Demystifying the Marketing Automation Fad



What is it about today’s fad phrases that infuriate those of us exposed to this constant stream of marketing chatter?

Content marketing.

Growth hacking.


Marketing automation.

Surely THIS ONE will set to vaporize like a basketball size chunk of meteor falling into Earth’s atmosphere.

I get the feeling many genuine marketers shake their collective fists at these catchy —  yet marketable — phrases in distaste. Mainly because buzzwords get tossed around the boardroom as the “next best thing” hoping they could be applied as quickly as it takes to sign-up for it’s respective SaaS offering.

I’d like to spend some time discussing marketing automation as it relates to our favorite publishing platform and review some of the real-world examples my team and I have recently worked on.

Marketing automation 101


What is marketing automation exactly? It can be offered in many shapes and sizes, but here’s a common adaptation:

Customer visits the website > customer opts into a lead generation form > marketing automation platform automates a new action in the form of:

  • A Newsletter subscription
  • Customer is profiled and stored into a database
  • Their e-mail is placed in a drip or follow-up series
  • A cookie is placed on their PC to re-target across the web
  • Future newsletter blasts are imminent

You may have even experienced this yourself. Perhaps this scenario looks familiar after you joined your favorite brand’s newsletter:

You browse the website and hop onto their free newsletter to keep up with regular clearance sales announcements. You’re a curious bunny, aren’t you?

One day you receive an e-mail for 15% off! Huzzah, it’s time to save! Dashing over as fast as you can say “shopping cart” you add your favorite items until you realize — maybe it’s not a good idea to spend $300 on new sweaters right now. Bad bunny.

You exit the screen saving your credit card from the icy grips of debt. Back to Facebook you go. Wait, what’s this — an ad for the sweaters I JUST looked at…this time for 20% off…oh the sorcery! But how did they know?! The bunny is now hunted.

You don’t take the bait. I’ll sleep on it, you think. Good bunny. The next day you wake up with an e-mail calling you, Hey did you forget something? If so, here’s 35% off! The hunter has caught the bunny. But these sweaters are great, aren’t they?

A lot of automation triggers fired in that scenario and surely there will be more to come. The point is, it’s all around us and it’s getting smarter (and easier) for marketers to use. But don’t become jaded, this is going to take some time to setup and become Jedi-like at.

Winning with a marketing automation platform takes time

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.43.33 PM

Think about how long it might take you to select a WordPress theme for your business. Even then, when you do settle down on your favorite, there’s always going to be some tweaks needed to be worked on. It seems that a theme never hits on 100% of your requirements and that’s similar for many of the marketing platforms available to us.

For instance, Salesforce, arguably the largest and most complex, is just that — large and complex. Then there’s smaller, albeit still relatively large, players like Infusionsoft. I remember using their software 5 years ago and it was horrible. Today, I have a few colleagues that swear by it because it does everything from list-building to e-commerce. But that sounds scary to me. I want something that just does the automation part great.

There are “web services” that you, sort of, hodgepodge together. Zapier is one that comes to mind. You can trigger actions across multiple apps/platforms across the web. That’s not to say that it’s a bad choice, just not one fitting for the corporate board room looking to streamline their marketing efforts.

I use a platform called Drip which is largely focused on e-mail drip marketing & automation. Their widgets work great across my many WordPress sites and there’s even a connection for Easy Digital Downloads if that’s your thing. If you’re looking to build a drip series of e-mail courses with a flare for marketing automation, try Drip.

At the end of day, I want you to put in your due diligence to selecting the platform that’s right for you.

So why the sour taste?

So why do we often acquire a sour taste for these fad-like and over-hyped terms?

Because connecting the dots and properly planning takes time and money.  All the while many home-grown marketers throw these terms around as fleet footed decisions that are “sure to get you results tomorrow.”

How I spent $5 on Facebook ads and made $10,000! comes to mind.

Hell, as easy as Drip is, it still took me hours if not days to figure out how best to use it and I’m still not using all of it’s power! Like everything else, you need to have a proper goal in mind and like everything else in life and business —  start small.

Much like when we rally behind WordPress as the solution for everything web, it’s still just a tool that needs to be used properly for best results.

It’s one thing to setup an automation series of follow up e-mails, it’s another to craft one that converts and keeps your customer engaged. That’s what generally rubs my so-called “genuine marketer” the wrong way. Much like when we rally behind WordPress as the solution for everything web, it’s still just a tool that needs to be used properly for best results.

