Marketing automation for startups: how to do better with the right tools

If there’s one image that comes to my mind when I think of startups, it’s the meme of the dog sitting at the burning bar seemingly in peace while his eyes reflect panic, saying to himself: “This is fine”.

Startups do require the mental strength of this doggo.

As organizations, startups are typically chaotic. Creativity is your primary resource, you’re still experimenting and trying to adopt the lean approach, and you’re constantly tweaking your messaging and wearing god knows how many hats. Maybe you’re chasing funding or you want to make it on your own as a bootstrapped company. 

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TL;DR: Startups can be chaotic and that’s where innovation comes from. However, the struggle to do so much can become a real bottleneck and hinder your growth. That’s where marketing automation for startups can help. There are affordable or even free tools for email marketing, social media, paid ads, content creation, and more.

Whatever the case may be, marketing and sales activities are the ones that actually move the needle when it comes to growth. Alas, due to the lack of time and operational tasks that cannot be avoided, they don’t get enough done. 

That’s where marketing automation for startups comes to the scene. In this article, I want you to understand what are some of the best tools for marketing automation and how you too can work smarter, not harder to push your organization forward.

If incorporating video into your marketing mix seems untenable, let me correct you. Plainly is a video automation tool that allows startups to render 1000s of videos on autopilot for a really affordable monthly price. Book a 15-min demo with me today, I’ll show you how it works.

Why you need marketing automation for your startup

So you’re a startup founder. Congratulations! You’re one of 305 million startups that operate around the globe. Actually, that’s how many startups are founded each year. There is a high mortality rate among young companies and the reasons for that are various. Maybe they don’t have a product-market fit, maybe their business plan is off, or maybe their team is not competent enough to fight the competition. 

But I’m not here to scare you, just merely to adjust your rose-tinted glasses in case you happen to be wearing a pair. If you’ve taken a more realistic position, then you already know what I’m talking about.

Startup founders are in the position to achieve what the majority feels is impossible. Guided by the entrepreneurial spirit, this is what usually makes them so persistent, enthusiastic, passionate, and even stubborn about succeeding. 

Every startup has to follow a certain blueprint which consists of many different activities: building a business canvas, mapping the buyer journey and different touchpoints, coming up with the positioning statement, researching the competition, launching and maintaining the reputation of your brand… The list goes on. 

After the groundwork is done, you can start actually marketing your business, forming your sales strategy, and building your customer base from the ground up (some would even argue that this should be started before the product is created). The main question is: can you do it better with or without marketing tools? 

The answer is quite obvious. But you’re not just looking for normal marketing tools, because they require a lot of work. You’re looking for marketing automation tools that will take the work off your plate.

If you want to embrace marketing automation for startups, you have to be willing to allocate some budget for the tools, but you also need to keep in mind that it’s an investment that pays off long-term and helps your team do their best work.

Thinking about marketing tools for your startup from the standpoint of your buyer journey

The way your buyer journey will look depends on many factors:

  • Are you a B2B or B2C startup?
  • How many marketing channels are you currently focusing on?
  • What type of product or service are you selling?
  • Are you selling to a local or international customer base?
  • What’s your starting capital, i.e. how much can you invest in advertising?

Putting all of that aside, you can say that there are phases of the buyer journey that all prospects go through:

Awareness stage > Consideration stage > Purchase phase > Customer loyalty > Advocacy
buyer journey

Increasing brand awareness is crucial for every startup that’s new on the market. Awareness stage is the first stage of the funnel, and you need to maximize the number of people which know about your brand. People need to know you exist in order to establish any type of connection with your brand and then consider buying your product or hiring you for your services.

That brings us to the consideration stage where the prospect recognized the need for your offer but is still in the process of evaluating other solutions or maybe they are not fully convinced. The purchase phase is when they finally decide to become your customer, but that’s not the end of it.

This is where you need to focus on retention and encouraging recommendations from your customers (usually through referral programs or outstanding customer service).

So, what does this have to do with the tools for marketing automation? When you automate parts of every single part of the buyer journey, you can expect to have more time for strategizing your next big step as an organization and do the work that’s necessary such as financial projections or your growth plan.

Best tools for marketing automation according to stages in your buyer journey

Let’s be clear: you can use different marketing tools within all stages of your buyer journey. But what I wanted to do is to create a more helpful article that will give you an idea of the activities you can do throughout each stage of the buyer journey, and also the tools you can use to achieve this automatically.

I haven’t included tools that cost almost $2000 per month because, realistically, you’re a startup that’s just getting started. If you did, however, receive loads of cash through funding and you do have $2k/month to spend - your investors will surely appreciate you being scrappy.

Below you can see different categories/channels and examples of tools and their utility. I’ll explain everything in more detail in the next segment of this article and provide concrete recommendations for tools you can use.

