A Marketing Automation Platform is not “email marketing on steroids”. It is a software platform with many features – one of which enables you to market via email. It is common for marketing automation companies to use the aforementioned analogy as a way to introduce prospects to this powerful marketing platform, but we find it misleading. As they grow, many organisations realise a need for abilities beyond what their ESP (email service provider) is capable of handling so while the analogy helps to introduce the idea of better software, it isn’t the full story. Typically, even the email marketing features in marketing automation software are significantly more robust than anything your ESP is capable of.
We would like to take this opportunity to explain the basic differences between email marketing and marketing automation to help you better understand the software’s potential and more accurately evaluate your needs for such a platform.
Email marketing is a tool that enables you to market to prospects through email. It allows you to send single emails or groups of emails to a specific set of addresses at specified times. You can schedule and send entire campaigns and monitor their performance on a basic level. All of this is really important because it enables you to stay in contact with leads, maintain communication with existing customers and market to lists of potential prospects.
Marketing automation is a software platform that provides tools for executing a modern approach to marketing. With features like lead scoring, dynamic content, analytics and reporting, campaign builders and social scheduling – marketing automation platforms (MAP) are designed to help inbound marketers be more strategic with their lead management.
Even if we ignore the other features of marketing automation and focus only on email there are still several key limitations to an ESP.
With marketing automation you can build campaigns that will be triggered automatically based on prospect behaviour. This saves your marketing and sales teams time and effort and it also allows for more proactive marketing.
- The biggest has to do with drip campaigns vs. nurture campaigns. Both an ESP and a MAP will enable you to send a series of emails to a list of recipients – this is called a drip campaign because you send droplets of content at specified intervals to your list of recipients. However, only a MAP will allow you to run a nurture campaign. Nurture campaigns are reactive; they take specific actions based on prospect behaviour. You create the rules when you build the campaign and essentially create branches of emails. If someone opens email 1, send them email 2 but if they do not open email 1, try sending them email 1B instead. This interactive approach to email communication is much more powerful than a drip campaign. It’s an automated, real-time response to prospect behaviour.
- Another disadvantage to an ESP is its manual nature. Every email blast must be created and sent out manually. As you grow, creating these massive messaging blasts can become tedious and repetitive. Furthermore, these manual email blasts are less effective, take more time to implement and you have no idea whether they are working or not. You have no way to track what prospects are doing with the information you’re sending them, how they are reacting to it, if it contributed directly to an increase in sales, etc.
For example, every time a lead downloads specific content such as your competitor comparison guide, they can be automatically enrolled in a campaign that gives additional information about you vs. your competitors. You can track the effectiveness of each campaign (and each email) by monitoring prospect behaviour and checking the analytics report. With marketing automation you can create entire, ongoing, lead nurturing programs and you can measure their effectiveness on an individual or mass level. These types of campaigns can be built out for a wide array of behaviours and enable your marketing team to move beyond logistical tasks so they can focus on strategy and growth.
Tool vs Philosophy
Email marketing is the first stepping stone on the path to modern marketing, but it is still just a tool. Modern marketing involves a completely different approach to how businesses communicate with leads. The features in a marketing automation platform were designed and developed specifically to cater to modern marketing philosophies.
Most organisations using email marketing begin the process of switching to marketing automation when they realise the need for additional capabilities beyond what their ESP is capable of. Learning the differences between email marketing and marketing automation is often the first step to recognising you are ready for a more powerful technology. Just because you need the software doesn’t mean you are ready for it though. There is a big difference between an ESP and a MAP and becoming proficient with marketing automation software can be a long learning process. To better prepare for success with marketing automation there are some definite must-haves that can make or break how soon you realise a return on your software investment, we discuss those in this post “You’re not Quite Ready for Marketing Automation” or if you need more information, contact us today.