An email workflow is a defined sequence of steps and tasks that can be used to automate many different business scenarios. It can save significant time by automating manual or complex tasks and help engage customers who might be otherwise sitting idly in your database.
In this article, we’ll try and help you select the best Email Workflow Automation tool for your business.
What is Email workflow automation?
Email workflows help marketers engage their customers through a sequence of automated and predefined touch points. These automated steps save marketers significant time by automating what might otherwise be done manually.
Classic examples include workflows that automatically send cross-sell email campaigns, campaigns that encourage recurring purchases after a certain period of time, automated emails that help recover abandoned shopping carts and of course automated lead nurturing emails that will turn leads into customers.
What email workflow automation isn’t
Workflow automation isn’t just sending a trigger email after a customer has completed a form – it’s a whole lot more than an autoresponder. Email workflow automation is a series of steps based on strict rules and conditions that will lead a customer down a predefined (but dynamically adjustable) path.
Are you really ready for marketing automation?
Before deciding which ESP’s Email Workflow Automation solution is best, you should answer the following questions;
- Do I really need workflow automation?
- Why do I need workflow automation?
- What is it that I need to automate?
Your need for workflows will largely depend on your business context, but a few signs that you could profit from using workflow automation are as follows;
- You sell products that expire or have a limited life
- You sell products that could be complemented by others
- You have customers that don’t always complete their purchases
- You manually follow-up with leads
- You have customer purchase history & other preferences data that could be used to segment them
Almost every business could automate at least a few email streams. If you have a customer’s preferences and email address you could already be sending a personalised series of welcome emails.
Accounting for your future business needs
Will your marketing efforts result in an influx of leads that’ll need to go through a lead nurturing process? Will you have the resources to send out that many communications (which may vary) at the right time until they become a customer? Are you ready for that?
These are all solid business reasons to invest in marketing automation which will help you with your resource struggles and continuous growth.
What to look for in your Email Workflow Automation solution
Workflows can be triggered in a number of different ways, based on events, logical operands and conditions on any dataset. This means you should be able to make use of any and all of the data that you own to automate a predefined workflow.
It all has to start somewhere – how flexible are the workflow’s start points?
Your workflow’s starting point shouldn’t be limited in any way, otherwise it might be limiting your campaign set-up. This means you should be able to start your workflow with any type of condition or event, be that a predefined open or click event, custom event or API call.
How integrated is your segmentation with your workflow?
Being able to use advanced segmentation to control your workflow’s path can play a significant part in whether your customer gets the right message (and the chances to convert on your business goals). It’s all well and good if you automate your processes with an automated workflow, but that won’t come to much if your customer isn’t getting the right message. For that to happen you need well-defined segmentation and the appropriate content. Enter advanced segmentation.
How advanced is your segmentation?
Here’s a sample creative that went out as part of the clearance sale offer. It takes the customer’s purchase history into account and offers them a specific product based on that history.
Advanced segmentation is ensuring that you’ll have the right recipients receive the right content and workflow automation is ensuring that they get it at the right time. It’s being able to make use of all your data with dynamic restrictions and calculations.
Furthermore, it should be just as easy for a business user to create advanced segmentation visually via the UI as it is for a user with sound SQL knowledge. Once you’ve got your segmentation and your workflows defined it’s time to work it.
Example: Work it
Let’s have a look at some of the things you could do with a well-planned out clearance sale campaign workflow. Your start event is based on segmentation that selects all users that purchased a product of a particular type within a specific time frame (in this case a surfboard within the last 24 months).
Our workflow initiates a clearance sale that offers our customers products of a certain type and size based on their previous purchase history. We go on to track their browsing history.
We then have a logical data switch, that initiates a series of events with the appropriate delays after which we send our customer the most relevant offer.
Considerations for Email Workflow Automation features
The example above shows some of the things you might want to do with your email workflow automation software.
Other considerations for workflow features that might be of interest to you when deciding which workflow automation tool is best for your business include;
- Start events; these events are the entry conditions that will start a customer’s journey in your workflow. Ideally, you should have complete flexibility in starting your workflow. We’re talking opt-ins, opens, clicks, defined goals, predefined times and custom triggered events via API calls.
- Sending emails (or other types of messages such as SMS or API invocations) that are either predefined or dynamic at specified stages of the workflow
- Delay events; you can use these if you want to send at a predefined hour or after a set amount of time
- Set data events; having the ability to update custom values about your customers in your database
- Data switches; decision points that direct a customer’s flow based on their value
- Winner switch; a split test is performed on a group of customers and the winning version is selected either manually or automatically
- Distribution switch; branching off fixed portions of customers down predefined branches
- End event; an element that will mark the end of a customer’s life in your workflow
- Control contact frequency (the number of messages a customer might receive in a given period)
- The ability to save and edit workflows
- Workflow reporting that gives a breakdown of the number of users found at a specific stage of a workflow and the ability to export them
If you want to automate then you need to segment-ate
Your automation will only be as powerful as your segmentation allows it to be. Before choosing an automated workflow solution, you should know exactly why and what you need to automate and then ensure that you can segment your customers in a way that allows you to use that automation.