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Where Do Workflows Work and Where Do They Hurt Your Efforts?

February 1, 2018

In marketing platforms and systems like HubSpot, workflows are a staple of marketing automation and sales enablement. But are workflows the best measure for you? This blog outlines where workflows can be a marketing champion, and where they’ll weaken your efforts and drain your sales pipeline.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a Workflow?

A workflow is an automated marketing or sales action (usually an email) that executes when a prospect, lead, or customer meets the workflow's criteria. The workflow may then create a task or reminder for the sales and marketing team to take action to engage the prospect.

Say I have a workflow for the new eBook my team launched. When a prospect fills out the form to get the eBook, they’re automatically sent an email with a link to the eBook. Our sales team follows up with the prospect the next day to make sure they received the eBook and ask if they have questions or need more information. In the “normal” world, it’s the sales team’s responsibility to nurture that prospect – to follow up to provide more content, answer questions, maybe schedule an appointment to talk about their marketing needs, etc., but workflows take over the automated portion of follow up.

Six(ish) days after the prospect fills out the form, they may receive an automated email offering access to a webinar that builds on the eBook. Or maybe they get invited to a complimentary marketing planning workflow. Whatever it is, and whatever the next step is, you build the workflow based on time, marketing actions, or specific criteria.

When Workflows Rock

There are dozens of reasons workflows own my heart, but the top two reasons can and will pay dividends for your company.

Your Sales Team Will Thank YouWork Flow

We covered that workflows are automated, right? So if your sales team is spending less time doing tedious follow up, what do they have more time to do? You guessed it – more prospecting and adding fuel to the sales pipeline. Workflows enable you to market and continue to lead prospects through their buyer’s journey based on the timing and actions your marketing and sales team set. Obviously, you need to respond to return emails, set appointments or demos, etc. based on the activities of your buying cycle – or sales pathway – but the workflow takes care of follow up emails for you.

You Market Smarter, Not Harder

Marketing never stops evolving, but eventually you’ll nail down the tone, content, and steps a prospect takes as they navigate their buyer’s journey. What’s great about workflows is that you can edit them anytime. So, if you decide 13 days between emails is too long (because prospects are going elsewhere for a solution), you can adjust the time between emails. You can tweak your process to create the best workflow for your prospects.

Workflows are also great outlets to segment prospects – when you build workflows around specific challenges or behaviors, you target prospects experiencing a similar challenge or problem.

When Workflows Backfire

There are several ways a workflow can backfire. For the sake of keeping you awake, I’m only going to address the top three faux pas I frequently see with workflows.

Incorrect Data

No matter how you slice it, workflows are automated. Yes, you can customize facets of the workflow, like company name, name, state or region, etc., but the personalization tokens are only as good as your data. It’s critical to make sure prospects, customers, or leads in a workflow have the correct information to satisfy your personalization tokens. For instance, would I take this email seriously?

Hi, khughes@leadingresults.com

The answer is no. I would not. And just for the simple error of not knowing my name or transposing my name and email.

KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid

Consider the complexity of the workflow and if it makes sense. In marketing, two things give me anxiety: sending an email to a BIG list because there’s no turning back and activating a workflow. Do not take the construction of the workflow for granted!

Don't overcomplicate workflows. A good rule of thumb is that if the workflow makes your marketing or sales team dizzy, your prospect will likely be baffled. Prospects aren’t dumb – they can smell automation a mile away, so make sure every email is actionable and relevant to the prospect's buyer's journey. Don’t just email them to stay in front of their face; bring value with every email. Make it easy for the prospect to know, like, trust, and try your company so it’s then easy for them to buy, repeat, and refer your company.

Being Engaged in Multiple Workflows

The kiss of death: when a prospect is in multiple workflows. Oy. Can you imagine how confusing that is? It happened to me a few years ago, when I engaged with the content another marketing agency was offering. I’m a marketing nerd, and I like to read, so I was interested in learning more about a guide they just created on the new SEO and a piece on marketing strategy. I was working with Leading Results, very clearly a marketing agency, and I had a salesperson call to give me an appointment to talk about my problems with SEO, and then later in the day, the same salesperson called about marketing strategy. Boy, that second phone call was awkward for him.

Do you see where I’m going with this? If you have a prospect in a workflow for competing problems or multiple problems, you’re going to confuse them – and you’re going to be sitting on center stage wearing a dunce cap. Make sure your workflows allow a prospect to be in only ONE workflow, because if you confuse or alienate them at the start of the buying cycle, the chance they’ll go the distance is slim to none.

It’s Crucial to Know

A workflow is NOT a salesperson. Let me repeat… a workflow is NOT a salesperson. Yes, a workflow email is sent on behalf of or from a person in your company, but workflows aren’t meant to replace that person. At some point, a salesperson will have to step in, so please don’t think a workflow will do all the work. Your sales and marketing team should check in daily to see which prospects have opted out, which are disengaged from the workflow, and which may be outgrowing the workflow.

Have you used workflows before? I’d love to hear your experiences! Drop me a comment below. If you’re interested in learning more about workflows and how they can be an asset to your marketing mix, contact me – I’d love to chat!

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Topics: workflows

Courtney Stallings
Written by Courtney Stallings

Courtney writes and edits content for Leading Results and their clients. She has been described as a Grammar Nazi and enjoys crafting writing with excellent spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

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