Email Automation 101: HubSpot Sequences vs. Workflows

Mackenzie | August 04, 2020 | Email Marketing

Welcome to email automation 101! This blog is going to focus on two specific ways to implement email automation using HubSpot — through their Sequences and Workflows tools. This information is great for anyone who is new to HubSpot services or is new to their email marketing tools.

Whether you've been using email automation since the dawn of dial-up, or if this is the first time you've ever scheduled an email, this blog is designed to help you navigate email automation through the HubSpot tool specifically.


(If you're looking for more general, non-HubSpot-specific info on email automation, check out this blog on Email Workflow Best Practices, and this blog on Inbound Marketing Automation). 


With all of that in mind, let's get down to it. What's the difference between HubSpot Sequences vs. Workflows?


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HubSpot Sequences vs. HubSpot Workflows


The most basic difference in the two tools is that HubSpot Sequences are a sales tool, and HubSpot Workflows are a marketing tool. 


You have access to HubSpot Sequences with a Sales Hub Professional or Enterprise subscription, or a Service Hub Professional or Enterprise subscription with a connected personal inbox. 


You'll have access to HubSpot Workflows with a Marketing Hub Professional or Enterprise subscription. 


Let's take a clear, straightforward look at the differences between HubSpot Sequences vs. Workflows with this chart. 


If that's all the information you need, great. If you're looking for more explanation, keep reading past the chart, and we'll dive a little deeper. 


Breaking Down Key Differences Between Sequences and Workflows


So that's a lot. If you're new to email automation, that might look a little overwhelming. 




Let's look more closely at both HubSpot Sequences and Workflows. 


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HubSpot Sequences: The Breakdown


HubSpot Sequences are designed to help your sales team reduce some of the time they put into repetitive communications. They can pull email templates set up in the "Templates" tool right into their inbox, where they can send out personalized, 1-1 content that nurtures those hot or warm sales leads they've already connected with. 


HubSpot Sequences are:


  • Customizable & Targeted. A sales rep can change the template in their email tool to tailor the message specifically to the hot lead they're working with. 
  • Simple. A sequence email looks like any other email you'd get directly from a real person. They don't feature a lot of images or styling. 
  • Direct. Sent directly from the sales rep's inbox to the lead. 
  • Automatically unenrolled. The minute a lead responds to the sales rep, they're unenrolled from the sequence. 

HubSpot Sequences are not:


  • Bulk Communication. Sequences are manually enrolled and can be sent to a max of 150 people per day. They're meant to be 1-1 communication, rather than a sales campaign.
  • Metric Reporting. The only information you'll get from a Sequence is whether a contact opened or replied. You won't get metrics like click-through-rate. 
  • Automatically Triggered. Only people can trigger sequences.


With a clear picture of what Sequences do and don't do, here's an example of when a Sequence might be useful. 


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An example of when you might use a HubSpot Sequence


Let's say your sales team knows that your pricing sheet is a great piece of content that usually speeds up the decision-making process. If they have a hot lead, they can use their "Pricing Sheet Sequence" to automate that communication a bit. 


 That might look something like this: 


  • Your sales rep sends out the first email with that pricing sheet and a meeting link. If that contact responds or books time to connect with the sales rep, that contact is automatically unenrolled from the sequence. 
  • If they don't respond, another email might go out in 24 hours. This email might ask if the lead had any questions, and prompt them to schedule time with the rep to follow up. 
    • If they follow up, they're out of the sequence. 
    • If they don't they move onto the third (and usually final) email. 


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How HubSpot Sequences save your sales team time


Sequences make frequent, regular communication a little easier. Your sales reps start with an email template that they can send straight out to the contact from their inbox or customize as necessary for that unique contact. 


Follow-up is automatic, ensuring you keep that lead hot as they get ready to make a purchasing decision. 


Sequences are a great method for nurturing and closing hot leads. They're best sent individually to the leads who your team knows are ready to make a decision. 


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HubSpot Workflows: The Breakdown


HubSpot Workflows are a marketing tool designed to nurture warm, lukewarm, and even cold leads. They're often sent to bulk lists and are highly stylized. Most workflows are designed to give leads more of the information they want or need to help move them towards a purchasing decision. 


Workflows can also be used to trigger contact property changes, tasks for your sales or marketing team members, and more. Check out this workflow we use to send a text to a designated team member anytime someone chats a bot on our site.


Though email automation is the primary use for HubSpot workflows, you can also use them to assign leads who take specific action to a corresponding contact list, trigger tasks for your team to reach out to those leads, and more. 

