Marketing automation vs. advertising: What’s right for you?


Apr 13, 2017 • Sheri Johnson • Blog

Marketing Automation

We’re huge proponents of omnichannel marketing here at Morningstar Communications. But we also know that with the rapid changes in our industry, buyers’ expectations about how they receive marketing messages continue to evolve. So, what does this mean for tried-and-true marketing channels like advertising, especially when marketing automation offers the ability to truly personalize and tailor marketing messages at a level we’ve never seen before?

Today’s “personalized” advertising

Let’s focus first on how advertising is changing to address the demand for personalization and relevancy. As digital advertising surpassed print, programmatic ad buying soared and provides one example of how advertisers target potential buyers. We see this particularly in the consumer advertising arena, where individuals become inundated with ads on the latest item they Googled. Yet, I’d argue that this type of advertising isn’t necessarily relevant. I think we’ve all experienced frustration with a barrage of ad content focused so narrowly on recent search activity. And in the B2B space, relevance ranks as critically important when you consider the extended buyer’s journey and lengthy purchase paths.

While the costs of advertising have fallen significantly over the years, it remains one of the most expensive channels for building brand awareness and driving purchase behavior. Factor in the time associated with defining your ad strategy, determining the outlets or platforms you’ll use, developing the creative, and the ROI may not be there for your business.

Achieving relevance through marketing automation

On the other hand, the beauty of marketing automation comes from its ability to closely track ROI and identify sales-ready leads. Plus, it allows marketers to personalize content based on their prospect’s actions, so the messages each prospect receives are relevant to her individual buyer’s journey. Think of marketing automation as a way to streamline and integrate your outbound marketing efforts—email, social media, etc.—while also tracking their effectiveness and buyer interest.

What makes this channel more relevant and personal is a marketer’s ability to schedule when emails are sent based on the recipient’s actions. For example, if Jane Jones is a prospect and you schedule an email to go out to her on Tuesday with a link to a case study to download, you might schedule two options as a follow up:

  • Option one: If Jane doesn’t open the first email, you would re-send the same link with different email content to be delivered to Jane 10 days later. Then, you’d go on to schedule a next step based on how she responded to this second email.
  • Option two: If Jane clicked on the link in the first email, you would send her a different email three days later with a link to a relevant white paper she could download.

Building out these types of options in the “flow” of your campaign means your prospects get information tailored to them based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Marketing automation campaigns require a lot of content, but your company should already be creating significant content if you’ve adopted the strategy of educating prospects rather than promoting products. We recommend this strategic approach to B2B companies, especially if they have a complex solution and a lengthy sales process. If you’ve done a great job of creating relevant content already, you can easily repurpose it for a marketing automation campaign. You can also direct people to existing content as part of your outreach strategy.

Think of marketing automation as the most cost-effective and orchestrated way to deliver your key messages to prospective buyers. While advertising typically focuses on either a quick sale or general brand building, the vast flexibility, customization and control gained with marketing automation focuses specifically on pulling people through the sales funnel and generating more qualified leads that self-selected to engage with your brand.  


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