Marketing Automation for Agencies: Tools, Strategies, and Tactics

Marketing automation promises to solve all of your boring tasks and grow your business on autopilot.

Like all things that sound too good to be true, it is.

Marketing automation tools amplify the human strategy, effort, and differentiation.

I've used marketing automation tools for years, with my favorite being HubSpot. I now run an SEO and PR agency and use marketing automation tools to help run my agency.

But I'm only using about 10% of their power.


Strategy and timing. I'll get to all of that later in detail below.

To get to the point, marketing automation for agencies can be a powerful way to bake in best practices that run on autopilot, but at the same time there are different approaches and systems that are entirely contextual based on your goals.

Tools like HubSpot and Zapier can automate process you're already doing and have already worked out. But first you need to already do them and work them out.

Don't Buy Marketing Automation Tools Thinking They'll Solve Your Problem for You

I have another confession: I've paid for Zapier for 3+ years and only have a few basic Zaps working. My mistake was thinking that by paying for the tool I'd be incentivized to use it (false).

I thought paying $500+ a month for HubSpot would be enough of a money losing proposition that I would be forced to use it to it's max. Also false.

You need to map out on paper, in your head, with your team the top 5-10 reasons and processes you'll use marketing automation tools for your agency, and then

What I recommend is plotting on a whiteboard, or on Miro, a 2×2 matrix of the highest value tools and the highest cost tools. The upper left quadrant will reveal where the most value is:

Before I went through more of a software culling, you would see a lot more tools in the lower quadrants (and there still are some).

So you want to get the information gathering phase down on paper – what tools are you using, what are you using them for, and in the next phases you'll map out how they'll connect together.

Top 10 Marketing Automation Workflows for Agencies

One of my biggest stumbling blocks is focusing. Knowing what to do, when, prioritizing, and getting things done. I think many agency owners and operators feel similarly scatterbrained in trying to get a lot done while constrained by resources.

In my personal experience and estimation, these are the 5 categories of marketing automation plays that can be useful for a marketing agency. Your may be different, but I found that the categorization approach is helpful:

  1. Critical Simple Operations: Simple operations that are critical: like financial operations and invoicing. Small things that if they fail or are missed can cause big issues. Think of these as the nuts and bolts of your agency – stuff like financial operations and invoicing. They may seem small, but trust me, if these cogs in the wheel aren't turning smoothly, you’re looking at a potential operational nightmare. Nail these basics to avoid those “Oh no!” moments.
  2. Regular Weekly Tasks: Here’s where we tackle the weekly grind. These Zaps are like your digital ninjas, slicing through the routine stuff that eats into your precious time. We're talking a few hours saved every week – that’s a few extra coffees, or, you know, time to brainstorm your next big move.
  3. Weekly Client Interaction: Client communication is the heartbeat of our business, right? These Zaps ensure we’re not just keeping the pulse but setting the rhythm. Each one is a time-saving maestro, giving you back hours every week to focus on keeping clients more than just happy – think ‘over the moon.'
  4. Data-Heavy Repetition: Picture rows upon rows of data in spreadsheets that are valuable on their own and important, but you as a human just aren't going to keep going through, you have your limits. You could use a virtual assistant to get it done, which perhaps you should do first to work out the kinks, but then apply it here with marketing automation to really get a ton of process optimized.
  5. Complex, Periodic Projects: Now, these are the big fish. Projects that are as complex as they are crucial, like that $10,000 proposal that needs a ton of info and brainpower. These Zaps are your secret weapon, potentially shaving off 20 hours on tasks that really test your agency’s mettle. Instead of writing out your workflow in Miro or a whiteboard, this approach bakes it directly into the software like a machine. It also makes it easier to see where the breakdowns are.

So I used a trusty generative AI solution to come up with some ideas that are helpful. I've hand edited and reviewed each of these. I may make further revisions, but look to these as a brainstorm of ideas that you could roll with. When envisioning these, I started from the perspective of using Zapier – mainly because for an entry-level price of $30 a month you can connect many more individual SaaS products that solve individual problems. These concepts can still be applied to multi-use tools like HubSpot, so keep a flexible mind open when thinking about the application.

Auto-Invoice Creation on Milestone Completion

  • Pain: Manually tracking project milestones and generating invoices can be time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Agitation: This inefficiency leads to delayed invoicing, disrupted cash flow, and increased workload for your financial team.
  • Solution: Automate your invoice creation process when project milestones are hit, ensuring timely billing and financial accuracy, freeing your team to focus on more strategic tasks.

