The marketing and sales technology space continues to grow, with new platforms and technologies popping up everywhere, and new categories of technology getting created to solve problems large and small for all types of businesses.
In the email space, most people look to Email Service Providers (ESPs) and Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) for all of their email marketing needs. These platforms like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Hubspot, and Marketo dominate the email space. However, there’s a distinct point to be made that these Email Marketing platforms really aren’t well suited for all email communication in the marketing and sales process, even the ones that are well suited for automation.
That’s where Sales Automation comes in.
Sales Automation Platforms (SAPs) are set up to handle the actual automation tasks that are not truly the responsibility of Marketing– and to facilitate automation where you want and often expect an email recipient to actually respond or reply to the email, not just click a CTA within the email.
At the core, the biggest difference between ESPs/MAPs and SAPs is the infrastructure and configuration through which the emails you create in these tools and automate is the system in which they’re actually sent through and delivered.
An ESP/MAP will typically send through its own servers, whereas a SAP integrates directly with your own email client (ie Gmail/Yahoo). This difference in configuration makes for a big difference in features and capabilities between the two types of platforms.
Both ESP/MAPs and SAPs have open and click tracking, but an SAPs direct email client integration means that when an email is replied to by a recipient, the SAP is aware. While an ESP/MAP still allows for replies, the system won’t be able to know this unless an end user manually or otherwise tells the system so.
Why is this useful?
ESPs/MAPs are not concerned with reply handling because the tasks that ESPs/MAPs are used for are typically further up the marketing/sales journey, and when an email is replied to (which should be rare), it typically becomes a distinct, high touch communication line with a Sales or Support person. When recipients reply to these emails, unless they are manually removed or filtered from future emails, they will continue to receive them within the workflows.
With SAPs, replies are expected and welcomed. Because of this, the system needs to be able to (and is able to) see that a recipient has replied, and set a status internally so that they can either be moved to a different email workflow, or paused from receiving future emails within the automation altogether. Most SAPs can also handle replies that are based on vacation or out of office autoresponders, in addition to manually typed ‘take me off your list’ language.
This difference in reply handling often makes Sales Automation Platforms a good choice for outbound email and lead generation efforts, as well as automated follow ups well down the marketing and sales funnel.
Because emails from a SAP come directly from your email client, recipient mail servers are unlikely to recognize the IP your email comes from as one that is owned and oft recognized as one belonging to an ESP/MAP. Because of this, your reputation may enable you better inbox penetration than your standard marketing email.
Be careful though, this is not a recommendation to attempt to circumvent spam filters through a SAP. If you damage the reputation of your own email client, even your standard communication with clients may be compromised, and could really hurt your entire company’s operations and communication with clients.
With the direct email client integration, Sales Automation Platforms give you more flexibility to throttle the sending of all of the emails queued up in a campaign, rather than have hundreds or thousands of emails go out all at once that happens with a ESP/MAP. While this often means that you can’t be as precise about when your emails will hit everyone’s inbox, it does mean that you have a bit better chance at inbox penetration on mail servers configured to block or quarantine senders who are blasting a sizeable amount of email into one company’s mail server at once. Again, this is not recommended as a spam filter circumvention tactic only.
Because Sales Automation Platforms typically require configuration with Gmail or Outlook, which have limits on the number of emails you can send per day, Sales Automation platforms also have limits on a per sending account basis. This is typically to the benefit of the sender, as you don’t want Gmail flagging your account as being used for automated marketing emails.
To get around this, you may have to set up multiple sending accounts and coordinate configurations to split outbound campaigns across multiple senders in order to send a higher volume of outbound email in a shorter amount of time, and make sure the sales team is aware of the process.
Because Sales automation platforms are built primarily for sales communication, the interface and email content editors are extremely simplified. There are no ‘Drag-and-Drop’ interfaces to create marketing style emails, so if you do want to build highly stylized outbound email, you may need to either sharpen your HTML skills, or export an HTML email built in a drag and drop tool to import into the sales automation platform.
While sending configuration and the email creation tools are the main differences between these two platforms, there are a few other features that are noteworthy.
Sales automation platforms often come equipped with email verification features that allow them to ping mail servers to determine if an address is valid before sending. This can be particularly useful to clean lists for outbound and ensure limited catch all addresses and bounces.
Because marketing automation typically has website tracking, it allows you to trace a users activity from email click, through to the visit and all the activity around that visit. Because sales automation tracking activity stops at clicks, it can make it difficult to determine a user’s activity after that click, and you must use things like UTM codes to track them – even then, there will be limited visibility as to what that individual contact is doing.
Both Marketing Automation and Sales Automation can – and often should – be used in tandem to support marketing and sales operations, particularly in high touch B2C and B2B business, but it’s important to understand what they’re used for in order to fit them successfully into your sales and marketing user journeys. Trying to ask either type of platform to do the job of both often leads to user friction at best, and deliverability or engagement issues at worst.
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