HubSpot Workflows are:


  • Automatically Triggered. Workflows are automatically triggered by specific actions you set, whether that's a lead downloading a guide or interacting with a chatbot.
  • Sent Through HubSpot.  Rather than sending a 1-1 email, workflow emails are sent through HubSpot. You can change the "from" address to whatever you want, from a team member's email address to your general marketing or info email.
  • Delayable. You can set up workflows with flexible time frames. Send an email one day, and then delay the follow-up for three days or even a week.
  • Dynamic. Add in as many pictures, videos, and visual components as you like. These emails are stylized in the HubSpot email tool, where you can use the drag and drop editor to create what you like.
  • Compatible. You can have one workflow trigger another workflow if you like. The customization options are endless and robust. 
  • Reporting. Workflows offer many metrics, from what links are clicked to the open rate, and more. As a marketing tool, you have access to marketing metrics associated with each workflow.


HubSpot Workflows are not: 


  • Automatically Unenrolled. A contact will experience the full workflow unless you set a goal criteria that ends the workflow early for contacts who take a specific action. 
  • 1-1 Communication. These are bulk emails sent to specific, segmented contact lists. While you can implement personalization tokens, all replies will go to the same "from" email address.
  • Tracked by Reply. Anyone can send a workflow through HubSpot. Since these emails aren't tied to a specific inbox, HubSpot cannot track replies. You will still see replies in the inbox of the "from" email address. 


We already showed you an example of HubSpot Workflows setting tasks internally with our chatbot, but here's an example of when an automated workflow would be helpful to your marketing team.


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An example of when you might use a HubSpot Workflow


Let's say your marketing team has just developed an awesome content offer. You know that when someone downloads this content offer, they're a qualified lead. A workflow can continue nurturing that lead for your marketing team until they're ready to talk to a sales rep. 


Here's how you might use a HubSpot Workflow after a lead takes the action of downloading a content offer. 



  • Immediately after the person downloads your content offer, you send them a "Thank You" email, with another link to download the offer, just in case they navigated away from your landing page before they saved the download. 
  • Three days later, your workflow sends them a follow-up email. It asks if they have any questions, and provides another piece of content that will be relevant to them, based on the content they've already downloaded. 
    • If that person downloads the second piece of content, you might send them a third email a few days later with an option to book time with a sales rep. 
    • If that person doesn't download the second piece of content, you might send them a follow up encouraging them to reach out with any questions. Your workflow could then assign that lead to your "Newsletter" contact list, where they'll get regular, monthly communication until they take another action that indicates they're warming up. 


This is a short example of a workflow. Yours can be much more in-depth than this, offering a variety of options based on every action that contact does or doesn't take, but this is an initial example that's a good use case for a basic workflow. 


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How HubSpot Workflows save sales AND marketing time


Workflows eliminate a lot of wasted time, both for sales and marketing. Workflows help nurture warm or cool leads without much work on the part of your marketing team. If a lead does take an action that indicates interest, your workflows can auto-notify the appropriate person on your team.


HubSpot Workflows function as another marketing expert on your team, talking to your lukewarm leads for your marketing pros, and bringing them in only when it's a good use of their time. 


This helps your marketing team spend more of their time on the leads they know are warming up. This in turn ensures that your sales team only gets leads that are hot — ready to make a purchasing decision. 


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HubSpot Sequences vs. Workflows: Which To Use, When?


Now that you've got a better idea of what Sequences and Workflows do, and what they don't do, you should have a clear picture of when to use Sequences, and when to use Workflows. 


As a general rule, if it's not 1-1 communication, and you want to send a message out to a list of contacts, a workflow is your best bet. 


If you're working to close a hot lead or send out personalized communication to a contact your sales team has already talked to, then Sequences are the tool to use. 


When used properly, both HubSpot Sequences and Workflows can help your sales and marketing teams convert more leads, in less time.


They help you deliver the right message, to the right person, at exactly the right time. 


Now that you know more about how both email automation tools work, get your hands dirty! Set up your first workflow, or get building out your sales templates. Once you start using them, you'll be able to see the unique benefits of each first-hand. 


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Let us know how your email automation with HubSpot goes! Are you loving the workflow and sequences tools? If you run into any questions, or if you just can't seem to get your workflows working the way you'd like, just let us know. We're a HubSpot Diamond Partner Agency, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you've got about Sequences, Workflows, and more. 

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