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How to Build Effective Marketing Automation Workflows

Automation is the new cool across industries. Professionals are opting for automation workflow whenever possible to streamline business processes and improve bottom lines. Among these processes, marketing is one of the most important ones.

You may already know that sensible business owners set aside a good chunk of the operational budget for marketing. It’s one of those things B2C businesses cannot succeed without. Of course, B2B companies also need marketing but some aspects are fundamentally different.

marketing automation workflow

When automation is concerned, I believe marketing is one of the first things you need to look into. Automating your marketing processes will not only save time but also increase sales. How, you ask?

Well, I’m about to explain everything there is to explain about marketing automation workflows. I’ll explain what it is, why you should invest in it, and most importantly, how to incorporate marketing automation workflows into your business.

What is Workflow Automation?

Before I dive into automated workflow of any kind, it’s only fair that I give you the background of it. The term “workflow”, in a business context, refers to a set of sequential tasks that achieve a predetermined goal.

The components of a workflow may be distributed among multiple team members, across multiple departments. It’s going to depend on the nature of the business and the complexity of the project.

desinging workflow

When you use automation tools to design a workflow, you essentially eliminate the need for manual inputs and monitoring. Individuals receive the assigned tasks on a unified interface when they also submit the work. Each task of the workflow has a deadline that factors in the time it takes to perform other tasks. Of course, the segmentation of tasks and setting up deadlines depend on the overall deadline of the task.

What is a Marketing Automation Workflow?

Now that you know what automation entails, let me contextualize it for marketing professionals. Just like any other aspect of business, marketing strategies consist of different tasks. It typically starts with lead acquisition followed by lead nurturing and ends with the leads turning into paying customers.

Of course, this is a very generalized outlook on marketing workflows. In reality, marketing activities vary dramatically from business to business. But at the end of the day, the primary goal for all marketing strategies is customer retention.

When you start using automation software to take care of the repetitive tasks for your marketing team, you take out a lot of the inconsistencies and delays from the process.

marketing workflow automation

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you own an e-commerce business. New customers see a popup to receive a free item if they opt-in for your email newsletter. When a potential customer (a lead at this point) enters their email address, they expect to receive details of your offering. When can they expect the free product or service? How do you plan to send it to them? Are there any hidden charges?

Ideally, you should put all the relevant messages in a welcome email and send it to the interested prospect. The thing is, you can’t possibly expect to send the email manually every time. And it’s certainly not going to be the only email you send. Most lead nurturing workflow includes a sequence of emails that guides the customer through the sales funnel.

Using automation software to send welcome emails every time a user signs up is perhaps the simplest example of marketing automation workflow.

The bottom line here is if you want better customer retention, you should seriously consider automating your entire marketing paradigm.

How do Marketing and Operations Work Together?

Business owners often consider marketing teams separate from the core operational team because they’re “doing the marketing”. In reality, however, marketing and operations have lots of overlapping tasks and benefit both parties.

For starters, the operations team must know what the customer wants in terms of products as well as experience. It’s the marketing wing that brings in potential customers by designing a suitable customer journey.

Customer service reps are often managed and trained by the marketing team to serve the existing customers. As the brand voice is procured by the marketing team, the members understand the depth of queries. You can see how marketing and operations are overlapping in this case.

Another very important aspect of a successful business is data analysis. The operations team must have access to data that they can use to analyze inefficiencies in manufacturing, distribution, and other logistics. It’s often marketing professionals who can provide the data to operations.

What I’m trying to establish here is that the simple act of including a marketing automation workflow in your business can improve the efficiency of your operations team by a lot!

Why Do You Need Marketing Automation Software?

If I have to convince you to invest in marketing automation, I have to show you how it can help your business. So, I’m just going to do it in this section.

why workflow automation?

Increased Efficiency

I’ll be honest. I know this seems very cliche at this moment as we all know automation increases efficiency across the board. After all, you’re removing the repetitive tasks from your daily to-do list to focus on better customer experience.

At the same time, automated workflows can save you money on the staffing front because you don’t need as many people. Email marketing automation workflows, for example, eliminate the need for a person standing by to send out welcome emails every time a prospect shows interest.

