Best practices for Workflows

Workflows offers a world of potential for engaging your audience in a meaningful way with less effort on your part. Here are our top ten best practices for getting the most out of the module.

  1. Segment workflows by persona (or another defining factor).

    As with regular email marketing, marketing automation requires list segmentation. For example, say you’re building a workflow for families who filled out an inquiry form. Because families have different interests and needs, you may want to create two to three different workflows to personalize your messaging.

    It is also important to understand where the individual is in the process. A potential applicant who downloaded a viewbook is at a much different stage than someone who inquired or applied. 

    You will also want to segment your workflows by engagement. Within the Workflows module, you have the option to segment emails by opens and clicks. This allows you to provide relevant content at an appropriate pace based on engagement.

  2. Use personalization.

    Use the personalization components available to you in Messages (both in the email body and the subject line) to humanize your messages. A primary concern schools have when using “automation” is that it may feel robotic. Using personalization can help! Try it out in your subject line by using conversational and personal messaging, such as:

    • Thanks for your interest in our school, [first name]!

    • Want to learn more about STEM, [first name]?

    • [First name], here are 5 tips for picking the right school!

  3. Have your emails come from a person.

    Nothing feels more impersonal than having an email come from “” To further humanize your emails, ensure that both the “from” label and reply-to email are from a person within your department. Some variations of the “from” name might be:

    • Susan from Admissions

    • Susan at Taft

    • Susan Smith

    At Finalsite, we’ve experimented with many different “From” names and have found success in affiliating a name with a department or organization to increase open rates — meaning options one or two in the above list would work great. As for your “reply-to” email, we recommend using a personal email. However, if you are worried about having a flooded inbox, create a new distribution list.

  4. Stop emailing the unengaged.

    Everyone’s inboxes are flooded with emails. So, if someone isn’t engaging with your content, don’t keep bothering them. You’ll likely rub them the wrong way.

    A good rule of thumb to follow is to drop them from the workflow after three emails that go unopened. These three emails should not vary in content, but have different subject lines. For example, let’s say you’re putting a workflow together for new parents to get them acquainted with your school and its communications. Make three variations of email #1 with three different subject lines. If you send email #1 three times with three subject line variants and the parent still doesn’t engage, you’re better off removing them from the workflow than continuing to email them.

    In Workflows, you can accomplish this using a branch. With branches, you can essentially say, “If the recipient opened, send them down path A; if they didn’t, send them down path B.”

  5. Use a mix of graphic and plain-text emails.

    Not every email you send needs to rely heavily on graphic design. Simple plain-text emails can be just as effective, especially if you’re sharing a few resources. However, be sure that your logo and website link do make it into every email, even if they follow a simple plain-text format.

  6. Be helpful.

    The point of workflows isn’t to remind someone who inquired to “apply” 10 times over the course of 10 weeks. Before you build your workflows, a smart investment of time is to “map” content to different personas, stages of the funnel, and even your workflows. The goal is to nurture individuals along by being helpful, entertaining, and engaging--not automating a bunch of sales emails. Think of email automation the same way you would think about social media: For every four helpful/entertaining/informative emails, you’re allowed one hard sell and one soft sell.

  7. Always include two calls to action.

    In workflow emails, it's important to include two calls to action: a primary call-to-action and a secondary call-to-action. The primary call-to-action is likely the main goal of the email, such as downloading a viewbook or reading a blog post. The secondary call-to-action is “below the fold” in the email — but is a reflection of the workflow’s ultimate goal, such as inquiries. You may also want to include your school’s elevator pitch or brand message at the bottom of every email as a way to keep your brand top of mind.

    The purpose of having the second call-to-action is to give someone an opportunity to convert, no matter where they are in the workflow.

  8. Don’t enroll someone more than once.

    There may be exceptions to this rule — such as someone who inquires in 2019, and doesn’t apply, but inquires again in 2020. But, within one academic year it isn’t recommended to enroll the same person in the same workflow more than once.

  9. Be organized with internal naming.

    This may sound simple, but it will be invaluable as you use Workflows and accumulate more workflow messages. Come up with naming conventions for your workflows that contain the department, campaign, and email number. For example:

    • Admissions - 2019 Inquiry - Applicant Email #1

    • Marketing - New Parent Workflow - Email #1

    • Advancement - New Donors 2019 - Email #1

  10. Review analytics and adapt.

    Don’t let an entire year pass before you analyze how your workflows are performing. Keep an eye on open and click-through rates with your workflows, as you would with any email campaign, so that you can adjust and make them as successful as possible. Consider the following for gauging email engagement:

    • If the email has low opens, the subject line wasn’t enticing or they weren't familiar with your sender’s name.

    • If the email has low clicks, the content did not resonate.

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