Understanding email marketing vs. marketing automation


Apr 04, 2017 • Paige Kauffman • Blog

Marketing Automation

Email marketing and marketing automation are like apples and oranges: they fall in the same category, but are fundamentally different. As more technologies and platforms surface, it can be difficult for even seasoned communicators and marketers to understand which strategy will benefit their business most.

Before diving headfirst into one of these e-communication approaches, it’s crucial for you to understand how they compare. Let me break it down for you: 

Both email marketing and marketing automation allow businesses to communicate with the people who matter most (also known as your target audiences). According to Act-On though, “email marketing tracks only the actions taken by recipients of your email blasts. Marketing automation software, on the other hand, monitors every digital interaction a lead has with your business.”

As you examine the differences between email marketing and marketing automation, keep these nuggets top-of-mind:

  • Understand tracking: The beauty of both email marketing and marketing automation is access to analytics. You gain insight into the digital behavior of your target audiences, and can learn their likes, needs and more.

    Email marketing specifically allows you to see any and all actions that take place within your email campaign. For example, did your prospect (let’s call her Wanda) click a link? Did Wanda click it multiple times? These details give you clues to what content interests her and can guide your next steps (i.e. Will you reach out to her directly? Send her similar articles to continue tracking her behavior?).

    Marketing automation takes the capabilities of email marketing one step further. As Act-On says, you can “follow” your audience’s interactions with your company across the web – from your email campaigns to your website, blog and more. In short, marketing automation gives you access to Wanda’s entire journey, from awareness to purchase and trust.
  • Nurture your target audiences: While email marketing has less sophisticated follow-up and nurturing capabilities, marketing automation allows you to score your prospects, customers, etc. based on the actions they take (such as clicking a link or downloading your white paper), and will then move them through your automated program based on their score.

    “Marketing automation systems take automation to the next level with intelligent action based on behavioral analysis,” says Act-On. “Depending on lead behavior, the system can optimize the timing of contact, the message shared, and even create suggestions for offline contact such as phone calls or direct mail.”
  • Use your time wisely: As previously stated, email marketing has less nurture capabilities, which can result in additional time spent ensuring you reach the right person at the right time with the right message. If your team has the bandwidth and time to dedicate to the ongoing monitoring of your email program, this might be the more cost-effective option for your business.

    Marketing automation also requires time to segment lists, apply lead scores and create content, but unlike email marketing, most of the time is dedicated up front. Once you have each of the pieces in place, you can focus on monitoring, reviewing analytics and adjusting your strategy.
  • Make the most of landing pages: According to Pardot, “While an email service provider will let you create and design custom email templates, the landing page and form-building capabilities are typically limited or nonexistent.” If you use landing pages in your email efforts, ensure they mirror the look and feel of your site. Giving your target audiences one consistent brand experience will net the best results. Explore each marketing automation program to decide which will give you the most freedom to customize and upload unique landing pages. 
  • Go beyond the inbox: Overall, marketing automation has a number of features that basic email marketing cannot provide. In addition to the previously mentioned items, a blog from Technology Advice explains that marketing automation can provide tools, including multichannel campaign management, mobile/responsive design, and ROI and revenue reporting.

Determining whether email marketing or marketing automation is better for your business is a complex choice. To decide, Morningstar Communications recommends reviewing your marketing needs and resources, or consider reaching out to a marketing and communications firm to audit your current activities and provide a recommendation.

Questions? Comments? Let us know in the box below and we’ll be happy to get back to you!


We've got answers! Fill out the form below and one of our team members will reach out to discuss your marketing needs.