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4 min read

5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Email Workflow

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As different types of contacts with various touchpoints pour into your customer relationship management (CRM) software, it can be overwhelming trying to segment and manage all of that manually. Luckily, most CRM tools have an automated workflow feature to simplify that process and prevent missed opportunities. Workflows allow you to send an automated series of emails triggered by a contact’s information or activity.

Email generates a 4,200% return on investment with 75% of that being generated from workflows

With plenty of resources on how to optimize emails, it’s equally important to focus on outlining your workflow strategy. Whether you’re building out a workflow to convert leads, follow-up on purchases, or retarget an audience, there are some tried and true tips to get the most out of your email automation.

Determine Your Goal

Before building out a workflow, make sure you know what the purpose of the workflow is. What are you hoping this workflow will accomplish? What is the next step for contacts who complete the workflow? Some examples of common goals with automated workflows include nurturing leads down the sales funnel, retargeting, updating contact property values, building loyalty, creating internal notifications, assigning contact owners, and adding contacts to a list. Depending on the CRM software you use, the opportunities are nearly endless.

Keep It Simple

If you Google “email workflow examples”, you'll find some intimidating diagrams that look like an extensive family tree. It can be tempting to mimic this strategy because, well, it looks a lot cooler than a straight line of boxes–and you may think that’s how it should look if you’re doing it right. Creating branches in a workflow is a great way to segment and personalize your automated emails. However, building out workflows with a lot of branching and too many emails can backfire. 

There are a lot of variables to consider when building out a workflow and by adding a ton of “if/then” branches, the workflow becomes more complex–making it harder to make new changes and may overlap with other workflows you have set up. For the same reasons, a best practice would be to send no more than 7 emails in a given workflow.

Alternatively, try adding suppression lists (when you can) to segment and personalize your workflows. Using lists is a great way to simplify your workflows. If you have multiple criteria for contacts to enroll in the workflow, you can even create a list of the criteria and set the list as the workflow trigger.

Right People, Right Time, Right Content.

To build an effective workflow, automated emails must send to the right people, at the right time, and with the right content.

  • Who?: Who is your target audience/persona for this workflow? Who will be enrolled? Who will be suppressed out of the workflow?
  • What?: What is the goal of the workflow? What emails will you need to reach the goal? What are the offers or call-to-actions (CTA’s) in the emails?
  • When?: When will your automated emails be sent (delay time between each email)?

It’s usually best to send the first email in a workflow no more than 3 hours after a contact enrolls since they’re probably expecting it and it’s still top-of-mind. After the first point-of-contact, it’s a common practice to follow a delay sequence of 3, 5, 7, 10, and 14 days (and so on). The key is to not send more than a few emails a week to your contacts or they may get annoyed and unsubscribe, send your messages to spam, or not open the email at all. This will end up damaging your email deliverability rate and email sender reputation.

Test it. Then Test It Again!

Before turning a workflow on, make sure to test it! If your workflow is set to send an email to enrolled contacts right away, there’s no going back. To avoid that fire drill, there are a couple of ways to test your workflow.

The most effective way to test your workflow would be to enroll yourself. To do this, you'll want to clone the workflow, change the delay times to a few minutes each, remove the enrollment criteria, turn the workflow on, and manually enroll yourself. However, for time’s sake, most workflow tools have a test feature. If your CRM tool doesn’t have this capability, you can also just send yourself test emails from within the workflow.

Make sure you've considered every possible scenario, walked through each step of the workflow, and checked that the properties being used for the enrollment criteria are all valid and tracking properly.

Analyze Performance

As with any marketing activity, it’s important to analyze the performance of your workflow and find areas where you can make improvements. It’s always wise to A/B test email subject lines, preview text, copy, personalization, design, CTAs, and delay time. Just remember to test one variable at a time—and more than once—for optimal results.

Pro Tip: Another form of testing that is still in beta for many CRM tools, such as HubSpot, is A/B testing emails in a workflow.

With automated email marketing workflows, you’re able to convert, engage, and retarget contacts in your CRM database in a much smarter way.

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