Email workflows are an excellent tool for pulling qualified leads through your sales cycle. When you set up an email workflow, you already know who you’re talking to, you have an idea of what they’re looking for, and you have a solution to their greatest pain points. One of the best lead nurturing tools in an inbound marketer’s toolbox, email workflows allow you to speak directly to qualified leads and offer them helpful, relevant content that draws them closer to making a purchasing decision.

Since email workflows are so integral to the digital marketing process, it’s important that your email marketing strategy is rock solid. Too many emails, and you risk alienating customers. Too few emails, and you won’t see any progress on the length of your sales cycle.

We’re going to look at a few key email workflow best practices you should be implementing convert leads and close sales as best possible. But before we do, let’s start with the two most important rules of the email workflow:

The Golden Rule of Email Workflows

The golden rule of email marketing, whether you’re creating a workflow or just sending out an email to your subscribers is this: Don’t be annoying.

Seriously. I know this sounds simple, but it’s more tempting than you’d think. The, “oh, I’ll just send out one more email” feels are real. Try not to give in to them, and for the love of everything, please don’t spam people.

Try to limit your emailing to just two or three emails per contact a week, tops.

 

And if someone unsubscribes, let them. Embrace your inner Shania Twain and remember you’re better of without them. Do not. Repeat. Do Not. Continue to email them.

The only thing that will do is earn you angry people who are definitely no longer customers, and who now have a bad taste in their mouth about your company.

Not sure if you’re emailing too much? Imagine you were receiving all of the emails you are sending. If you’d be frustrated at getting yet another email from a peppy sales rep who doesn’t actually know that much about your company, it’s probably time to lay off.

The Silver Rule of Email Workflows

We’re not sure if “silver rule” is a thing, but if it is, always be offering something, would be it for email workflows.

If you take just one thing away from this blog, it should be to always offer something in every workflow email you send.

Whether it’s a relevant content offer, a chance to meet with a sales rep, or a free trial of your software, every email you send, especially in a workflow, should offer up something that keeps your prospective clients moving through your sales cycle.

For more email marketing no-no’s, check out 8 Bad Email Marketing Habits Killing Your List.

Email Workflow Best Practices

With those two very important rules of email workflows in mind, let’s move on to some of the ultimate email workflow best practices that can help you convert leads and close sales:

Set a Goal for your Workflow

Before can get started developing a workflow, you have to know what your goal for the workflow is. Do you want to:

  • Set up a phone call?
  • Encourage another content offer download?
  • Get a lead started on a free trial?

Every workflow has an end goal. Before you can write your content, and even decide who you’re talking to, you have to have that goal in mind.

Define Your Qualified Lead

Most email workflows are triggered by an action that indicates a site visitor is a qualified lead. You need to define what that action is, and what a qualified lead looks like before you can launch that workflow effectively.

Let’s say the goal of your workflow is to set up a call or meeting with a prospect. Actions that might qualify a lead for this workflow could be:

  • They’ve downloaded multiple content offers that speak to consideration stage questions
  • They’re halfway through their free trial of your product
  • They’ve already talked to your marketing department
  • They’ve visited specific pages of your website multiple times, and for consistent periods of time.

Each of these actions tells you that the lead is already slightly invested in your company. They might like your content, they’re possibly enjoying aspects of your product, and they could even already be familiar with your marketing team. When they’re invested in what you’re offering, and know a little bit about you and your company, they’re a qualified lead. You just have to decide what that looks like. For more help defining your qualified leads, check out this blog on email marketing segmentation.

When you’ve defined what a qualified lead means to you for this specific workflow, you can get to actually writing and building out the email workflow directly for that qualified lead.

Identify Relevant Content

Now you know why you’re writing an email workflow, and you know who to write your workflow to. Let’s figure out what you’ll write about.

A traditional email workflow is about three emails long. You can always make them longer if you need, and if a lead converts right away, the workflow will bail on them.

I find that the easiest way to start writing an email workflow is to work backward. Look first at what you’re offering in each email before you start writing the content. (You are offering the lead something in every email, right? If not, see above for the Silver Rule of Email Workflows.)

For example, you know that your last email is going to offer up your schedule for your lead to set up a time to chat. The content of that email should lead up to that last call-to-action, and could look something like this:

Hi John,

I hope you’ve found our Complete Guide to Opening Coconuts helpful! If you have any questions about the guide please don’t hesitate to reach out.

I know you’ve had a great deal of interest in coconut cracking lately, and I think our Extreme Coconut Machete might make the perfect tool to help improve efficiency at your coconut water bar. Would you like to learn a little more about it?

To set up a time for a brief chat with me, please feel free to add a meeting to my schedule.

I look forward to connecting with you soon!

