Many bottlenecks in businesses are caused by staff getting stuck doing tedious and repetitive manual tasks like data entry. Using workflow management software to help streamline many of these tasks can be transformative — increasing business efficiency while saving time and money — for departments from sales and marketing (an area we know a lot about and will be covering further in this post), to customer service, HR, finance and other business operations.
Broadly speaking, workflow automation tools fall into two buckets:
- General workflow automation software: This type of tool automates a broad range of different workflow processes throughout your business, ranging from HR to sales.
- Sales and Marketing workflow automation software: This type of software has been designed specifically for the flow of a marketing campaign. This is the area we specialize in and it is also a very common use case, so much so, there’s an entire sub-category just for marketing workflow automation.
Within each camp, there’s a wide spectrum of sophistication and cost. What you need will depend on the size of your business and in which workflow areas you would like to incorporate process automation — either general business departments (#1 above) or specifically sales and marketing (#2 above).
In this post, we’ll cover:
- What general workflow automation is.
- 5 tools that will help you solve general business process management:
- What marketing workflow automation is.
- How TapClicks can help automate the workflow of your entire marketing lifecycle.
- 4 alternative marketing specific workflow automation tools that will help streamline your marketing processes:
Want to see how easy it is to use the TapClicks automated workflow software features? Try our free 14-day trial.
What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation software allows complex business processes to be streamlined so that they become easier to manage. Typically, workflow automation is triggered by an initial activity such as a form fill, lead, or inquiry which then sets into play a cascade of tasks (custom workflows) according to your instructions or pre-defined business rules.
These kinds of workflow tools can reduce manual processes, repetitive tasks, and bottlenecks significantly, which can in turn reduce the level of human error and employee workloads.
Many generic workflow management systems offer visual drag and drop and template options which you can configure to suit your business rules, whether that be for a large enterprise or a small business.
Here’s a brief overview of 5 of the key players.
5 General Workflow Automation Software Tools
Integrify is an easy-to-use visual workflow automation tool that has a drag and drop interface. Its portal allows you to design intuitive forms, track workflow processes, and route workflows through existing business systems. It also has dashboard and reporting functionality.
Use cases include managing a document approval process and the process for product development.
Asana is a well-known general project management tool that allows for a certain amount of customization. It tends to be more suited to smaller businesses and, as it only covers one part of the workflow process (i.e. the project management aspect), and doesn’t do full workflow automation in terms of triggering certain actions in one app based on events in another app.
You can read more about how Asana differs from our solution, TapClicks, in this article.
Gravity Flow is a WordPress workflow plugin which automates all your manual business workflows from form submission onwards. You start by building your forms (e.g. hiring, employee onboarding, etc.), choose the workflow action steps you want from 40+ options, and then execute and review the process.
Zapier is an extremely popular and simple-to-use automation tool which connects different apps so that an event in one app can trigger some action(s) in other apps.
It has over 1,000 integrations (for example, QuickBooks and Google Drive), so you can pass information between your apps with workflows called “Zaps” and build entire workflow processes — without the need for coding.
Zoho Creator is a workflow automation platform with a simple drag and drop interface where users can build complex workflows within the Zoho app ecosystem.
You can create custom workflows and also use Zohos pre-built apps such as “Leave Tracker”, “Support Desk”, and “Employee Management”.
These tools are all viable options if you want to streamline your workflow processes across different areas of your business.
However, we’ve noticed that the marketing workflow life cycle is a specific and key use case for business process automation, so we’ve given it its own section in this post. We’ll describe why, next.
Why Marketing Workflow Automation Deserves Its Own Category
The reason why workflow automation software and process improvement lends itself so readily to the marketing life cycle is that sales and marketing typically involve multiple steps that have to happen when the first trigger event occurs (a lead or form fill event; or an ad or media buy order being placed).
Roughly speaking, it’s easy to think of two categories for marketing workflow processes:
- Lead capture and nurture: A set of events that have to happen when a business captures a lead such as emails being sent, assigning the lead to sales, and so on.
- Media buy or advertisement orders: A set of events that a media company or ad agency needs to execute after an initial media buy or advertisement order is placed, such as creative design, approval, development, and so on.
TapClicks, through our TapOrders and TapWorkflow products, helps media companies, ad agencies, and brands with the second step: workflow automation for media buying and ad orders, so we’ll focus on that first by explaining how we approach automating those workflows. Then, we’ll list some other workflow software options that help with the former.
Let’s start considering the typical media buying and executing process and examine the common pain points.
Note: The process is broadly the same whatever the size of the agency, media company, or business.
The Typical Ad Agency or Media Brand’s Process and Pain Points
The typical media buying process will follow this sequence:
- Ad Ops
- Creative Resources
Within each of these areas, the processes can be complex:
The agency or business will place an order for a marketing service (e.g. an ad buy). The order is usually logged on a CRM or a tool like Google Forms. This acts as a trigger for a chain of communication between the salesperson and the Ad Ops Manager — clarifying the order, pricing, objectives, etc. These tasks could be carried out via email or Slack.
The Ad Ops Manager delegates the tasks for the order to creative. This may be done via a project management tool such as Asana or Trello and could involve many channels and markets which will require researching keywords, copy, etc.
The creative aspect of the process involves developing a brief, coordinating multiple teams around SEO and content creation, and can include hundreds of handoffs.
When the creative has client approval, the ad buys are placed and the campaign is launched via the agreed channels. Each of those channels will have its own dashboard which will need to be monitored individually.