Marketing automation and WordPress

I’m old enough to remember when all you had to do was setup a blog to attract an audience. Marketer’s made it sound so easy, that you would think you didn’t even had to publish a post! Just the act of setting up a blog alone brought you traffic and endless amounts of money.

Then things got harder. You had to actually write content. Not good content, but any content topped with some “target keywords” and you had yourself a sure-fire winning recipe. Sadly that ended too.

Fast forward a good 6 years then flip the SEO industry on it’s head (thanks Google) and here we are today, looking to find that same buzz-worthy dopamine rush. Sorry marketing automation, that’s going to be you.

Automation is the glue for our publishing efforts


The way I see it, automation is tying your reader/customer/visitor to another piece of content or offering somewhere across your website.

Once you have someone opted into a funnel, you can cross-promote and keep the eyeballs on the content that’s most valuable to you and your audience.

Tying it all together to work well within WordPress should be left to someone that can find synergy between the two. Someone who understands how to navigate and work within the corporate website content and traverse the interface of your chosen automation product. I know what you’re thinking, “Duh, that’s easy” but it’s not when you’re dealing with sourcing this to new staff, clients, or a trainee. That or you simply don’t have all the tie in the world to set it up.

The best way to get started

As I mentioned before, start small.

  1. Brainstorm content topics that you can shape and mold into some series of attractive content. For example, we produce a free series called The Perfect WordPress Website Course over at Slocum Themes. We leverage our experience with WordPress and teach other’s how to setup and install a great business website.
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed with content creation that is going to be hard to write or difficult for your audience to consume. Staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page is stressful enough, start by writing how-to guides or introductory topics that relate to your business.
  3. Have an end goal in mind not just from a motivational standpoint, but because marketing automation platforms literally need a goal! So you might offer a discount code or use the end of funnel goal to move your customer to a new newsletter list.

Once you start sinking your teeth into rolling your automation efforts, you’ll quickly see that you can get lost with all of the possibilities.

What plugins and services are best for me?

I’ll recommend a few methods to get started and I’ve also mentioned a few services above as well. I plan on reviewing a few services in the future, so stay tuned or subscribe to my newsletter to get that content.


Automation needs to start somewhere and OptinMonster is a largely popular pop-up plugin that can do that for you. I use on the Matt Report and it integrates with Drip as well.


Drip will most likely be the first service I review because I know it and trust it the most. It doesn’t require a plugin to run, you can just use a code snippet, and the overall process is fairly painless. They have their own pop-up and hover over effects as well if you don’t want to run a secondary like OptinMonster.

Paid Memberships Pro

A membership plugin probably doesn’t make sense here, but they do have their own content drip-feed add-on that might work well for your scenario.


MailChimp is constantly improving their suite of automation options. You’ll have to be on a premium plan, but it’s well worth it if your goals end in some revenue.


I met the founder of Orbtr at WordCamp Chicago a few years back and it looked really interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited it, but it seems to be the most native WordPress experience for automation.


This plugin/service just keeps getting better and better. I wrote a review a while back and it’s high-time I do another. A lot has changed since then and their team is crushing it. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Will Marketing Automation work for you?

I hope this primer into the basic concepts and my real-world experiences help shape your outlook on the idea of marketing automation.

I write this not scare you or to sell you on a particular platform, but to jolt you into readiness like a trainer might to an athlete. I remember my very first stint with Drip, I signed up and didn’t have any content ready. I paid for 2 months of service and didn’t send a single e-mail.

My fault, yes, but I was getting caught up in the hype of just needing the tool to get me to the next level. Well, I had the tool, but I wasn’t properly wielding it. After taking some time off to plan and prepare a solid course, I went back much more confidently and connected the platform to my website and sales cycle.

So will it work for you?

I’m in awe of all of the data we can collect and move around the various funnels. Data is great, but it still needs some solid creativity and promotional know-how to see the ROI. Take my advice on starting small, get your small victory and press on to bigger and better campaigns. Let us know how it goes!

What plugins or services are you using for automation in your business? Let us know in the comments below and if you liked this post consider joining our little newsletter.


2 responses to “Demystifying the Marketing Automation Fad”

  1. I’ve been using OptinMonster (to gather leads) and Emma to create the funnels and campaigns. It has been a LOT of work and trial and error.

    A great service would be to provide example text from the ESPs to help us with our first drip campaign.

    1. Hi John,

      I’ve heard that Emma has come a long way since their early days, nice to hear that you’re using it. I totally agree though, that’s the biggest roadblock in all of this, getting the initial drip content right from the get go. It’s overwhelming for sure.

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