Most importantly, you can use your workforce to cover more channels. Instead of focusing on email marketing alone, you can focus on social media posts, nurture your blog subscribers, build cart abandonment workflows, and do lots of other productive tasks.

When you cover more channels with the same or reduced resources, your bottom line should improve significantly.

All Teams Onboard

For any business to flourish, all departments must work in tandem to achieve the same goal. When you don’t have a clearly defined path for all members to contribute, it becomes exponentially hard to achieve success.

Primarily, you want to keep your marketing and sales team on the same page. For this to work, you should use the same automation software. This way, members of both teams are always updated on the latest developments. Needless to say, when both teams are part of the same workflow automation process, their goals automatically align.

I’m a big fan of this approach simply because data shows an automated marketing workflow can increase sales by 14.5% and reduce marketing overhead by 12.2%. It’s a win-win situation for all!

Better Conversion Rates

In marketing terms, the conversion rate is the ratio of “the number of users who converted as a percentage of the total number of users that visited your site”. In most cases, conversion is a numbers game. The larger your potential customer pool is, the more you can convert.

And if you can improve the conversion rate while increasing your pool, you’re setting your business up for unprecedented success.

The key to successful conversion is a proper lead nurturing workflow. How you guide the lead through the sales funnel determines customer purchases.

When you introduce workflow automation in marketing and sales, both lead scoring and nurturing become a lot easier. Thanks to automation, a potential lead doesn’t get stuck in any phase of the funnel. Every time they perform an action, the next phase initiates automatically.

For example, when a visitor signs up for your email newsletter, they should instantly receive a welcome email. This starts the customer journey on the right foot, letting them know that you’ve acknowledged their presence.

Email campaigns are part of pretty much every marketing campaign. Carefully spaced out and automated email workflows are the best tool in your arsenal to convert potential customers.

The best thing about marketing automation workflows is that you can launch a re-engagement workflow to get customers engaged who didn’t respond previously.

Detailed Reports for Better Customer Success Metrics

Pretty much every marketing automation software out there comes with a reporting feature. For paid plans, you get to decide what data you want to collect on the leads. But don’t underestimate the power of reporting on free marketing automation tools.

Just like email automation or other types of automation workflows, the reporting process is also automated. You instruct the software to generate a report based on your inputs. You just have to define the data points once.

From there, you can analyze the data to see what works and doesn’t work for your target customers. If leads are falling off the funnels, you need to know exactly where it happens.

Unhappy customers, for example, may not reorder after the first purchase, ever.

You can look into the matter by sending personalized emails to that very customer inquiring about their abandonment. You may also look into similar cases for the same product group to find out the exact issue.

Reaching out about customer experience not only shows sensibility but also establishes your brand as an authority on the internet.

It’s Scalable

perhaps the biggest advantage of using a marketing automation platform. When you’re not manually doing the tasks, there is no limit to how much of it you can do.

For example, email marketing automation is the same for 10 customers, 100 customers, and even 100,000 customers. An automated email workflow will follow the same path regardless of how many prospects you’re sending it out to.

Of course, customer segmentation is a big part of email marketing automation campaigns. Different groups of leads are usually in different phases of the funnel so you can’t send the same email to everyone.

Interestingly, you can automate the segmentation process as well. Essentially, the automation triggers when a lead matches the conditions you’ve put into the workflow.

You can use the reporting feature here to monitor customer purchases and see if your email workflow is working. Based on the data, you can make changes to the email marketing strategy or the overall strategy to meet your goals.

Personalized Content Output

Every email you send out is classified as content. Your blog’s best-performing articles are content. The texts across your web pages are content. Basically, everything you have on your website is content.

If the content you publish is not on-point, even the best engagement workflow models will not do you good. Marketing workflows always work better when they’re designed with a personal touch.

This is where the segmentation capabilities of the email marketing tools come into play. As you’re not spending valuable time on tasks that don’t bring any revenue, you can spend that time curating better content for the target audience.

Whether you segment your audience by browsing behavior or characteristics, marketing automation workflows are the way to go here. You get to automate tasks like scheduling, assigning, and publishing while your marketing team invests time in better market research.

How to Create an Automated Workflow for Your Marketing?

