Manual data entry might be one of the most tedious and inefficient tasks in the corporate world. Not only does it put you to sleep, but it also wastes precious time and resources, slashing your productivity to bits.
According to Zapier, 94% of workers perform time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Fortunately, there’s technology that can automate these mind-numbing tasks, eliminating human error and letting you focus on the work that actually matters — workflow automation.
Workflow automation is the process of using rule-based logic to launch a series of tasks that run on their own without any human intervention. After you establish the rules and logic, automated workflows can send emails, set up reminders, schedule tasks, trigger drip campaigns, and more — all without anyone in your team touching a single button.
By leveraging self-operating processes that run manual tasks, workflow automation can help your business save time and money, diminish errors, and boost productivity.
Table of Contents
How does workflow automation work?
Workflow automation typically relies on a series of if/then statements to trigger another task. It then branches off depending on the action that was taken by a lead, employee, or another stakeholder.
Let’s walk through an example workflow for turning a form submission into a deal opportunity.
- A website visitor submits a form.
- The action automatically enrolls the visitor in a drip campaign. It creates a new deal and sets the status to “New.”
- The first email of the drip campaign is sent to the lead, requesting to schedule a meeting.
- The lead clicks through to the meeting scheduler and creates an appointment.
- A thank you email is sent to the lead, confirming the date and time.
- The CRM creates a new task and assigns it to a sales rep.
- The sales rep then reaches out personally, ending the automated workflow.
Here’s what a workflow can look like from start to finish.
Almost every department in your business can benefit from workflow automation. Whether it’s marketing, human resources, or finance, the technology can help you work smarter, not harder.
Below, we’ll cover some of the most popular workflow automation examples.
Workflow Automation Examples
- Subscribing a user to a drip campaign when they download a resource from your website.
- Placing each lead at a different stage of the pipeline when they take a certain action.
- Creating a new ticket in the system when someone reaches out through social media or email.
- Deleting duplicates once they have been detected or merging two properties if they’re the same.
- Removing candidates from the database if they’ve been inactive for a period of time.
- Taking an expense approval process from start to finish.
Workflow automation can be used in virtually any team and in any business scenario. While it’s mostly related to marketing and sales, it can also be used in customer service, operations, human resources, and finance.
Marketing Workflow Automation
Some of the most repetitive tasks in marketing, such as sending emails and posting social media updates, can be automated with workflow automation. With marketing automation software, you can schedule your entire social media calendar and set up workflows that nurture certain types of prospects with email offers.
Automated workflows in marketing include:
- Subscribing a user to a drip campaign when they download a resource from your website
- Welcoming a user to your company after they purchase a product
- Reminding a user to check out after they’ve added various items to their cart
- Scheduling social media posts across multiple platforms
- Distributing marketing tasks across team members
Sales Workflow Automation
Sales workflow automation streamlines tedious lead and prospect management tasks, so that reps can focus on selling, not entering data. Aside from taking leads automatically through the pipeline based on their actions, an automated sales workflow can enroll prospects in drip campaigns and update deal stages as the deal moves forward.
Automated tasks in sales include:
- Placing each lead at a different stage of the pipeline when they take a certain action
- Moving a lead out of the pipeline if they’ve stopped responding to emails
- Sending an introduction email from a sales rep to a lead after they download an ebook
- Updating the deal stage once the lead has scheduled an appointment or meeting
- Creating tasks for sales reps once a lead has scheduled a meeting
Customer Service Workflow Automation
Workflow automation is incredibly useful in customer service. Aside from launching surveys, workflow automation can take care of tickets, cases, and common questions by sending a series of emails or creating tasks.
Automated tasks in customer service include:
- Creating a new ticket in the system when someone reaches out through social media or email
- Onboarding customers with a series of helpful emails
- Sending NPS® surveys and enrolling them into different email campaigns depending on their rating
- Assigning tickets a priority label depending on the tone of the message or email
- Resolving and archiving tickets once a resolution has been reached
Operations Workflow Automation
Operations is the lifeblood of any organization, and it, too, can be automated to reduce instances of manual data entry.
