Want to take the drudgery out of day-to-day business processes and improve your sales prospecting that ultimately results in improved customer satisfaction through better identification and responsiveness to their needs and preferences?
Wish you had the time to respond to all the email inquiries you are getting?
Feel as though you’re sending the same email responses to everyone, when you should be working at sorting through your inquiries to determine which leads are most likely to generate sales?
Wish you had a bigger sales force? Or that you could hire a sales staff to do all this stuff instead of trying to get your business to make enough money so that you can actually afford to hire more people?
Answer yes to any of the above? You need automated workflows.
As Sarah Goliger explains, “A workflow is series of automated actions that you can trigger to occur based on a person’s behaviors or contact information...With workflows, you can send emails, update contact information, add or remove contacts from lists, and trigger email notifications.”
How Do Workflows Work?
While how you set up a workflow varies by both the specific processes you perform, as well as the tools (e.g., software) you use, automated workflows work according to the following scheme:
1. A starting condition is defined as something that that initiates a specified response or series of responses. Examples:
- Customer returns a form via email or website.
- Customer clicks a “More Information” button on your website for a specific product.
- Anyone who has landed on your product page more than five times.
- Any inquiry from a certain geographic area during a designated time.
2. The specified starting condition triggers an automated response. Examples:
- Customer-provided information is entered into a Customer Relationship Management software program, and is identified as a strong or weak lead.
- A PDF for a specific product is automatically emailed to customers who click a “More Information" button.
- A general informational email including a time-sensitive discount offer is sent to anyone who lands regularly on your website’s product page.
- A contact list is created for a specified inquiry with appropriate follow-up criteria.
3. A schedule is set as to whether responses are immediate or with certain time delays. Example:
- You might want to delay certain responses to when a sale or another product promotion is about to begin. You might also want to stagger responses as a test to see if you get better return rates at the beginning or the end of the week, or if people are more likely to respond in the morning or the afternoon.
4. Based on tests of your response rates, set preferences. Example:
- If you know you get more click backs in the morning as part of the regular business week, set your preferences so that you only send email between 9 am and 11 am, Monday through Friday, regardless of when the inquiry occurred.
This last step is essential. Just because you are automating a workflow doesn’t mean you can just do it and forget about it. Automated workflows provide you with a lot of data about customer behavior and interactions. Only you can make informed decisions based on that data.
Related article: Take Back the Clock: Automate Your Way to a Better Business
Design Workflows to Work
To automate workflows to have the greatest positive effect, you’ve got to invest time thinking about them and how they interact with other workflows, as well as what you hope to accomplish by automating them. An overarching consideration is how automating a workflow improves its value both to your customers and your sales efforts. It’s not just a matter of buying some software and clicking some options.
If such a task seems a bit overwhelming, take things a step at a time. Look at one simple task, get that working to your satisfaction, and then build out from there.
Keep in mind that, as pointed out by the Sage Business Management blog, a workflow is essentially a series of connected steps. The steps begin somewhere and, hopefully, end somewhere else. What lies between the beginning and the end may be complicated or not, but all of the steps should proceed from one to another in a logical way.
A good way to approach this is the 5 W's and H every journalist uses—Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
But let’s take them in a different order (and sometimes repeat them):
- Why do you need to a particular automatically? What results do you expect?
- What specific process do you want to automate? You need to get granular here. It’s not that you want to automate sales lead generation. It is that you want an email generated every time someone fills out a customer profile form on your website.
- Who is your target audience? End-users, distributors, partners? Each gets a different kind of targeted response.
- Where do you want the response to go? To an email inbox, a Facebook post, a Twitter feed, a direct mailing?
- When? Is the response immediate, or a certain time of day or week? Does it even matter when and why should it?
- How are you going to automate the workflow? This includes not only the actions to take triggered by specified conditions as outlined previously, but what software tools you’ll use to automate the process, and how this particular process may interact with other processes.
Automated workflows that are well-designed and properly executed helps your business in multiple ways:
- Fewer administrative errors
- Better communication with customers, partners and suppliers
- Improved cost-efficiencies
- Better data collection and management