Email Workflow: What It Is, How to Create One, Best Practices 

Email Workflow

Email workflow can help you engage with your subscribers, know more about them, and send relevant emails. All of these factors make an automated flow of emails a smart way to convert as many leads into customers as possible.

But simply setting it up won’t do the work. You need to have engaging emails and implement thoughtful strategies to achieve the desired results. 

To help you craft the best email workflow for your business, we combined all the information — from the basic understanding of an automation workflow to implementing the best practices. 

What is an Email Workflow?

When a subscriber triggers an action by clicking on a link, downloading a digital asset, or subscribing, a series of automated emails is sent to them in a sequence — and this series is what we call an email workflow. 

Here’s an example.

When someone subscribes to your email, they trigger an email sequence, typically a Welcome campaign. First, they will receive a Welcome email with details about the company. The follow-up email can ask subscribers about their interests and preferences or require other information to instigate engagement. The email after that will depend on the answer the subscriber gave. After this, you can have more emails in the series, depending on where subsequent triggers your subscribers activate. 

In this example, subscribing to the email list was the trigger that initiated a series of emails. Defining the trigger is one of the critical steps in building a successful email workflow. 

The Difference Between an Email Workflow and an Email Campaign

Some sources use the terms “email workflow” and “email campaign” interchangeably; there is a significant difference between the two. 

An email workflow is a sequence of emails. It describes the logic between those emails and is closely related to the triggers. It’s a technical term.

An email campaign has a broader meaning and encompasses your business’s marketing objective concerning the target audience and email list segments.  

It’s pointless building an email workflow without a bigger objective. 

It’s only possible to build a successful email campaign with a well-designed workflow. 

To understand more about the nature of email workflows, let’s see how they relate to their mother campaigns. 

Types of Email Workflows

Different email workflow types are designed to promote products, offer special deals, announce events, or engage subscribers, depending on the campaign you’re building. They can be time-specific or evergreen, short or extended, but always in line with the email marketing strategy of your business. Types of email workflow content will closely relate to your email list segments, as you will not send every email to everyone. Intelligent segmentation and targeting decide between a successful and a flimsy email campaign. 

To create an effective email workflow, you need to be practical. For instance, a customer who has been a subscriber for over a year won’t be interested in knowing about the brand from scratch. They might want a product similar to what they bought or are inactive, which can prompt you to remove them from the list. Similarly, a new subscriber won’t like to be pressured into buying a product immediately and may open up to the idea by receiving stimulating offers and engaging information. The key is understanding the campaign objective and defining the message and the number of emails for each iteration. 

Therefore, your workflows should only reach the customers they are for, depending on your email campaign. Most businesses will send the following types of email campaigns with unique email workflows:

  • Promotional,
  • Educational,
  • Informational,
  • Newsletters,
  • Press releases,
  • Product updates,
  • Special offers,
  • Limited-time sales,
  • Events announcements.

Mind that each of these workflows has a different goal and targets a different group, and its timing and sequence should be determined separately. 

Email Workflow in Email Campaigns

Each email workflow serves a different purpose, and it’s designed according to the primary goal of the email campaign in which it’s being used. Some campaigns will have only one or two emails in a workflow, delivering a simple message. In contrast, others may have multiple emails and branches in the customer journey, driving the prospects to convert. 

Depending on the nature of the email campaign, an email workflow can be: 

  1. Welcome campaign workflow: A series of emails sent when someone subscribes to your email, submits a form, or downloads something from the website. It’s usually short.
  2. Lead nurturing campaign workflow: An email series for those who often visit your website but have been hesitant to buy anything thus far.
  3. Promotional campaign workflow: These emails are sent to your list when promoting specific products.
  4. Event announcement campaign workflow: This workflow notifies the subscribers that an event is coming up and sends reminders as the date approaches. 
  5. Purchase campaign workflow: This workflow sends purchase confirmation, shipping details, and updates to customers.
  6. Abandoned cart campaign workflow: A series of emails reminding a lead of the abandoned cart and encouraging them to follow through with the purchase.
  7. Birthday or anniversary email workflow: Birthday or anniversary is an excellent trigger for a workflow, supporting the campaign to send custom special offers.
  8. Free trial email workflow: When a subscriber opts in for a free trial, they will receive tutorials, how-tos, and other information related to the product.
  9. Special offer campaign workflow: This workflow is often for the whole email list, informing them about your special offers. It’s typically time-limited and short.
  10. Customer milestone email workflow: This workflow tracks customer anniversaries within your business, sending them special offers every 6 or 12 months. It nurtures appreciation and helps build brand loyalty. 

These are the most typical examples of workflows, but you can get creative in building one for your business. What’s important is that you know how to set it up. 

How Do I Create an Email Workflow?

As you know by now, every email workflow is different. First, you need to figure out what campaign you are launching, then define triggers and identify email list segments you’re targeting. Then, you will start building an actual workflow. 

Let’s use the free trial email workflow as an example:

Say, you are a software company with a new prospect who subscribed for a free trial. With the sales in mind as your goal, you will want to support them through the process with a focused email sequence. 

Emails you should pre-write and automate are:

  1. Confirmation email: It confirms their sign-up. 
  2. Tutorial email: It provides educational information about the product, including how-to guides.  
  3. Pro tip email: It includes more information with tips and hacks on how to use the product more effectively, showing the potential of your software and creating a sense of curiosity and excitement. 
  4. Free trial notification: It should remind the subscriber that their trial will end soon, offering the chance to purchase immediately. 
  5. End of trial email: When the free trial ends, an email should remind subscribers about the end and encourage them to purchase the software. 
  6. Second notification: With a small time distance, another notification should remind the subscriber of the benefits of the software and encourage them to buy it. 
  7. Special offer: The last email in the workflow should make a special offer — a bundle or a discount — to the subscriber. It targets those still deciding, and a good deal should help them convert. 

