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Email Marketing vs. Marketing Automation: Which Is Best?

If you’re a for-profit business or a non-profit who needs donations to survive, you need a marketing automation solution — pronto.

Richard Horvath
Last updated: Marketing Automation 5 min read

Email marketing platforms enable you to manage lists, create and send beautiful emails, A/B test, and report on important metrics, such as open rate and click-through rate. That’s all you need if you’re a club or a very small business that isn’t concerned about growth and just needs to send out monthly newsletters. But if you’re an established for-profit business that needs growth and sales to survive or a non-profit that thrives on charitable donations, you need a marketing automation solution.

Marketing automation allows you to do everything an email marketing platform can do, and much, much more. Large enterprises require a more sophisticated approach to lead generation, customer acquisition, and list management. These are things that basic email platforms can’t provide. Small and medium-sized businesses with aggressive growth strategies can benefit from implementing a full-scale automation solution such as HubSpot Inbound Marketing, a practice of bringing in leads through marketing automation.


Lead Tracking and Lead Scoring

What percentage of your website visitors ultimately complete the action that you want them to, like purchasing a product, making a donation, or contacting your sales team to talk about the services you provide? The typical answer is less than 1%.

So a lot of businesses are left wondering how the other 99% are interacting with their brands. There have to be more qualified prospects among these leads, right?

You might be thinking, “But I have Google Analytics for that.”. Google Analytics does give useful data on how many people were on your website, what channels they came from (direct, organic search, social, paid advertising, email, etc.), and other insights like top-performing landing pages. It doesn’t help you zero in on hot leads, disqualify spammy users, or directly reach that 99% beyond broad-brushed generalizations and it doesn’t actually help you generate those leads, it just tells you about who is already coming to your website.

Tracking Individual Leads

What if I told you there was a way to track a user’s behavior when they click on an email, and then automatically be notified of your most qualified leads?

Marketing automation platforms, like HubSpot work by identifying individual users and tracking their behavior. Because, you don’t sell your products and services to statistical trends, you sell them to people.

Without marketing automation, you would have never known about this qualified prospect and could have missed the chance to follow up with this lead. The lead would have just been one of the many prospects driving up your advertising costs by clicking through your PPC ads but never converting. Automation tools empower businesses to identify, target, and nurture otherwise lost leads.

Defining Lead Scoring Categories

Once you’ve linked an email address and other important information with the formerly anonymous user’s session behavior data, you’re able to start lead scoring. A good lead scoring matrix will help group all your leads into categories like:

  • Job Seekers
  • Competitors
  • Unqualified
  • Qualified Prospects – Nurture
  • Qualified Prospects – Hot

(NOTE: These example lead scoring categories are for a service-based company)

Scoring Leads by User Behavior

Lead scoring can be based on a combination of user behavior and information gathered about the lead through third-party plugins and good ol’ fashioned research. Here are some examples of how a user’s behavior can be used to gauge lead quality:

  • Visited careers page and viewed a job posting – Job seeker
  • Email address is from one of your competitors – Competitor
  • Company is in Vanuatu and you only work with USA companies – Unqualified
  • Visited a service page. Qualified Prospects – Nurture
  • Visited several service pages, the pricing page, and the contact page – Qualified Prospects – Hot

Automated Programs aka Drip Campaigns

Once you have scored your leads into the appropriate categories, you can start putting the “automation” into “marketing automation” by setting up drip campaigns, also known as waterfalls. The possibilities on how to utilize this feature are only limited by your imagination.

The huge advantage of drip emails is that you can set up custom rules to automate your workflow. After you set these automated programs up once, they run automatically and are more diligent and relentless than any human sales or marketing rep could be.

Three Automated Program Examples

1. Hot Lead Alert Program

The simplest example of an automated program is a hot lead alert program, which focuses on your most promising leads. Marketing automation pays for itself if you set up this type of program.

When a user is scored in the “Qualified Prospects – Hot” category, the program will send an email and a CRM alert to the designated salesperson. That salesperson will then log into the automation platform to review the history of interactions that this user has had with your online presence, enabling the sales rep to effectively nurture the lead.

2. Event Drip Campaign

Say you’re trying to get people in the “Qualified Prospects – Nurture” category to sign up and attend a webinar. An automated program can be set up to invite people three times (or however many you deem necessary) with well-timed, well-crafted emails, and have the capability to stop sending to people who have completed the signup.

Once a user signs up, the automated program will send them reminders to attend the upcoming webinar. After the webinar is over, it will send everyone in this segment a follow up message thanking them for attending, providing a link to the on-demand version if they couldn’t make it, and prompting them to interact with your brand further.

3. Shopping Cart Abandon Email

Many users often view a product, add it to their shopping cart, and then not complete the purchase. This is referred to as shopping cart abandonment (SCA), and is a must for any ecommerce website.

With the power of marketing automation, you can “automagically” capture lost revenue from cart abandoners. If a user puts an item in their cart and then leaves (abandons) the website, a customized email is triggered to encourage them to check out.

Roughly three in four users don’t finish their purchase, so it is vital to guide their buying decision by setting up your SCA program with special offers or coupon codes. (Pro Tip: The number one cause of cart abandonment is unexpectedly high shipping costs.)

Revenue Attribution

Ever wonder which marketing programs are bringing in the most return on investment (ROI) for your organization?

It’s never an easy question to answer, but with marketing automation, you can get a lot closer to the holy grail you seek. In reality, it’s usually not just one touchpoint that caused a prospect to become a customer or client, it’s several.

Automation platforms are perfect for organizing, executing, and measuring the attribution weight of each campaign component. If the user came to your website through a Google search and landed on a blog post, you need to give your blog content strategy some credit. If they then ended up watching a recorded webinar before reaching out to you, you should give the webinar some credit as well.

Marketing automation platforms can help with revenue attribution by summarizing this information in regular reporting. In addition, I strongly recommend looking at each new lead’s activity timeline to add color to the picture of what combination of factors led to them becoming a client.

Like with most things, you only get out of marketing automation what you put in. All too often, we see companies that are convinced of the benefits of automation, sign up, and then end up using it the same way basic email marketing platform. Don’t be that person.

Your marketing automation program doesn’t need to be a pain to set up. Our automation masterminds have the skills and experience to get your automation program off of the ground. Get started with marketing automation by calling 919-341-8901 or messaging our digital experts today.

Tags: Digital MarketingEmail MarketingMarketing AutomationQuestions & AnswersStrategy & Consulting

Richard Horvath

Richard Horvath is the founder of TheeDigital, a Raleigh based award-winning web design and digital marketing agency. He is proud of his team and the results that they provide to their clients.

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