Why You Need Email Workflows

  • Dec 10,2015

What is an email workflow?

Email workflows are the next step on from lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is a vital part of successful marketing: up to 50% of leads are valid but aren’t sales ready when they’re first contacted and it takes multiple contacts from both marketing and sales to warm up those leads and make them sales ready. But in 79% of cases that never happens: marketing leads don’t become sales leads, more than three quarters of the time, and lack of nurturing is largely to blame.

It’s impossible to send out lead nurturing emails individually to every lead, but it is possible to offer personalized nurturing to leads with automated lead nurturing. This depends on an extension of the idea of segmentation.

You wouldn’t send your email list the same email - they’re different people with different buying habits, interests, and requirements, and you need to treat them that way. Email workflows allow your list to segment itself, by designing workflows that can be triggered by actions leads take themselves.

How email workflows work

Email workflows are individual emails or email series that work on an ‘if this then that’ logic system. For example you might have a series of emails to welcome a new subscriber or a new purchaser, or an email to send when someone abandons their cart, or a series of emails designed to encourage your social media contacts to share your content. Workflows permit your contacts to segment themselves by feeding triggers to the system which then assigns them to the appropriate email workflow(s) in response.

The Business Case for Email Workflows

Email workflows permit true personalization. Automated email marketing that still has to be triggered manually is still going to fall short because you’ll never have the time to stay on top of a big contact list. From the user’s point of view, they’ll be getting emails that are wide of the mark or don’t interest them.

Email workflows solve this problem.


1: Leads Email workflow doesn’t generate more leads - but it does generate up to 451% more qualified leads, and no - that’s not a misprint.

2: EngagementThe highest open rates in email marketing come from personalized emails, with 17.6% across the board - compared with an 11.6% average.

3: Customer retention

Repeat customers make up 8% of an ecommerce store,s customer base - and account for 40% of its profits, so increased customer retention should be a goal for everyone. You should expect to contact a customer 5-7 times before they make a repeat purchase, so automated, personalized email marketing can drive retention rates.

4: Faster Time to Sale
Marketing teams that operate with automated email workflows have 23% more free time - because automated emails produce a 23% shorter buying cycle.

5: Data
Email automation provides a rich source of data on your customers and your campaigns, letting you optimise later email campaigns and other forms of content to be more effective.

Email Workflows Best Practice

Getting the best from your workflows means creating complex content architecture that makes sure your customers are never out of sight of your brand and constantly supplying you with information about how they want to interact with you. What does that look like in practice?

Multi-Email Workflows

Sending out a single email isn’t enough. Leads often require multiple touches to achieve funnel-stage conversions, so to move a cold lead to sales-readiness will require multiple email workflows in many cases and each workflow should consist of several emails.

One excellent example of this is welcome emails. Sending a single welcome email is a no-brainer for brands. Welcome emails are read 42% more often than the average open rate, as well as leading to a 50% higher engagement rate for up to 180 days after the welcome mail and 33% more long-term engagement with the brand. Send a series of welcome and onboarding emails and you could see a 13% increase in revenue over single welcome emails! Setting up a welcome email workflow ensures that new purchasers or subscribers receive targeted, appropriate email series that drive conversions.

Keep The Goal Front of Mind

What is the workflow intended to achieve? Build email workflows the way you’d build a user journey over several pages of your website: everything should be leading toward conversions. There should be an overarching strategy, but within that each email workflow is its own miniature sales funnel. It doesn’t have to deliver customers to a sale - but you should have a clear idea of what it is meant to deliver.

What’s The Next Step?

Some email workflows will lead right to another workflow. Ideally, your customers should always be on at least one workflow list. When you’re creating strategy, think about where each workflow ends and the next begins and make sure it’s possible for a user to be assigned to two or more relevant workflows simultaneously, but not to receive any contradictory messages.

Mine Them for Data

Integrate your workflows by considering them as extensions of your website - map them for user journey, remember that some users will be assigned more than one workflow, and map results on a lead rather than workflow basis so you can tell how to optimise the effects on recipients assigned to multiple workflows.

Monitor the efficacy of your campaigns and A/B test them, always within the relevant segments so you’re always comparing like with like. The data you get back from customers about what works can help you build more focussed, targeted email workflows down the line. Experiment with timing, copy, and design and check the results to gain a clear idea of what works.

What can you use to trigger workflows? Email workflows are triggered by contacts. What should trigger a workflow?

1: Want 50% More Sales-Ready Leads for 33% Lower Cost? Start Automated Lead Nurturing
Everyone knows that lead nurturing makes sense: 50% of leads aren’t sales ready, but they are qualified, so the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to nurture them. Here’s how to go about using email workflows for lead nurturing.
2: Rescue Abandoned Shopping Carts With Email Workflows

Abandoned shopping carts are one of the biggest revenue leaks in ecommerce. At every step of the buyer journey, there’s a place for email workflows to recover and retarget to fix that. Increase revenues with automated email workflows that reduce cart abandonment and bring customers back!
3: How Re-engage Inactive Contacts for Higher Conversions

Your email list can be segmented in several ways - age, gender, purchase value, etc. One effective way to look at it is in terms of contact activity. Some contacts are practically chasing you; others have switched to radio silence. How do you get them back on board? Email workflows can give you back leads with less effort than fresh lead generation.

4: How to Profit From Highly-Engaged Contacts

Highly engaged contacts can function as evangelists for your brand through social media, word of mouth and on your website. Find out how to leverage that power.

5: Build Email Workflows Around Field Updates
More than three quarters of the names on your email list will undergo a ‘field change’ every year. That’s marriages, moves, changes in employment status, and a whole pile of other life events that will change your customers’ relationship with your brand - and their needs! Use field update email workflows to keep up,and be there when they want you.

6: Fuel Post-Purchase Emails With Net Promoter Scores

Post-purchase email workflows are happening already; customers expect them, marketers swear by them and autoresponders crank them out by tens of thousands. But they can be used to deliver amazing benefits for your business by building Net Promoter Scoring (NPS) into them. Want reliable data and high response rates? Listen up!

7: Topical Workflows For Your Business

Build your email workflows around the interests your customers demonstrate. Keep your contact with them on-topic, and encourage them down the funnel by nurturing them with topical email workflows.

8: Again, again! Email Workflows And Cyclical Purchasing

Some purchases are naturally cyclical. And you can use email workflows to encourage repeat purchase when contracts or timed purchases expire, increasing revenue and improving customer experience.

9: How Email Workflows Can Help You Upsell

Upselling - offering customers a better version of the product or service they’re already buying- is as old as ‘do you want fries with that?’ and it’s native to many ecommerce sites. But it can be done effectively by email too.

10: How To Build Email Workflows Around Live Events

Scarcity. Urgency. Personalization. Exclusivity. Attention. Reciprocation. I’m trying to find an important marketing concept that live events don’t touch on, and I’m all out. Email workflows are the ideal tool to promote a real-life or digital live event and profit from attendance, the buzz beforehand and the materials you can release afterwards too.