Now that you understand what a marketing automation workflow can do for you in terms of the bottom line, you may be interested in how everything actually works.

Well, I’m about to spill the beans on how you can design a marketing workflow that works 24/7 and brings you new leads.

But the caveat here is that there is “one rule fits all” in marketing automation. Different use cases require different approaches. I’ll demonstrate with examples rather than outlining a general step-by-step guide later in this post.

designing customer success workflow

For this section, I’m focusing on the universal characteristics of all marketing workflow.

Triggers

Every task has a starting point and an endpoint. In a workflow, tasks often require sequencing when there are dependencies between business processes.

When you “automate” a task from a dependent workflow, there must be triggers. For example, when a potential lead signs up for an email newsletter, you send the welcome email. The “signing up” is the trigger here.

Similarly, if a lead adds a product to their cart but doesn’t follow through with the purchase, the abandoned shopping cart workflow should trigger.

Essentially, a trigger is nothing but an action that causes a reaction in automated workflows.

Actions

Action refers to the next task in line in your marketing automation workflow. The email marketing tool sending the first email is an action. When you design email marketing automation workflows, you essentially line up multiple actions to be performed in the future.

Every “reaction” your marketing automation generates is an action in the process. Performing the right action at the right time is nurturing a lead. The more relevant the actions are in a marketing workflow, the better conversion rate you can expect. If they submit a support ticket, the action is deploying answers. You get the idea, right?

Conditions

Just because a trigger is valid doesn’t mean your marketing automation tools should follow through with an action. There are must conditions in place to generate valid actions.

For example, to send more automated emails after the first one, the visitor should visit the website at least once. Of course, this is a placeholder condition. The actual conditions you put in place will vary depending on the nature of your business as well as your goals.

It’s normal for beginners to confuse conditions with triggers because they seem very similar. Keep in mind that a trigger is not valid as long as the conditions aren’t met. Conditions are essentially guardrails for the actions.

Time controls

In your automation workflows, you may want to trigger certain actions at certain times. This is known as time control.

Email marketing, for example, requires clever spacing between the messages. You only want to send emails during workdays and work hours. The marketing automation tool you put in place will allow you to control precision timing for individual messages.

Marketing Automation Workflow Examples

As I already said, to truly understand the power of a marketing automation tool, we have to look at examples. Thankfully, there are countless examples set by different industries, making it easy for newcomers to adapt to their needs.

automated email is key

Automating Your Marketing Team

Your marketing team plays the most crucial role in setting your business up for success. When you implement marketing automation, you segment different tasks for different members of the marketing team.

For example, if you’re going with email marketing automation, you need to create all the emails in advance. They must also go through multiple quality checks (QC) before they’re dispatched. Needless to say, you’ll need copywriters in your team to write the emails. Ideally, an editor should check the quality before sending it to the head of marketing for final review.

What do you do? You simply create segments like “emails assigned”, “emails submitted”, “emails edited”, “ready for final review” and “dispatched”. When you assign the task to a writer, it shows up in the first segment. As the process progresses, different team members will update their status.

The best part about modern email marketing automation tools is that everyone in the team can see the status in real time to take necessary actions without going back and forth with other team members.

Onboarding Automation Workflow

This typically applies to SaaS businesses that offer free trials to interested customers. In my experience, this workflow automation technique works best for B2B businesses.

When an interested prospect applies for a free trial, you need to make the experience as seamless as possible. If it’s a particularly complex piece of software, you must educate the lead and guide them through. This is known as onboarding. If you haven’t caught my drift yet, I’m about to show you how to build an onboarding workflow.

You can simply use an automated email sequence to perform this step. Start by sending a welcome email greeting the lead. The welcome workflow should also include details about what to expect in the coming emails and when to expect them. This shows the lead that you know what you’re talking about and you’ll be there along the way to guide them.

After the welcome email, keep sending the instructional emails. It’s important to design the email workflow with proper triggers and conditions. Your ultimate goal is to design a frictionless journey. Popular tools in this category include names like Moosend, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp.

Re-Engagement Workflow

You’ll never get a 100% engagement rent no matter how much you spend on a marketing strategy. Some leads will always fall off at some point in the funnel. With a re-engagement workflow, you can target those inactive leads that once showed interest in what you have to offer.

