What is a Workflow?
A workflow is a series of steps or business processes that are taken to complete a task. The task can vary in size and complexity and can span multiple departments, channels, and functions. Workflows can also lead into other workflows, depending on the fulfillment of conditions.
The definition of a workflow tends to be vague, because it is self-referential. It is best explained with an example. Here is a typical content workflow for better understanding:
This workflow outlines the steps within a content generation process. Apart from the steps, there are other factors like timelines, approvals, and task owners that are also relevant, and can be shown in a more detailed version of a workflow.
Workflows and marketing automation
In the context of marketing automation, the definition of a workflow remains the same, but the concept takes on a much more significant role. It is used to describe the framework of a customer journey, their touchpoints, and where the automated interactions come in. In short, workflows are used to define business processes in concrete terms for use by the marketing automation system.
Continuing with our previous example, the content generation aspect cannot be automated, but the post-publishing tasks certainly can.
For instance, a series of posts about A/B testing would be useful for someone signing up to an A/B testing product for the first time. We could design a marketing automation workflow that sends a series of onboarding emails with tutorial content as part of a welcome email campaign. The emails would provide relevant and timely content to a new customer.
Marketing automation triggers
Relevancy and immediacy are important facets of marketing automation, as for marketing to be effective, a customer gets what they require when they require it. Not before, not after. The mechanism used to ensure this is a trigger.
In the simplest terms, triggers are customer actions that launch marketing automation processes. When a contact performs an action, like subscribing to a newsletter or signing up for a demo, they can then be added to relevant workflows already programmed into the system. And thus, the right marketing material is sent to the contact at precisely the right moment.
9 absolute must-have workflows
Without further ado, here are the workflows every savvy marketer needs to have in their starting playbook. Use the structures we have described below as a launchpad, customizing them to suit your goals within your business context.
1. Welcome workflow
Trigger: User signs up on the website or app
When a user signs up, they become a new contact that has displayed interest in your company. This is a successful conversion, meaning that the contact has moved from visitor status to a registered contact status. In terms of lead qualification, this contact has displayed clear intent and are therefore they are more open to receiving relevant marketing communication – in fact, subscribers who receive welcome emails engage 33% more with the brand.
Typically, a welcome workflow involves an email or a series of connected emails. Whichever route you choose, make sure to send an email right away. The current user expectation is that on registration, an email will appear in their inbox.
So what sort of marketing material can be sent to newly registered users? For a start, there is a welcome email with account information, and a positive note expressing thanks. In other instances, perhaps your product has an onboarding process, so a welcome email campaign would then be a great way to ease a customer into the product.
Why you should have this workflow: Welcome emails are opened 50% of the time, 74% of users now expect a welcome email, and they have 5 times higher clickthrough rates than any other type of email. It is an unmissable opportunity to create a great first impression.
2. Re-engagement workflow
Triggers: Contacts are inactive and/or contact hasn’t opened emails sent for a specified time frame
There could be many reasons due to which an interested contact stops interacting with your brand: change of jobs, interests, or locations are just a few. Re-engagement campaigns are meant to remind contacts of the aspects of your brand that they found appealing in the first place, and to reinforce the value proposition of your business. It costs 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Before diving into developing campaigns though, be sure define what constitutes an inactive contact within the context of your business. Consider overall typical user behavior for your website: does your business attract daily website visits, or is it something used less frequently?
For example, a banking website would send monthly email statements, and reasonably expect a customer to log into their account at least once every quarter. On the other hand, an online grocery store would expect customer interaction on their website or app once every 2 weeks.
Then the all-important question: why has the contact become inactive? Finding the reasoning will have ramifications for the re-engagement strategy.
Perhaps your emails aren’t being opened because the subject lines are not engaging customer attention. Maybe it is a question of enticement, in which case an offer or discount might do the trick.
There is also the possibility that the contact is not coming back, in which case present an easily locatable unsubscribe link and take them to a survey.
