This post was originally going to be a showdown product review comparison thing, between the SharpSpring Marketing Automation platform and Mailchimp email marketing, but I thought that I would rather talk about the differences on an industry level rather than individual products. There are a few reasons: firstly, there are many email marketing (EM) service providers like Mailchimp, aweber and so on, and there are a number of marketing automation (MA) providers like Hubspot, Marketo, Acton, Sharpsping and so on. So, rather than talking about one versus another, I’d like to go through the inherent differences in capability of each sector.
For those that are not really sure what the difference is, in a nutshell, marketing automation is email marketing that will send targeted emails to potential leads, based on things that user may do on your site, and email marketing is just that – emails that are sent out to your email database. There are some similarities, in so far as emails are sent, and emails can be sent periodically, or one after another, but that is really where the similarities end.
Behaviour targeting is better for lead gen:
Let’s say that you have a user signed up and you have their email in your database. Let’s also say that you have an MA solution installed, so when that user signed up to your database, your MA system placed a tracking cookie on their browser. In a perfect world, you have set up workflows that will send emails based on behaviours and one of the behaviours you have set up an email for is a “request a call” email.
A few weeks after a user came to your site and download a guide or eBook or whatever you created to get that email, that user comes back to your site, and they start looking around your website.
They go to the home page, then your services page, then they head off to the pricing, back to your services and then to your contact page… but they don’t send you an email. Usually, that is where that potential sale will stop and you have no idea that has happened, but your MA does, and it then sends an email to that user moments after they left your site, with a simple request: Do you want one of our sales people to get in touch? oh, and it has also notified your salesperson that someone has just been sent that email.
Instantly, you are impressing your potential lead with a “how on Earth did you know I was just there?” and you’re getting your sales people ready to respond if needed – within seconds if possible.
All of that builds an amazing WOW factor that will generate more leads than sending out a blast.
Email blast can be fast at converting sales in the short term:
MA is most powerful in targeted response emails and long-term lead nurturing and can, in some cases, elicit that WOW response from a user. However, a lot of that relies on a user coming to your site, so that user needs to be in the searching phase to really get the benefits of MA. Emails blasts, on the other hand, are fantastic short-term response drivers. Sending out an email with an offer can create impulse purchase or interest visits to your site that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
In a study by the Mckinsey institute, email marketing is 40 times more effective in lead generation than social media and up to 12 per cent more valuable than an average browser. If you’re an eCommerce, email blasts are a fantastic way to bring in some prospective sales in the short term!
Traditionally, people grow lists with a newsletter sign-up
There are many guides on how to grow an email list – and I’m sure that we will post something in the near future on how to do just that – but I wanted to talk about the traditional differences in how the two databases are grown.
For your run-of-the-mill newsletter, most people are given the advice to give offers, incentives and discounts; they are told to think about form placement, button colour and form length, then they will be told to think about showing how many other subscribers there are to give that important “social proof” that others get it so you should as well. These are all solid ideas, but the intrinsic difference is in methodologies – with MA, you need to give away something of value. I’m not talking about cash or giving away your product. I am talking about giving something of informational value to a potential customer that appeals to the phase of the purchasing process that your customer is in.
It’s very common practice for MA users to create and give away an eBook or guide that answers a question for a reader. It’s usually high quality and well-written. When you give something of value away, you do a few things: firstly, you show your readers that you are knowledgeable, and you’re happy to give away that knowledge. Also, it provides a good reason for me to give you my email. You’re more likely to get throwaway email addresses when the incentive is low.
Sales can follow up with an lead when they know you’re in the searching phase
For MA, this is the biggest win over EM, and that is that you can actively track a user and see when they are in the purchase decision phase. You have created content that keeps your users coming back to your site, then you gave them a high-quality report or eBook and got their email. After reading that, they come back to your site and read some more, then they start looking at your services and prices and then contact form, but they do not send you an email.
That last part there – the “went to your contact form, but didn’t contact you” point – is the key. Knowing that behaviour of a single user on your site will give you the edge that EM just can not do. It can show you and alert your sales staff that a potential customer has taken an active interest in your products after getting to know your business through your content, but for some reason or another, didn’t follow through with the contact.
You can now have your MA system send them a follow-up, a little incentive that is easy to reply to, and BOOM – you have started a conversation with a customer. EM just can’t do that. It can’t tell you that a user is on your site right now, a day after they downloaded your eBook, and they are looking at your price list. It can only send the same email to a large number of people and hope you get a win.
You can divine the ROI easier with automation than traditional email
The last point that I want to make regarding MA vs EM is that, with MA, you can track content and marketing efforts through to your sale and give it a real, track-able, monetary return on investment cost. A fantastic side effect is that you can track social media marketing through to sale FAR better. By setting a monetary amount per campaign in your system, and creating a UTM code for each piece or set of content you create, you can report that “we spent $500 creating this eBook and $300 promoting the URL on the social media, and that sent X people through to the site, X downloaded and then X came back six months later and purchased. That means that $800 returned X in sales”.
So, in closing, we at DSA believe that MA is far superior to EM, as MA can do targeting and tracking that EM just cannot, but you can also just use most systems as a pure EM system. You get the best of both worlds and, while the cost is usually much higher for MA systems, we feel that it’s money well spent for any business and money that you can justify to your management, because it WILL increase sales.