Why (and how) to Use Email Workflows in Your Marketing Automation

Have you ever signed-up for someone's email list – and heavily perused a specific section of their site – only to receive one of those "Hey, we thought you might be interested in xyz!" messages a few weeks later?

If you're anything like Ron Swanson, or simply have a strong distrust of applications like Google Earth (I wonder if anyone's every been caught watering plants in their underwear), such surveillance may feel disconcerting.

No one likes the feeling of being watched.

But what if you're monitoring Website activity in the name of better understanding your prospects?

Is that OK?

The bottom line: Your Website is your property, YOU own it. And that gives you certain rights.

For example, say someone walked up to your porch, sat down with a magazine and started drinking a glass of sweet tea – wouldn't you feel within your rights to say, "Hey, how long have you been here? What are you reading?"


The same goes for your online property; especially, if you're in the business of providing a product or service. So, how do you do it?

Using Email Automation – Send Smarter (not harder)

Though it may seem mysterious, tracking how visitors interact with content isn't that complicated. Marketing automation software that seamlessly gathers metrics 24/7 can be installed in a matter of minutes. Set-up usually involves copying and pasting a few lines of provided HTML into your site.

From here, an amazing amount of data can be tracked, analyzed and categorized in the program's backend. Currently, 60 percent of marketers use mass email to connect with their customers, but only 13 percent of them are using marketing automation software, according to Autopilot's Marketing Automation Performance Report.

Do these handful of marketers using automation know something the others don't? Apparently so, considering 79 percent of top-performing companies report having used marketing automation for two or more years!

While we're huge fans of Hubspot around here, we fully acknowledge it may not be right for everyone. Actually, there were a reported 215 marketing automation software options on the market last time someone checked! I know, we couldn't believe it either.

Besides providing valuable metrics, the real value of such software lies in setting-up "email workflows" that trigger automatic delivery after specified actions have been performed (i.e. submitting a form, clicking an emailed link, viewing specific blog pages a certain number of times). Obviously, different providers offer different features and functionality.

For the rest of this article, we'll review our favorite email workflow sequences. Once you "get a feel" for how email workflows function, begin considering which would make the biggest difference to your business right now.

1. Welcome Email Workflow

By far the most popular workflow, is the welcome email. You can automate it so that anytime someone new subscribes to your newsletter, they immediately receive a prewritten email. Besides thanking the reader for subscribing, this email usually reminds the person why signing up was a great decision. It's also customary to provide any links or freebies promised during the opt-in phase.

One way to really nurture your new leads is to expand your welcome email into a series. Here you can introduce readers to your best-performing articles, resources of particular interest and even case studies of past clients toward to the end.

One company currently doing a great job with their welcome series is software provider Helpscout. Upon signing up, you immediately feel welcomed and a part of the team. The following emails give an interesting overview of article of interest to the organization's target market. And it ends with some great case studies and a final CTA.

2. New Customer Workflow

While most marketers are well aware of the "welcome workflow," very few take advantage of the "new customer workflow." Whenever a subscriber moves from a lead to a customer, they are essentially entering a new relationship with you. As such, why not create a workflow that specifically addresses their needs?

Not only is this a great time to remind them of exactly when (and how) they will receive their purchase, it's also an ideal time to provide related resources. For example, say you own a t-shirt company. You could automate an email message containing instructions for care, fashion pairing ideas and a tracking number.

Conversely, say you offer custom designed Websites. You could automate an email message containing best practices for getting started with the design process to every new client; a win for you and for them!

3. Gated Content Workflow

If you're already publishing gated content to address the Consideration Stage of your Buyer's Journey (i.e. white papers, Ebooks, video trainings), you may want to combine those downloads with a "content specific workflow." For example, say you run a financial services firm, and someone downloads a white paper on "The 7 Investments You Should Never Make." Why not set-up an automated email sequence with more resources concerning investment tips?

You could break out your best tips over a series of two to four bite-sized emails. Include a case study of how you helped a similar client in the final email and a CTA for a free consultation. And watch the leads roll in.

The same company might also have separate workflows on retirement, home ownership and ROTH-IRAs. If you're thinking that sounds like it would take a long time, you're right! But once it's done, it's done. And it's working on your behalf 24/7.

4. Lead Nurturing Workflow

What about someone who's downloaded NOT one marketing offer, but SEVERAL? This person is likely close to a purchase decision. As such, create a workflow with a sale in mind. Ask yourself: What are the final obstacles this person still has to purchasing? What are their most pressing questions (at this stage)?

