How to Build a Marketing Automation Platform

Rating — 5.0·19 min·October 30, 2023
How to Build a Marketing Automation Platform
How to Build a Marketing Automation Platform
Discover the step-by-step guide to creating a powerful marketing automation platform for streamlining campaigns and boosting customer engagement.
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Key takeaways
  • Marketing automation platforms help businesses handle common tasks such as manually inputting data, managing leads, personalizing campaigns, analyzing data, maintaining consistent communication, budgeting, tracking campaign efficiency, and scaling marketing efforts.
  • Benefits of marketing automation include an enhanced customer experience, optimized work time, data-driven decision-making, effective lead generation and nurturing, budget optimization, extended personalization capabilities, better measurement of crucial metrics, and enhanced coordination among departments.
  • If you plan to integrate a SaaS solution, considering leading products such as Salesforce, Hubspot, and Oracle Eloqua can be beneficial. However, if you want to become a market player yourself, competing with them directly may be challenging. Alternatively, focusing on a specific niche allows you to establish realistic goals and growth prospects.
  • Choosing the right type of marketing automation platform is crucial, as it will determine your project’s functionality, technical capabilities, budget, timeline, and requirements.
  • Developing MarTech software is a comprehensive seven-step process. It includes market research and USP formation, requirements gathering, team setup, design creation, development and testing, deployment, and post-launch support. By following these steps and continuing to improve the finished product according to market conditions and user feedback, you can complete the project on time, optimize your budget, cover user pain points, and meet your business objectives.


In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, marketing automation platforms help businesses streamline their marketing efforts, drive customer engagement, and boost conversions.

You can incorporate marketing automation through ready-made SaaS solutions available on a subscription basis or create tailored software.

Developing your own platform provides the greatest opportunities for customization, total compliance with your business needs, and unlimited scalability.

Building a successful marketing automation platform requires careful planning, strategic implementation, and a deep understanding of customer needs.

In this article, we explore the key steps and best practices necessary to develop a marketing automation platform. From market analysis to post-launch support, we provide you with valuable insights and practical tips to successfully navigate the development process.

What is a marketing automation platform?

As its name suggests, a marketing automation platform is software that automates marketing-related tasks. While different resources give different definitions of marketing automation software, Oracle defines it in the following way:

Marketing automation software streamlines the marketing processes used to support digital marketing campaigns. This can include campaign management, audience segmentation, behavioral analysis, website monitoring, and lead scoring.



How does marketing automation work in practice, and do you need it? To understand this, let’s find out how businesses use marketing automation and what benefits it can give.

Why do businesses need marketing automation solutions?

A marketing automation platform can address several challenges businesses commonly face. Here are some key pain points that a marketing automation platform can solve:

  • Manual and repetitive tasks. Marketing teams often spend significant time on repetitive tasks, such as sending emails and segmenting lists. A marketing automation platform streamlines these tasks, saving time and freeing resources for more strategic initiatives.
  • Inefficient lead management and nurturing. A marketing automation platform supports capturing, tracking, and nurturing leads, allowing businesses to efficiently manage leads, monitor lead activity, segment and personalize communication, and nurture leads with automated workflows. This way, business owners can increase the number of leads and conversions using automation platforms. According to Invesp, 77% of marketing experts saw increased conversions, and 80% claimed the number of leads increased.
  • Lack of personalization. The capabilities of marketing automation platforms include segmenting client audiences, creating targeted campaigns, and personalizing content based on customer preferences, behaviors, and demographics. These capabilities enable businesses to deliver more personalized customer experiences, resulting in higher conversions and repeat sales.
  • Laborious data management and analysis. Managing and making sense of customer data can be overwhelming. A marketing automation platform centralizes customer data, provides analytics and reporting capabilities, and helps businesses gain insights into campaign performance, customer behavior, and return on investment (ROI).
  • Inconsistent communication with customers. A marketing automation platform enables businesses to automate and schedule emails, social media posts, and other marketing touchpoints, ensuring consistent and targeted messaging across channels.
  • Lack of tracking and clear assessment of marketing activities. A marketing automation platform provides tracking mechanisms, allowing businesses to monitor campaign performance, track conversions, and assess the results of specific marketing initiatives.
  • Scalability and growth limitations. Manual marketing processes may become inefficient and difficult to scale as businesses grow. A marketing automation platform offers scalability, allowing business owners to handle an increase in leads and customers while maintaining personalized interactions and delivering consistent experiences.

