This is our second post in a two-part series about automation. Find part one here.
Workflow automations are becoming increasingly popular, and more and more automation platforms keep popping up.
Despite the hype, when it comes to automation we find our clients often have questions — like what is an “automated workflow?” And is it really worth the effort and tools required to set up?
Below we take an in-depth look at workflow automation to clear up some uncertainties, illustrate the power of automation, and help you get started. In the first part of this two-part series, we reviewed automation and discussed why you should consider automating. In part two, we'll examine how to automate with a deep-dive into tools, terminology, and tips for success.
Getting Organized: Before You Start Automating
Once you decide you want to implement workflow automation, there are a few things you should do before you dive into setup. The following are applicable regardless of the type of automation you plan to use.
1. Define a Goal
What do you want to automate? And why do you want to do it? Understanding your end goal will ensure you select the best tools and process to go about the automation. Some ways to identify what to automate are to look at your current workflows for areas of improvement and tie the task to the end goal.
- Pain points you experience in the office
- Time-consuming, labor-intensive or slow tasks
- Bottlenecks in your current workflow/operations
- Missed opportunities due to time/resource constraints
2. Examine Available Tools
Once you’ve defined exactly what you need out of the automation, it’s time to select a tool to help you accomplish it. When it comes to automations there are many software programs available. Here are a few, some of which we at Trusty Oak use frequently with our clients and can personally vouch for.
3. Write It Down
Although it can be tempting to jump right into the software platform and begin building, it’s best to be patient! We recommend outlining your steps on paper first. It can be as simple as an ordered list on a notepaper, or as complex as a fancy flowchart created with software. But whichever way you do it, it’s essential to create a plan prior to creating your workflow.
Start with the first item you want to automate, and what you want to happen next. If you’re automating an email workflow, go ahead and draft out the copy for the emails — or at the very least the subject lines — so you have an outline to follow as you get started within the platform. Another benefit to upfront organization is the workflow can be reviewed and approved by the necessary parties in advance.
Creating the Automation
Once you’re ready to get started, the next step is to download the software or tool you’ll be using to create your automation. There are some free solutions, as well as paid plans which include advanced features and functionality. Which tool you select (and which plan you pick) will depend on a few things:
- Size of your organization
- Type of tasks or processes you want to automate
- Level of customer service/assistance required
- If you want it to integrate with your existing systems, for example your CRM
Most of the platforms are extremely user friendly, and make it easy for any level of user to get their automation set up. That being said, there are a few key terms it’s helpful to be familiar with.
Understanding the Terms
While terminology may vary a bit program-to-program, some common terms related to workflow automation include the following.
The overall process or flow, especially as it relates to marketing automation or email automation. A campaign would be a single workflow, and all the steps, communications, or tasks included within it.
→ For Example: A “Thank You Campaign”
Triggers are what set the automation in motion, or put it into action. A trigger can be many things (some programs offer upwards of 20 triggers), but are often based on time or an activity.
→ For Example: Contact fills out form on website; Contact clicks on email link; 10 days have passed since previous communication was sent to contact.
Some standard triggers include:
- Subscribes to list
- Tag is added (to contact’s record in CRM)
- Fills out form
- Opens/reads email
- Time/date milestones
A start trigger is the very first trigger used in the automation, which kicks the whole thing off.
Rules, or “business rules,” govern the workflow automation. Rules determine what will happen when, and are underlying aspects of every project.
Refers to aiming a campaign at a specific group of people, rather than a massive group at large.
An email marketing campaign which sends a series of several emails out over a period of time automatically.
In marketing automation, a “goal” refers to the end result you are hoping to see as the result of your efforts.
→ For example: Getting someone who downloaded an eBook to take a call with your team.
Conditional flows refer to adding if/then logic, meaning what happens in the automation depends on what the user does. If they take one action, one thing happens. If they take a different action, something else happens.
Tips For Success
Here are a few tips to help your campaign succeed from the get-go.
1. Start at the Top
Automations can be confusing and a bit intimidating. It’s best to start at the beginning, with the very first thing you want or need to do. Work your way down from there. Things will start to flow as you go along. Especially if you’ve made those notes we mentioned above!
2. Keep it Simple
While it may be tempting to use all the bells and whistles and fancy trigger options upfront, for those new to automation we recommend getting started by using the most simple triggers you can. Once your automation is in motion, you can add more complex paths and triggers when you’re a pro.
3. Stay organized
Have we mentioned organization? We can’t over-emphasize how important it is to get organized upfront before diving into the technical specifics or nitty gritty. Having everything laid out (and approved) before building out an automation will ensure you stay on the right track and don’t get bogged down in the features.
Workflow Automation: Examples From Marketing
Still a bit confused about how it all comes together? The example below should help illustrate exactly what an automation is, and what it looks like in action.
New customer visits website
Customer signs up to receive more information (this might be referred to as “submits a form”)
The customer is added to the CRM
This triggers the automation to begin
They customer receives a welcome email immediately with more information on the company
An internal alert is sent to to the company’s sales representative regarding the new prospect
A second email is sent automatically 5 days later
Here's an example of a simple automation for a free content offer in ActiveCampaign.
With the powerful options available through automation, you'll can save time, improve your processes, and make your customer's experience better. What will you automate today?