There’s no doubt that email marketing is a critical component of marketing automation, but it’s definitely not the only thing that a marketing automation platform accomplishes. Nowadays, traditional email marketing tools are adopting more features to try to appear as more fully-fledged automation tools. That said, those watered-down tools are still limited in sophistication and functionality, despite their facade of doing more. What are the key features that differentiate marketing automation and email marketing? And at what point do you move beyond a straightforward email marketing platform and onto a fully-fledged marketing automation platform?
Email Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: What’s the Difference?
From a capability standpoint, both platforms should allow you to create and send emails. On top of that, you should be able to create long-term campaigns, segment email lists, conduct A/B testing and track metrics. But that’s about all email marketing platforms can handle. While they boast bells and whistles like reporting and social integration, the features are significantly less robust than they need to be to enable marketers to make data-driven decisions. Marketing automation platforms, on the other hand, allow for significantly more than that, including lead scoring, landing page creation, website tracking, social and CRM tie-ins, event and webinar integrations and much more. Key functions to look for when searching for a marketing tool are website visitor tracking, advanced lead scoring models with custom alerts and powerful reporting capabilities that extend beyond campaign performance and even give a visual understanding of individual buyer’s journeys.
The differences become even more pronounced when you evaluate the benefits of the two types of automation tools long-term. An email marketing platform’s strength lies in email campaigns, sometimes offering landing page and form builders, social campaign integrations and CRM integrations, giving smaller businesses the ability to do generate brand awareness across multiple channels from within one tool. In comparison, however; a marketing automation platform goes above with achievements such as:
- Aligning Sales and Marketing
- Helping drive more qualified leads to sales
- Prioritizing leads
- Nurturing relationships throughout the entire buyer’s journey
- Increasing social reach
- Personalizing content based on the stage of the buyer’s journey
- Measuring the ROI of marketing efforts
When Should You Move Beyond Just Email Marketing?
Now that we’ve laid out these differences, let’s get back to the big question at hand: at what point do you need to step up your efforts with marketing automation? The answer is two-fold:
1) When you need to do more with your email campaigns
While an email marketing tool can help you plan, execute and measure effective email campaigns, its capabilities in this area are not nearly as robust or comprehensive as that of a marketing automation platform. For example, a marketing automation platform can help you build smarter, more targeted email campaigns because it will draw on more sources of information (putting you in a better position to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.) It will also allow for more complex engagements within the campaign (e.g. taking recipients down different paths based on responses to previous emails and communicating this information with other critical systems, such as your CRM solution.)
2) When you need to do more than just email campaigns
In today’s world, email campaigns will only get you so far. To truly succeed, you need to capitalize on multiple channels of engagement, including social media, live events, webinars—you name it. And marketing automation can help in those areas too. Perhaps best of all, it brings all of these activities full circle to make marketing more effective in three key ways:
- It allows for more personalized engagement: A critical component of marketing automation is defining the buyer’s journey and aligning all efforts to that journey. In doing so, it allows you to ensure that your messages fit the needs of your audience at any given point in time, whether they’re just learning about what you do or almost ready to close a deal.
- It helps drive more qualified leads and improve the hand-off to sales: By making lead scoring a key part of every marketing initiative, marketing automation platforms help prioritize leads and make it easy to know when they’re ready to pass off to sales. In turn, having a formal lead scoring process and integrating your marketing automation platform with your CRM system helps improve this hand-off and decrease the number of leads that fall through the cracks in the process.
- It enables more advanced measurement: Finally, a marketing automation platform enables you to measure the effectiveness of campaigns across the board, not just emails, in order to improve future efforts. Quintessentially, it also allows you to measure the ROI of these marketing efforts.
Marketing Automation is Better for B2B
Today’s B2B buyer likes to be educated. Promotional emails are good, but buyers want personalized content and lots of it. In fact, 74% of marketers are saying that targeted personalization significantly increases customer engagement (eConsultancy.) Buying for your business isn’t always as easy as walking into a store and picking out a sweater. Marketing automation tends to be a better fit for B2B companies and their lengthy buyer’s journey. Marketing automation allows your company to have enough interaction with a lead before passing it over to Sales. It also ensures that Sales isn’t getting bogged down with low-quality leads.
Email Marketing is Only One Ingredient in the Marketing Automation Recipe
The key takeaway here is that email marketing is only one component of marketing automation and when you combine it with everything else that marketing automation platforms offer, it becomes much more powerful. Think of it like an apple pie: the filling on its own is delicious, but it’s nothing compared to what you get when you add a flaky crust, sweet caramel and a scoop of ice cream. We’ll take a slice of that, please!