Automated tasks in operations include:
- Deleting duplicates once they have been detected or merging two properties if they’re the same
- Managing team permissions for new team members
- Establishing priorities for different businesses processes
- Automatically compiling reports at the end of every quarter
- Creating tasks in third-party tools such as Asana, Slack, or Zoom
Human Resources Workflow Automation
Instead of having to manually enter all your new hires’ personal information — like addresses, social security numbers, and other employee information into payroll, expense, and insurance systems — HR automation software can do it for you in minutes.
Automated tasks in human resources include:
- Removing candidates from the database if they’ve been inactive for a period of time
- Sending emails to candidates that haven’t made it to the final round
- Filtering candidates with certain keywords in their job history
- Sending W2s to current employees
- Collecting employees’ feedback after they’ve been at the company for a period of time
Finance Workflow Automation
By allowing you to build forms, design workflows, and track processes, finance process automation software can streamline all of your travel requests, reimbursements, and budget approvals.
Automated tasks in finance include:
- Taking an expense approval process from start to finish
- Managing vendor and contract approvals
- Assigning priorities to ACH and wire requests
- Managing travel expense requests depending on location and activity
- Approving budgets based on a predetermined set of parameters
Now that you know everything about using automated workflows, let’s take a look at the top tools you can use.
Best Workflow Automation Software in 2022
1. HubSpot: Best All-in-One Workflow Automation Software
HubSpot’s marketing, sales, service, and operations software operates on a single platform, making it one of the best choices for all-in-one workflow automation. Everything is linked together, allowing you to align all of your teams’ processes and reducing friction from task to task.
You can easily hand leads from marketing to sales, connect a service ticket with an existing contact record, and clean up customer data — all in one user-friendly platform.
Best for: HubSpot is highly recommended for growing businesses that have yet to try workflow automation and for enterprise businesses with established processes. You can begin with a Starter subscription, then upgrade as you require more functionalities. Especially recommended for marketing, sales, service, and operations departments.
Pricing for Marketing Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $890/month (Professional); $3,200/month (Enterprise)
Pricing for Sales Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $500/month (Professional); $1,200/month (Enterprise)
Pricing for Service Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $400/month (Professional); $1,200/month (Enterprise)
Pricing for Operations Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $800/month (Professional)
2. Nintex: Best Enterprise Workflow Automation Software
With over 3 million workflow applications operating on their platform right now, Nintex helps more than 8,000 enterprise customers manage, automate, and optimize their business processes, with no coding experience required.
By offering a multitude of workflow automation tools — like process mapping, advanced workflows, and process intelligence — your business is able to map out each of your processes, execute them, and monitor their performance.
Best for: Nintex is highly recommended for enterprise businesses with established processes. It’s a robust software that pairs a user-friendly workflow design tool with powerful integrations that will connect every single one of your apps. Especially recommended for IT, law, HR, and finance departments.
3. Kissflow: Best Beginner-Friendly Workflow Automation Software
Trusted by over 10,000 companies, including Domino’s, Michelin, and Pepsi, Kissflow offers an all-in-one workflow automation software that lets your business create workflows that automate tasks in your human resources, sales, finance, administration, marketing, and purchase departments.
With over 50 pre-installed business process management apps — such as expensing and sales orders, conditions and triggers, and reporting dashboards for your workflows — Kissflow can streamline almost all your business processes.
Best for: Kissflow is highly recommended for small companies that are just now starting to try workflow automation. The tool’s simplicity and user friendliness will make it easier to begin automating processes. Especially recommended for procurement, HR, and finance departments.
4. Integrify: Best Everyday Administration Workflow Automation Software
Integrify is a workflow automation software that lets you build workflows in a drag-and-drop builder and run parallel or sequential flows. By being able to collaborate on tasks and requests, test your processes, and set up reminders, you can easily streamline your business processes and automate manual tasks.
Integrify also offers workflow examples and a user knowledge base, a rest-based open API that allows you to integrate with external databases, and the ability to import and export data from Excel and even PDFs.
Best for: Integrify is highly recommended for small-to-medium businesses that are looking to automate everyday tasks. Its drag-and-drop “Process Builder” makes it simple and easy to take a process from start to completion. Especially recommended for administration departments.
