With the huge variety of business software available, it’s easy to understand a certain level of confusion. There are many categories of software solutions, with a lot of overlap between categories. Figuring out which category of solution a business needs, let alone what specific software, can be exceedingly difficult.
Email marketing and marketing automation are two of the most frequently confused categories of business software. There is some overlap between the two, further adding to the confusion. To muddy the waters a little more, they share the same overall goal of maintaining contact with prospects and customers. However, they do this in two completely different ways.
Understanding the minor overlaps, and major differences, between email marketing and marketing automation makes it easier to evaluate them as the separate solutions they are.
Email marketing works best for businesses that don’t have a large variety of buyer personas they’re trying to reach. It’s also one of the least expensive options for a business looking to market to the masses.
At its core, email marketing is a single-channel, one-way communications platform. It allows for the rapid development and deployment of marketing messages to a specific set, or subset, of email addresses. Those email addresses may be compiled using website entries, CRM data, affiliate marketers, or even purchased lists. Generally, all recipients on the selected list will receive the same, or substantially similar, communications. This could be sales flyers, newsletters, event reminders, or any other non-customized marketing information the company wants to send to a large number of recipients.
Email marketing works best for businesses that don’t have a large variety of buyer personas they’re trying to reach. It’s also one of the least expensive options for a business looking to market to the masses. Pricing typically depends on the size of the mailing list, on the number of emails sent each month, or both. For a growing business that isn’t yet dealing with targeted marketing, this can be a powerful tool.
In Practice: MailChimp
MailChimp is a popular, web-based, email marketing tool. It is used to send over four billion emails each month and offers a variety of pricing packages, including freemium. MailChimp offers limited options for prospect segmentation and content customization. Segmentation and rules are based on customer-provided data, requiring direct input from visitors to develop buyer profiles.
Marketing automation is a multi-channel, omni-directional communications system. It can deliver marketing information via email, social media, SMS, and other channels.
Marketing automation is a multi-channel, omni-directional communications system. It can deliver marketing information via email, social media, SMS, and other channels. It monitors and responds to customer interactions, customizing the information to their particular interests. This allows the business to target multiple buyer personas, simplifying the nurturing process early in the sales funnel.
Prospect interactions can result in the delivery of white papers, targeted marketing information, links to buyer-specific landing pages, and more. Instead of the large-net method employed by email marketing, marketing automation allows businesses to automate a small-net process.
Marketing automation is more expensive than email marketing, and works best with an existing ERP or CRM system. Pricing typically depends on the size of the prospect list, number of monthly interactions, or both. The larger, more expensive, systems may offer unlimited lists and interactions. For businesses that deal with a large variety of buyer personas, marketing automation is a quicker, easier way to qualify leads. Given the time and expense involved in developing leads manually, it is also a great money saver.
In Practice: Marketo
One of the most popular vendors, Marketo offers a robust marketing automation solution that tracks and manages all phases of a campaign. It responds to and tracks customer interactions allowing for further customization of materials delivered. The data it provides on interactions allows a marketing department to easily determine which stage of the buying cycle a particular prospect is at. Using this information, it can be determined if further nurturing is necessary, or if the prospect is qualified enough to move to sales.
A Distinction with a Difference
The software a company buys will largely depend on their current status and future goals. Both offer advantages in terms of convenience and increased conversions. However, the fact that they share some advantages and features shouldn’t lead businesses to believe that they’re the same thing. These are substantially different solutions, with substantially different applications. Understanding the nature of what they do, and don’t do, can help businesses make a more informed decision. In the end, they are both powerful marketing tools. Which tool a business chooses will depend on their needs, budget, and desires.