Marketing Automation or Email Marketing Platforms – What’s Best for Associations?

by | Feb 15, 2022 | Email Marketing, Marketing Automation

Email marketing is one of the most popular forms of outreach for non-profits and other member-based organizations. And with good reason: studies have shown it yields an estimated 122% ROI. Yet, there is still debate on the best system to deploy emails: email marketing platforms or marketing automation software.

To answer the question, we looked at the pros and cons of each system.

Email Marketing Platforms

Email marketing platforms are systems explicitly designed to curate subscriber lists and send emails. Organizations can create email list segments, design emails, and schedule email deployments with these platforms. Most systems can also track email data like open rates, click-throughs, and bounces.


  • Provides significant data on email engagements
  • Costs less upfront than marketing automation
  • Allows for scheduling emails and list segmentation
  • Integrates into marketing reasonably easily with a high ease-of-use
  • Offers pre-created email templates for quick content creation


  • May not deliver a solid ROI due to issues with messaging being caught in spam despite promising spam detection
  • Cannot provide one-to-one data that emails prompted donations, event sign-ups, or other desired actions
  • Can have rapid costs increases as the number of contacts or list segments grow
  • May not offer the desired level of customization with potentially rigid templates

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation systems are software platforms that manage multiple marketing channels. With marketing automation, organizations can create, schedule, and gain data on email, social media, and website interactions, among other marketing streams. Its value lies in automating repetitive tasks and tracking member engagement across multiple channels.


  • Provides high volumes of data, including interactions with landing pages and social media campaigns, and allows segmentation down to the individual level
  • Allows for drip campaigns to send messages to segments based on engagement with any level of marketing (email, website, social media)
  • Produces “trigger” messages to send when an individual engages with any number of specified actions (i.e., fills out a contact form, views a video)
  • Delivers targeted data that can link marketing actions directly to member engagement
  • Updates elements like delivery days and times automatically based on member engagement
  • Comes with highly customizable content


  • Costs more upfront than email marketing alone due to additional abilities
  • Requires more initial time investment to understand features
  • Offers more features than a given organization may be able to leverage


The Takeaway: What You Need Depends on Where Your Organization Stands

While both marketing automation and email marketing platforms offer automation and can boost your organization’s communication, it all comes down to your team’s goals.

If you’re looking to maintain your current level of member engagement or don’t plan to increase your communications, email marketing platforms may work for you. With a lower cost and relatively simple ease-of-use, email marketing platforms work well for organizations sending the occasional newsletter or promotion to a relatively static number of contacts.

However, if your organization wants to increase communications and grow member engagement, you need marketing automation to make any strides. Email can take you so far, but to grow, you need to understand each member’s full spectrum of engagement. The omnichannel abilities and dynamic data of marketing automation are essential to improving that engagement. It’s why 90% of Chief Marketing Officers said they’d use marketing automation by the end of 2021.

Making the Most Out of Your Communications with NuGrowth Solutions

For organizations looking to increase communications and grow member engagement, the team at NuGrowth Solutions has the tools and training you need to succeed. We work with organizations to help set up marketing automation systems and establish content and strategies that create consistent, engaging outreach.

Our team can help your organization improve deliverability, customize features, and gain proprietary pricing due to our relationship with one of the best marketing automation systems in the business.

Best-in-class outreach is within reach. Get in touch with our team today to find out more: fill out a simple contact form or call us at 800.966.3051.