Which is better? Email Marketing vs. Marketing Automation Software

Which is better? Marketing Automation Software vs. Email Marketing

How is email marketing different from marketing automation software?

 As a software adviser, I often hear the question: “How is Marketing Automation Software different from Email Marketing?” In this article, I would like to shed some light on the differences, and explain when it may be applicable for your nonprofit association to stick with an Email marketing or when to use Marketing Automation Software.

To be sure, Email marketing has a long history. In fact, I remember using Email Marketing in the mid-late nineties when the Internet was still in its infancy. It was a huge deal way back when. And, at that time it was typically a key component of many Customer Relationship Management software searches. As time went by the importance of this channel and it’s impact has continued to grow. Personally, I have enjoyed using email marketing throughout the years because I have been able to  send out huge amounts of emails, have personalized greetings, schedule emails, measure them, and understand how to repeat the process more intelligently.

In the last several years, the term “Marketing Automation Software” has arisen. In fact, the category has so much hype it seems as if every nonprofit should drop all that they have and run out and replace their Email Marketing tool with a Marketing Automation Software platform.

Not so fast! Before you do, there are multiple factors to take into consideration before an association nonprofit should consider Marketing Automation Software vs. Email marketing service providers. Let’s begin with what it is.

What is Marketing Automation Software? Let’s be clear. There is a difference between Marketing Automation and Marketing Automation Software. Marketing Automation could be construed to mean a whole myriad of things. But, for this article, I would like to simply define Marketing Automation Software.

Having said that, Marketing Automation Software (MAS) is a combination of software and strategic tactics that allow companies to nurture prospects with highly personalized useful content that helps convert prospects to supporters and turn them into advocates. In short, it allows organizations to “pull” individuals into your “store front” through useful insights and educational content.

What are the Core Capabilities of Marketing Automation?

Suffice it to say, Marketing Automation Software does more than just send emails. In fact, beyond my days just sending out emails in a one-off manner, Marketing automation Software allows users the ability and capabilities needed to complete the cycle of reaching, capturing, and nurturing leads and engaging with customers across multiple channels. Here are the most common features found in most Marketing Automation Software platforms:

Outbound email

Users must be able to create templates to generate personalized emails from the system database. They must also be able to import email lists from trade shows, print advertising, CRM and other sources. Emails must contain trackable links to system-generated landing pages and forms.

Social media

Users can post content to social media, track social media generated traffic, help recipients share content to their own social media accounts, and monitor social media conversations. More sophisticated features include forms and personalized ads within social platforms, using social sign-on to capture more data, and building more detailed profiles based on  activities,consumption,connections and influence.

Landing Pages and Web Forms

This is a big component of Marketing Automation Software. Users must be able to create Web forms and landing pages that can capture leads from system-generated emails and other sources. Forms are designed to collect prospect information and marry this with cross channel behavioral response patterns allowing the organization to identify which prospects are ready to talk to sales. These pages are hosted by the Marketing Automation system and post data directly to the Marketing Automation database

Behavior Tracking

In order to be considered Marketing Automation, the system must track the behavior of individual visitors to the company Website, typically using a combination of cookies to identify visitors and tracking tags embedded in company Web pages. Conventional Web analytics captures page and session statistics but does not usually link these to persistent individual identities. I love this Feature!

Lead Scoring

The system calculates one or more scores to measure the quality of a lead, primarily to determined when it should be handed to the membership or development team. Scores are based on the combination of individual attributes (title, company, location, etc.) and behaviors (search terms, email responses, Web forms completed, pages viewed, etc.). Scoring formulas can be complex, so special interfaces are needed to make them easy to build, understand, and maintain.

Lead Nurturing

The system can be configured for automated engagement based on the unique needs of a prospective donor or member. In conjunction with lead scoring, communications can adapt based on the prospect readiness to talk with a development officer. The messages can change in response to lead behaviors such as Web page views and email opens. Lead nurturing flows may be simple, linear sequences or can incorporate complex decision rules that send different leads down entirely separate paths.

CRM, Donor, or Membership Software integration

In most cases, the Marketing Automation software maintains its own lead database, but exchanges updates with a separate CRM so both systems have consistent information. Integration may also extend to sharing coordinating campaigns between the two systems and sending alerts to membership or development staff about behaviors captured by Marketing Automation.

In short, the features of Marketing Automation should allow you to create automated lead nurturing campaigns using multi-step email functionality, web tracking, the lead scoring engine, and synchronization with CRM, Membership or Donor software

Are you ready for Marketing Automation Software?

If you would like help to determine if email or marketing automation software is better suited for you, please contact us.  Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Email Marketing Software vs. Marketing Automation Software

This was originally posted April 6th, 2015, on the Informz for Marketing Blog. See more here.