HubSpot Workflows vs. HubSpot Sequences

Written By Sean McGauley
May 9, 2023

“What’s the difference between workflows and sequences in HubSpot?” This is a question we get asked frequently by our clients. The short answer is this:

Generally, sequences are intended to automate sales activities, with the primary use case being 1:1 sales follow-ups. On the other hand, there are nearly unlimited use cases for workflows, one of which is 1:many marketing communications.

HubSpot

Have you ever wished you could clone yourself to get more done in a day? That’s sort of what marketing automation is. It allows you to be more productive by taking on your repetitive tasks. Well-designed automation fosters consistency, efficiency, and scalability, all while delivering personalization for your contacts.

By using marketing automation software to automate tasks like email campaigns, social media posting, and lead nurturing, you can free up your time and energy for more important tasks.

Two of the most important tools in the HubSpot automation arsenal are workflows and Sequences. While these tools share some similarities, they are also distinct in their capabilities and use cases. Understanding the differences between them is key to making the most of each of these tools. 

In this blog post, we’ll dig into the differences between HubSpot workflows and sequences and provide insights into when each tool is most appropriate to use.

Whether your marketing team is new to HubSpot or made up of seasoned users, this post will clear up any confusion and help you make informed decisions about how to best use both effectively and incorporate more automation into your sales and marketing strategy.

What is a HubSpot Workflow?

Let’s start with a closer look at HubSpot workflows. In this section, we’ll cover what an automation workflow is, how it’s used, and look at examples.

HubSpot describes its workflow tool here,

“Create a workflow to automate your business processes and make your team more efficient. Set enrollment criteria to automatically enroll records and take action on your contacts, companies, deals, quotes, and tickets. You can also take action on associated records, such as updating an enrolled contact’s associated company.”

Let’s dig into this more. HubSpot workflows work using triggers and actions. A trigger is the criteria that must be true to perform the desired action. You have the ability to control the triggers and actions in your workflow.

Here’s an example to help illustrate how this would work. 

Example HubSpot Workflow for Nurturing

The trigger for this workflow is based on a contact’s lifecycle stage being changed to Subscriber. This change in the lifecycle stage triggers the action of a nurture email. You’ll notice this example takes things a bit further and introduces if/then logic. In this case, if a contact triggered the workflow by submitting a form, they will be sent nurture email 2. Contacts that become a subscriber in a different way from a form submission are sent nurture email 1.

The flexibility of triggers and actions allows for many powerful use cases for HubSpot workflows. Beyond updating the lifecycle stage like in our example, workflows can be set up for things like qualifying leads, lead scoring, nurturing, internal notifications, creating tasks, assigning tasks, and more!

What is a HubSpot Sequence?

A similar, but different automation tool offered by HubSpot is sequences. In this section, we’ll explore what a sequence is, how it’s used, and look at some examples.

According to HubSpot

“With the sequences tool, you can send a series of targeted, timed email templates to nurture contacts over time. You can also automatically create tasks to remind you to follow up with your contacts.”

From this definition, it’s easy to see where some of the confusion between the workflow and sequence tools comes from. But, let’s take a closer look at sequences and learn more.

One of the main differences that sets sequences apart from workflows is that sequences focus on limited actions including sending sales emails, LinkedIn InMail, and creating tasks. The fact that sequences use sales emails, not marketing emails is an important distinction.

In addition, the deliverability of your sales emails in sequences is done outside of HubSpot by your connected personal inbox such as Outlook or Gmail (vs. inside HubSpot for workflows).

HubSpot Sequence Examples

A common use case for sequences is follow-up. Let’s say you want to follow up with leads who book a demo but don’t show up. For follow-up like this, traditional marketing emails may not be the best approach. Instead, HubSpot sequences can be utilized to send a series of sales emails with the goal of getting the lead to reschedule the meeting or reply. 

With sequences, you can set up email templates and schedule them to be sent at predetermined intervals. Once the lead takes the action you’re looking for – in this case responds, they will automatically be removed from the sequence.

Unlike HubSpot workflows, which are limited to marketing contacts, Sequences can be used for non-subscribers, non-opted-in leads, or even non-marketing contacts. 

Although somewhat limited when compared to the feature-rich workflows, sequences are no slouch. They are purpose-built, and there are lots of examples of how they can even earn your organization money – like this example HubSpot email sequence that earns $100,000 in 30 days

HubSpot Workflows vs. HubSpot Sequences

The TLDR (‘too long; didn’t read’) version of what we just covered in the above sections is:

HubSpot Sequences are designed for sales automation situations like follow-up, while HubSpot workflows offer more flexibility in your automation and have virtually unlimited uses.

The Difference Between HubSpot Workflows vs. HubSpot Sequences - Short Answer

But, to fully understand the differences between HubSpot’s workflows and sequences, let’s compare them in the specific areas where there is a clear distinction. Below you’ll find a description of each of the key differences followed by a quick-reference infographic. 

✅ Subscription Level

Access to the sequences tool is granted to users with Sales Hub Professional or Enterprise accounts, as well as Service Hub Professional or Enterprise users. To send your sequence emails, you’ll also need to have a personal inbox connected, like Gmail or Outlook.