Pricing: Pricing available upon request
5. Zapier: Best Workflow Automation Software for Connecting Apps
With the ability to connect to and share data with over 1,000 web apps, like Facebook, QuickBooks, and Google Drive, Zapier can automate almost any type of business process. All you have to do is build a workflow in their editor, pick the apps you want to include in your workflow, and design it.
For example, if you want to be able to save all your attachments in Dropbox, you can design a workflow that automatically copies any attachment from your Gmail inbox to Dropbox and then sends you a Slack message about the download.
Best for: Zapier is highly recommended for freelancers and small-to-medium businesses that use a wide variety of tools that aren’t talking with each other. For instance, if you’re using MailChimp to send emails and Typeform to collect leads, you could connect those two tools using Zapier. Especially recommended for marketing and service departments.
6. Flokzu: Best Project Management Workflow Automation Software
Without writing any code, Flokzu allows you to create tasks, deadlines, business rules, and notifications. Their software also sends pending tasks to each of your project’s assignees’ inboxes, and as each stage of a workflow is complete, it’ll automatically assign each new task to a user or role.
Additionally, Flozku offers a reporting dashboard that displays your business processes’
performance and metrics, like the amount of currently delayed tasks there are, tasks assigned to each user and role, tasks completed, and the time each task took, which will give you the necessary data to refine and optimize your future workflows.
Best for: Flokzu is highly recommended for individual teams that want to optimize their time management and task workflow. A key feature of this tool is that users will receive pending tasks in their inbox, making it an excellent project management tool. Recommended for any team.
Workflow Automation Will Help You Grow Better
Workflow automation is critical for businesses that want to scale and grow without letting anything fall through the cracks. By letting technology complete manual tasks, you can effectively grow your business without any growing pains.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
How To Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Your Personal Brand
Updated August 17, 2022
Anyone who didn’t win the billion-dollar Mega Millions jackpot this year needs to read this article.
With the talk about the Great Resignation (or Great Reshuffle), I bet you’ve pondered the future of your money-making work. Even if you’re completely satisfied with your current employment, it’s smart to plan for future promotions and pivots (especially unexpected ones).
And that requires doing something today that should feel very familiar: creating a content marketing strategy.
This time, though, you’ll create it for your personal brand.
Not sure you need to invest the time?
Consider these wise words from a CMWorld Twitter chat a couple of years ago that still ring true today:
“Careers in marketing make personal branding even more important. If you can’t develop your own brand, people might not have the confidence that you can help them develop a company’s/product’s/agency’s brand,” Mike Myers tweeted.
The chat’s guest speaker, Anh Nguyen, agreed: “All the knowledge and experience gained for your personal brand can be scaled for content marketing for a client or an employer.”
The knowledge and experience you gain from marketing your #PersonalBrand can be scaled for employer or client #ContentMarketing, says @AnhTNguyen via @AnnGynn @CMIContent.
What is a personal brand?
Before you can craft your personal content marketing strategy, it’s important to understand what a personal brand is.
“Think of it as your reputation and calling card to the world,” Anh said in the Twitter chat. “Your personal brand helps you connect with prospective employers, clients, customers, collaborators, and so on.”
Gabriela Cardoza explained in the chat that a personal brand helps you:
- Differentiate yourself
- Build thought leadership
- Grow trust and credibility
- Build a network
You have a personal brand already. Every time you engage with people, you create perceptions of who you are in their minds.
When you craft a content marketing strategy for your personal brand, you’ll set yourself on a path toward shaping those perceptions to help you achieve your goals.
Use these seven steps to create a documented content marketing strategy for your own brand.
1. Craft a brand mission statement
All good content marketing strategies start with understanding the mission and goals. Thus, the first step in your personal content marketing strategy is to create a mission statement.
Here’s how Gabriela broke down the components of a personal brand mission statement:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What you stand for
- What your unique value is
I’ll add one more – What do you want to achieve with your brand?
Here’s a personal brand mission statement that might work for a content marketing writer:
I use my creativity and sense of business to help B2B brands engage with their audiences through compelling content. I work to ensure my content is equitable and inclusive. I want to grow my recognition as a go-to resource in the content marketing industry.
TIP: You can’t develop your personal brand without considering your employer’s brand because you’re tied together publicly. Tweak or supplement your personal mission statement accordingly.