By solving all these problems, marketing automation software provides multiple benefits for businesses. According to an Ascend2 survey, the core advantages of utilizing marketing automation solutions include:

  • Enhanced customer experience (43% of respondents)
  • Work time optimization (38%)
  • Improved data and decision-making (35%)
  • More effective lead generation and nurturing (34%)
  • Budget optimization (33%)
  • Extended personalization capabilities (24%)
  • Wider opportunities to measure crucial metrics (23%)
  • Enhanced coordination and collaboration of marketing efforts with adjacent departments (21%)

These advantages have made marketing automation popular among enterprises in various industries. A Hubspot report claims that 76% of companies surveyed used marketing automation in 2021.

You may be interested in achieving such benefits too. In this case, it’s worth considering integrating a SaaS marketing automation platform into your business or developing a custom platform. Either way, the first step will be exploring the current market.

What is happening in the MarTech industry?

Before choosing a MarTech SaaS solution or starting custom web app development, you should understand the market you want to enter. Let’s have a look at the state of the marketing automation industry.

Who are the strongest players?

According to Gartner, marketing software can fall into one of four categories based on its vision and ability to compete. Here is how this categorization, also known as a Magic Quadrant, looked in 2021:

magic quadrant

Leaders are top marketing software businesses that have a major market share, get substantial revenue, set market trends, use advanced technologies, etc.

Challengers are direct competitors of leaders, since they have all the potential for growth. However, they are smaller in size and influence.

Visionaries are innovators that target customer pain points at a broad scale. They lack market share and sustainable profit to compete with the strongest market players.

Niche players are businesses that focus on a specific industry.

Here are three companies from the leaders category that you have definitely heard about.

Hubspot is an absolute market leader. It offers a wide range of functionality to streamline marketing processes as well as sales, customer service, and content management.

Salesforce offers a number of products to effectively run businesses in industries including automotive, education, government, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Oracle is another big market player that has solutions for enterprise resource planning, supply chains and manufacturing, customer experience, and human capital management.

All these businesses are established players. They are enterprise-scale companies offering an extensive list of products and services. If you decide to integrate a Saas solution into your business, their products and services are worth considering. But if you plan to enter the MarTech industry with a custom product, it’s unlikely that you can compete with them right away.

In this case, it’s more constructive to consider the two lower sections of the Magic Quadrant: niche players and visionaries. By setting realistic goals, you can build a competitive project and provide it with growth prospects.

You only have to decide which is closer to your original idea: concentrating on a narrow specialization or developing multifunctional marketing automation software focused on customer pain points not covered by other market players. To decide on the type of software product, we suggest you consider the main types, their peculiarities, and functionality.

What are the main types of marketing automation software?

Exploring MarTech automation software types can help you define your business idea if you plan to create a custom product. The type of software also defines your project’s functionality and technical capacities and influences your budget, timeline, and team composition.

Below, we list the most popular types of marketing automation software. You can consider them to choose what type is most suitable for your business idea:

