What is marketing automation anyway?

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By: Bethany Williams | 2.23.16

We’ve been singing the praises of marketing automation for some time now, but there’s some lingering confusion concerning the differences between an integrated mass email solution and full marketing automation. Even when you integrate your mass email with your CRM, it’s not the same as a full marketing automation solution.


Standard and Automated Marketing

Under the umbrella of ‘digital marketing’ (any marketing, outreach, communication, and education efforts you publish online), we’ve established two categories: standard marketing and automated marketing (aka marketing automation).  Within these sections, there are plenty of tools and solutions to  chose from depending on your priorities. But let’s not worry about that quite yet. Here’s how we define Standard and Automated Marketing.

Standard Marketing: informative and primarily outbound

Standard marketing solutions are centered around sending out content and measuring how your audience engages with it. This information will inform your strategy moving forward. You’re beginning the work of tracking how your marketing efforts influence sales, donations, and other indicators of success down the line.


  1. Mass email

  2. Open, bounce, and click-through rates

  3. List segmentation

  4. Managed subscriptions

  5. Campaign relationships


  1. Gets your message out to the right constituents

  2. Tracks the message on the constituent record

  3. Enables constituents to control what messages they receive

  4. Shows if outreach efforts are associated with deals

Solutions:  MailChimp, Emma, and iContact


Automated Marketing: educational and inbound

These solutions are built on an inbound marketing strategy, meaning that you provide your audience with resources and education to help them through their buyer or donor journey.  You provided tailored material suited to their needs throughout their lifecycle and engage them across many channels.

Features (in addition to all those included in standard marketing):

  1. Lead Scoring

  2. Integrated Publishing (including social media)

  3. Persona profiling

  4. Integrated touch points (landing pages, forms, CTAs, etc.)

Automated Marketing Benefits:

  1. Prioritize leads and outreach

  2. Streamline publishing efforts to save time

  3. Targeted and tailored messages

  4. Activity on your website is gathered and stored on the lead record

Solutions: Marketing Cloud, Pardot, Act-On, Right-On Interactive, and Hubspot

*Strategy consulting is highly recommended for Marketing Automation: it needs to be airtight to make the most of these tools.  Let us know if you need help with this.


Digital Marketing

In our marketing automation whitepaper for nonprofits, we divide standard and automated marketing solutions into three tiers that drill down even further. Once you’ve chosen between automated and standard marketing, you can dig deeper to prioritize features and hone in on a solution.




Marketing automation may sound impersonal but don’t let the name fool you, it’s a sophisticated approach to reaching target audiences with information, offers, and content they actually care about. It’s far more human than traditional marketing approaches since the whole point is to provide helpful resources and education to your audience.

Think about how stale traditional television ads seem. While watching your favorite show, you may have to sit through a barrage of ads for luxury cars, geriatric medications, and sodas, even though none of them speak to you personally. This non-targeted, scattershot approach to marketing is often expensive, ineffective, and in poor taste. With marketing automation tools, you can intelligently promote your company, brand, message, and mission to the people that are most receptive to it.

Wondering if your organization is ready to implement a marketing automation solution? Our Marketing Automation comparison report includes a quiz to see if your team is ready. Use the link below to download a copy for yourself. 

Download the whitepaper



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