What’s the difference between Email Marketing, Lead Nurturing and Marketing Automation?

The distinction between Email Marketing, Lead Nurturing and Marketing Automation can be confusing because they all use email as their delivery mechanism.

Email marketing is simply sending email with your marketing message. The email message could go to one person or to a million people. It could be plain text or it could be an HTML email with links, images and video. Email marketing is typically sent to your customers, your prospects or to an email list that you’ve purchased in the hopes of getting new customers. Over the last 5 years email marketing has proven to be one of the most cost effective marketing methods. According to Wikipedia U.S. companies spent $1.51 billion on email marketing in 2011 and it will grow to $2.468 billion by 2016. Email marketing is not without challenges. According to a recent survey less than 50% of email newsletters are opened. Spam filters grab a significant portion of email marketing, estimates range from 10-20%. Before starting an email marketing campaign you should familiarize yourself with the CAN-SPAM law (http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/15C103.txt). For email marketing to be effective the recipients should have opted-in to receiving messages, the message should be relevant to the recipients and the content should be high quality. This will insure a positive reception to your email marketing campaign.

Lead nurturing is a step up from email marketing. Lead nurturing sends a series of emails at predetermined intervals. The goal of lead nurturing is to build a relationship with a prospect using electronic mail. The concept is that by staying in touch with your prospect while they are in the information gathering stage of making a purchase decision you will get their business when it’s time for them to purchase something. The idea came about because sales reps typically don’t follow up on sales leads until they the prospect is ready to buy. So rather than have those leads go stale, marketing was tasked with staying in touch with prospects until they were closer to making a purchase decision. According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing are able to generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead. A lead nurturing track might have 1 email per year or it might have several emails per day (I’m on a few of those). To be effective lead nurturing should be a targeted message with exactly the information the prospect is searching for and it must be high quality content. Lead nurturing emails should not be sent so frequently that they annoy the recipient.

Marketing automation encompasses communication that moves sales leads from the first contact to the completed sale using a software program that tracks the prospect’s interest and responds accordingly. Marketing automation is a combination of intelligent lead nurturing, human interaction and software that keeps track of prospect’s interests and sends specific emails and schedules follow-up phone calls automatically. For the lead nurturing portion, the marketing automation application examines how a prospect is interacting with your company. For example, what web pages did they visit, what links did they click, what emails did they open, what white papers did they download, etc. and then adds that prospect to the appropriate lead nurturing track. Once the prospect is a customer the lead nurturing track should change from pre-sales messages to post-sales messages because pre-sales messages are no longer appropriate for a customer. The follow-up phone calls should be automatically scheduled as part of the marketing automation process. The follow-up phone calls should be scheduled either at the prospects request, at milestones (e.g. after a webinar) or at regularly scheduled intervals.

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