  • CRM platforms like Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Zoho CRM include marketing automation functionality. These tools enable lead management, tracking of customer interactions, and campaign management. They also provide insights for targeted marketing efforts. With a CRM, marketers can work on improving customer satisfaction and increasing customer retention.
  • Email marketing automation platforms like Mailchimp and Brevo (formerly Sendinblue) help streamline marketing efforts by offering email templates, segmentation, personalization, scheduling, and tracking features.
  • Social media marketing platforms include post-scheduling apps like Hootsuite, Buffer, and SocialPilot and help you create and post content on numerous social media channels. Such tools often also have some marketing analytics platform functionality to track the efficiency of SMM campaigns.
  • Digital advertising software offers a number of tools to create and post advertising on different web channels that go far beyond social media. Digital advertising platforms help promote goods and services on news websites, blogs, streaming platforms, etc. Digital advertising software typically enables ad creation, targeting, campaign management, tracking, and reporting.
  • Analytics and reporting platforms like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Kissmetrics, and Mixpanel specialize in collecting and analyzing marketing data from various channels. They provide detailed insights, dashboards, and reporting capabilities to track and measure marketing campaign performance and ROI.
  • All-in-one marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Marketo, and Oracle Eloqua provide a comprehensive suite of marketing automation tools and features. They typically include email marketing, lead generation, CRM integration, SMM platform functionality, analytics, and more, providing a centralized solution for all marketing automation needs.

As you can see, the MarTech industry is quite diverse, so you have options when it comes to building a marketing automation tool. Once you decide on the type of software you want to create, you need more information about its development. Further, we describe a step-by-step process for creating successful software and give tips that can help you save time and money by avoiding widespread mistakes.

How to build a marketing automation platform

No matter what type of marketing automation software you plan to build, you should go through a six-step process that ensures you develop an in-demand and successful product.

Identify a problem and form a USP

We’ve already mentioned that there are thousands of solutions in the MarTech market. In such a rapidly evolving field, your software solution must address customer pain points and stand out from the competition to succeed. To achieve this, you need to go through the following steps:

  1. Research the market. Read reports and publications specific to the marketing automation industry to gain insights into market size, growth projections, trends, and key players. Review reports from Gartner, Forrester Research, and You can also use platforms like Reddit, Quora, and LinkedIn Groups to gather insights, ask questions, and gain a deeper understanding of the MarTech industry. This knowledge will guide you in selecting a niche for your marketing automation platform.
  2. Define your business niche and product type. Identify the specific problem or need your product aims to solve and determine the target market segment that would benefit the most from your solution. For example, your business might focus on providing marketing automation software for small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses.
  3. Evaluate competing products. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What features and practices make them successful? You can apply these insights to your own project. What are they lacking? This can become your potential growth area. Look for products that offer similar features and target a similar audience. Read reviews on the App Store, Quora, or professional forums. Visit competitors’ websites and explore their offerings. Pay attention to the features they provide, the industries they cater to, and their pricing models.
  4. Analyze your target audience. What are the challenges facing your target audience? What are they trying to solve with marketing automation tools? Gain a deep understanding of the businesses or professionals benefiting from your marketing automation platform. Consider company size, industry type, target market, and geographic location. Conduct market research surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gather insights directly from potential users. Use tools like Google Analytics, social media analytics, or CRM data to get information about your target audience’s demographics, behavior, and preferences. All of this will help you create detailed buyer personas — fictional representations of your ideal customers.

Armed with all this useful information, you can solidify your business idea by taking the following steps:

  1. Form a unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP should highlight what sets your solution apart from competitors and why potential clients should choose your product over others. It can be your product’s affordable pricing, innovative tech solution, extended customization capabilities, or dedicated customer support.
  2. Plan your monetization strategy. One way to earn money with your tool is to adopt the software as a service (SaaS) model. With the SaaS business model, customers pay a recurring subscription fee to access your marketing automation software.

Information collected during this stage will serve as the basis for creating your software requirements specification (SRS), which we will consider further.

Gather marketing automation platform requirements

The software requirements specification (SRS) is a detailed document that outlines a software project’s functional and non-functional requirements.

Functional requirements refer to the product’s functionality, and non-functional requirements refer to the product’s performance.

