The difference between email marketing and marketing automation can seem muddled. Heck, I even get confused when trying to explain it sometimes due to its intertwined nature.
Yet as you plan out and decide what strategies make more sense for your marketing initiatives, the difference between the two couldn’t be more important.
The point of this article is to describe marketing automation and email marketing more in-depth, as well as provide some additional insights and scenarios in which one strategy might be more effective than the other.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is the technology that allows businesses to streamline certain tasks across multiple channels such as email, social media, web (display advertising), and text.
For example, I have an unhealthy Amazon Prime obsession. Whenever I order something from Amazon, I receive an automated email letting me know my order has been placed, and to make any changes to the shipment if need be. Once the order ships, I receive an additional email letting me know that my package is on the way with a link to track the shipment.
On the day that my package is being delivered, I get another email with the approximate time of delivery. A few days later, the seller will reach out and ask how the product is holding up and (sometimes) offering some sort of incentive for leaving a review, and asking if I have any questions. What Amazon then does is show display ads with relevant products (think, you bought x, you might be interested in y).
This sort of lifecycle marketing and customer communications would not be possible at scale without the power of marketing automation.
Marketing automation can therefore be an extremely important tool due to its ability to track individual user behaviour while at the same time providing personalized content to improve the overall customers experience. This is especially paramount when trying to measure certain things like return on investment.
Some other things marketing automation can do is helping different teams drive and nurture leads, improve customer engagement, and increase overall productivity – all while reducing certain marketing-related costs.
When does marketing automation make sense?
Marketing automation is going to make sense for most digital marketers at some point in their marketing strategy. Some popular marketing automation companies include HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot, IBM Watson and Marketo.
Marketing automation might be best for an organization if:
There is a more extended buying cycle that requires increasingly complex lead tracking and scoring
The inbound marketing strategy can provide targeted and relevant content to different buyer personas and segments
There are numerous product offerings that provide an integrated or stand-alone solution to prospects’ business challenges
But there’s one thing to keep in mind if you’re serious about marketing automation: the price point.
Businesses would be hard pressed to find a quality marketing automation platform with all the bells and whistles for under $1000. Believe it or not, some larger companies pay as much as six figures a year for marketing automation!
What is email marketing?
Email marketing covers a much narrower scope than marketing automation, and can be defined as a stand-alone digital marketing channel that engages with mass audiences via email campaigns.
Some examples of email marketing include: eBlasts, monthly newsletters, seasonal promotions, re-engagement campaigns – and the list goes on.
Email marketing can be its own separate entity, or it can sit underneath a much larger marketing automation strategy (which is why the two strategies can be easily confused sometimes). There is a good chance that if you’re a digital marketer, email marketing is included in some form in your overall marketing strategy.
It is, after all, the most effective form of digital marketing boasting an incredible ROI of 1:44. Email marketing can therefore be a comprehensive solution for many businesses across industries. For example:
With simpler sales cycle that only requires a few touchpoints before conversion
When resources are limited, and purchasing software is a difficult process
When a content marketing strategy is limited and unable provide personalized content experiences (based on personas and product offerings)
Although email marketing is often a less expensive option as far as software and platforms go, it is good to know that only doing email marketing without automation can be a bit more strenuous when it comes to things like uploading, scheduling and creating content.
And that is why marketing automation and email marketing can work so well together!
By using automation strategies within an email marketing strategy, it allows companies to streamline welcome and nurture series without having to complete manual tasks like scheduling email sends and uploading contacts lists.
Deciding on the right marketing strategy is likely going to consist of aspects of both marketing automation and email marketing. And by knowing the difference between the two, allows companies to make more informed decisions about the right fit and which channel(s) to focus on.
Regardless of what solution fits best, there are many benefits to automating portions of your email program. Imagine marketing automation working for you so you could take a longer holiday. Wouldn’t that be great?