The Difference Between Marketing Automation and Email Marketing

In digital marketing, email communication can be a great tool for your business to keep the conversation going before, during, and after the purchasing process. You can use emails to help guide your audience to take action or complete a task to lead them down the marketing funnel. But what is the right strategy?


You may have come across marketing automation and email marketing as useful strategies in your research. Both use email as a tactic, however, these terms are used interchangeably which is a common mistake. Although they have some similarities, it’s important to identify what each is used for and why they aren’t the same. Discover what the differences between these terms below.

What is Marketing Automation? 

Marketing automation is a tactic used to engage your audience through personalized messaging. When you invest in a marketing automation platform, you integrate it with your website so you can track potential consumer behavior. That way, you have a better understanding of your audience’s preferences and behavior everywhere they interact with your company on the web.


For example, after they clicked that link, did they go to a landing page on your site? Did they visit specific product pages? Did they open an infographic? Download an eBook? Knowing this information can help you deliver personalized information that can remind them of their interest in your business and nurture them until they are ready to purchase or take action.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a strategy that sends out messages in the form of emails that are usually one-offs. Email marketing has options like sending a mass email to a segmented list or sending informational emails to users who complete a specific action. You can only track actions within an email campaign. For example, did they open an email? Did they click a link? How many times?


Specific actions, like downloading an ebook, are also known as “triggers,” which can set off an automatic response, such as a thank-you email. Sending emails caused by triggers is called email automation and this is managed by a marketing automation platform.

What are the Differences?

Both marketing automation and email marketing use emails as a tactic for reaching an audience, and can be managed by marketing automation platforms. We’ve listed the key differences between the two below:


  • Marketing automation handles both inbound and outbound marketing, while email marketing is only outbound
  • Marketing automation is used to nurture leads over time with personalized messages, while email marketing sends information out once to a broad audience
  • Only marketing automation uses drip campaigns to nurture leads


megaphone80% of marketers report an increase in leads due to automation.

Does your business need a strong email marketing or marketing automation strategy? At KWSM, we create fully-customized marketing plans to attract and engage your audience.

CONTACT US to learn about creating an effective digital marketing strategy.



Follow Dalia Grelin:
Dalia is a Junior Digital Marketing Strategist at KWSM with experience in tourism, hospitality, retail, fitness, logistics and finance. She is passionate about storytelling and CRM systems, and loves television, video games, and baking.