Why you should have this workflow: It is in your interest to keep your contact list up to date with contacts who want to receive your emails, because sending emails that remain consistently unopened by inactive contacts will impact your metrics.
This is a problem, because unopened emails affect your sender scores and ultimately deliverability scores as well, by signaling to email providers that receivers may not want your emails. Email service providers are looking less at email content to determine spam and are placing greater emphasis on relevancy.
But, before trimming out your subscriber list, try out re-engagement workflows first
3. Feedback workflow
Triggers: Customer has just completed interaction with the support team
Customer opinions matter and they provide a great deal of value for a business. Positive feedback can tell you where you are going right, and you can continue on that path, intensifying effort as you go along. However negative feedback is a golden opportunity to view your product or service from an outside perspective and pinpoint areas of improvement. 65% of customers value customer experience over advertising.
A typical scenario for feedback is customer service interaction. How satisfied is a customer with the level of service they received from a support executive? Feedback helps pinpoint areas for improvement. But that is not the only benefit. Customers experience a psychological lift from being given the opportunity to share their experience. If there was a negative interaction, it is possible to course correct in time, and thus retain the customer.
Why you should have this workflow: Although we picked customer service as an illustrative example for this workflow, similar ones can be used in other scenarios, like a new product purchase or a website redesign. Customer input is a means to keep the customer engaged in the brand, and is slowly emerging as a differentiator in the current marketplace.
4. Cart abandonment workflow
Trigger: Potential customer leaves the website before completing the checkout process
Even though cart abandonment is usually associated with e-commerce websites, carts are ubiquitous across any site selling products or services online. Therefore, while the campaign will vary in each individual case, high cart abandonment rates of between 50% to 80% impact most online businesses.
Cart abandonment workflows present means to overcome obstacles and get the customer back in the purchasing frame of mind. There are several ways to influence a buying decision: send emails with reminders of products, with attached reviews from other purchases; amplify the value proposition of the products; use overlays to provide attractive offers, or web push messages to remind customers of their intent.
Why you should have this workflow: Cart abandonment signals a clear intention to purchase, and thus abandonment could be down to many reasons. Perhaps price is a sticking point, but marketing wisdom is pointing to mobile experience being the top cause of abandoned carts. Improving the customer’s journey across the product and providing incentivized experiences through deftly applied marketing communication will go a long way towards mitigating cart abandonment.
5. Anonymous user workflow
Trigger: Time spent on the website exceeds specified amount/Scrolling indicates intent to exit website
This particular workflow is a little tricky to work with, but can be incredibly useful when used with consideration. How does one get a visitor to remain for long on the website? By creating a small, focused burst of high-value content, in a compressed space that demands attention: in short, an overlay.
Before we get into the how of keeping users on your website, let’s look at the ‘why’ first. Internet user attention span is notoriously low, and sometimes they may skip out on your website without getting a real feel for the value you are offering. You need them to stay on the site long enough to make a favorable impression – and thus convert the visitor into a lead.
An overlay can appear in many ways: when the user moves to close the browser tab, or when the visitor is idle for 30 seconds, for instance. Study behavioral patterns of visitors to see what works best for your website. Heatmaps, for example, help to understand clicks and scrolling behavior that leads up to idling or exits.
When users leave a website, quite a few intend to come back but less 33% actually do so. It is best to convert them into a lead in the first instance, and then nurture them later on.
Why you should have this workflow: Visitors on websites need to return to websites to convert into contacts or leads. However, less than a third actually do so once they leave. So it is better to have them convert on their first visit itself, rather than hope for them to return later on.
6. Topic workflow
Trigger: User registers their email address to access content
A topic workflow requests contact information from users in exchange for a digital download or other types of valuable content known as a lead magnet. Creating a great lead magnet could increase your conversion rate by 30% or more.