On the other hand, the workflow tool is also available in Professional subscriptions, but with certain limitations on triggers or actions based on the subscription and Hub. 

For full and up-to-date information on pricing and available options, refer to HubSpot’s Pricing page.

✅ Email Type

Marketing emails are the primary communication option within workflows, whereas sequences use sales emails

✅ Actions

Workflows offer a broad array of available actions, including sending marketing emails, updating data, creating records or tasks, and issuing notifications, among others.

In contrast, sequences are more limited, providing only a few actions including, sending sales emails, creating tasks, and sending LinkedIn InMail.

✅ Logic

Workflows offer greater flexibility in terms of how you want them to function through logic. For example, you can set up if/then logic to execute alternative actions if an object fails to meet a specific criterion at a particular stage.

Sequences lack this level of flexibility and all steps must be followed for all contacts unless they are manually unenrolled.

✅ Reporting

Workflows offer various types of goals that can be utilized in reporting to assess the performance of the workflow.

With sequences, because you are limited in your actions, there are only a few metrics that can be used in reporting to gauge performance.

✅ Campaigns

Workflows allow you to assign them to a marketing campaign. Sequences do not have this ability. Another hint at HubSpot’s intended use of these tools – sequences for sales and workflows for marketing. 

✅ Enrollment/Unenrollment

Workflows allow contacts to be automatically enrolled when they meet specific criteria, such as submitting a form, updating a contact property, or creating a deal. Additionally, a contact or a list of contacts can be enrolled manually in workflows.

In sequences, contact enrollment is only possible through manual enrollment, either individually or in bulk. 

With workflows, contacts can be unenrolled automatically based on various conditions, such as goal criteria or suppression lists.

In sequences, a contact can only be unenrolled if they book a meeting, respond to the email, or are manually unenrolled.

Workflow or Sequence – Quick Reference Infographic

Workflows vs. Sequences Quick Reference Infographic

HubSpot Sequences Best Practices

HubSpot Sequences can be a powerful tool for streamlining your sales reps' outreach and nurturing leads. Here are some best practices to make the most of this feature:

Segmentation: Segment your contacts based on relevant criteria about your target audience such as industry, job role, or engagement level. This allows you to tailor your sequences more effectively and send targeted messages.

Personalization: Personalize your emails by using contact properties, such as their name or company details. Generic messages are less effective; personalized content resonates better with recipients.

Focus on Value: Provide value in your sequences. Whether it’s sharing helpful resources, offering insights, or solving pain points, ensure that your communication adds value to the recipient.

Create a Customer Journey Map: Understand your customer’s journey and where they are in the sales process. Map out touchpoints and interactions throughout your buyer's journey to guide your sequence content.

Use the Reporting Tool: Regularly analyze the performance of your sequences. Look at metrics like open rates, reply rates, and conversion rates. Adjust your approach based on what’s working and what isn’t.

HubSpot Sequences Best Practices

HubSpot Workflows can significantly enhance your marketing automation efforts. Here are some best practices to make the most of this powerful feature:

Choose the Right Actions: Select the appropriate workflow actions to achieve your automation goals. HubSpot workflows offer a variety of actions, including:

  • Setting delays
  • Using if/then branches
  • Enrolling in other workflows
  • Triggering webhooks
  • Sending internal notifications to team members
  • Sending external emails to HubSpot contacts
  • Integrating with third-party tools (for example, Slack notifications, Zoom webinars, Asana tasks)

Fine-Tune Settings: Review your workflow settings to ensure they align with your objectives. Adjust enrollment triggers, frequency, and other parameters as needed.

Monitor Performance: Regularly analyze your workflow performance. Look at metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Use this data to refine and optimize your workflows.

Conclusion

In conclusion, marketing automation is a powerful tool for streamlining and optimizing repetitive tasks in sales and inbound marketing campaigns. You can send an email, create a flow to a specific landing page, notify teammates of a change in a sales funnel, trigger automated follow-ups for recent purchases of your products or services, and so much more.

HubSpot supports this with two essential automation tools: workflows and sequences. While they share some similarities, they have distinct differences in their capabilities and use cases. 

Workflows can be used for marketing contacts, can be used for 1:many communications, and offer more extensive functionality, including sending marketing emails, creating records or tasks, and updating data. 

Sequences, on the other hand, are more sales-focused, used for 1:1 communications, and can be sent to non-subscribers and non-marketing contacts. They offer limited functionality, but they are perfect for follow-up scenarios and allow users to send a series of sales emails and create tasks. 

By understanding the differences between these two automation tools, marketers can make informed decisions on how to best use them to achieve the best results for their campaigns.

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Sean McGauley

About the Author

Marketing is more challenging than it’s ever been - but, I’m committed to finding new and creative ways to succeed. By day, I’m a digital marketing enthusiast with a passion for connecting brands with their target audience. I have over a decade of experience in creating and executing successful campaigns with a proven track record. I specialize in Strategy, Copywriting, SEO, and social media marketing - always staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. By night, you'll likely find me adventuring with family and friends. I enjoy nature, photography, mountain biking, fly fishing, and trying new foods. I want to connect with other like-minded professionals to learn from and work with.