Functional requirements

Let’s explore requirements in more detail, starting with functional. It is impossible to define an exact feature set that is relevant to all software types and business niches. Instead, we offer a list of features common for an all-in-one marketing automation app. Explore them and decide which meet your project’s objectives:

  1. User registration and authentication. Users should be able to create accounts, log in, and manage their authentication details.
  2. Lead management. Provide tools to capture, track, and manage leads throughout their lifecycle, including lead scoring, segmentation, and lead nurturing capabilities.
  3. Campaign automation. Enable the setup and management of automated campaigns, such as drip campaigns, based on triggers and user behavior.
  4. Integration capabilities. Users should be able to integrate with various third-party applications and platforms, such as e-commerce systems, analytics tools, and advertising platforms, to streamline the data flow and enhance marketing operations.
  5. A/B testing. Add tools for conducting split testing of different campaign elements, such as subject lines, email content, or landing page designs, to optimize performance and conversion rates.
  6. Landing page builder. Offer a drag-and-drop interface or template-based tool for creating and optimizing landing pages to drive conversions and capture leads.
  7. Analytics and reporting. Allow marketers to track campaign performance, measure key metrics, and gain insights into audience behavior and engagement.
  8. Workflow automation. Give users the ability to create automated workflows and sequences to streamline marketing processes, trigger actions, and personalize communications.
  9. Payment options. This is relevant for monetizing a SaaS platform. By integrating with third-party services like Stripe or PayPal, you can provide customers with safe and convenient payment functionality.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list. You don’t have to equip your product with only the features specified here, and you don’t have to use all of them at once. The main thing is to focus on your development goals, budget, and timelines and prioritize features thoughtfully.

What is feature prioritization, and why do you need it?

Functional requirements should be elicited and divided into must-have and nice-to-have categories.

Must-have requirements describe functions essential for the product’s proper functioning and meeting users’ basic needs. These functions are prioritized and implemented first, typically within the minimum viable product (MVP).

Nice-to-have features, while beneficial for the software’s performance or the user experience, are not critical for basic functionality and are implemented after the must-have features are released.

What is the point of this?

Implementing all desired features before the market launch requires a larger budget and longer development time. Furthermore, how can you know whether users actually need a particular feature? Is a given feature really necessary and relevant?

Creating an MVP — a viable version of your product with a minimum set of necessary functionality — will help you eliminate this risk. After launching the product on the market, you will already receive the first feedback. This is a great source of information about whether implemented functionality is important and relevant.

mvp benefits

By starting with an MVP, you can launch your product faster, generate initial profit, and attract investor attention. This approach provides a solid foundation for future improvements and better investment prospects. A streamlined startup project is often more attractive to potential investors than a big bulky project with a bunch of unnecessary features.

Non-functional requirements

Non-functional requirements refer to how the product will behave and deliver the specified functionality. These non-functional requirements are crucial for marketing automation platforms:

  1. Performance. The platform should be able to efficiently handle a large volume of data and user interactions, ensuring fast response times and smooth performance.
  2. Scalability. The platform should be able to scale and accommodate an increasing amount of data, an increasing number of users, and greater system demands as the business grows.
  3. Reliability. The platform should be reliable, ensuring high availability and minimal downtime to avoid disruptions in marketing activities.
  4. Security. The platform should have robust security measures to protect sensitive user data, prevent unauthorized access, and ensure compliance with data privacy requirements.
  5. Usability. The platform should have a user-friendly interface and intuitive navigation, allowing users to understand and operate it without extensive training.
  6. Integration. The platform should integrate with other systems and tools used by the business, such as analytics platforms or advertising networks, to streamline data exchange and enhance overall marketing operations.
  7. Support and maintenance. The platform should come with reliable technical support and regular updates to address any issues, provide assistance, and ensure the platform’s optimal performance.

As a product owner, you have a critical role in addressing the requirements of your marketing automation platform. You should review both functional and non-functional requirements and prioritize them based on their importance and their impact on the platform’s overall performance and user experience.

How can you do that? By collaborating with stakeholders.

Stakeholders are people or groups interested in the project’s success. The list of stakeholders can include product owners, project managers, designers, business analysts, developers, quality assurance engineers, and other relevant parties. You may also involve additional specialists depending on the software specifics. For example, you’ll need security and regulatory specialists for e-health projects, as they require strong data protection.

By involving stakeholders in creating your software requirements specification, you ensure that their perspectives, domain knowledge, and specific requirements are considered, resulting in an SRS that accurately reflects the desired functionality, user experience, and business objectives. Additionally, stakeholder involvement fosters collaboration and transparency, leading to better communication and shared understanding.

