3 Steps to Creating Successful Marketing Workflows

One of the primary reasons businesses buy a marketing automation platform is to gather intelligence about website visitor activity and automate follow up in a way that moves interested visitors through a buying process. While there is a rapidly growing number of marketing automation platforms with various features offered, they all provide this core capability.

Users of marketing automation fall into two distinct buckets and these buckets generally adhere to the 80/20 rule – 20% of users get a significant amount of value and functionality from their platform of choice and 80% don’t. One of the most common areas of struggle – surprisingly, for users in both buckets – is obtaining full value from their workflows.

Marketing Workflows Should Assist the Buyer’s Journey

When a business desires to move an interested site visitor through a buying process, they use a workflow. A workflow is nothing more than a series of if-then statements about what the interested visitor on our site does and what we do in response to their action. The real value of workflows begins once a visitor has taken an action that reclassifies them from an anonymous visitor to a known prospect – such as downloading an eBook or signing up for a newsletter. Workflows should provide a smooth and straight path for the buyer to travel on. Successful workflow

This is where it breaks down for many businesses. They get mentally blocked from visualizing how the workflow should really flow. Flow is such a key context because it means following a natural sequence – a progressive set of steps laid out in a linear or cascading fashion.

Here are three easy steps to follow to build successful workflows:

Step 1: A really helpful way to visualize workflows is to think of how it works in the real world. For instance, if my company provides content marketing services and I meet a business owner at a networking function and she provides her business card and asks me to send more information about what we do – that’s the online equivalent of a download of an informational brochure.

So, what’s the best way of following up on the emailing of a brochure? From our experience, the next logical step is to outline the process we would take this business owner through to help solve her problems – so after three days I follow up with an email that includes our process list.  I suggest scheduling a discovery phone call so I can get the pertinent details of her situation to allow for the development of a Scope of Work.  We have the discovery call and I email a Scope of Work within one day. She emails back to get a list of references.  I send that list and include a case study for one of the reference companies that’s a close match to her own situation.  Laid out graphically, it would look like this:

Successful Workflow-simple

A few key points at this juncture:

  1. We all know that things don’t run that predictably. Prospect behaviors are widely varied and we have to build contingencies into our workflows to address this.
  2. The beauty of having workflows set up in an automated platform is it allows us to monitor behaviors in a way we couldn’t match offline. For instance, what if at the second stage in the workflow above my prospect stops responding? In the offline world I’m left guessing what the next step should be. Online, I’m observing behavior. The critical component in any successful workflow is to embed a call to action in each step that brings the prospect back to the site in order to monitor behavior.  While this is always a key goal, the primary focus is on providing real value to the prospect at each step of the workflow so that it helps them on their buyer’s journey.
  3. By virtue of our ability to monitor online behavior, we can often speed up the buying process. A prospect with a high number of page views and multiple downloads in a short period of time will often allow us to drive the process at a faster pace than a prospect with low page views and downloads over a longer time period.

Here’s a look at the early part of the workflow with a greater range of options for dealing with contingencies and maintaining momentum:

Successful Workflow-layered

Step 2: Another important consideration is creating the necessary content to use in your workflows. Again, think of what you would give someone if you were face to face with them in a dialogue and they’re asking for information at each stage of your transactional process. You want to “map” your content to the appropriate stage and the intentions are to educate and keep the momentum going in the buyer’s journey. It’s best to think of different content formats to keep things lively – video, slide decks, infographics and good old textual documents.

Step 3: Always test and refine your workflows. Your automation platform gives you the ability to easily build them, edit them and measure their performance. What you initially design may look quite different after a month or two of activity.

Your Turn

Are you getting stuck with developing your workflows? For those of you in the 20% bucket, what techniques are you using to successfully build workflows? Is it easy for you to visualize your typical transaction flow or do you struggle with mapping that process out? As always, I welcome your input!

Rich McElaney
Rich is an inbound marketing professional, content development craftsman and conductor of sales and marketing teams with over 25 years of new customer acquisition experience. He has founded and successfully grown three businesses, one of which was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. Rich is a certified HubSpot partner, a partner in Inbound Trainer - a provider of video-based training for inbound marketers and the Chief Chaos Officer at The Sales Lion. Rich is happily married, has two sons and one English labrador. In non-marketing mode, Rich can often be found playing golf, skiing and snowboarding, riding motorcycles and working on his Italian vocabulary.
Rich McElaney

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