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What Is a Drip Campaign? Hint: It Will Help Amp Up Your Email Marketing

What Is a Drip Campaign? Hint: It Will Help Amp Up Your Email Marketing
Written by Rachel Weingarten

What is a drip campaign? A drip campaign involves creating a series of emails to be automatically delivered at very specific times and usually spaced over a few days. The reasoning being that the steady drip of information delivers messaging that becomes familiar and ultimately translates to engagement and hopefully sales.

While the expression drip campaign brings to mind everything from leaky faucets to a gentle drizzle, it’s actually a very calculated way of expanding your brand awareness. In a drip campaign, you probably spend as much time on the planning and delivery of your messages as you do on crafting your content. Instead of randomly sending your messages out, you create a series of email blasts to bring different parts of your messaging across.

To make things easier, we’re going to break down the basics of drip campaign marketing, what works, and what to avoid. But first:

So, why do you need to know about drip campaigns? Well, even if the actual term is new to you, you’ve probably seen it in action in your own inbox. Remember when the idea of content marketing was brand new? Understanding certain methods allow you to better harness and use them to grow your business.

"A drip campaign, aka email sequence, aka email series, aka automated email campaign, aka lifecycle emails, aka autoresponders - has many different connotations, but all mean the same thing."

A drip campaign in other words:

“A drip campaign, aka email sequence, aka email series, aka automated email campaign, aka lifecycle emails, aka autoresponders – has many different connotations, but all mean the same thing,” explained Christopher Tompkins, CEO and Head Strategist at The Go! Agency.

According to Tompkins, that usually involves “a series of emails that are preset and automatically sent to an individual after an action triggers the series to fire.” He believes this is a useful tool since the set-and-go functionality allows you to create a campaign without fussing over it for days or weeks.

“These are wonderful if you want to get multiple exposures to a potential customer/client to push them through the sales process. Drip campaigns originally were a series of emails that you would have to manually send. Many businesses will remember the email templates that they would cut and paste and send when people signed up to their list. Now there are integrated email providers  everything from Constant Contact to Pardot  and they offer extremely sophisticated automation that you build in advance and then are automatically sent, or dripped to the client, over a certain period of time.”

What's a drip campaign anyway? Read more via @rachelcw on why this tiered email approach could work for you. On @clearvoice #contentmarketing #dripcampaign #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

When drip campaigns work best:

So, when would you use a drip campaign? When your messaging is timely or important. When you have a new launch and want to tease out the details. When your message is potentially too big or overwhelming to drop into a single email, a drip campaign can either soften a blow or keep people salivating. It’s like the movie preview before the big show. It reels your customer in enough to make them want to see more.

  • A new makeup product. The beauty industry effectively uses teaser campaigns placing advertisements in print magazines and on end-caps in stores. In the context of a targeted drip campaign, that might involve a name, a key ingredient, a price drop, and then a series of emails introducing consumers to the next big thing.
  • A new service. No one wants to hear that you’re raising your prices, but what if you created a tantalizing campaign where loyal customers could access more information or more exclusive data? A drip campaign could allow you to highlight the best possible parts before dropping in a zinger about raised prices and then following up with another bonus or freebie.
  • More freebies. If harvesting information is your goal, you could create a tiered drip campaign. Someone might receive a free email subscription simply for providing their email address, but a valuable coupon or sample size product follows in the next email and provided that they also share a key data point. In this way, you’re proving that your goal isn’t to spam, it’s mutual satisfaction!
  • Industry-specific news and updates. I was surprised to find out how many attorneys rely on cold marketing to bring in leads. It’s worth asking around to find out the best tools for your trade. For instance, I found out that many tech-savvy lawyers use a service called mycase to keep track of their clients and practice. Who knew!
  • Word of mouth and incentive programs. A lot of services offer a gift for referrals. In this way, your drip campaign is appealing not only to individual decision-makers but also to their extended networks. The key is to figure out how much you can give away without taking a loss on your entire campaign.

Examples of effective drip campaigns

Effective drip campaigns:

Delivering automated health information.

In mid-March, the International Business Times reported on the ways that not only healthcare treatments had changed due to the pandemic, but also the way information was collected and delivered. While the article reported that “the of telemedicine in California grew 1000 times compared to before the pandemic,” there was another information service boom.