Expense Report Integrator

  • Pain: Sorting through numerous expense reports and manually entering data is a tedious and error-prone task.
  • Agitation: This not only drains resources but also increases the risk of financial inaccuracies that could impact your budgeting.
  • Solution: Streamline your expense management by automatically compiling reports in Google Sheets, ensuring accurate and effortless expense tracking.

Client Payment Reminder System

  • Pain: Keeping track of outstanding client payments can be a complex and forgettable task.
  • Agitation: Missed or delayed payment reminders can lead to inconsistent cash flow, affecting your agency's financial stability.
  • Solution: Implement an automated payment reminder system to ensure timely follow-ups, improving cash flow consistency and financial health.

Invoice Status Tracker

  • Pain: Monitoring the status of numerous invoices across different projects is a challenging and time-consuming process.
  • Agitation: Without a clear system, you risk losing track of unpaid invoices, leading to cash flow disruptions and added stress.
  • Solution: Utilize an automated invoice tracking system to maintain a clear view of all invoice statuses, ensuring you never miss a payment.

Weekly Task Digest Compiler

  • Pain: Managing and communicating weekly tasks for a team often leads to confusion and missed deadlines.
  • Agitation: This disorganization can result in inefficient work, frustrated team members, and dissatisfied clients.
  • Solution: Automate your weekly task compilation and distribution, ensuring every team member is on the same page, boosting efficiency and morale.

SEO Performance Alert System

  • Pain: Keeping up with the constant flux of SEO metrics can be overwhelming and time-intensive.
  • Agitation: Failing to stay updated on these metrics could mean missed opportunities for optimization and client engagement.
  • Solution: Set up an automated SEO performance alert system, keeping your team proactive and ahead in the dynamic world of SEO.

Client Communication Consolidator

  • Pain: Manually tracking and managing client communications across various platforms is inefficient and prone to errors.
  • Agitation: This can lead to missed messages, delayed responses, and ultimately, dissatisfied clients.
  • Solution: Centralize and streamline client communications with an automated system, enhancing responsiveness and client satisfaction.

Project Update Automator

  • Pain: Regularly updating clients on project progress is crucial but can be time-consuming and repetitive.
  • Agitation: Inconsistent updates can lead to client uncertainty and dissatisfaction, impacting long-term relationships.
  • Solution: Implement an automated project update system, ensuring clients receive timely and consistent information, boosting trust and satisfaction.

Data-Entry Automation for PPC Campaigns

  • Pain: Manual data entry for PPC campaigns is tedious and prone to human error.
  • Agitation: Incorrect data can lead to misguided strategies and wasted ad spend, impacting campaign effectiveness.
  • Solution: Automate your PPC data entry, ensuring accuracy and allowing your team to focus on strategy and optimization.

Content Performance Tracker

  • Pain: Manually tracking content performance across different platforms is time-consuming and often inaccurate.
  • Agitation: This inefficiency hampers your ability to quickly adapt strategies based on content performance insights.
  • Solution: Automate content performance tracking to gain accurate, real-time insights, empowering your team to make data-driven decisions.

Comprehensive Monthly Proposal Generator

  • Pain: Creating detailed monthly proposals is a complex and time-consuming task.
  • Agitation: The extensive effort required often diverts resources from other high-impact activities, limiting your agency's growth potential.
  • Solution: Streamline proposal creation with an automated system, saving time and allowing your team to focus on securing new business opportunities.

Client Onboarding Sequence

  • Pain: Manually coordinating client onboarding processes can be chaotic and inconsistent.
  • Agitation: This inconsistency can lead to a poor first impression and potential loss of client trust right at the start.
  • Solution: Automate your client onboarding sequence for a smooth, standardized experience, setting a positive tone for future interactions.

The Top 2 In Each Category:

Simple Operations: Financial Operations and Invoicing

  1. Auto-Invoice Creation on Milestone Completion
    • For: Financial Managers, Accountants
    • Hours Saved: 3-5/week
    • Software: Project Management (Asana), CRM (Salesforce), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Automatically generates invoices when project milestones are hit in Asana, updates Salesforce for payment tracking, and logs details in Google Sheets.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines billing process, ensuring consistent cash flow – vital for operational scalability and taking on larger projects.
  2. Expense Report Integrator
    • For: Financial Teams
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Email Tool (ActiveCampaign), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Consolidates expense reports received via ActiveCampaign, organizes them in Google Sheets for approval and processing.
    • Scaling Impact: Optimizes expense tracking, reducing financial discrepancies and aiding in budget management for growth.

