David Bater

Email Marketing Or Marketing Automation: Which Is Right For Your Business?

Email Marketing Or Marketing Automation: Which Is Right For Your Business?


This guide will help you understand the difference between email marketing and marketing automation. You will also learn what kind of business needs and marketing strategy each addresses best.

We often see the terms “email marketing” and “marketing automation” used interchangeably in the marketing technology space. As if they’re one and the same. But they actually meet very different business needs.

Likewise, you may be familiar with how automation impacts the sending of email. But did you know that full marketing automation has the power to transform your business? And sales processes, as a whole.

In this guide, you will learn the difference between email marketing and marketing automation. As well as how ActiveCampaign can help you start with email marketing. Also when you’re ready, graduate to marketing automation.

ActiveCampaign is a solution that scales with your business. So you never have to worry about migrating to another platform as your business grows.

What Is Email Marketing?

“Email marketing is the process of sending electronic mail.”

This can be done both manually and automatically. In email marketing, automation revolves around the sending of emails; so the result of any automation that occurs is the sending of email to your contacts.

Because it all revolves around email, a contact cannot exist without an email address. That’s because, from an email marketing standpoint, there’s nothing to be done without an email address. So for those looking for a pure email marketing solution, ActiveCampaign provides a simple contact database. That only requires an email address for each contact. Of course, you can use the additional fields in your database. And the custom fields to add as much information about your contacts as you like. But to get started, all you need is an email address.

Marketing Automation Strategy
Above is an example of basic email automation.

This automation, created to send a three-part video series, via email. To contacts who sign up for it, by submitting their email address. As you can see, the process is linear.

Auto Nurture

Contacts enter the automation when they subscribe to the list “People Who Like Arts + Crafts.” Once they enter their details, they immediately receive a welcome email, this welcome email containing the first video in the series. The following day, they receive a second email containing new video content. Then, after another day, they receive a third email containing the final video.

This example of a primary yet powerful function of email marketing. The ability to auto-schedule the sending of emails. It is resulting in the form of follow-up marketing that allows you to nurture your new leads into becoming paying customers effectively.

What Kind Of Business Needs Email Marketing?

If you’re running a small business, and you’re new to the world of email marketing, you may not need more than a platform with rudimental email marketing capabilities. At least for now.

An email marketing platform is a great solution for notification-based businesses mainly relying on email to share announcements and updates. Examples include

  • Bloggers who want to share new blog posts.
  • Non-profit organizations announcing fundraising event.
  • And eCommerce businesses delivering promotions or sending new product announcements.

Email Marketing Automation

Email marketing automation builds on the basics of email marketing. With more automation capabilities and the ability to add some personalization to your communications. It includes the use of tags, custom fields, and the ability to move contacts between lists. Either moving a contact from one list to another or adding a contact to multiple lists.

This intermediate space between email marketing and marketing automation best serves professional bloggers. Or business owners who have been using email marketing. But don’t feel they need the full power of marketing automation. Email marketing automation gives these users more power and advanced capabilities within email marketing.

The Growing Business

However, as your business continues to grow. You may realize you need something more than email marketing and email marketing automation provide. You may need a way to manage your contacts more effectively during the sales process, automate more of your internal processes. Or simply send extremely targeted communications to all of your prospects.

Enter marketing automation.

What Is Marketing Automation?

“It is the means of employing technology to continuously execute your marketing strategy.”

While it encompasses email marketing. And email marketing automation. It revolves around the ability to automate all of your marketing processes.

See 7 Signs That You Need Outsourced Marketing Services

With automation, you can:

  • capture leads,
  • nurture leads,
  • close leads,
  • identify contacts who are ready to buy,
  • notify an internal sales representative when the contact is close to conversion,
  • increase event attendance,
  • decrease the rate of shopping cart abandonment,
  • provide product fulfilment,
  • and work from a sales pipeline.
Sales Automation Pipeline
A screenshot of ActiveCampaign’s deals pipeline, which allows you to automate your sales processes.

A Facilitator for your Business

In this way, automation is a facilitator for your business. Much the way employees of a business facilitate its marketing and sales processes. Automation does the same thing – but with technology instead of people.

Marketing Automation Builder

In the above screenshot, you can see how marketing automation is more dynamic than basic email marketing. Rather than advancing through one linear path in the automation. Contacts are sent down different paths based on specific conditions that they do or do not match. This way, contacts only receive the communications that are most relevant to them as they move through the automation.

With this kind of scope and control over your marketing strategy, marketing automation allows you to personalize and tailor every part of the customer journey for your contacts. It makes your marketing processes nimbler and smarter while saving you time. That’s a powerful asset to your business!

What Kind Of Business Needs Marketing Automation?

As your marketing matures and your business continues to grow. You may reach a point when you feel it’s time to adopt even more advanced capabilities. That allows for very precise targeting and personalization, on a larger scale. This is where marketing automation comes in handy.

Marketing automation allows you to run a business with a small team that operates on an enterprise scale.


With ActiveCampaign, you can execute:

  • basic email marketing,
  • email marketing automation,
  • and marketing automation.

All in the same platform. Our platform provides room to grow so that as your business scales, you can scale your marketing with it.

In ActiveCampaign, you can:

  1. Start with necessary email marketing capabilities to support your business. These include creating and sending campaign emails and scheduling a campaign sequence in advance. And using an email builder, a contact database, lists, and reporting.
  2. Advance to more powerful email marketing automation features when you’re ready, including the use of tags, custom fields, and the ability to move contacts between lists.
  3. And finally, graduate to marketing automation once you need the full power and dynamism of a marketing automation platform, for your growing business. This platform includes sales automation capabilities, such as a deals or opportunities pipeline (CRM), the ability to nurture sales leads. And the ability to notify internal team members of changes within the customer journey.

Start, Trigger, Action

ActiveCampaign has 20+ automation start triggers. And more than 30 actions you can use to automate your marketing and sales processes. With so many options, the possibilities abound. You can create a truly personalised customer journey for your contacts. That takes them wherever they want to go, whenever they want to get there.

You can even access in-depth data from your eCommerce platform to trigger automation in your automation platform. Since ActiveCampaign has an open API, you can integrate your account with other tools you may use for your business. Such as Shopify or WooCommerce.


We hope this guide has clarified the difference between email marketing and marketing automation. And helped you understand what kind of business needs are addressed between email marketing, email marketing automation, and marketing automation.

No matter the size of your business or how much you expect it to grow. An automation platform provides flexibility and ease-of-use to make marketing easy at any level. ActiveCampaign offers the basic capabilities of an email marketing platform, with room to grow. So you’ll never experience growing pains. As your business scales, you can scale your marketing within the same platform.

What kind of automation capabilities do you currently use for your business? Do you envision using full marketing automation for your business processes in the future?

Let us know in the comments below.




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