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2 Automation Tools That Won't Break The Bank (and How To Use Them)

By Jonathon OatesComments

2 Automation Tools That Won't Break the Bank (and How to Use Them)

Marketing automation, when implemented properly, has the power to increase leads by 451% (HubSpot) and boost sales by 34% (Pardot).

Which is why I was surprised — no, shocked — to read that 85% of B2B marketers said they were not using their marketing automation software to its full potential (SiriusDecisions, 2014).

But I guess no-one ever speaks about just how effing time consuming all this automation actually is! To upskill teams, set up and integrate the software and create the content — the fuel — that the engine runs on.

And if your email software sits in one platform and landing pages in another, it can quickly become more difficult as you battle to tie more tools together.

Do-it-all marketing platforms like HubSpot (we’re a partner), Pardot, Marketo, et al, make much of this automation relatively easy to roll out and report on. But all start at various price points that many businesses can’t, or just won’t swallow. Which I can completely understand.

Smaller toolsets like MailChimp for email and Leadpages for (you guessed it) landing pages often integrate well with one another out of the box. But it’s very difficult — nigh on impossible — to create a complete marketing funnel with native integrations alone.

Surely there are other ways to connect the plethora of tools at our disposal?

Introducing IFTTT

IFTTT — which simply stands for “if this, then that” say that ‘Recipes on IFTTT are the easy way to automate your world.’ And they’re right.

While arguably more geared to productivity and collaboration tools (and some sweet home automation products too), IFTTT is the simplest way to tie two pieces of software together — what IFTTT calls a ‘recipe’. One pulls the trigger, and the other completes the action.

For each ‘this’ there are usually several triggers that can start the ball rolling. WordPress (the popular blogging platform) can trigger an action each time you publish a new post — or when you publish a post with a specific tag or category, for example.

Actions — the ‘that’ — usually have a few options too. Twitter, for example, can post a new Tweet when you publish to your WordPress blog, and optionally attach an image too.

If this, then what?

Let’s look at a few popular tools and platforms I’ve seen many marketers using already.

And if IFTTT just doesn’t sound enough for you, scroll down now to discover the power of Zapier ;-)

  1. Using Trello to manage your projects and teams? Do you have recurring tasks your team need to complete each day or week such as scheduling social media posts or pulling off reports?

    IFTTT Recipe: Automatically schedule daily or weekly recurring Trello cards connects date-time to trello

    IFTTT can automagically create new Trello cards to a schedule you set. You could even go one further and create a recipe to add events to your Google Calendar when those new Trello cards are created.

  2. Talking of Google Calendar, there’s a plethora of tools that can trigger an action in Google Apps (think Drive, Docs and Sheets too). Like automatically adding Tweets with a conference hashtag to a Google Sheet, and saving links to speaker decks for reference later!

    IFTTT Recipe: When a specific hashtag is used on Twitter add the Tweet to a Google spreadsheet connects twitter to google-drive

  3. IFTTT plays nice with all of the popular blogging platforms too. While on the move you could compose a draft post and email it to Blogger, Medium, WordPress and more, ready for publishing later.

    IFTTT Recipe: Create a Medium draft from your email connects email to medium

  4. If you regularly share the same information with your team members, it’s a snap to set up recipes that integrate with your communication tools like Slack, Skype, and Cisco Spark (to name a few).

    IFTTT Recipe: Automatically share your MailChimp campaign performance summary to a Slack channel  connects mailchimp to slack

    You might share your MailChimp campaign summary or completed Trello tasks via a channel over Slack. IFTTT can automate it all.

While great for simple one step integrations, IFTTT is becoming increasingly geared towards the Internet of Things — think home automation and personal productivity — and is limited in that it only two tools can be tied together in one recipe.

More often than not, marketers — especially in bigger businesses — need more sophisticated tools under their belt to really leverage the power of automation. And at scale.

Marketers, meet Zapier.


Zapier is almost entirely oriented towards business applications, integrating 31 CRM systems, 28 project management tools, 26 form and survey apps, 12 payment processors, eight accounting tools and seven e-commerce platforms.

In total, Zapier can knit together more than 500 business oriented apps — and even proprietary integrations and APIs — in sophisticated, multi-step workflows. It’s a smart, scalable alternative to fully fledged marketing automation platforms.

And (good news!) its pricing is more affordable too.