You can use development consulting to get professional technical and business advice. An experienced team can conduct a discovery phase to help you with analyzing the market, specifying requirements, and planning the overall development process. They can also advise you on quality management practices, budget optimization, gathering your team, and other crucial aspects of marketing automation platform development that we will consider in the following sections.

Set up a team

After you have decided on the requirements, you need to assemble a team to work on them. You have three options:

  1. Hire an in-house team
  2. Work with freelancers
  3. Choose IT outsourcing

When assembling an in-house team, you can fully control the development but have to deal with all organizational issues yourself. Handling matters such as rent and office management and organizing teamwork can take a lot of time and effort. As a result, it may be difficult to focus on more strategic tasks. Another disadvantage of an in-house team is the high price. In addition to spending on office space, business owners often have to pay for insurance, vacations, and downtime when the team has no tasks. You are free from these extra costs when working with freelancers or with outsourcing agencies, as you pay purely for hours worked.

When working with freelancers, you can save a lot because the global talent market is open to you. You can hire professionals from another country where rates are lower. In addition, you don’t have to pay for social packages. However, there are some pitfalls to this cooperation model, such as communication problems and risks associated with reliability. These can result in misunderstandings within a team, delays, overspending, and — in the worst case — a need to restart the development process with other specialists.

Outsourcing may be the best option. This is essentially delegating software development to an existing team. Outsourcing your project to a company that provides MarTech development services implies well-established communication and control over the development process, as you work with an established professional team. On the other hand, you don’t need to handle organizational issues or pay for vacations and insurance, as this is the vendor’s responsibility.

You also get reasonable pricing because of regional economics.

If you choose to work with freelancers or an outsourcing agency, make sure your partner has relevant expertise and offers transparent and clear cooperation terms. You can ensure this by checking a potential partner’s portfolio, previous clients’ reviews, and completed projects.

Design the UI/UX

Once requirements are gathered and prioritized, you can move forward to the design stage.

Design is not just about making your marketing automation platform look attractive. There are specific criteria and guidelines to ensure proper software design quality.

Good software design must meet the requirements of your MarTech app and be user-friendly, intuitive, and responsive. Here are some points to pay attention to when working on your app’s interface:

  • Users should be able to easily navigate through different features and sections of the platform, making it simple to access and manage their marketing campaigns, leads, and automation workflows.
  • The platform’s design should be optimized for various devices and screen sizes. This allows users to access and manage their marketing activities from anywhere, no matter what device is currently within their reach — a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Visualizations and charts can present campaign performance metrics, lead data, and other analytics in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand manner. This helps users quickly grasp key insights and make informed decisions.

By incorporating these design considerations into your marketing automation platform, you can provide users with a visually appealing, user-friendly, and efficient interface that enhances their overall experience and productivity.

Develop and test the product

When the requirements and design are ready, the development phase starts. It includes writing and organizing code, implementing necessary functionality, and integrating the product with external systems.

An important aspect at this stage is the choice of technologies. Here is some helpful advice on choosing the technology stack based on our experience:

Front end

  • Select a frontend framework or library that allows for creating smooth and interactive user interfaces. Popular options include React, Angular, and Vue.js.

Back end

  • Choose a backend technology that can handle large amounts of data and high traffic volumes and that can scale as your user base grows. Consider options like Node.js.
  • Select a backend framework that facilitates building robust APIs and enabling seamless integration with other systems. For Node.js, you can consider using Express.js.


  • Consider the type and volume of data you’ll be dealing with. Relational databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL are suitable for structured data, while non-relational databases like MongoDB are better for handling unstructured or rapidly changing data.

Note that there is no single best technology stack for all MarTech platforms. The choice of technologies is an individual matter. It requires careful study of project objectives, financial capabilities of the owner or investors, calculation of time frames, and many other factors. You can use consulting services from professional teams to form a tech stack that is suitable for your situation.