The analytics data from the campaign will need to be pulled from the native platform(s) — such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. — and into an Excel spreadsheet individually or put into a tool like Google Data Studio. This will need to be done manually for each and every platform, which is time consuming and tedious.
You can read more about these processes in our Marketing Agency Workflow article.
To summarize, enterprise agencies and media companies usually handle these activities using a combination of time consuming and unwieldy methods such as Excel spreadsheets, project management tools, or more generic workflow tools that don’t handle the entire marketing life cycle. And, if they do want to use a marketing-specific tool, most of the ones available are more suited to small agencies.
But, if you’re an enterprise-sized marketing business with hundreds or thousands of media campaigns, you need a robust platform that can operate at scale.
We’ll walk through the TapClicks solution next.
How TapClicks Can Automate the Workflow of Your Entire Media Buying and Ad Operations Process
TapClicks is segmented into 4 main areas:
TapOrders: An Order Management Tool for Sales and Ad Ops
TapOrders is a customizable order management tool which streamlines the handoff processes involved between sales and Ad Ops.
Users create and submit an “order” for a service (e.g. media campaign, SEO, etc.) where they can include essential information such as start and end dates, budget, objectives and goals:
Once all the details have been completed, the Ad Ops Manager is alerted to begin the next phase.
Keeping transparent communication means that all the handoffs are automated and there are no bottlenecks or oversights.
TapClicks Bonus: Segmenting Order Types
Different clients and prospective clients can easily be segmented under “order type” which means that your team can use the platform as a prospecting tool.
Once an order has been finalized, the salesperson toggles from “pre-sale” to “regular” and the Ad Ops Manager will be alerted that the campaign is now in progress.
This procedure means that the number of campaigns and their status is known at any given time.
TapClicks Bonus: Self-Service Ad Platform
Using the TapClicks solution means that you can build a self-service ad platform via a TapClicks vendor portal. This means that an itemized catalog of marketing services can be accessed by vendors where they can place orders directly.
TapClicks also provides a webhook that exports this data to your billing system, allowing the entire order to be handled within the TapClicks platform.
It’s also worth noting that TapClicks supports any CRM solution on the market (as long as it comes in a format we can integrate with) and we have an out-of-the-box API for integrating directly with Salesforce. This means that if you want to incorporate a third party CRM with TapClicks, you can.
To read more about the TapOrders part of our solution click here.
TapWorkflow: A Project Management Tool for Media Sales and Ad Ops
As we’ve outlined earlier in this article, many ad operations workflow processes fall down during the execution part of running a campaign and, if you’re running dozens or hundreds of campaigns, this is even more likely, especially if you’re using different platforms and communication tools.
TapWorkflow coordinates and fulfills all the campaign deliverables by streamlining all aspects of the ad operations workflow between the Ad Ops Manager, creative teams, and the client.
It does this by allowing the Ad Ops Manager (or marketing manager) to see a snapshot view of any order and instantly see where they are in the process:
Without this capability, teams would have to rely on communicating with team members individually or using a mishmash of different tools such as email, Asana, or Slack, which is unreliable and time-consuming.
With TapClicks, all the information related to a given ad order is in one place: sales, order details, creative, project management, billing, and even analytics.
TapClicks Bonus: Issue Icons
Ad Ops Managers are alerted by “issue icons” which can appear at any point on an order where there are delays (e.g. at the task level, or highlighting a team that may be under-resourced):
The issue icons can be viewed at a high level, so that all delays or issues can be prioritized and actioned quickly.
TapClicks Bonus: Team Availability
With TapClicks, team members have the ability to assign their availability. This is a really useful function which allows the Ad Ops Manager to manage resources and prevent delays.
To read more about the TapWorkflow part of our solution, click here.
TapClicks Bonus: Our Platform Analyzes and Reports on Your Media Campaigns, Too
In addition to the Orders and Workflow process we’ve just discussed, TapClicks also combines its analytics and reporting functions within its solution, so the entire process is contained within one tool.
In short, the TapClicks solution pulls all your data from all your media, advertising (and other) data sources into one place. This means that you can pull data daily in near real-time, and it will be stored in our data warehouse ready for you to analyze, visualize, and create reports.
Using our reporting solution, ReportStudio, you can pull across all your data so that your report templates are automatically updated with the most current data. It’s the equivalent of having a PowerPoint presentation builder that’s connected to all your live data.
To read more about the TapAnalytics part of our solution, click here.
To read more about the TapReports/ReportStudio part of our solution, click here.
TapClicks addresses all the common pain points experienced by media companies and ad agencies and therefore serves as a powerful workflow automation tool for enterprise-sized marketing teams.
Next, we’ll look at 4 alternative marketing workflow automation tools.
4 Alternative Marketing Workflow Automation Software Tools
HubSpot is an all-in-one sales, services, marketing, and operations platform which allows you to handle the process from lead generation through to sales. You can also connect a service ticket with an existing contact record and clean up customer data.
HubSpot is popular with small businesses.
Marketo Engage allows you to automate the entire customer journey, personalize content, and analyze marketing impact. This software tool offers customer behavior tracking, so you can easily build and scale automated marketing campaigns.
Part of Salesforce’s software solutions and with an integration with Salesforce’s CRM, Pardot is a sales and marketing automation tool that allows businesses to examine every part of the customer experience.
This means that marketing teams can work closely with sales teams via a central platform to maximize results.
Oracle Eloqua calls itself a best-in-class B2B marketing automation solution. It is a powerful and expensive tool which offers campaign design, advanced lead scoring, real-time firmographic data and integrated sales tools.
Want to see how easy it is to use the TapClicks automated workflow software features? Try our free 14-day trial.