There’s no doubt that email marketing is a critical component of marketing automation, but it’s definitely not the only thing that a marketing automation platform accomplishes. So at what point do you move beyond a straightforward email marketing platform and onto a full-fledged marketing automation platform?

Email Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: What’s the Difference?

First, let’s make sure we clearly distinguish between an email marketing platform and a marketing automation platform.

From a capability standpoint, both platforms should allow you to create and send emails, including long term campaigns, segment email lists, conduct A/B testing and track metrics. But that’s about all email marketing platforms can handle. Marketing automation platforms, on the other hand, allow for significantly more than that, including lead scoring, landing pages, website tracking, social and CRM tie-ins, event and webinar integrations and much more.

The differences become even more pronounced when you evaluate the two platforms from a results standpoint. An email marketing platform helps you conduct effective email marketing campaigns, which of course leads to several benefits around brand awareness and lead generation. But, again, that’s it. A marketing automation platform does that too, but it also goes above and beyond, for example by:

When Should You Move Beyond Just Email Marketing?

Now that we’ve laid out these differences, let’s get back to the big question at hand: When is an email marketing tool not enough? At what point do you need to step up your efforts with marketing automation? The answer is two-fold:

1) When you need to do more with your email campaigns

While an email marketing tool can help you plan, execute and measure effective email campaigns, it’s capabilities in this area are not nearly as robust or comprehensive as that of a marketing automation platform. For example, a marketing automation platform can help you build smarter, more targeted email campaigns because it will draw on more sources of information (putting you in a better position to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time). It will also allow for more complex engagements within the campaign (e.g. taking recipients down different paths based on responses to previous emails and communicating this information with other critical systems, such as your CRM solution).

2) When you need to do more than just email campaigns

In today’s world, email campaigns will only get you so far. To truly succeed, you need to capitalize on multiple channels of engagement, including social media, live events, webinars, you name it. And marketing automation can help in those areas too. Perhaps best of all, it brings all of these activities full circle to make marketing more effective in three key ways:

  1. It allows for more personalized engagement: A critical component of marketing automation is defining the buyer’s journey and aligning all efforts to that journey. In doing so, it allows you to ensure that your messages fit the needs of your audience at any given point in time, whether they’re just learning about what you do or almost ready to close a deal.
  2. It helps drive more qualified leads and improve the handoff to sales: By making lead scoring a key part of every marketing initiative, marketing automation platforms help prioritize leads and make it easy to know when they’re ready to pass off to sales. In turn, having a formal lead scoring process and integrating your marketing automation platform with your CRM system helps improve this handoff and decrease the number of leads that fall through the cracks in the process.
  3. It enables more advanced measurement: Finally, a marketing automation platform enables you to measure the effectiveness of campaigns across the board, not just emails, in order to improve future efforts. Quintessentially, it also allows you to measure the ROI of these marketing efforts.

Email Marketing is Only One Ingredient in the Marketing Automation Recipe

The key takeaway here is that email marketing is only one component of marketing automation, and when you combine it with everything else that marketing automation platforms offer, it becomes much more powerful. Think of it like an apple pie: The filling on its own is delicious, but it’s nothing compared to what you get when you add a flaky crust, sweet caramel and a scoop of ice cream. We’ll take a slice of that, please!