From Email Marketing to Marketing Automation: When Should I Upgrade?

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Email is a powerful way to communicate with prospects and clients. But if you spend your days emailing all of them individually, you’ll never get anything else done. That’s why you’ve been using email marketing software, right? It’s an excellent tool that has lessened the burden by allowing you to email thousands of people at a time. But sometimes, even with that software, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and in need of something more. When email marketing software isn’t enough, it might be time to upgrade to marketing automation.

from email mktg to mktg auto

What are the signs?

The #1 sign that it’s time to consider marketing automation is your workload. When you start to feel that you can’t do email marketing the way you want to because you don’t have the bandwidth, you should think about other options. You may be frustrated at the time you’re spending customizing content and testing emails for all of your different lists—or you may not even bother to customize because you’re strapped for time. Are you consistently bothered by the fact that your messaging isn’t as targeted as you’d like for it to be? Email marketing allows you to see who opened which emails and how they interacted, but if you don’t have the time to deal with that information, it doesn’t do you any good.

Another key indicator is the number of contacts in your email database. Once you have about 10-thousand, it’s time to consider marketing automation. When you hit 10K, it’s usually too difficult to split and target lists accurately—meaning, a lot of prospects aren’t getting the right message at the right time. Of course, that number isn’t a mandate… just a benchmark for when most companies are ready to switch. A restaurant owner, for example, might decide that sending targeted emails to customized lists isn’t necessary… even if they have 20-thousand contacts. They might choose to send a weekly email blast about their specials and an occasional coupon, but nothing more. If that’s the case with your business, you can generally ignore the number of contacts and proceed with the status quo.

Also, think about the message you’re trying to get across. Could you send that message in a more targeted fashion with marketing automation software instead of your email marketing provider? Do you have content or (even better) a content plan that you are ready to proceed with? Marketing automation will help you get the right content to the right prospects at the right time, based on information you put into the system. If you have your content ideas mapped out but aren’t able to distribute it the way you’d like, it might be time for an upgrade.

Is it all about email?

No. Marketing automation software is not just about email. If you need to integrate your CRM data with your email marketing history; if you need to see web-tracking data in the same place as your email opens and clicks; if you need lead scoring mechanisms to help prioritize sales outreach… it’s time to upgrade. If not, email marketing should be fine for now.

Marketing automation, will give you a more well-rounded picture of your contacts because it includes features like web tracking, integrated landing pages, and so much more. Most marketing automation systems will either integrate automatically with your customer relationship management system (depending on which CRM you use) or can be configured to work with your CRM. If your sales team is complaining about the crappy leads you’re sending their way, marketing automation can help. Sharing information between the systems allows your sales team to see a contact’s entire history, including which emails they’ve interacted with and which ones they ignore. That way, when they reach out, they can craft their phone conversation accordingly.

Have you ever overheard a conversation like this in your office:

“Hi, this is [Sales Guy] from [Your Company Software]. How would you like to try our new product for free for the next 30 days?… Oh, you’ve already signed up for that offer?… Oh, you got an email about it yesterday? I see. Well, um, ok. Great! I’ll uh… talk to you again soon.”

If your sales team isn’t aware of the emails you’re sending or which products and offers prospects are engaged with, it might be time for an upgrade… especially if you’re hearing pointless conversations like that one. Your sales team should be spending time on sales-ready leads and not leads that you’re trying to warm up.

Keep in mind…

When it comes to software, email marketing costs a lot less than marketing automation because it’s a much simpler tool. In fact, in many cases, you may have signed up for email marketing online without ever talking to anyone. But marketing automation is another animal. It can be a complicated purchase because it automates a lot of complicated tasks. But if purchased and implemented properly, the returns will be worth it. And you don’t have to guess on that either; one of the benefits of marketing automation software is that it allows you to track revenue across your campaigns so that you can see what’s working and what isn’t.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author


Besa Pinchotti

Besa Pinchotti is Marketing Director at Capterra. By day, she helps connect buyers and sellers of business software. By night, she uses her skills as a former journalist to tell the stories of troubled software buyers so the world can learn from their lessons.


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