Additionally, many marketing automation programs will actually allow you to set notifications for your sales department. So that after your lead has met certain criteria, sales automatically receives notice to follow-up with the lead. By providing reps with all the information they need about said lead – including relevant mid- and bottom-of-the-funnel content that they can send to the lead in their outreach email – you're connecting them with the best leads at the right time.

5. Superfan Workflow

While some industries naturally lend themselves to "superfans" more than others, if you're truly surprising and delighting customers, you should have some. A superfan is someone who loves you and your company so much they just can't help tell their friends about it.

Like most people, I venture into superfan-mode for very few companies – AirBnb, Apple and AG jeans come to mind – but when I do, watch out! You can use trigger criteria (i.e. multiple site visits, high percentage of email clicks and/or shares) to create email workflows that specifically encourage social sharing. In essence, because you know these contacts 'like you' you can confidently request some social sharing.

6. Re-Engagement Workflow

Noticed some inactive list members? Set an automated workflow to get them re-engaged. For example, you could specify a workflow to be sent based on length of time since their last Website visit, email clickthrough or a number of other metrics. That way you can rest assured you're always staying on top of the leads you worked so hard to get in the first place.

Pro Tip: If someone has already truly "checked out," there is no chance of reinvigorating interest. However, if someone has simply been busy or occupied with other priorities, sending along a special coupon or resource could provide a gentle nudge to re-nengage with their original intentions upon subscribing.

7. Live Event Workflow

There is perhaps nothing more time consuming than planning a live event. Whether it's a large conference, or a monthly meet-up, there are many components are at play (i.e. location scouting, sound systems, furniture, catering, marketing, collecting payment and so on). What separates top-notch events from so-so events?

The personal touches that come before, during and after. By automating an email workflow, you can ensure attendees know exactly what to expect and feel cared for from start to finish. For example, you may want to deliver important information pre-event – travel instructions, itinerary information, preparatory resources – so you're not repeatedly answering the same questions over and over again.

During the event, you may want to send an automated email containing speaker notes or power point slides (talk about surprising and delighting)! And post event, you'll want to follow-up with additional outreach and support.

8. Abandoned Shopping Cart Workflow

Customers abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons: Barking dogs that need to be walked, indecision over whether or not they really need that special something and deciding to purchase an alternative elsewhere are all common. Since you can't know why someone has abandoned their cart, consider setting-up an automated follow-up email. Here you can remind the recipient of their pending purchase, while including a special discount or incentive to buy now.

9. Upsell Workflow

As the saying goes, it's easier to maintain existing customers than get new ones. Nurture the customer relationships you already have by setting-up workflows that introduce them to product/service recommendations in alignment with past purchases. Amazon does something similar on their site's home page.

Login and you'll see a list of recommendations based on past purchases and browsing history. So long as you're continually providing your list with valuable content (read: engaging, informative and relevant), they'll probably be glad to hear about your other offerings.

10. Customer Satisfaction Workflow

Another way to organize workflows is by customer satisfaction. While we'd all love to have 100 percent "happy customers," that isn't always the case. Once you've determined how to measure your ideal customer satisfaction score, trigger two different workflows based on "happy" and "unhappy" customers.

Turn "happy customers" into your biggest ambassadors by providing them with exclusive content, offers and discounts. Aim to better communicate with "unhappy customers" by reaching out with special discounts, proposed solutions and content that addresses their unique issues.

11. Case Study Workflow

You should always be adding to your library of case studies. An easy way to "stay on top of this," is to trigger an email workflow asking qualified customers if they'd be interested in participating. Once certain metrics are meant, the customer will receive an email outlining the benefits of being featured with a link to a brief questionnaire.

Also, consider offering some sort of incentive for participation. Although if you plan on featuring the content on your site, you will essentially be providing them with free advertising – who doesn't want that?

12. Upcoming Purchase Reminder

Does your business model operate on a subscription or purchase cycle? Create an automated email that reminds customers they'll need to replace product X soon. For example, say you run an electronic toothbrush company. You could set a reminder letting customers know they're due for a brush-head replacement, according to their previous purchase history. Not only will your customers appreciate the reminder, you'll also benefit from an more consistent sales cycle.

Email Workflows

By now, you're probably beginning to see the power of automated email workflows – less leads falling through the cracks, more returning customers and less work for your team (that is, once it's all set-up)!

For a broader view of automation for inbound marketers, check out 7 Marketing Tasks You Should Automate Right Now.

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