1. Email marketing automation

AwarenessConsiderationPurchaseLoyaltyAdvocacyEmail marketingWhen a new prospect signs up for your newsletter, the tool automatically triggers an email welcome sequence.If a prospect downloads your ebook on how to choose the best X solution, they will automatically receive the asset and you can continue with lead nurturing. Once you segment your audience within the tool, you can assess the readiness to buy and have the email marketing tool serve relevant content or special offers.Segment your email list to prospects and customers. Automatically serve educational content to your customer so that they know how to maximize the use of your tool/service.To customers who’ve been with you for a while, you can automatically send offers to join a referral or partnership program.

When it comes to the best tools for email marketing automation, I would stick with the following two (pricing linked):

  • MailChimp: you can use it for free as long as you don’t cross the limit of monthly emails sent or the number of subscribers 
  • MailerLite: similar pricing model, there’s a limit of 1000 subscribers and 12,000 monthly emails you can send

2. Social media marketing automation

AwarenessConsiderationPurchaseLoyaltyAdvocacySocial mediaFocus on social media platforms where your audience actually hangs out online and let the tool automatically post pre-scheduled posts that will establish a connection with them.Create a social media calendar that will resonate with people who are already aware of your startup. Let the social media marketing automation tool post on certain dates while you’re doing something else important for the business.Create visuals and special offers that your social media tool will automatically post on certain dates. Pay attention to significant holidays (e.g. Valentine’s Day, if it’s relevant for your business) and plan ahead.Schedule posts using your social media automation tool to showcase your customer stories and emphasize the success they achieved while relying on your solution.Share customer testimonials on a regular basis. Determine which day it will be, prepare posts in advance, and let the scheduling tool do the rest.

When it comes to the best tools for social media marketing automation, I would stick with the following two (pricing linked):

  • Buffer: With Buffer, you get basic publishing tools and a landing page builder for up to three channels, completely for free
  • Planable: Planable has a solid free plan, depending on how many posts you want to publish per month

3. Paid ads automation

AwarenessConsiderationPurchaseLoyaltyAdvocacyPaid adsFocus on high intent keywords that a potential customer would search for.Promote articles that are based on “X vs. Y” narrative or explain in great detail why you’re a good alternative to some other solution on the market.Use stronger language, social proof, customer testimonials, and quantify your business success to “push” your prospects towards purchase.Increase your customer retention by promotion your best practice pages or product-led content to help them get the most out of your solution.Design ads that get automatically served to customer segments and invite them to vouch for your solution and spread the word for a certain incentive.

When it comes to the best tools for paid ads automation, I would stick with the following two (pricing linked):

  • Optmyzer: Optmyzer has a Campaign Automator™ that helps you automate inventory campaigns for search and display 
  • Adalysis: Adalysis allows you to reach target audiences with relevant, automated campaigns

Want to learn more about AI-generated ads? We got you covered.

4. Thinking about automating mundane tasks

There’s one thing that I necessarily have to mention when talking about marketing automation for startups and that’s integrations. Creating integration between your tools, that will move data between them and automate lead management, customer communications, analytics…etc will remove a lot of mundane manual work from your marketing & sales team.

Using a tool like Zapier or Make is a must if you want to increase the productivity of your team and do the work of 100 people with a fraction of that. These tools have integrations with thousands of other tools, and they allow you to create connections and move data between your favorite tools without any code.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, but as soon as you get used to these tools you will be amazed by the amount of work you can do automatically. You can even take the Zapier quiz to discover which areas of the business should you automate.

5. Content automation

When it comes to content automation, I have to make sure that we’re on the same page. When people say “content”, they automatically think of AI copywriting software, but content is much more than that. Automatic content creation means automating text, images, and video and it can save up to 85% of your time, according to our calculations.

Content can be successfully used across all stages of the buyer journey and it depends on your content strategy and how you will engage your audience at every single phase. This is why in this section, I want to focus more on content formats and how you can automate them and use them in the previous three channels I’ve mentioned.

I’ve already mentioned AI copywriting software, but there are also image-creation tools like Bannerbear which can help you create great designs automatically.

But what about video automation software? You can actually automate video creation. Yes, you can automate the creation of the most powerful medium ever. That’s what Plainly does.

Plainly can be used for turning blog posts into videos automatically, personalizing videos in emails, personalizing user experiences, and much more. You can find a video idea for pretty much every stage of the buyer journey, and if you have 100s of leads coming in weekly you can’ realistically expect to create a video for each one. That’s why a video automation tool like Plainly should be in your marketing automation toolkit.

Did you know? Video automation translates to business value and can help you decrease your CPC on social media platforms. Discover more in our case study.

Ready to take content automation to the next level?

I hope this article was useful to you even if it means you just understood what opportunities for automation for your startup exist. Your budget will play a big role in how quickly you’ll be able to scale your operations, but take one step at a time.

I know first-hand how stressful it can be building a startup, you have to do so many things and there’s a limited amount of hours in a day. That’s why the idea behind this blog post was to give you a high-level overview of the activities you can automate and save time.

Pretty much each of these channels requires content and in my opinion, video is the future and presence of marketing. It’s very hard to make though, and especially if you want to personalize it and create it at scale. That’s why i built Plainly, to help startup founders like you.

Care to join other successful startups that have been using Plainly to automate their video creation? Let me show you how it works: book a 15-min demo with me.

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