ESP VS Marketing Automation – Yes! There is a difference

As I sit back on a Monday evening, pondering my day at Exhale, I find myself coming back to a question that now seems to be dominating initial onboarding calls:

Why wouldn’t I just use “insert alternative name for ESP, e.g. MailChimp”?

Now, just like most Marketers out there, I do have a warm fuzzy spot for MailChimp, it helped kick off a lot of the clients we have, and was there even in the beginnings of our own boutique marketing firm that later evolved to Exhale Consulting.  However, as much as I love that savvy Chimp and his many ESP cohorts, I must express that they are not a replacement for marketing automation.

Let me explain.

Both an ESP (Email Service Provider, such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, AWeber…. to name a few) and Marketing Automation will enable you to design, write, send, test and track your emails. But, and this is a very big BUT, that is where the similarities end.

As fancy as the ESP providers get (and some have thrown in a few impressive bells and whistles such as basic behavior email sending options), they are still a huge feature set away from Marketing Automation.

Where ESP’s are meant to handle your email, Marketing Automation is email +++, in fact a superior marketing automation platform will not only manage your entire marketing eco-system, align the efforts of sales and marketing but also provide predictive analytics for you to deliver even more celebration inducing results during your next campaign.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Closer Look

Far Beyond the Boundaries of Email

With both ESPs and Automation you can design, send and track your emails.  However, that’s the end of the line with an ESP.

With a system such as SharpSpring (great for small to mid sized B2B) or Hubspot (long cycle sales organizations – B2B and B2C  – love this option), your prospects engagement continues to be tracked.

Insights (e.g. pages they visited, what content they viewed, social they engaged with), are added to their lead record and can be used as triggers to further engage them.  Imagine, your prospect clicks through your email to an offer-based landing page, they say “yes”to the offer and fill out the form… now your automation system can move them into a new (more relevant) email campaign, adjust the content on your site to further nudge them to a close, and/or flag them for a call from sales.  What organization wouldn’t benefit from this?


Scores that Sales Will Love


A strong marketing automation system (such as Pardot, Marketo or SharpSpring) will have a built in lead scoring platform and will also provide an option for custom lead scoring settings.  How about the ESPs? Nah, they are focused on email only.

So why is lead scoring important?  By setting a lead scoring formula (on your own or with the help of a team such as our sales strategists at Exhale), your automation platform can identify when a prospect is warm, hot and/or ready to be sold and trigger a hand-off to sales.  Less time is wasted on non-qualified leads and more time is invested into prospects who positively impact the bottom line.


Automate (Nearly) Everything!


Here are a few more things that a Marketing Automation Platform can deliver, while an ESP is still waiting to be fed more email fuel:

1. Want to better track social media engagement, flag important account interactions or track social metrics?  Marketing Automation handles this via campaigns and social components.

2. Ready to get really personal with your prospects and customers?  Try out automation’s dynamic content – from email to web – content shifts to match your visitors intent and interest dramatically improving engagement (and all important conversions!)

3. Hungry to gain more qualified leads? Take advantage of Visitor ID with platforms such as SharpSpring.  Discover who is looking for solutions and how to best engage them.

4. Tired of Marketing not showing measurable ROI? Campaigns set-up in marketing automation are meant to finally be able to put a dollar to the benefits marketing delivers.


There are many things Marketing Automation can do for small and enterprise organizations alike.  The key is being ready for something more than glorified email.  If you feel that a stand-alone ESP is just not delivering the results you know you should be seeing, let’s chat!

Alessandra Sagredo

Alessandra is Exhale's Director of Client Strategies. She works closely with clients to design strategic and tactical plans that put marketing automation to work for outstanding results. In her past life she has managed marketing for Fortunate 500's such as NEC. She is also a music lover, book fiend and red wine aficionado.

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