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Automation deep dive: learning how to grow more limbs

Azrin Hamdan Full stack marketer - Automation Deep Dive

Hey👋🏽 this is my first blog post for my newsletter (subscribe here) where I deep dive into marketing topics that I’m learning as part of my journey to be a full-stack marketer. In the first blog post, I’ll be deep-diving into the topic of automation and how it can be used in digital marketing. I’ll cover why I decided to learn about automation, the important takeaways I got from learning about automation, interesting things I managed to do with automation, and automation projects you can try on your own as practice.

Also, one thing to note: when I talk about automation here, it is mainly marketing automation and/or task automation (ala Zapier).

Why learn automation for digital marketing?

Before I start anything, I ask myself why I should learn about automation and how it is useful for me as a full-stack marketer.

Firstly, it saves time. This is very important when I work in small teams or when I’m working on my side projects. I don’t want to burn most of my time on just doing routine work. I would want to do as little repetitive work as possible and focus more on tasks that add value or require a higher level of thinking. It’ll make something that needs to be done by two to three people into something that can be done by a single person.

Next is that I am not a coder or a programmer but I want and like to build stuff. So this is a way to work around it. With tasks automation tools, I can make my own web app or website’s backend run without writing any code.

By using automation, I’ll free up more time and I can build things online.

How can automation be used in Digital Marketing

It can be used for anything that is easy to replicate and can be broken down into simple steps. Anything that does not require a high level of thinking.

I use it mainly for doing repetitive tasks that don’t add much value to my work but are essential. For example, giving daily reports on the performance of a digital marketing campaign. I’m just sending a message or an email to my boss or team about the numbers that I looked up or calculated. And that takes up 10 to 15 minutes of my time every day – that’s 1h15min in a week, 5 hours a month, 60 hours a year. Sure, there is the option of paying someone to do that or do it myself manually, but when I’m tight on budget & time, I can’t do that. And usually, to do simple automation, I can use the free plans. Even if I upgraded the plans, it’s just US$5 to US$25 per month which is much cheaper than hiring a person to do it manually.

Examples of automation that I use for my work:

  • Reporting ad performance to my team and boss
  • Getting Telegram notifications for form submissions
  • Having form submissions update a database

For more examples:

Lesson 1: do it manually to understand the process and pain points before automating it

This is something I overlooked at the start because I thought that I knew how it works in my head and I just needed to set up the automation. But boy I was wrong. I mean, I could set it all up but the first attempt was bad, there were a lot of parts that didn’t work properly and I missed out on some steps. I had to test it a lot of times, find something that I missed, fix it, and test it again. I repeated this cycle again and again.

The next time I did it, I tried doing it manually first until I was sure that I knew all the steps that I needed for the specific process. Only after that, did I start automating it. This saved a lot of painful hours of testing and fixing.

So yeah, lesson 1: first do it manually and then automate it.

Also see: Zapier’s blog post on when to automate

Lesson 2: Picking the right automation tool that can achieve your automation goal

After knowing and understanding the actual processes that I want to automate, the next key lesson that I learned was choosing the right automation tool. There were so many automation tools out there and the main difference would be the tools it could integrate with and the price (which usually gets more expensive when the frequency of automation cycles are higher and the number of processes done).

The most famous automation tool would be Zapier. They are easy to learn and use but are very expensive to scale up. I prefer to use Integromat, the paid plans have more bang for the buck and they are the only automation tool that can integrate with Telegram easily. It even helps you make Telegram bots easily without any coding needed.

If you want to check out Integromat, use my referral code here:

Here’s a comparison list of automation tools:

Lesson 3: test, monitor & adjust

This is the most painful part, testing; monitoring; and adjusting my automation. It is painful to do but very important to keep doing it consistently, especially for very long and complicated processes like the automation I did for Maktaba Books. There’s always some form of error happening.

After doing a bunch of automation, I found that I needed to do three kinds of tests – individual tests of each automated process, system test of all the automated processes together, and real-world test (getting a small group of people to test it in real conditions, not in a controlled environment).

For monitoring the live automation, I did it by spending 30 – 60 mins every 2 days to see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted. Automation tools usually have a notification system that will let you know if something stopped working. You can rely on that but I just wanted to be sure so I checked manually at regular intervals

So always be testing, monitoring, and adjusting.

Lesson 4: get better by automating complicated processes

At this point, I’m already comfortable and familiar with the steps of automating simple processes. The next step I took was to automate a process that was complicated with many moving parts. So I decided to automate one of the processes of my passion project – Maktaba Books’ borrowing process. This involved:

  • Collecting information from a book borrower together with the book that they want to borrow
  • Store the information above in our database, update the book database to change the availability of it
  • Based on the information shared, a message would be sent to the book owner to notify them that someone wants to borrow their book
  • Being the messenger that sends messages between the borrower and the book owner
  • Reminding borrowers of due dates
  • Sending messages to offer book extensions
  • Updating the book database to show the book’s availability when the book is returned

This was very challenging and I took about one to two months to set this up, test it and have it live and running. But it was very satisfying to complete.

Once you’re comfortable, take on big projects.

Automation examples or ideas for you to try and figure out

Description of automationDifficulty
Sending Google Sheet data updates as an email🤖*
Using a Telegram bot to notify updates about Google Sheet changes🤖 🤖
Triggering an email & a message via an app (Telegram, Slack, etc.) whenever a new web form is submitted🤖🤖🤖
Automate the whole backend of a website, like how I did it for Maktaba Books. Message me on Linkedin to find out how🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖
Automation examples or ideas to try out. *🤖 is the rating for how difficult it is to do, more ” 🤖 ” means is is more difficult.

Automation can be a bit tough to learn (much easier than learning how to code) but fun once you know how to and can make your marketing life much much easier. It is very useful knowledge to have as a full-stack marketer. What have you tried to automate? Tell me by messaging me on Linkedin, would love to get more inspirations 🙂

Till next time, selamat (peace out in Malay),
Azrin Hamdan✌🏽

P.S. Next topic, I’ll be focusing on analytics because I feel that I’ve been half-assing it 🍑