The number of emails in a workflow depends on the nature of the campaign and your business, product, and trigger actions the prospects will make. Monitor your email metrics to learn if you should include more or delete certain emails from a workflow. 

Do I Need Email Workflow Automation?

Creating an effective email campaign without a well-crafted email workflow is impossible. So, you can’t decide not to have one; it’s an integral part of your email marketing strategy. Automating an email workflow is the only reasonable way to use it because hand-monitoring trigger reactions is unfeasible, especially if you’re a large-volume sender. 

Here are a few reasons why your business needs an automated email workflow:

  • You are manually sending the emails, spending too much of your time.
  • Your leads are not converting.
  • You are not sending specific emails to targeted leads but the same ones to the entire list.
  • You are not in touch with the leads who haven’t purchased anything from you.
  • You are not following up in the situations where you need to.

Setting up an email workflow will resolve these issues and help your email marketing operations thrive. 

Benefits of Email Automation

Setting up an automated email workflow saves time, enables smooth metric monitoring, helps increase open and click rates, and nurtures engagement with your subscribers.

Here are the most valuable advantages you get with email automation:

  1. It increases productivity,
  2. It reduces human error,
  3. It saves time,
  4. It increases click-through and conversion rates,
  5. It converts more leads to customers and increases revenue,
  6. It helps build relationships with customers,
  7. It helps improve your email marketing strategy.

Setting up an automated email series is not only a smart thing to do, it’s the only right way to go about your strategy. You can’t cover too much ground on foot, and if you want your business to thrive, you should tune in and follow the best email automation practices for the best results. 

How Do I Set Up an Automated Email Workflow?

To set up an automated email workflow, you will need an email service provider for businesses. Following your platform, you will create the steps in your email sequence, see how they connect, and then automate it. 

Here are several basic steps you should make: 

  1. Select a workflow platform.
  2. Decide which campaign you are launching.
  3. Set up workflow triggers such as webpage visits, content downloads, form submissions, purchases, cart abandonments, clicks, or milestones (anniversary or birthday).
  4. Design the workflow email sequence according to the audience segment.
  5. Set an email frequency.
  6. Do the A/B testing to know if it works.
  7. Initiate the workflow! 
  8. See how the workflow performs. 

Automate Your Email Workflow with Campaign Refinery

Setting up your first email workflow can be overwhelming: will it work? Are there enough emails? Is this too much? Is my language off? Are my targets appropriately set? What if the automation fails?

We at Campaign Refinery have been in the email game for a while, so we know the anxiety the process can bring. 

That’s why our team designed a super-slick user interface to help our clients create their workflows quickly and without fuss. Our campaign library offers customizable templates for every purpose, while our software automatically cleans your email list. Our automations run smoothly, and the results are superb. We also provide expert support every step of the way — your success is our goal, and it’s our pleasure to guide you to it!   

We know our high-performance email solutions work and want to collaborate with the best senders. That’s why our service is exclusive, catering to the finest email marketing operators on the market. 

Email Workflow Best Practices

Let’s recap the best practices for creating an email workflow:

  1. Provide value in every workflow: Target your audience right and personalize emails whenever possible.  
  2. Create different workflows for different leads: Iterations are crucial in segment targeting. Create different emails for different people.  
  3. Focus on qualified leads: Qualified leads are better than low-engagement leads. But existing customers are the best!
  4. Create email templates: Templates will help you save time in the future. For example, Campaign Refinery’s Campaign Library offers a wide range of templates for every purpose!  
  5. Don’t keep sending emails daily: In other words, don’t spam your prospects. Mind the timing of your workflow sequence. 
  6. Do A/B Testing: Test is with your test list; test all iterations, triggers, and outcomes. Then launch. 
  7. Keep analyzing workflow results: Watching the engagement metrics will show you where to improve and how to build better campaigns. 

Now, copy and paste this list as a reminder because every step ensures your workflows will run smoothly. 

Mistakes While Setting Up Email Workflows

To be clear, mistakes are inevitable, even if you set everything just right. They might be contextual, and you will learn that through metrics. 

To help you avoid technical errors, we’ve compiled a short list of mistakes businesses often make: 

  1. Working without a proper automation tool.
  2. Delaying workflows.
  3. Not tracking workflow results.
  4. Doing manual, time-consuming tasks.
  5. Getting low engagement and high complaint rates due to unappealing emails or domain neglect. 
  6. Engaging in cold emailing practices.
  7. Writing generic emails without personalization.
  8. Working without a clear strategy.
  9. Not setting goals.

While essential, some of these points are frequently overlooked. Remember that your path can be better, and your results will show it. 

Create Perfect Automated Workflows with Campaign Refinery

With performance in focus, Campaign Refinery provides a range of premium services to elite senders. Imagine a world of super-smooth email operations and fantastic results. We live in it!

Our integrated automations enable sleek email workflows, clean data overview, and, best of all — regular automatic email list cleaning! We remove all suspicious addresses from our clients’ lists, ensuring maximum deliverability. 

Our clients report open rates growth from 2x to 6x since signing up with us!

Want to join us? Smooth out your operations, check out our offer, and apply to become a customer. 

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