Common Weekly Operations

  1. Weekly Task Digest Compiler
    • For: Project Managers, Team Leads
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Project Management (Monday), Email Tool (ActiveCampaign)
    • Jobs: Generates weekly task summaries from, disseminates via ActiveCampaign, enhancing team coordination.
    • Scaling Impact: Improves team efficiency and project management, critical for handling increased workloads during scaling.
  2. SEO Performance Alert System
    • For: SEO Specialists
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: SEO Tool (SEMrush), Email Tool (MailChimp)
    • Jobs: Sends automated performance alerts from SEMrush to stakeholders via MailChimp, highlighting key SEO metrics.
    • Scaling Impact: Enables proactive SEO adjustments, vital for maintaining online presence and client satisfaction during growth phases.

Weekly Client Services & Communications

  1. Client Communication Consolidator
    • For: Client Service Managers, Account Executives
    • Hours Saved: 3-4/week
    • Software: CRM (HubSpot), Email Tool (MailChimp)
    • Jobs: Aggregates updates and communications from HubSpot, dispatches consolidated messages to clients via MailChimp.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines client interactions, enhancing relationship management and retention – key in expanding client base.
  2. Project Update Automator
    • For: Client Relationship Managers
    • Hours Saved: 2-4/week
    • Software: Project Management (ClickUp), CRM (HubSpot)
    • Jobs: Auto-generates project status updates from ClickUp, updates client records in HubSpot, ensuring seamless communication.
    • Scaling Impact: Maintains high-quality client service and transparency, crucial for client trust and agency reputation as it grows.

Repetitive, Data-Heavy Projects

  1. Data-Entry Automation for PPC Campaigns
    • For: PPC Specialists
    • Hours Saved: 4-6/week
    • Software: PPC Tool (Spyfu), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Auto-imports PPC campaign data from Spyfu into Google Sheets, facilitating analysis and reporting.
    • Scaling Impact: Reduces manual data handling, allowing more focus on strategic campaign management and scaling PPC services.
  2. Content Performance Tracker
    • For: Content Managers, SEO Specialists
    • Hours Saved: 3-5/week
    • Software: Website CMS (WordPress), SEO Tool (Ahrefs), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Tracks content performance metrics from WordPress and Ahrefs, consolidates data in Google Sheets for analysis.
    • Scaling Impact: Informs content strategy, essential for driving traffic and engagement, pivotal in scaling content marketing efforts.

Complex, Multi-Step Projects

  1. Comprehensive Monthly Proposal Generator
    • For: Business Development, Sales Teams
    • Hours Saved: 15-20/month
    • Software: CRM (Salesforce), Project Management (Asana), Google Suite (Docs)
    • Jobs: Gathers client and project data from Salesforce and Asana, creates detailed proposals in Google Docs.
    • Scaling Impact: Automates time-intensive proposal creation, enabling focus on high-value opportunities and strategic client acquisition.
  2. Client Onboarding Sequence
    • For: Account Managers, Onboarding Specialists
    • Hours Saved: 10-15/month
    • Software: CRM (HubSpot), Email Tool (ActiveCampaign), Project Management (ClickUp)
    • Jobs: Orchestrates a seamless onboarding experience by integrating client data from HubSpot into ClickUp tasks and ActiveCampaign communication sequences.
    • Scaling Impact: Enhances client experience from the outset, laying the groundwork for long-term relationships and agency growth.

3 More in Each Category:

Ok, let's build on those, with 3 more in each category.

Simple Operations: Financial Operations and Invoicing

  1. Recurring Expense Tracker
    • For: Accountants, Office Managers
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Google Suite (Sheets), Email Tool (ActiveCampaign)
    • Jobs: Tracks and records recurring expenses from email receipts into a Google Sheet, aiding in budget management.
    • Scaling Impact: Efficient tracking of recurring expenses aids in financial forecasting, crucial for strategic planning and scaling.
  2. Client Payment Reminder System
    • For: Financial Managers, Client Service Managers
    • Hours Saved: 1-2/week
    • Software: CRM (HubSpot), Email Tool (MailChimp)
    • Jobs: Sends automated payment reminders to clients from HubSpot through MailChimp, ensuring timely receivables.
    • Scaling Impact: Improves cash flow consistency, fundamental for maintaining operational stability during growth phases.
  3. Invoice Status Tracker
    • For: Accountants, Project Managers
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Project Management (Asana), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Monitors invoice statuses in Asana and updates a centralized tracker in Google Sheets for easy reference.
    • Scaling Impact: Keeps financial tracking transparent and accessible, aiding in quick decision-making and operational agility.