 

All the best,

Toucan Sam
VP of Sales
EZ-Open Coconuts, Inc

Every aspect of this email is leading up to that final call-to-action. Let’s take a closer look at how this workflow is working specifically to convert that lead.

Keep Emails Short & Include Questions

The above email from Toucan Sam is an excellent example of a workflow that is short and to the point, but that still entices a lead to continue moving through the sales cycle.

The email opened with a line that reminded the prospect why Sam was emailing.

Then, it offered a bit of helpful information that was specific to the prospect. John has a coconut water bar, and Sam’s product could help him improve his business’ efficiency.

In just two lines it’s immediately clear why Sam’s product would be helpful to John, and how he can learn more about it. Including a link to a calendar is especially useful, because the prospect can easily schedule a time to meet that is convenient for both parties. Click To Tweet

It’s important to keep workflow emails short — definitely no longer than a page, but preferably no more than a few very short, one to two sentence paragraphs.

Remember: Design Counts

It’s also good to think about the design of your workflow emails.

They should be relatively minimalistic — you don’t want too many pictures or too much information distracting your prospect from the message — but they should include basic things like your logo and possibly your social media buttons.

The email should be clean and clearly laid out so the prospect can scan through quickly, without missing too much of your message. Put the most important messaging at the very beginning and very end of the email, where people are sure to see it. Bolding and bullet-pointing key callouts can also help draw attention to the content you want prospects to see most.

Personalize Email Workflows — Both To and From

A great email workflow best practice to remember is not only to personalize emails for the receiver but also from you. Users are more likely to at least open an email if it looks like it's from a real person, rather than from a company. Click To Tweet And getting prospects to open your email is half the battle!

It is also good to personalize emails for the recipient, as well. Most email workflow services, like HubSpot or MailChimp, will auto-fill names and company names, along with a bit of other information for you. It’s a simple step that can make a big difference, so don’t forget!

Send Test Emails

Always, always, send test emails. And open them. And click all of the links.

You’d be amazed at how easy it is to forget to add in a link or to accidentally link to the wrong page.

You’ve spent a lot of time finessing your email, and you only get one shot to send it out. Make sure everything works the way it should before you hit that send button.

Send First Workflow Email Within 24 Hours of Qualifying Action

Set your workflows to go out as soon as possible after a lead completes a qualifying action. If they sign up for your newsletter, make sure your follow-up email goes out as immediately as possible.

If your sales team is working to follow-up after potential clients download a specific offer, try to have that first workflow email go out within an hour of their download. That way, your company is still fresh on the prospect’s mind and they’re more likely to respond.  

Give People Time Between Emails

You want your first email to go out quickly, but that’s it. The other emails should take a little bit of time, in respect for the Golden Rule (see the top of this blog if you’re skimming). Don’t send any more than one email in a 24 hour period. And if you can wait a day or two between emails, that’s even better.

Every industry and every company will see different results from different tactics, so you will have to do a bit of testing to see how often and how quickly to send your follow-up emails for best results.

That said, a good rule of thumb is the less spammy, the better. You want to remain top-of-mind, but not at the expense of your lead’s experience with your company.

Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

As we mentioned in the Golden Rule at the very top of this blog, your goal with an email workflow is not to trap an unwitting consumer. Rather, you’re working to offer up relevant, helpful content that solves their pain points, and shows them of your authority in your industry. If they don’t want your help, you have to allow them to unsubscribe.

Not only is this ethical, but it’s better for you. If you have a bunch of dud leads who qualified accidentally, or who aren’t quite ready for your services, it’s better to let them go than have them skew your email metrics to show that your messages aren’t performing.

All of that goes to say — make it easy to unsubscribe.

You don’t want to waste your time on unqualified prospects, and they don’t want to hear what you have to say. Let them go.

Don’t Use Attachments

This last point is truly an email workflow best practice: don’t attach content to your workflow emails. Nearly every company tells employees not to open emails with attachments from strangers, for the very real reason that it could be a hacker or a virus. When you attach your content offers and additional relevant content to emails before someone has asked for it, you seem fishy. (Phishy? See what we did there? 😉)

Instead, offer links to a landing page where prospects can download your content offers or digital links to content offer PDFs. This will help increase your open rate, and likely your response rate, too. You always want to be offering something, in every workflow email, but it has to seem legit if you want people to open it.

Whew. That was a lot.

There’s a lot going on with email workflows. They seem like such simple pieces of content, but there’s a great deal of work that goes into them, from deciding what you’ll offer to crafting a series of emails that will work to pull your ideal prospects all the way through the sales cycle. Hopefully, these email workflow best practices will help you put together a workflow that converts leads and closes sales.

Still struggling with your email workflows? We get it. Let us know how we can help!

From cleaning up your contacts to developing workflow content that speaks directly to your target audience we’re email workflow pros and we’d love to help you beef up your email marketing strategy for overall business growth.

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