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5 Differences ESPs and Marketing AutomationYou may be hearing the term marketing automation a lot lately. Is it just another fancy word for email marketing? If you’re already familiar with email services providers (ESPs) such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, you might be wondering what exactly makes marketing automation so different.

For starters, marketing automation refers to software that streamlines and organizes marketing tasks—including email. But there’s more to about about beyond the inbox. Here are some differences between marketing automation and ESP tools that small businesses ought to understand.

1. Getting leads…
ESPs allow you to import lists of contacts, and they often come with forms for collecting emails for your newsletters or other email updates. Marketing automation software can take this a bit further with forms that blend into your website, with fields that let you get complete information on contacts for sales. You can even collect info on anonymous visitors to your website.

2. …and scoring them too.
Marketing automation can go a bit further than ESPs by giving you more information about those leads to begin with. Marketing automation can track where your website visitors go, analyze their activity on your site, and then score them based on their behavior. This gives salespeople more info about a lead’s behavior and interests, giving them knowledge that can turn that covert a lead into a sale.

3. Beyond the email blast.
You can use your ESP to work with your mailing list and send out emails, such as newsletters, to all of your leads and to segments of your larger lists. But marketing automation can automatically send out a personalized email depending on the lead’s behavior and their score. If leads spend time on your product page for Widget X, for example, a marketing automation system can then send them a customized follow-up email asking if they need any more information about Widget X. This means more opportunities for personalization.

4. The magic of workflows.
In the world of marketing automation, a workflow is simply a series of automated actions based on a lead’s behavior or contact information. See our example about Widget X above to see what a workflow can do. With workflows, you can send emails, update contact information, add or remove contacts from lists, and other actions that you set up.

5. Know what works—and what doesn’t.
ESPs let you see which leads open your emails, who clicks on your links, and who unsubscribes. Marketing automation software can give you more detailed analytics so you can focus on the campaigns that work, and get rid of waste.

So which is best? When it comes to marketing, there’s sadly no such thing as a simple cookie-cutter solution. At the end of the day, ESPs and marketing automation software are tools. What are your real requirements in terms of functions and budget? What are your goals? Step back and take a look at what your small business needs when it comes to marketing. Then you can discover what tool works best to help your business meet those goals.