoing process. If you expect to build it out in a week and be done, you’ll find there’s a bit more to it than that.

    You will make mistakes and find things that need to be refined 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.

    What has your experience been with transitioning to marketing automation? What additional tips do you have for users looking to start the transition?

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