How to create a strategic email workflow

How to create a strategic email workflow

Many marketers believe that designing an email workflow in inbound marketing is too much work. However, the role workflows play in lead nurturing on the one hand and customer loyalty on the other is underestimated. We believe that email workflows must be part of a successful inbound marketing strategy – because the benefits speak for themselves! In this article you will learn how to design a strategic email workflow. 

Workflows: Direct reactions to prospects

A workflow is a sequence of specific steps in a business process. In our context, this means specifically: Someone visits your website and finds support for their own questions. He starts your lead nurturing process.
This is exactly the starting point in inbound marketing, which can be used for a workflow. Because all workflows need a so-called trigger – a trigger.
These two are the most common in inbound marketing:

  • Leads are added to a smart list based on certain characteristics or behavioral patterns . All contacts on this list are then included in a workflow.
  • The workflow starts when a lead actively fills out a form because they want to use a specific offer.

You counteract this trigger with targeted, further messages. And they are combined in a workflow. As far as the structure of the e-mail workflow is concerned, 3 thematic phases have proven themselves:

  1. education
  2. empathy
  3. Act

Stage 1: Training

What does it mean?

A potential customer has shown interest and triggered your workflow as a result? This interest must be taken up and developed further . And the first phase of any workflow aims to do just that.

Workflow emails are the first piece of information you send to a lead after they have downloaded an e-book from your website, for example. And one thing in particular applies to this initial reaction: they should always offer added value.

You should pay attention to this

Don’t make the mistake of mentioning your company, product or service directly in such emails.

Instead, go with the download that the lead previously made.

Give him other tips on the subject that add serious value and are actually relevant to him. Be an unobtrusive helper! 2 more recommendations:

  1. Invest enough time in the structure and wording of your first email. Because it decides whether the lead will still read their subsequent emails.
  2. If a lead downloaded your e-book, chances are they’re in the process of solving a problem. Offer them other helpful resources, such as an invitation to the webinar or a related blog article.

What is the goal of the training phase?

Your main goal should be to keep your leads active and happy. Let them think: great. I’m getting useful and helpful information here, but I’m not getting ripped off. So I kind of like these people and I’d like to receive more emails.

If you have set up tracking of your emails – for example with HubSpot – then you can even check whether your leads are actually dealing with your emails and whether they are ready for the next step.

Stage 2: Empathy

What does it mean?

The second phase of an email workflow strengthens the relationship with the lead. 

You should therefore not mention your company in this phase either. The difference from phase 1 is that you start bringing in your products or services. Crucial to this: Show empathy with your lead’s problems.
In other words, share how you can solve problems.

You should pay attention to this

Your lead usually has so-called pain points. Ideally, you have already defined these when you created your persona . Pain points are pain points , such as expanding web presence, increasing marketing reach, digitizing sales and service, making big decisions, planning and working based on data, etc.

If you’re creating workflow emails for this phase, start making the content a little more general now. In doing so, let your customer’s pain points resonate. You no longer have to go directly to the previously made download. Rather, your lead should feel that you understand them and that you are there for them . You even understand his current challenges and the goals he wants to achieve. Be empathetic and make that clear in the emails at this stage.

Depending on how your customer journey is defined, you could also send your lead a download offer that moves them further in their process.

The goal of the empathy phase

The goal of your workflow emails is to show the reader that you understand their position and understand their challenges. This means: You are trying to expand your lead’s knowledge – around his original interest – and thereby support his progress. You establish yourself through your expert knowledge.
In the background, it is important to further expand trust in you and your help. Also, Stage 2 of a workflow shows that there is a solution ready that you are happy to share to help solve challenges.

Stage 3: Action

What does it mean?

In the third and last phase of the e-mail workflow process, direct contact is the focus. They’re trying to get things rolling. They offer dialogue in order to examine challenges more closely and implement solutions together. 

You should pay attention to this

Now you can finally talk about yourself without being intrusive. Leads in this status even expect it. They now want to know who is texting (and helping) them all the time.

Up to this point you have shown that you understand the lead. The content of your emails in the third phase is now about your company. What good reviews have you already received? Which customer feedback did you particularly like? Have you ever received an award? Anything that shows the reader that you are the expert may be communicated at this stage.

Try to get the readers to think along the lines of maybe these people can solve my problems too .
At this stage, you can also offer your lead to speak to one of your sales colleagues. The interaction between marketing and sales plays an important role here. Or you offer a demo or pricing.

Your goal in phase 3

The goal in this phase is simple: you take action.
You enter into a direct dialogue with your lead.
You gain permission to make direct contact.


Email workflows have a lot going for them. You help to use even complex relationships to activate leads, establish your expertise and establish direct contact.   

And workflows are diverse. Remember, this article is just a simple, linear example of what your email sequence might look like.

E-mail workflows are therefore part of the repertoire of the inbound methodology .
And they don’t have to be reinvented every time.

Modern marketing automation tools like HubSpot offer all sorts of yes/no and if/then pronunciations. This allows you to develop leads individually and according to their actual online behavior.
For example, if you send an email within your workflow, you can make the subsequent action dependent on whether the lead clicked on a link in the email or not. This branching logic helps provide your leads with the most relevant content.

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