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 Many business owners use marketing automation and email marketing software synonymously without knowing that they are completely different tools. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. The many intricacies of digital marketing strategies are hard to distinguish from a bird’s eye view.

These two systems are developed to do entirely different functions and, although complementary, they should not be used interchangeably. Your focus is understandably on your business, and your marketing planning and research likely put you on a journey to understand marketing automation and email marketing software.

Good news: We’ve got you.

In short, both strategies are rooted in email with the goal of either nurturing an audience or directing traffic to your site. Marketing automation is a much more integrated and complex approach than email marketing and automates the entire process of funneling leads to the end of the sales funnel. Email marketing software, on the other hand, focuses primarily on email lists.

In the Red Corner: Marketing Automation

Although marketing automation is rooted in email, it goes far beyond the capabilities of the inbox. Marketing automation includes components of email marketing software but also helps businesses automate everything, like website visitor tracking, lead scoring and grading, integrating native CRM, and closed loop analytics, and provides a centralized marketing database for business owners to see the entire perspective of their marketing efforts under the scope of the automation.

Automation of business workflows and processes with a businessman in background touching a button

Marketing automation helps business owners segment the buyer’s journey and helps guide them through the next steps to turn them into a customer. This means that marketing automation is triggered by user responses and sends the next step along the journey, whether that means a call from a sales representative or a text message.

In comparison, email marketing software might have certain automated components, such as scheduled emails, but it doesn’t have the robust functionality of marketing automation.

In the Blue Corner: Email Marketing Software

email menu on monitor screen

Email marketing is primarily used to enhance relationships with a business’s audience and form a trusting relationship with prospects. Email turns the conversation about your business into an ongoing discussion, as opposed to a series of transactional interactions whenever it’s time to sell or pay a subscription fee.

Email marketing has been around for decades and is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing methods out there. Since it costs so little to set up, it can bring tremendous returns to even the smallest businesses: upward of a 38x return on investment!

As the growth of email marketing progressed, email marketing software emerged to allow business owners to scale their email marketing strategies. Email marketing software enables people to do everything—segment their email lists, send personalized messages, and schedule regular emails.


The pricing structures for both email marketing software and marketing automation vary.

  • Email marketing software is generally based on a fixed value like the size of the email list and number of sent emails but can work on a monthly basis.
  • Marketing automation is often priced monthly based on the features you need and the complexity of your project.

To find what works best for you, boil down your goals into a simple return on investment equation. How much would each strategy cost to meet your goals?


So, which of the two marketing tools in the best? The answer is: It varies. In order to best answer the question, we must add the corollary: Which of the two marketing tools in the best for you?

tools in tool belt on wood planks with copy space

Although there are major differences and distinctions between the two, each can be used in complement of the other. At the end of the day, each is a means to the end of reaching your goals.

Email marketing software is a much simpler approach that can still yield massive results and could be better suited for a simpler process. Marketing automation, however, is a full-scale marketing effort to turn leads into customers with little to no interaction from the business owner.

If you are new to the digital marketing world but still want your business to start utilizing some of these strategies, it might be best to start off with email marketing software. Once you see the gears turning and responses from your audience, you might want to start considering scaling your strategy to fit your new goals. Once you grow to a complexity that would benefit from full-stack marketing automation, you may want to consider making the switch.

The best way to understand which strategy works for you is to hear from other business owners about which approach they used to what success.

Given the above information, which do you think would help you reach your goals?


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