Chances are your company has been using email as a marketing channel for some time, whether through corporate newsletters, mail-outs, or other messaging. After all, every company has an email—it only makes sense to use it! As technology has advanced, though, so have marketing strategies. In this article, we’ll look at email marketing and marketing automation, and help you determine which might be the best choice for your business.
Whether you know the term or not, you’ve probably engaged in email marketing. Email marketing refers to the process of collecting emails into subscriber lists, prepping messages like newsletters or promotional blasts, and emailing them out. Depending on the software you use, you might be able to segment your lists or access analytics like number of opens or clicked links. Email marketing is outbound only.
In many ways, marketing automation is simply the evolution of the email marketing you already know and understand. With a marketing automation platform, you can boost your existing capabilities by creating and managing search-optimized blog posts, landing pages, and social media marketing, and integrating them all into your outbound programs. You still have to plan your campaigns, create your emails, and segment your lists, but the information and adaptability you get back using marketing automation is deeper and more nuanced. Marketing automation is both outbound and inbound, so you can create relationships and nurture leads.
The best way to illustrate the difference is an example. Let’s say you have a business selling computers. Your current email marketing strategy might include identifying likely buying times like back-to-school, Christmas, and the end of the fiscal year. Your marketing team prepares their campaigns and creates an email for the people on your list. Your list might be segmented, and the analytics you have access to will probably be limited to opens and clicks. This is where email marketing ends. If you have a marketing automation platform, you’ll still need to develop a campaign and prepare a bulk email, but the return on this upfront work is far greater. With marketing automation, you can track your leads’ behaviour even outside the email, following them to external locations and allowing you to map purchase behaviour and optimize based on this knowledge.
You can build automated programs that react according to lead behavior, optimizing for timing and method of contact. The data collected on lead behaviour can be used to build “drip campaigns” which send a series of messages out over time, and you can use engagement with your website as a trigger for your marketing messages. Nurture campaigns, a type of drip campaign, send different communications based on how your recipients interact with your messages which, somewhat ironically given that they’re automated, feel more natural and organic. The result is deep insider knowledge for your marketing team and a better experience for your customers.
If you simply pit email marketing against marketing automation the latter will always win, but bear in mind that it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Email marketing is part of marketing automation, and your decision about whether you need a more powerful tool will depend on several factors. Consider your sales cycle. Is it simple or complicated? Do your leads seem to need a lot of attention or does the occasional newsletter or promotional blast suffice? Are you selling to individuals or businesses? What is your budget for marketing tools?
Many businesses can get by on email marketing alone. But when you’re ready to start nurturing and qualifying leads based on their interaction with your brand, marketing automation may well be worth the investment.