“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, whereas there are nearly unlimited use cases for workflows, one of which is 1:many marketing communications.
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 you’re new to HubSpot or a seasoned user, 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 a 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 trigger and actions in your workflow.
Here’s an example to help illustrate how this would work.
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).
A common use case for sequences is follow-up. Let’s say you want to follow up with leads that 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.
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.
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.
Marketing emails are the primary communication option within workflows, whereas sequences use sales emails.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In conclusion, marketing automation is a powerful tool for streamlining and optimizing repetitive tasks in sales and marketing campaigns. 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.