Marketing Automation vs. ESP

What’s The Difference?

Marketing Automation vs. Email Service Providers (like MailChimp)

Another frequently asked question is “What’s the difference between marketing automation and an Email Service Provider, or ESP; don’t they do the same types of things?” In this short post, we will compare and contrast marketing automation’s intuitive, easy-to-learn functions with email service providers like MailChimp, ConstantContact and Vertical Response.

Let’s quickly look at three key major areas of interest and concern: generating more leads, driving new sales and return on investment, or ROI.

To have a little fun with this, a simple automotive analogy is in order: If Marketing Automation and Email Service Providers were new cars for sale at a car dealership, the window sticker that lists the various features and options of each would look quite different:

Window Sticker #1: Lead Generation

First, let’s take a look at the comprehensive range of tools marketing automation offers in the lead generation realm:

  • Importing lists of contacts
  • Visitor ID for identifying anonymous web traffic
  • Dynamic form fields for building complete contact profiles
  • Third-party and native-form integration
  • Simple CSS adoption to make your forms blend in
  • Automatically connect on social media
  • Qualify leads based on position in sales cycle
  • Schedule an email to a single contact for future delivery

Now for email service providers:

  • Importing lists of contacts

It’s fair to say that there isn’t much of a comparison here; but keep reading.

Window Sticker #2 Driving New Sales

With marketing automation, you have the following basic and advanced sales tools at your disposal:

  • CRM integrations
  • Easy-to-use email designer
  • Notification sent to sales team of a leads online activity
  • Automatically segment your leads based on their behavior
  • Targeted messages for near one-on-one communication
  • An illustrated timeline of all emails each contact received
  • Increased engagement with segmented messages

While ESPs offers only a couple tools:

  • CRM integrations
  • Easy-to-use email designer

Well, that’s a modest ESP improvement over their one “Lead Generation” category feature, but they are still wildly outnumbered by marketing automation. This is starting to look as bit like Custer’s last stand.

Window Sticker #3 Return on Investment (ROI)

Finally, let’s review what marketing automation has to offer in the world of ROI:

  • Open rate and click through rate tracking
  • Website behavior reports
  • Identification of contact’s position in sales process
  • Online and offline monitoring of leads activity
  • Automatic return on investment calculations

ESPs don’t offer much as far as ROI is concerned:

  • Open rate and click through rate tracking

In this final installment of our new car analogy, things clearly didn’t improve for ESPs at all. They are quickly becoming irrevelent and quite frankly getting their “doors blown off” by marketing automation technology.


If you interested in learning more about Marketing Automation, or have any questions about this article, call 714.637.3600 and speak with the specialists at Total Spectrum. Or email your questions to

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