The National Coronavirus Hotline (NCH), a new service run by Pandemics Project Inc., created a way of “automating and simplifying the mass delivery of healthcare services.” While the healthcare industry traditionally is slower to keep up with certain technologies, this allowed even smaller or regional providers to be able to instantly share fresh information with their clients. It also allowed them to immediately connect to and book disinfection services.

30 days of drips.

Tompkins shared one campaign that he thought got it right:

“One of the best drip campaigns, that I have seen could be a little controversial as it was extremely aggressive,” he said. “There was a business coach who was offering a  sale priced closing masterclass and he had set up a 30-day email drip sequence where there was one email sent EVERY DAY. An associate told me about this and I signed up immediately. I was amazed at how great the content was and how it really made me consider taking this course…even when it is not a subject that was interesting to me.”

The drip campaign that sank.

“I think the worst drip campaign I have seen,” Tompkins said “was a healthcare client that had an email marketing firm building their drip campaigns but they were more of a drop campaign. The signup triggered ONE email, which essentially is an autoresponder.”

For something to be considered a campaign there needs to be moving parts interconnecting messaging, incentives and results. “Drip campaigns work best when they are at least 3-5 steps,” Tompkins added.

Why drip campaigns work

Why drip campaigns work:

Tompkins said that one of the reasons he thinks drip campaigns are so effective is because “it is an essential set it and forget it piece of your marketing strategy. Of course you may have to go in and update content, and even create a new one, but the time that you will save is essential.”

There’s also an immediate gratification factor for marketers. Tompkins explained that “these drip campaigns are triggered immediately, meaning that you are able to engage your consumer outside of office hours, and when they choose to engage with you – not the other way around.”

13 things to keep in mind before starting your own drip campaign:

  1. Don’t be in a rush to get started. If you’re able to, spend time researching everything from successful campaigns similar to the ones you hope for as well as your preferred delivery methods.
  2. Pay attention to the drips. It sounds weird to say, but I’ve seen so many campaigns that seemed to droop in the middle of the drips. “You need to take your time and truly make sure each drip in your campaign has value added impact,” Tompkins said.
  3. Expect failure on the first go-round. It sounds pretty dire, but if you place too much hope in your first drip campaign you’ll probably end up disappointed. Try not to invest all of your time or best ideas in the first drip campaign to see what works best.
  4. Work with an expert. Not sure that you or your team are up for creating all elements of a drip campaign? It’s fine to acknowledge the fact that sometimes you need help with these things.
  5. Ask a friend or trusted colleague. If you’re not sure if a drip campaign is for you, ask someone at a company similar but not competing with your own if they’ve tried one. It could turn out to have been a waste of time for that particular industry.
  6. Be sure to always get opt-in permission. Spam is bad. I can’t tell you how many times I find myself receiving emails from companies I opted out of years back. It’s never cool to use old email lists for new campaigns.
  7. Start paying attention to your inbox. It’s entirely possible that you’ve never noticed just how many drip campaigns are heading your way on a daily basis. Pay attention to the things you like or hate. Notice word usage and calls to action.
  8. Don’t get overwhelmed. Tompkins reminds us that it’s both a lot of work and a lot of content to come up with. He always suggests that if you feel overwhelmed, have someone else who knows how to set these up do it for you. The learning curve on some of these email marketing platforms can be pretty steep.
  9. Touch base often. Even if a drip campaign is set and go, the setting up of the process is not. If you’ve hired someone to write your content, make sure that they are clear on the tone you need and the intent. If someone is just handling the actual sending part, take time to work through best times and dates.
  10. Have a contingency plan. What happens if you have a system outage and your carefully planned drip campaign goes down the drain? Take time to develop at least one message dealing with any potential glitches.
  11. Have an emergency plan. What happens if you’re out of stock or something unexpected happens? If you’re able to allocate funds and time to create an emergency plan, you really should.
  12. Beta test your plan. Don’t take your subcontractor’s word for it that either the wording or automation are perfectly reliable. I recently worked with someone who used the same tone in all of her writing. It was technical, it was also unappealing and more of a turn-off than a come on.
  13. Stress your call to action. The most fun part of a drip campaign is the fact that you can explore different messaging in every single drip. You don’t need to use a hard sell, but you do need to be sure of what your bottom line and desired outcome will be. In fact, before you even start your drip campaign, create a list of hopes and goals.

About the author

Rachel Weingarten

Rachel is an experienced freelance content creator, content strategist, writer and copywriter, and author of three award-winning nonfiction books. She specializes in business and style and the business of style.

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