2. Write an editorial mission statement
Put together your personal editorial mission statement, which connects to your brand mission.
CMI’s Jodi Harris writes that a great content mission statement details three elements (I’ll go into more depth on each later):
- Core audience – who you aim to help (serve) with your audience
- What you’ll deliver – the kind of information you provide
- Outcome or benefit – the things your audience can do (or will know) because of your content
You don’t need an elaborate statement. Just give a brief overview in a sentence or two.
With your personal brand and editorial mission statements complete, you now have the required footing to develop a content marketing strategy.
3. Detail your brand’s content marketing goals
Your personal content marketing can help you achieve your professional goals (to get a raise, a new job, more clients, etc.), but those aren’t your content marketing goals.
Content marketing involves creating and distributing content to attract and retain your audience and, ultimately, drive profitable action.
Here are some personal content marketing goals to consider:
- Build brand awareness: Get your name out there.
- Earn brand trust: Help people see you as a valuable, reputable resource.
- Deepen brand loyalty: Connect with people on a deeper level (e.g., get them to sign up for your newsletter or share your content).
- Attract strategic partners: Get people to want to help you (e.g., guest blogging and conference speaking).
Once you define your content marketing goals, you can zero in on the right audience.
4. Detail your target audience
You know what you want, but what does your audience want?
First, describe who your audience members are. What industries do they work in? What roles or titles do they have?
Then detail their interests and behaviors. What do they want to know? What are their pain points? Where do they live (online or geographically)?
Let’s say you’re a content marketing specialist for a financial services company. Your goal is to build awareness of your name and skills. Your audience members are managers and directors of content marketing, communications, and marketing in the finance industry. They want to know more about how to get buy-in and budget support from their firm’s leaders. They check LinkedIn every few days but never use Facebook.
5. Identify your content sweet spot
Think of a Venn diagram. In one circle are your content marketing interests. In the other circle are your audience’s interests and needs. Where the two circles overlap is your content sweet spot.
These are the primary topics that your personal content marketing should cover.
You can also determine preferred content formats and distribution vehicles. For example, if your audience prefers podcasts over videos and you’re looking to build a subscriber database, you would want to create a podcast rather than start a YouTube channel. Or, if your audience usually attends an industry conference, you could submit a proposal to speak at the event. If your goal is brand awareness, you could offer guest blogs on sites your audience visits.
6. Build your content calendar
Now that you have identified your topics, formats, and distribution platforms, it’s time to build an editorial calendar. But remember, you’re just one person – and you probably already have a day job. This is not the time to be ambitious.
I recommend creating a minimum viable calendar – the least you know you can create and publish regularly. If that’s just one blog post a month or a quarterly LinkedIn profile review, that’s fine. If you attempt to do too much and fail to hit on every cylinder, you’re more likely to give up entirely. By setting realistic expectations, you’re more likely to keep going.
7. Set measurable goals
Now that you have documented your purpose, audience, content formats, and frequency, you should add numbers and dates to the personal content marketing goals established in Step 3.
For example, if your content marketing goal is to earn brand trust, your metric might be to gain 50 subscribers to your newsletter in the next three months.
It’s important to connect measurable goals to all your tactics – it’s key to understanding how well your content works.
TIP: You might struggle to come up with realistic numeric goals in the beginning. Don’t let that prevent you from setting them. If you find your numbers were unrealistic in your review, change them. That’s one of the perks of developing your brand – no clients or bosses to complain about the shift.
Make yourself accountable
The hardest part of your personal content marketing strategy may be that you’re doing it alone. Without a boss or client expecting your content, it’s easier to push off the work.
Set deadlines for every step in the content production and distribution process. Mark them on your calendar. If you get overloaded and know you won’t meet one, move it out, but don’t remove it from the calendar, or you’ll never get it done.
Want to add one more layer to your accountability? Get an accountability partner. Share your production calendar with that person. Treat this partner as you would a client or boss – let them know when the step is done or tell them about the revised date for completion. (You can do this simply by using the calendar’s notification system.) Even better, become the accountability partner for them too.
Let’s get started. On what date will you complete your personal brand content marketing strategy? Note it in the comments, and I’ll reach out that day to see if you’re done.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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