KISSmetrics’ Story

KISSmetrics, the makers of a popular analytics app that ties the data you’re collecting to real people landing on your website, increased their landing page conversion rate by a colossal 1,000% using Zapier’s tools.

Using Zapier, they connected GoToWebinar to Unbounce, sending all new registrants via Unbounce to GoToWebinar's registration list. Doing so increased their sign-up conversion rates 40—80 percent, an enormous 1,000%+ conversion bump when compared to their use of the standard GoToWebinar page.

SitePoint’s Story

SitePoint is an online resource for designers and developers with a demanding editorial calendar and world wide readership.

Not wanting to upset the balance of the editorial team’s workflow, by shoehorning new tools with native integrations into daily use, SitePoint used Zapier to tie their existing tools together.

Knitting tools like Trello, Formstack, Google Drive, Buffer and Campaign Monitor together, SitePoint built a process that would unite the team, win back hours in the day, and ensure they continued to publish content in the right place, at the right time.

Zap-appy Automation


Let's work through a few steps of the marketing funnel, and discover how tying multiple tools and platforms together can make you a more efficient marketer, reduce stress and (hopefully) improve your success!

Building your email list

As KISSmetrics’ story highlighted, using the right tools for the job can really make a difference to your marketing success.

While GoToWebinar has its own landing (or registration) page tools, a dedicated platform — in this case Unbounce — did a much (much!) better job at converting visitors and increasing sign ups.

There is an evident benefit to using the best suited tools for the job. So you would probably want to put your email list into a platform like MailChimp, ready to send your leads follow up messages.

These are just two examples of tapping into the strengths of individual platforms, and integrating them to improve your marketing performance. But now you have an email list, how can you nurture these contacts and convert them into leads?

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Create and nurture leads following events

While Zapier might not share all the abilities of complex marketing automation platforms when it comes to email workflows, setting up a simple series of messages is a snap — or should I say Zap?

Zapier can integrate with all the big players in marketing automation. So a contact captured in a Google Sheet at an event or tradeshow can be easily pushed into a HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo email workflow, for example.

But as I have already mentioned above, we don’t always have those expensive automation platforms to play with. Equally, Zapier can send a series of emails (even from your Gmail account!) when the aforementioned just aren’t available.

Pigeonhole the people who share your content

Again, all-singing social media tools like HubSpot’s social monitoring, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite make managing lists of your brand's’ advocates and influencers a simple effort.

François Mathieu from Uberflip shared a hack: you can use Zapier to search for mentions of your brand on social media and build a list in Google Sheets of every Tweet that mentions your brand or matches links pointing to your content.

The output is a spreadsheet of social influencers who have liked, shared, and linked to your brand, ripe for reaching out to with future content!

Twitter lead-gen cards and autoresponders

Promoting your latest premium offer on Twitter? Lead-gen Cards can capture contacts’ data from right in the user’s timeline in exchange for your content — similar to the way landing pages work. But the bar to entry is often perceived to be lower, as the are no form fields to fill out.

Contact data can be pulled right out of Twitter and pushed, well, — with Zapier — anywhere.

When contacts are added into your MailChimp list, for example, you can set up a simple ‘thank you’ email linking to your next premium offer to pull the contact further down the marketing funnel.

Create an email draft following a form submission

Marketing automation tools make follow up messages a simple task. But what if you want to add a personal touch to your emails?

Twitter lead-gen Cards or form submissions can easily create pre-populated drafts in Gmail using Zapier. You have the combination of an automagically composed draft ready and waiting to be sent, and the opportunity to add a personal note — helping foster your relationship with the recipient.

Put the process first.

Shoehorning in cool tools and tricks can disrupt an already semi-slick workflow. And with the hundreds (and growing) of integrations available, your marketing automation efforts could quickly descend into chaos!

Instead, start with the process. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How should people move seamlessly through your own marketing funnel?

Start with the small problems — the annoying niggles rather than colossal nightmares — and find the right tools for the job first. Once you’ve tried, tested and solved the problem, move onto next. You’d be mad to try and automate everything at once!

Perhaps by automating how new contacts are followed up first. And once you’ve cracked that, start looking at how you can pull leads through to the next step in the marketing funnel.

From personal productivity, to enterprise-grade marketing efforts, automation should make your life easier! I would love to hear your marketing automation hacks, and how they’re working out!

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