The difference between e-mail marketing and marketing automation

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The difference between e-mail marketing and marketing automation

E-mail marketing and marketing automation are now common concepts within the marketing field. But what is the difference? A natural question that I will answer in this blog. Before I discuss the difference between e-mail marketing and marketing automation, I define both concepts. This provides insight into the interface between marketing automation and e-mail marketing, but also into the differences.

E-mail marketing

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing. E-mail is used to send information to a target group. Often these e-mails aim to be more effective:

  • To strengthen the relationship of the brand or company with the target group. This should strengthen customer loyalty.
  • Generate website traffic.
  • Lead nurturing (care, feed and invest in leads by offering them relevant content at the right time) and lead generation.
  • Increase brand awareness.

Of course there are several goals to consider, but from my experience these are the most common goals of e-mail marketing.

Marketing automation

Marketing automation is helping (stimulating) potential customers in the purchase process. This is done by creating contact moments and automatically offering relevant content. The goal is to increase lead conversion. With a marketing automation system, in many cases a SaaS solution (software as a service), you can develop, implement and automate multi-touch and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Furthermore, with a marketing automation system it is possible to convert unknown contacts to known contacts and to generate new contacts (converting from unknown to known). Based on demographic data but also on behaviour, you can build profiles from this. For example by tracking the website behaviour or by keeping track of which links a contact clicks from an e-mail. The system then enables you to use that profile to send the right content, at the right time, via the right channel to the right person. This saves you a lot of time because you can build e-mails, landing pages and forms within the system and follow up leads automatically via reports or a CRM. The system also allows you to measure the results and ROI of your marketing activities.

Goals of marketing automation are mainly:

  • Increasing lead conversion and turnover using lead nurturing and lead generation.
  • Maximizing marketing performance.
  • Improving the collaboration between marketing and sales by delivering better qualified leads to sales.

Overview features

To give you insight into the most common differences between email systems and marketing automation systems, I listed them in the table below.

  Email marketing system Marketing automation system
Create and send e-mails X X
Contact data capturing/subscription management X X

Measuring open rates and clicks

Segmentation X X

Build and enrich profiles (based on behaviour and contact information)


Segmentation based on behaviour and contact information


Build web forms


Build landing page


Progressive profiling


Creation of multi-channel campaigns

Lead scoring   X
Lead nurturing   X

Monitoring Web Behavior


Display dynamic website content

Measuring ROI   X

Standard integration options with, for example, CRM


Conclusion: difference between e-mail marketing and marketing automation

To summarise, marketing automation is much broader than e-mail marketing. With marketing automation you support the entire process of online interactions of a prospect. You try to track all online interactions (on your website, social channels, e-mail, etc.) in order to have a relevant 'conversation' at the right time, based on behavior. For example, a contact looks at a certain page on the website, after that a pop-up appears with a white paper providing more information about the theme. Only when a prospect is actually ready for this, the system forwards the qualified lead to sales. This is done on the basis of a lead scoring model, where certain activities must have been undertaken to get the stamp of qualified lead. With e-mail marketing you cannot create and automate multi-touch and multi-channel campaigns. For example, you cannot enter into a relevant conversation at the right time based on a contact's online behaviour. Marketing automation offers a much better solution for this. Marketing automation supports the entire buyer journey of your customer.

Want to know more?

Do you want to know more about e-mail marketing, marketing automation, or the difference between the two? Check out one of our blogs about marketing automation, or feel free to contact us.

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