After identifying development technologies, engineers can start implementing the project according to the plan. But even here, you may face some nuances and pitfalls, such as overspending, delays, and requirement inconsistencies.

There are some best practices that can help you avoid them. These tips will allow you to pass the development stage on time, optimize costs, and get software that meets all requirements:

  1. Choose an appropriate methodology. For projects with clear and fixed requirements, a waterfall methodology with its sequential, step-by-step implementation may be a winning solution. For startups and businesses that value flexibility, it’s better to choose an iterative methodology, such as Agile. The Agile methodology involves dividing the scope of work into milestones, estimating them, and dividing those milestones into sprints. Each sprint passes the planning, implementation, analysis, and bug-fixing stages. A new sprint can start only after the previous sprint is completed. Thus, the product owner can track and adjust the development process at any time. The team can prevent the accumulation of errors and delays because the work process is transparent, clearly estimated, and involves all team members.
  2. Utilize a unified coding style. This includes following guidelines for indentation, naming conventions, comments, and the overall code structure. Establishing a consistent coding style is essential for code readability and maintainability. This way, developers can quickly and efficiently work with coworkers’ code, which increases the overall implementation speed.
  3. Conduct regular code reviews. During the code review process, developers review each other’s code before it gets merged into the main codebase. Code reviews help identify potential bugs, ensure adherence to coding standards, and promote knowledge sharing among team members.
  4. Provide continuous communication. Through regular updates and discussions, you can receive real-time updates on development progress. This helps you stay informed about the project status, identify any bottlenecks or delays, and take timely actions to address them. Close collaboration and timely feedback reduces the risk of rework and helps you avoid unnecessary delays and additional costs. Finally, such an approach gives you greater control over the development process, even from another continent.
  5. Conduct comprehensive testing. To keep issues from accumulating, you should apply testing throughout all development stages, not only after development is completed. Plan the testing process, involve QA engineers in requirement sourcing, and conduct testing iteratively and comprehensively. Adding software testing lifecycle (STLC) elements will be an excellent practice, saving the development team’s time, product owner’s resources, and budget by identifying and resolving issues early on, ensuring the product meets stakeholders’ requirements.

By implementing these recommendations in your development process, you can build a marketing automation platform on time, fit into the budget, comply with all requirements, and move to the deployment stage.

Deploy the software

Now your product is ready for the market launch. When moving it to the working environment, it’s crucial to avoid human error and inconsistencies and to ensure that all development participants are aware of changes. CI/CD tools like Jenkins, GitLab, and GitHub Actions are great for this. They provide automated deployment by integrating code into a shared repository accessible to all team members.

ci/cd tools

Support and scale up your marketing automation platform

Congratulations! Your marketing automation platform is on the market. Now you can start receiving the first customers, user feedback, and, hopefully, revenue. From now on, your main task is to support your software and modify it according to your users’ business needs. When expanding the project or adding new features, rely on the following factors:

  • User feedback. No one will evaluate your product more effectively than your users. Analyze users’ interactions and feedback to understand how users navigate the platform and identify any pain points or areas for improvement. Actively address user-reported bugs to ensure a smooth and error-free experience.
  • Market conditions. This is a decisive factor that’s important for any business, but especially for those in MarTech. It’s vital to follow technological progress and marketing trends and track benchmarks. In this industry, you need to stay up to date and be proactive to maintain a competitive edge — so be on the lookout for innovations and successful experiences of other market players.

Considering all of these factors when modifying and expanding your project, you can maintain your competitiveness and reduce financial risks by only making requested and relevant changes.

In conclusion

Marketing automation platforms are desirable and widely adopted solutions for businesses, as they allow entrepreneurs to enhance the customer experience, optimize resource spending, improve decision-making, and streamline lead management.

You can become part of the marketing automation market by offering businesses a unique and highly specialized service or by providing a better experience than competitors.

To build a MarTech platform from scratch, you should go through a complex development process, that includes choosing a technical partner, methodologies, and quality management practices suitable for your project requirements.

With dedication, strategic planning, and a customer-centric approach, you have the potential to build a successful marketing automation platform.

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