Again, you’re using an email marketing workflow. A clever trick to make your audience think twice is giving them the option to unsubscribe. In fact, this is a psychological trick used by marketers all over the world.

The email marketing campaign should start with a reminder email followed by updates on your products or services. In the last email of the sequence, you’re going to provide the option for the customer to unsubscribe.

Believe it or not, the majority of the subscribers won’t opt out. Don’t worry too much about the ones that do because they were never going to convert in the first place.

Of course, you don’t have to manually create the email sequence every time. Just set up the re-engagement campaign when you set up the rest of them. Use a trigger like “main unopened for 30 days” to trigger the new emails.

Lead Nurturing Workflow

If you’ve read my other blogs on marketing, you know how much I emphasize lead management. Nurturing a lead the right way is by far the most effective way to improve conversion rates. If you don’t have a lead management workflow in place, you definitely want to consider adding one.

Again, automated emails come to the rescue. You should already know how lead scoring works. The most common way to acquire new leads is by offering something for free. For example, if you sell fitness products like supplements or home gym equipment, you can offer a free customized workout routine ebook.

If a lead shows interest in the ebook, chances are high that they’re considering getting in shape. Now, you have to convince the prospect that it’s a very achievable dream by providing further information.

Yes, through automated emails. Let’s say you design a 6-email campaign that explains

  • How our bodies grow muscle
  • What is the ideal balance between workouts and recovery
  • Why macro tracking is the best way to build muscles/lose fat
  • When supplements are necessary
  • How long does it take for your routine to show effects
  • How the products you’re selling can help the prospect achieve all of the above

As you can see, you’ve addressed all the major pain points for a prospect struggling with their fitness. By providing real value with information-rich emails, you’ve built rapport with the prospect and showed them hope.

When you send out the last email, the prospect is already primed for the purchase.

Upselling/Cross-Selling Workflow

This example is better suited to SaaS businesses as it’s significantly easier to upsell or cross-sell. In case you’re not aware, upselling is the technique of persuading a customer to buy additional features or a more expensive product.

This may sound unethical at first glance but it’s not. The “extended warranty” your car dealership reaches out about is an upsell. And cross-selling is when you suggest a different product that complements the original product.

For subscription-based businesses, setting up an upsell workflow trigger is crucial. For effective monitoring, you should invest in a CRM or customer success software. These tools provide marketers with the right insights to set the right trigger.

For example, if the CRM identifies that an existing customer has tried to access premium features for different tasks, it’s a telltale sign that they need an upgrade. You can thereby design email marketing workflows that satisfy customer curiosity.

Similarly, Ecommerce businesses can utilize a cross-selling strategy by suggesting similar products when the customer purchases one product.

Of course, the email campaigns you run will all be automated with the right email workflows. You can use Hubspot’s marketing automation tool as a baseline to enjoy these features.

Abandoned Cart Emails Workflow

For ecommerce business owners, abandoned carts are a major issue. As the name suggests, customers add products to their carts but never follow through with the purchase. Recovering abandoned carts is a prime goal for these businesses. Thankfully, the right email marketing automation technique can help.

Workflow automation for abandoned carts starts with a reminder email. Something like “Hey, you added XYZ in your cart and we’re still holding onto it for you”.

To improve the recovery rate, you may offer time-sensitive discounts. Or, you can add an authentic product review from a real user. Whatever approach you go for, having the right sequence of automated email is the key.

FAQ

What is a marketing automation workflow?

Marketing automation workflows refer to a series of marketing activities automated with triggers, actions, and conditions. The goal is to automatically send marketing materials to interested prospects without involving the sales team or other marketing professionals.

How do you automate the marketing process?

In most cases, an email workflow works like a charm. Email marketing is by far the most effective and cost-efficient marketing channel. You can automatically send assets through email marketing campaigns and receive internal email notification when they act.

What is the correct automation workflow?

Well, there is no straight answer to this question. An onboarding workflow is not correct in situations where you need engagement workflows. The “correct” workflow depends on your business model, your target audience, and how you create marketing automation workflows.

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