“Why not just go with an ESP?” It’s a question you might come across while deciding whether marketing automation is the right solution for your business, but a better question is: What’s the difference between the two?

So first thing’s first. Both handle your email, but that’s where the similarities end. An ESP, or email service provider, is designed to help you create, send and track your emails, but marketing automation has many other benefits and delves much deeper to enhance your marketing efforts. A marketing automation tool is meant to work with all of your marketing activities. 

So what are the major differences?

Go beyond email 

Marketing automation enables you to send out emails to targeted lists, set up campaigns and track your email performance, and traditional ESPs allow you to do the same. But, with a marketing automation tool, monitoring your campaigns goes beyond emails. Say you send an email to a prospect about a new product or promotion on your website. If the prospect clicks through to your website and looks through various pages including your pricing page, and then fills out a form to download an e-book or request a demo, all of that activity will be tracked in real-time with marketing automation.

And there’s more. An extra feature of Marketing Automation is lead nurturing. If you’ve been looking for ways to tighten up the relationship between your marketing and sales teams, and boost your lead-gen efforts, then you definitely don’t want to overlook this. Lead nurturing enables you to automatically send targeted messages to your buyers over time based on a set of triggering actions. You determine what these actions will be, whether it’s a specific time interval - such as sending a follow up email after 6 days - or a prospect interacting with your content. For businesses with a longer sales cycle, this is a valuable way to keep prospects educated while preparing them for sales.

Send better leads to sales

Since we’re discussing marketing and sales, it’s important to note the ways that marketing automation can bridge the gap between your marketing and sales teams. One way it can help with this is through automated lead qualification. Through their interactions with your website (filling out a form, watching a video), marketers can identify the leads that have the most interest and give them a corresponding score. 

The grade on the other hand, is a separate metric marketers can assign that denotes how close the buyer is to the ideal prospect profile. With both the score and the grade, marketers can send better quality leads to sales. 


Let’s take the ‘automation’ part of marketing automation even further. These are some ways that you can customise each part of the buying cycle.

  • If prospects look at pages on your website that correspond to a particular product, you can add them to a list that receives a follow-up email communication about that product
  • Have a prospect’s score increase when they click links in your emails or on your website (or both). 
  • Set up parameters that assign leads to sales reps automatically when a lead reaches a certain score that indicates they are ready to pass to sales.
  • Send reminder emails and follow ups if a prospect hasn’t interacted with your content in 6 months or more. 
  • Use dynamic content to personalise what prospects see when they view your site. For example, if a prospect from a company that works in the financial services industry visits your site, have a call out display a case study from the same industry. 
  • Customise your landing pages and forms
  • Traditional ESPs may let you customise or design email templates, but lack the capacity to do the same for your landing pages and forms. That’s where marketing automation steps in. You can build forms and landing pages that matches the design of your websites. If you’re aiming to increase lead generation, then gating some of your content can help you collect leads through form-fills. 

Adapt to fit your needs

Marketing automation really shines in its customisability. It’s a tool that can be adapted to accommodate the unique needs of your business. Whether you focus more on newsletters and blog posts or on webinars and events for your marketing, marketing automation is flexible enough to meet your respective needs. You can connect to your event marketing, social media, webinar content and storage software from one system to connect the dots across all your marketing channels.

So how do I figure out if Marketing Automation is really right for me?

If you still need to narrow down which system is a better fit for your business, these bullet points summarise some of the common sticking points that can be solved by a marketing automation tool. If you find that several of them apply to your business, marketing automation may be the right solution:

  • You need to maintain contact with prospects over a long sales cycle
  • You want more insight into the impact of your marketing campaigns and how they’re performing
  • You have limited resource or a small team that makes it hard to achieve your marketing dreams
  • You need messaging that’s much more targeted to reach your key audience
  • You’re having trouble distributing your content
  • Your revenue comes from more than just email 
  • Your sales team is having trouble identifying the best leads
  • There’s ongoing issues between sales and marketing

Learn how to create the ultimate sales and marketing tool by integrating marketing automation and your CRM with this insightful e-book: Marketing Automation & Your CRM: The Dynamic Duo