Email Marketing vs Marketing Automation Software

December 4th, 2019

Email is a vital force in your marketing strategy, but not your only line of communication with customers. 

As your social media, SMS messages, and chat boxes become more prominent in your marketing strategy, you need the right tools to handle all the available communication channels.    

That’s why we have seen the lines between email marketing and marketing automation software solutions begin to blur.

A few years ago, the breakdown of marketing automation vs email marketing would have been simple: 

  • Email marketing software is designed to send “batch and blast” emails with some segmentation, drip campaign, automation and analysis capabilities.
  • Marketing automation software offers automated marketing capabilities across all your marketing channels — social media, SMS, websites, AND email. Multi-channel interactions with leads are all created and tracked within one platform, allowing for greater personalization and intelligent campaigns.

But when we see traditional email marketing vendors like MailChimp offering all-in-one marketing platforms that unite campaigns across multiple channels, it makes you wonder: 

Are these two types of software becoming one?

Is there still a place for standalone email marketing software?

The growing overlap between email marketing and marketing automation software solutions can make your research process more complicated. 

We want to help you sort through the noise and help you nail down which type of software — email marketing or marketing automation — will best suit your unique business.

Email Marketing Software 

Email marketing software solutions allow marketers to send automated emails at scale and track customer email activity. Within the email marketing software, marketers can create beautiful emails, automate email campaigns to subscriber lists, and reach a massive audience while complying with privacy regulations.

Email marketing products typically feature:

  • Subscriber and list management
  • List segmentation
  • Design templates
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Targeted Messaging
  • A/B testing
  • Mobile optimization
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Compliance
  • Integration capabilities with other marketing and sales tools

Email marketing tools enable companies to send thousands of emails every day, while also making the emails feel relevant for individual customers.

While companies of all sizes and industries use email marketing software, this product is most appropriate for companies that need a tool to send emails, such as:

  • Automated responses to new subscribers
  • Birthday or special event emails
  • Special promotions
  • Content about products or services
  • Invitations to events or webinars 

“For us, the business solutions it addresses is it provides a easy solution to create and produce newsletters and disseminate it to our community of over 5,000 people. It is easy to add text, photos, etc. and as the publisher, I have access to identify who has opened the newsletter and who has not.”

~ Ron Rothstain | Assistant Director | Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation | USC Marshall School of Business

Many popular email marketing vendors also offer all-in-one marketing automation solutions. That being said, many of these vendors, such as Mailchimp, offer basic packages for businesses that want just pure-play email tools. 

Top Rated Email Marketing Tools

Top Rated email marketing products (or products that can be used as pure-play email solutions) listed on Trust Radius include Mailchimp, Intercom, Bronto Marketing Platform from Oracle, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio, ActiveCampaign, SendinBlue, Emma by Campaign Monitor, Twilio SendGrid Email Marketing, Oracle Responsys, GetResponse.

Marketing Automation Software 

Marketing automation software offers the same features as email marketing products, plus cross-channel marketing automation. 

Marketers have a more complete view of customers — across SMS, social media, web page activity, and other channels. Marketing automation tools also help facilitate lead management, online marketing, social marketing and have more advanced reporting and analytics capabilities.

Marketing automation solutions often feature:

Email and Online Marketing

  • Landing pages and forms
  • Email management
  • Triggered emails
  • Dynamic web content
  • Website visitor tracking
  • Mobile Optimization
  • SEO/PPC integration

Lead Management

  • Lead database
  • Behavior tracking across channels
  • Lead nurturing
  • Workflow automation
  • Lead scoring
  • Integration capabilities with sales tools

Social Marketing

  • Linked social campaigns across channels
  • Social listening
  • Social sharing
  • Social engagement
  • Social analytics

Reporting and Analytics

  • Basic reporting- email and landing page campaign stats
  • ROI analytics
  • SEO and keyword tracking
  • A/B Testing
  • Web analytics
  • Predictive Analytics

Marketing automation solutions are designed for marketing teams that need more than a pure-play email marketing tool. 

“It is used in our organization for email campaigns, campaign tracking, landing pages, funnels, project management, social media posting, marketing automation, leads capturing, and much more along those lines. This software is amazing for us and our clients helping them distinguish their consumers and how to capture more of them.”

~ Caio Almeida | Brand Strategist | Opto Creative Lab Inc.

With a larger array of features, selecting the most appropriate marketing automation solution can be complicated.

Top Rated Marketing Automation Tools

Check out this free marketing automation scorecard to help you weigh competing tools in the research process. The 2019 Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation is another valuable resource that gives an in-depth breakdown of 7 popular marketing automation tools listed on TrustRadius — all based on trusted marketer reviews. 

Top Rated marketing automation vendors include Marketo, HubSpot, SharpSpring, Act-On Software, Oracle Eloqua, Pardot, Infusionsoft by Keap, Adobe Campaign, ActiveCampaign.  

Marketing Automation vs Email Marketing: The 5 Major Differences

1. Single-Channel vs Multi-Channel Engagement 

Both types of software feature strong email marketing capabilities. Email marketing software focuses solely on getting the right emails in front of the right people at scale. 

Marketing automation solutions can automate tasks and track customer behavior across your website, email, social feeds and more. 

2. Basic List Segmentation vs Advanced Personalization 

Email marketing tools offer basic segmentation and personalization capabilities, but these features are limited compared to those offered by marketing automation tools. 

Marketing automation tools have more power behind their personalization. You can set up more advanced triggers based on customer behavior across not only email, but also webpages, online stores, and social media. You can get the most relevant content and deals sent to individual customers at scale.

3. Limited Behavior Tracking vs 360-Degree View Lead Management

Within an email marketing tool, you can see how email recipients interact with email content. You can see open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates and unsubscribe rates. The challenge is that this behavior tracking is limited to only email — and that data isn’t automatically integrated with other tools in your stack. 

With marketing automation tools, you can see everything the customer does across channels and you can manage your leads within the very same tool. You can feel confident that customers don’t get repeat messages, your timing is on point, and you are using the most effective channels. Lead management tools make coordination between marketing and sales teams much more fluid.

4. Email Metrics vs Advanced Analytics

With an email marketing solution, the analytics and reporting features will be limited to email and some webpage activity. You can separately use a CRM to track which leads became customers, but you won’t be able to see clearly which emails resulted in KPIs and sales. 

With marketing automation tools, you can often see a customer’s exact path to purchase. You will get more accurate ROI calculations. Some tools offer predictive analytics to help you create more effective marketing campaigns in the future.

5. Scalability

Basic email campaigns may be effective for your business right now, but they may not be enough as your business grows. 

Take time to consider if a tool that helps you automate your social media tasks, SMS messaging and lead management will be valuable as your customer base expands.

Is Email Marketing or Marketing Automation Better for your Business?

You know your business best. If you are an SMB with a quick sales cycle — i.e. email is all you need to engage leads — an email marketing tool may be sufficient for your needs and more affordable than marketing automation software. 

However, the reality is that customers want to engage with companies where they are at: on webpages, email, social media, Whatsapp, etc. Many companies will find that they cannot afford to miss out on tracking this behavior and nurturing their leads within one platform. 

There is a great deal of overlap between the two types of software — and today email marketing software is often just a piece of a larger marketing automation solution. 

It will be valuable for companies to browse reviews of vendors in each category before landing on the specific solution that will best fit their marketing strategy.