What is an email flow?

Beautiful flowing waterfall
May 7, 2020


What is an email marketing flow, and why is it important for your business? Should you even care about flows?

What is an email flow?

In nature, a flow is a “steady continuous stream of something.” In email marketing, it’s the flow of emails. Instead of a romantic river or wonderous waterfall, a “flow” is a method of automated communication between a business and its customers. It is triggered by an action taken by the customer, such as when their information is entered into a signup form or they purchased a specific item.

Although the emails or text messages are automated, the flow exists to establish an intimate connection, like a series of letters between two lovers separated by distance.

spongebob dancing on the road, going with the flow

An example of a flow that customers enjoy would be a welcome email series. According to a survey, 74.4 percent of people expect a welcome email, and disregarding that is like leaving someone hanging after they offer you a high five (you wouldn’t want to do that to your customers, would you?) A few more examples of flows you might recognize are:

  • A flow asking if the customer is still interested in the shopping cart
  • A post purchase flow for customers who just bought a product
  • A flow that offers new products a customer might be interested in

What flows do for businesses?

Flows exist to build connections between the business and their customers, which increases revenue in the long run. Flows can be built on email service providers, such as Mailchimp, Omnisend, Constant Contact, and many others. But If you use a program such as Klaviyo, you have the power to hyper-segment, which is a tool advanced marketers use to create the most intimate connections with their customers. Still, this whole process is automated.

Why use email flows?

Having a powerful email marketing flow is like having a full-time employee working 24 hours a day to connect and convert your customers into revenue. The process you guide your customers through is similar to going through a zoo; first, you see the big map of the zoo (the signup form inviting you in); next, you see the exhibit signs; finally, you arrive at your desired exhibit. The zoo feels happy knowing that they led you in the right direction, and you’re happy that you get to see your favorite animals!

happy fox jumping inside a large enclosure

On the contrary, a neglected flow is like a neglected friendship, although you might hit off well for the first few months, dropping your audience without warning after this built relationship is frowned down upon. It’s best for a business to commit to providing consistent value over time, rather than providing immense value in the beginning and forgetting about their customers.

What type of flows are there?

  • Metric-triggered: when a customer makes a specific action; i.e. signing up for emails, ordering a product, etc.
  • List-triggered: when a customer enters an email sign up list, or signs up to receive text messages, etc.
  • Segment-triggered: segment triggers are only sent out to a specific customer base instead of everyone. For example, emails asking if the customer’s still interested in a product, or products suggested along the customer’s interests (an outdoorsy product buyer might be interested in a fishing rod), or based on customer feedback (if a customer says they are or are not interested in a product)
  • Date-triggered: when a customer signs up during a specific date, tell their birthday, or holiday dates; i.e. a special birthday promo code, or it’s been X long since you’ve signed up with us
beautiful waterfall gif
beautiful waterfall gif

Flow vs campaign

Campaigns are one-off emails that you send based on conditional events, such as a recent event, a special discount, or a giveaway announcement. Flows are regular, automated emails that don’t usually require editing based on current events.

For example, if there is a discount code you want to send everyone for Mother’s Day, that should be sent out to everybody as a campaign instead of an email flow. Perhaps there is a seasonal newsletter to send out, that would not be included in a flow. Flow is more of a conversation triggered by the customer, rather than you, the business, opening the conversation.

Is the content evergreen?

Yes. The flows expire as easily as holidays do (almost never). Once you set up an email flow, it will continue sending and sending until the end of time. The first step you should take before setting up flow, however, is by setting up a signup form or an email popup.

Is it a sales flow?

If you are trying to market a specific product, many customers might find it too “salesy,” and not appreciate it as much. Sending out a general email suggesting a specific product meant for younger teenage girls might get a lot of annoyed “unsubscribes” from middle-aged men.

A flow is a conversation that shouldn’t be left unfinished. Flows are like rivers that split into a delta, towards a sea of customers. Each stream was meant for a few customers at a time, up until the flow hits every customer with their specific interests in mind. Use flows in marketing to keep up interests. It’s an essential practice for every business that wants to grow with their customers while earning maximum revenue. If you want to maximize your email game, let us know!

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Written by

Jasper is an expert email marketer. He is passionate about helping sustainably driven businesses reach their marketing goes through beautiful, branded emails.