Content is the backbone of this workflow, from collecting leads to converting them into customers later. Generally, a lead magnet is an e-book, a webinar, or something similar on a specific topic, and thus creates a contact segment that is tightly focused on that particular topic.
Once you have a segmented list with a demonstrated interest in a subject, it is then possible to craft an email marketing campaign, drawing upon all the related content you have. Sending the content to a lead primes them to associate your brand with value, and eventually nudges them into the sales cycle.
Why you should have this workflow: If you plan to implement or already have implemented content marketing, this workflow is an ideal corollary to have. Targeted leads make up an excellent contact list for marketing automation. Additionally, it is possible to segment contacts based on different topics, making for a nuanced and personalized approach to marketing communication, which is proven to be most effective.
7. Lead nurturing workflow
Trigger: Contact has spent a specified amount of time at the top of the funnel
A lead nurturing workflow is the next step forward from the topic workflow we described above. Just as content is used to collect good quality leads in the first place and keep up the flow of value to those leads, it can be then leveraged to push the leads into the next lifecycle stage of a customer journey.
According to studies, nurtured leads make bigger purchases 47% of the time as compared to normal leads, and experience a 23% shorter sales cycle.
Ideally, leads should be nurtured by marketing before being handed over to sales. 79% of marketing leads do not convert into sales, and this can be mostly attributed to poor lead nurturing. Consider that leads are not ready to convert instantly and may require a certain amount of relationship-building to transition into the purchase phase.
Let’s say that the product or service you offer requires some learning to adopt fully. Perhaps it is a new system, like a marketing automation suite. It can be daunting to adopt immediately, and indeed a purchase decision cannot be made on sign up.
However, if a series of e-books and blog posts were delivered via email to your inbox for 10 days or 2 weeks, the steady stream of information would be valuable to understand the concepts and value of marketing automation.
Why you should have this workflow: If you have got great lead magnets, a lead nurturing workflow will get those leads ready for sales, through the establishment of meaningful relationships. You will increase your conversion rate considerably and build solid foundations with your customers.
8. Upsell workflow
Trigger: Personalizing a sales pitch by referring to items within a user’s purchase history
Upselling is an age-old technique, best encapsulated in the classic burger order scenario: “Do you want fries with that?” Basically, you want to get a customer to purchase more than they already have, by offering products that are complementary to their original purchase or to upgrade their choices for a higher purchase value. In fact, product recommendations drive up to 30% of revenue.
In the example above, it is clear the customer received this email after purchasing a pair of shoes, laced shoes to be specific. The email is a clear upsell, but it identifies a real need that the customer may have and caters to that excellently. The tactic is not used to squeeze every last drop of money out of a customer, because that sort of communication has the unwanted effect of making customers bolt.
Why you should have this workflow: It is far more expensive to acquire new customers, rather than retain existing ones. We mentioned this in a previous point above too. To further underline the importance of retention marketing, conventional wisdom states that 80% of revenue comes in from existing customers. Not something to be considered lightly.
9. Renewal/Upcoming purchase workflow
Trigger: Important dates related to past purchase history, especially those made on a cycle like an expiring subscription or a product that requires renewal like contact lenses
Subscription services fall naturally into a renewal marketing automation workflow, for self-evident reasons. However, products too can benefit from being put into a scheduled marketing campaign. Apart from subscription products that expire at set intervals, you can also have seasonal campaigns surrounding significant holidays or events. Timely communications can show up to 58% more results than ordinary communication.
Why you should have this workflow: Leveraging special occasions is always a good idea, as people are more inclined to purchase at those times. Designing marketing automation for subscriptions ensures that you are keeping in tune with customers’ purchase cycles. As we have said twice already in this article, repeat custom is the bulk of your revenue.
We picked these marketing automation workflows due to their importance in the contact lifecycle, success rates in converting contacts, or by their applicability across industry verticals. The key to retaining customer interest in your brand is to develop campaigns which contain carefully considered engagement techniques, specific to your business.
Anything you’d like to add to the discussion? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below!