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Marketing automation specialist or strategist?

Henrik Becker

Certified HubSpot and SalesForce Expert

Hendrik helps B2B companies nail their positioning and messaging​,​ making sales and marketing much more effective. In addition​,​ I help them convert more leads into customers through marketing automation.

8 min read

written by

Henrik Becker

Certified HubSpot and SalesForce Expert

Henrik Becker | B2B SaaS Marketing

Marketing automation specialist or strategist: who do you really need? If you’re looking to get serious with marketing automation, it’s quite likely you’re currently looking for someone to help you implement the software.

Looking for a marketing automation specialist?

“We just need someone to set this up for us” is a phrase I often hear clients say.

They’ve looked into marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo. They’re excited, they can see these platforms will help them generate more leads, better leads and boost their marketing efforts overall.

Or so they think.

The problem is that this “just set it up” approach almost never leads to results.

Even with a decade of experience in marketing automation under my belt, I still often felt I was crazy for, well, not loving it whenever I heard a client say this. But for years, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

But I did see this: whenever I was talking to a potential client about marketing automation, and they said “we just need someone to set this up”… they wouldn’t hire me.

And you know what? I’ve come to realize that’s a good thing. Because a company that is just starting with marketing automation and starts with hiring a marketing automation specialist is putting the horse behind the cart.

This desire for a “handyman” is now a legitimate red flag for me.

“We need someone to set this up” is a total ringer for a company that doesn’t understand marketing, hasn’t done their due diligence and just wants a quick fix.

(Did I offend any of you? There are exceptions to this rule, but they are slim, as we’ll see.)

The problem with hiring a marketing automation specialist

You see, you can’t automate what isn’t there.

Nine times out of ten, a company interested is marketing automation is looking for a solution, because what they’re doing right now isn’t working.

They’re running ads without much results. They’re sharing content and aren’t getting engagement. Lead flow is too low in general. Sales isn’t closing enough deals.

Here’s the thing: none of these problems exist because of a lack of using marketing automation software. These problems exist because, usually, there isn’t have a vision, a strategy or a set of established processes.

Marketing automation is about strategy, first

I wrote this article two years ago on and it remains as relevant today, as it was then.

Marketing automation will allow you to automate existing processes. If there are no processes, there’s nothing to automate. To put it bluntly: if your current marketing is crap, you will be automating crap.

And that is exactly what I see with company after company that tries to implement marketing automation.

If you can’t close customers now, you won’t close customers then.

I’ve known this, subconsciously, for years now. I’ve seen this pattern repeated countless times. Marketing isn’t leading to results -> let’s hire a specialist to set up this expensive platform -> no results -> “marketing automation doesn’t work!”.

It does work. But it only works when:

  1. You have a clear vision for your company, product and goals.
  2. You have a clearly defined ideal customer profile, including a solid understanding of their situation, challenges and needs.
  3. You already know how to get leads using “WordPress & MailChimp”, which means: your messaging is good enough to attract people without fancy tricks.

Don’t get me wrong here: you will improve all of these things with consistent, automated conversations. But, again, you can’t automate conversations if you’ve never had them in the first place.

Marketing automating is about scaling up your ability to have (digital) conversations. It’s about increasing your bandwidth of what’s already there.

But guess what? If your product sucks, if it’s not relevant to the market, you can throw a million bucks at Marketo and still get squat for it.

Don’t hire a marketing automation specialist: hire a marketing automation strategist

So, from here on there’s two options:

  1. If your marketing isn’t getting results, go back to your vision, strategy, messaging and processes. Do not attempt to automate crap.
  2. If you have nailed your messaging and you are getting leads – by all means, go to town on marketing automation.

Option 1: go back to the drawing board

This is the reason clients were rejecting me, even when I clearly had the chops to help them out. It’s because I told them: you aren’t ready for this. You need to spend time and money on figuring out how to attract customers in the first place.

If that’s where you are, here’s what you need to do:

1: Go back to your Vision.

There is a reason this is the first of the Six Components™ of EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System®. There is also a reason that, besides consulting in the marketing automation space, I help companies implement EOS®. It’s because they lack vision and strategy and therefore the entire company suffers.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of this company? Why does it have any right to exist at all?
  • What are your Core Values? What makes you, you?
  • Who is your ideal customer? What are their problems? How do you solve them? What’s unique about you and your solution?

(Tip: interview your 20 best customers. Ask them the #1 reason they keep paying the invoices. Also ask them what they #1 problem you solve for them is.

Then take those two points and put them in front of prospects you would love to have as customers. Yes, just ask for a phone call, or buy them a coffee. Don’t sell them anything, just say you want to see what you’re offering makes sense at all.

You’d be surprised).

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s no wonder you’re not doing well. You don’t even know why anyone should buy from you – how can you expect your customers to?

2: Develop a strategy for attracting customers

Going back to your existing customers, take a look at how you got those. Why did they buy from you? How did they find you? How long did that take? What could you have done to make that process easier or faster?

I find that most companies never ask themselves these questions. Marketers, to be sure, are great at “just doing stuff”. They create content and post it. They run ads. They blast emails.

Why? Well, because… that’s what you do, right?

Nope. You take what works and you try to replicate the success. And if you don’t have success, you try something new.

It’s not rocket science. It’s psychology. Figuring out what makes your customers tick. Why they should ever even give two sh*ts about what you’re offering.

Generally speaking, I advise clients to do two things:

  1. Start creating a real brand. That means you need that awesome messaging and relevancy. It also means finding a brand voice and consistent visual branding in ways that fits your customer. Start sharing content, have your best people on podcasts, LinkedIn and guest posts.

    Share your knowledge, show people you give a crap and don’t be cheesy. This is not an overnight strategy, but it works. Don’t worry too much about measuring results here – it’s largely intangible. You could, potentially, create content offers and email funnels here – but make them informative. Don’t sell!
  2. Create a funnel to catch folks that have buying intent. You don’t want to start the nurtures with case studies and benefits until someone is well on their way to feeling like your solution is a good fit for them. But you do need to sell! Just don’t do it too early. Create that brand, create attention, and only when a hand is raised do you switch to the conversion-focused stuff.

“But don’t I need marketing automation software for some of this?” Sure, that will help, but if you know your customers a weekly blast from MailChimp will do more good than any fancy nurture flow.

But yes… offering content, sending some informative follow-up emails, tracking intent. You can do all of that using ActiveCampaign, which starts at $50 a month.

Once you start nailing this at the small level, you can always move to Pardot or HubSpot.

3: Document & Iterate what you’re doing

Now make sure that you document what you’ve been doing.

Interviewing customers? Make a document and write down who you’ve talked to, what you asked, their answers and your learnings.

Start posting regularly on LinkedIn? Document who, what and when.

Offering content? Document why you made it, where it’s located and what happens to whomever reads it.

Running ads? To whom, when, what’s the messaging.


Notice how we’re still not at marketing automation software? Unless you decided to start emailing (in which document when, to whom and what you’re sending) or built a basic follow-up sequence (which you documented, right?).

Make sure you start meeting weekly with your team to discuss what you’re doing and what’s working (and what isn’t).

And when it is working, try to figure out why. Replicate it. Show you can get people in front of your sales team with basic marketing tools at your disposal.

And then, with all that in place…

Now you can hire a marketing automation specialist

Once you have all that figured out, only then can you start implementing the processes on a larger scale.

Now you know what works. Now you know how you do things.

Now you can create a briefing, telling a marketing automation specialist what workflows to build and what to send to whom and when.

Now, my young apprentice… you are ready.

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written by

Henrik Becker

Certified HubSpot and SalesForce Expert

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