3 Key Differences Between Advertising Automation and Marketing Automation

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Forward-thinking marketers know they need both advertising automation and marketing automation to execute a strong omni-channel strategy. But what’s the difference? Here are three major distinctions that you need to know.

Nurture, Segment and Personalize – The Pillars of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to a series of tools and tactics that allow you to nurture prospects in a personalized way.  The goal is to touch leads through multiple channels and automate repetitive tasks, such as customer segmentation and campaign management.

It is important to separate marketing automation, the philosophy, from marketing automation software, which is a tool that helps execute that philosophy.  At the core, marketing automation is a philosophy of engagement that promises to give the best content to the right prospect at the right time.  Marketing automation softwares (“MAS”) – such as Act-On, Marketo, HubSpot, Pardot, and Eloqua – help deliver on that promise by reducing the repetitive tasks required to accomplish this.

For example, most marketing automation softwares record website visitor behaviors and tally a lead score that allows a marketer to programmatically identify the best leads versus the window shoppers. This type of segmentation is critical to identifying warm leads that want to receive your emails so you don’t burn your email lists while wasting time and money on the wrong leads. MAS can deliver personalized emails with mail-merge tokens (e.g., “Hi , . . .”), in addition to nurture campaigns that send different emails over time to a given lead based on their lead score, CRM status, and prior engagement.

Automated Advertising Feels Similar to Marketing Automation

Omni-channel marketing is just part of the overall marketing automation philosophy. There are many channels available, including email, advertising, phone, SMS, social media, and direct mail. While MAS typically leverage email, the softwares rarely use display advertising as an effective channel to nurture leads into and down a sales funnel.  That’s where advertising automation comes in.

As part of the marketing automation philosophy, advertising automation uses online advertising as a channel to nurture leads with personalized messages based on behavioral or demographic segments.  Software that helps marketers deliver on this promise is relatively new to the marketer’s toolkit given recent advances in ad:tech.

But fret not, for advertising automation software and MAS are similar in many ways.  For instance, both softwares record website behaviors and tally a lead score that allows a marketer to identify the best prospects. And like MAS, advertising automation software segments prospects based on their purchase intent so you don’t burn the advertising budget. Advertising automation software further resembles MAS because it enables display ad personalization for each message using mail-merge tokens (e.g., “, here’s a special offer for you . . .”).

Another similarity between MAS and ad automation software is the ability to nurture leads through display ads that change over time based on a lead’s CRM status, engagement, and lead score.

Three Key Differences of Automated Advertising

The first difference is, unlike MAS, advertising automation can contact visitors before they become known leads. This is accomplished by using display ads that are personalized based on the visitor’s behaviors and demographic information. Because this outreach happens earlier in the buying cycle, marketers can influence potential buyers earlier in their research phase, bringing them into the funnel and thus increasing their visitor-to-lead conversion rate.

This is important because up to 95% of website traffic is “unknown” – referring to visitors that do not have cookies associating them to records in a MAS or CRM database. Thus, most MAS cannot send personalized, nurturing messages to a large chunk of potential buyers.

Another key difference includes how a message is delivered.  In email marketing, common barriers include:

(1) did the email make it past spam filters?

(2) did the recipient see the message in their inbox given certain email-client layouts?

(3) did the recipient open the email?

In contrast, ad automation can deliver a personalized message to a specific lead through banner ads, delivering visuals and 140+ characters of content without relying on the recipient to “open” a message. The end result is a simple “lean back” experience that does not require additional effort from the recipient to receive your message.

Lastly, once a lead is in a contact database, advertising automation takes on a different role. Instead of pushing leads into the funnel, automated ads will turbocharge the nurturing process by delivering a message to leads that are email-resistant. For instance, dynamic ads can mirror email marketing campaigns, pushing the same message to create resonance. In other use cases, automated ads can execute an N+1 campaign to display messages from emails that are queued for delivery in the future, thereby softening a target to receive a message.

It’s Not Either-Or. It’s Both and It’s Easy.

Forward-thinking marketers are adopting omni-channel messaging as a cornerstone of their campaigns. But those who rely on MAS alone may fall behind given the inability to personalize, nurture, and segment prospects with online ads. This is doubly true since integrations between the automated ad platforms and MAS make it easy to enhance any marketing campaigns.

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