We often run into the misperception that marketing automation is some sort of supercharged version of email marketing. "Why would we pay more for something we already have?" our customers ask. "Our email marketing is doing just fine. We don't need marketing automation."
The question is problematic; marketing automation and email marketing are not synonymous, nor are they interchangeable. Email marketing is a single cog in the marketing machine. Marketing automation composes multiple cogs working together to power better customer experiences and increase website traffic and conversions.
It's true that email marketing software like our own iContact allows for prescheduling and split A/B testing. Both are extremely helpful to marketing professionals who need the ability to focus on tasks other than scheduling yet another email or figuring out which day of the week and time is the best one.
Marketing automation builds on the capabilities found with email marketing and takes them to even greater heights with workflows, automated tasks built around different customer behaviors and activities. Workflows further reduce unnecessarily repetitive tasks and offer an added bonus: they enhance the customer experience with real-time, tailored marketing.
For example, one of our customers sets up two workflows. The first is for people who sign up for the email newsletter. The second is for people who receive the same opportunity but don't take advantage of it. The first workflow focuses on nurturing people and guiding them toward making a purchasing decision. The second presents the opportunity to signup for the newsletter or offer again but does so in different ways.
The workflow concept can at first appear similar to a drip campaign, but the two aren't to be confused. A drip campaign is an automated series of emails. It typically continues on its course regardless of the recipient's actions – the unsubscribe or spam complaint being the obvious deterrents.
A workflow is an automated series of responses, but they are dictated by the recipient's actions. As a result, leads rarely go stagnant. They are always in whatever workflow is right for them depending on their progression toward or regression from making a purchasing decision.
Email marketing is of little to no help when it comes to qualifying leads. While names and email addresses can be segmented in lists and even updated with additional contact information and job titles, the process often is a chore, perhaps explaining why it's called "list cleanup." The process, while beneficial and necessary to keeping a healthy contact list, does nothing to illuminate if a person is qualified to move to sales.
Marketing automation is different. Customer profiles update automatically based on information the customers provide and actions they take. In addition, their profiles can be updated on either the marketing automation or CRM side, resulting in a better integration of marketing and sales.
None of that means the profiles have become qualified leads; it just means the profiles are more complete than they can sometimes be in an email marketing solution alone. To become a qualified lead, the profiles have to reach a certain score agreed upon by both marketing and sales and stored within the marketing automation software. When that score is met, the profiles migrate to sales, who nurture the leads further.
Email marketing does have reporting capabilities, but they are somewhat limited. For instance, they can show open rates and clickthroughs. They won't show if that clickthrough resulted in a subsequent action, such as downloading a white paper or registering for a conference. The marketer has to use yet another tool to assess that. Even then, he or she may know only the final action taken, not all the steps required to get a person to take it.
If that sounds tedious and at times complicated, it is. It can be difficult to draw correlations when data is spread across tools and platforms. While the days of not knowing how marketing efforts impact business outcomes are over, it can be extremely challenging to track them on a day-to-day basis.
Again, marketing automation outshines email marketing in this capacity. Because marketing automation tracks customers along every point of the buying journey, it houses data from not only email marketing campaigns but also social, landing page interactions and website visits. Marketers can use all that data to measure their marketing efforts, gauge their ability to achieve business outcomes and mine for insights about both customers and new marketing initiatives.
An almost inevitable question arises after comparing email marketing and marketing automation: "Should I forget about email marketing and focus on marketing automation alone?" Not at all. While the two tools are not equals, email marketing is a necessary cog in the marketing machine. Marketing automation simply is the machination that keeps all the cogs working together for the business' good.
About the Sponsor
Before assuming his current role leading Vocus' Marketing Suite business line, Tsang held positions as CMO and senior vice president of product at Vocus.
Prior to Vocus, he was CEO of Engine140, a company Vocus acquired and subsequently integrated into its product portfolio. A serial entrepreneur, Tsang also founded and was CEO of Biz360, a market intelligence company that helped Fortune 500 companies compile and analyze media content. He founded Boxxet, a consumer content aggregation engine with 4 million unique visitors a month, as well as Milktruck LLC, an Internet pioneer in offline browsing and "push" software.
Tsang holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies from Yale University and an MBA from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley
Vocus provides leading cloud-based public relations and marketing software that enables companies to acquire and retain customers. The company offers products and services to help clients attract and engage prospects, nurture and convert customers, and measure and improve PR and marketing effectiveness. More than 16,000 annual subscription customers across a wide variety of industries use Vocus software. The company is headquartered in Beltsville, MD with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.