Email Automation vs Autoresponders: The Important Difference

Email Automation vs Autoresponders: The Important Difference

email_icon_momentum_blog_sept14.jpgWe all tend to stick with what we know. It’s our comfort zone. For our agency, Constant Contact has been a comfort zone. We know how the templates work and what to expect with deliverability. As we continually re-evaluate our clients needs, we’ve realized that while most of our clients benefit from email marketing, some need other services offered in different ways.

A lot of different companies offer B2B email marketing services. Each of these services offer basic, static emails. Meaning you create an email, choose a list, schedule a time, and voila, the magic happens and your email goes into the exact right inboxes at the exact right time.

The system works perfectly for one-of emails like industry updates, event announcements, or seasonal product pushes.

The downside of this system is that although you can measure open and click through rates, once a reader gets to your website, you often lose them in the analytic data.

Email marketing has evolved over the last few years to include series of emails based on a buyer’s interest and readiness to buy. With the right software, you can separate the tire-kickers from the purchasers and send relevant emails to both groups moving them from one position in their buyer’s journey to the next until they make a purchase.

Knowing which email service offers which options can be a little tricky. Many email service providers promote email automation and email responders. What they really mean is you can set up a series of emails to be sent to a list of people.


Let’s say Ken is looking to buy a commercial building for his business. He’s not sure if he wants to build this building or purchase a pre-existing building. So he downloads your e-book “Pros and Cons of Building Your Own Office Space”.

Ken’s download lands him in the list “Pros and Cons” so he receives a series of emails after his download pushing him back to your B2B website for more information on either building (if you are a builder) or buying (if you are a realtor). Regardless of the action he takes, he will continue to receive all the emails in this series to the very end, even if he signs up for a consultation or purchases a building from you two weeks into the 8 week series of emails.

That’s what autoresponders do. They allow you to set up a series of emails to be sent to a specific group with a specific trigger. “Start this series when…” is the likely wording.

Autoresponders are great options to educate customers on a specific subject in which they are interested, to remind them about events they may have signed up to attend or even to make sure they get reminders about on-going sales.

>>>Read Next: Guide to Segmenting a B2B Email Marketing List of 10K+ Addresses<<<

Email Automation

Let’s go back to Ken and his commercial space. Let’s say he downloads your email and then visits a page on your B2B website to search for available land. At the same time, Scott downloads the same ebook but does not immediately look for anything else on your website. Instead, a week later Scott returns and looks through commercial facility plans with a focus on large warehouses with 5000 SF of office space. Ken and Scott obviously have different interests.

With an autoresponder, both Ken and Scott would receive the same emails with the same calls to action. Email services that offer the option of more detailed automation can allow you to send more specific emails. Instead of having a series only triggered by one event (an ebook download), you can add additional triggers (an ebook download and visited specific webpage). An automated series can also eliminate duplication by removing a contact from one series of emails when they are started in a second series of emails.

Even more important, if Scott or Ken request a  consultation for a new building construction at any point in the email series, they can be automatically removed from that series of emails.

Email automation ensures your contacts receive the most relevant information based on all the information you have about them. It also ensures your contacts stop receiving information when it is no longer relevant or they have taken the action you wanted them to take.

Our agency uses both options depending on the client’s needs and budget. Typically auto-responders are less expensive because they require a service that takes less data to operate well. Email automation usually relies on a series of landing pages, social media tracking and website analytics to track a person’s engagement with your online presence. The data and coordination required for this type of in-depth tracking comes at a higher price.

A year ago, we chose to partner with HubSpot in order to offer the tracking and data collection needed to provide true email automation services. If you are interested in adding automation to your B2B email marketing campaign, contact us to talk about how we can create email workflows to move your prospects from visitor to customer.