Common Weekly Operations

  1. Client Feedback Aggregator
    • For: Account Managers, Client Service Teams
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Email Tool (ActiveCampaign), CRM (Salesforce)
    • Jobs: Collects client feedback from emails and updates Salesforce records, facilitating responsive service improvements.
    • Scaling Impact: Enables quick adaptation to client needs, fostering satisfaction and loyalty, which are critical for agency growth.
  2. Team Availability Scheduler
    • For: HR Managers, Team Leads
    • Hours Saved: 1-2/week
    • Software: Project Management (ClickUp), Google Suite (Calendar)
    • Jobs: Syncs team availability from ClickUp into Google Calendar, streamlining meeting and project scheduling.
    • Scaling Impact: Efficient scheduling ensures optimal resource allocation, essential for handling an increasing workload.
  3. Content Calendar Sync
    • For: Content Managers, Social Media Teams
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Website CMS (WordPress), Project Management (Monday)
    • Jobs: Updates the content calendar in based on WordPress publishing schedules, ensuring alignment.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines content deployment, critical for maintaining a consistent online presence during expansion.

Weekly Client Services & Communications

  1. Project Milestone Client Notifier
    • For: Project Managers, Client Relations
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: Project Management (Asana), Email Tool (HubSpot)
    • Jobs: Automatically notifies clients of project milestones achieved via HubSpot, enhancing transparency.
    • Scaling Impact: Builds client trust and satisfaction, key for nurturing long-term relationships and referrals.
  2. Client Account Health Monitor
    • For: Account Executives, Client Service Managers
    • Hours Saved: 3-4/week
    • Software: CRM (Salesforce), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Tracks client interaction and satisfaction metrics from Salesforce, compiles them in Google Sheets for analysis.
    • Scaling Impact: Provides insights into client relationships, aiding in proactive management and retention strategies.
  3. Automated Client Onboarding Email Series
    • For: Onboarding Specialists, Client Service Teams
    • Hours Saved: 2-3/week
    • Software: CRM (HubSpot), Email Tool (MailChimp)
    • Jobs: Initiates a series of onboarding emails to new clients from HubSpot via MailChimp, ensuring a smooth start.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines the onboarding process, setting a positive tone for new client relationships, vital for agency growth.

Repetitive, Data-Heavy Projects

  1. Social Media Performance Tracker
    • For: Social Media Managers, Marketing Analysts
    • Hours Saved: 3-5/week
    • Software: Design Tool (Canva), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Compiles performance data of social media posts designed in Canva and logs them in Google Sheets for analysis.
    • Scaling Impact: Enables data-driven social media strategies, essential for engaging larger audiences effectively.
  2. Keyword Research Compiler
    • For: SEO Specialists, Content Strategists
    • Hours Saved: 4-6/week
    • Software: SEO Tool (Ahrefs), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Aggregates keyword research data from Ahrefs into Google Sheets, simplifying content planning.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines SEO efforts, a cornerstone for increasing web visibility and attracting more clients.
  3. Automated Client Reporting System
    • For: Account Managers, Analytics Teams
    • Hours Saved: 5-7/week
    • Software: CRM (Salesforce), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Generates custom reports for clients from Salesforce data, automatically compiled in Google Sheets.
    • Scaling Impact: Enhances client reporting efficiency, vital for maintaining high service standards during rapid growth.

Complex, Multi-Step Projects

  1. Full-Scale Campaign Planner
    • For: Marketing Strategists, Campaign Managers
    • Hours Saved: 10-15/month
    • Software: Project Management (Monday), CRM (HubSpot), Google Suite (Docs)
    • Jobs: Coordinates campaign planning across Monday, integrates client insights from HubSpot, and documents strategies in Google Docs.
    • Scaling Impact: Facilitates comprehensive campaign planning, essential for executing high-impact marketing strategies.
  2. Integrated Marketing Proposal Builder
    • For: Sales Teams, Marketing Executives
    • Hours Saved: 20-25/month
    • Software: CRM (Salesforce), Project Management (Asana), Email Tool (ActiveCampaign)
    • Jobs: Assembles detailed marketing proposals by collating data from Salesforce and Asana, and sends drafts via ActiveCampaign for review.
    • Scaling Impact: Streamlines the creation of complex proposals, enabling the pursuit of larger, more lucrative contracts.
  3. Annual Client Review Compiler
    • For: Account Executives, Client Service Managers
    • Hours Saved: 15-20/month
    • Software: CRM (HubSpot), Project Management (ClickUp), Google Suite (Sheets)
    • Jobs: Gathers comprehensive client interaction and performance data over the year, compiles it in Google Sheets for annual reviews.
    • Scaling Impact: Provides valuable insights for annual client strategy meetings, strengthening relationships and fostering retention.

Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by Joe

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