Drip Marketing 101: Benefits and Best Practices

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There’s a reason drip campaigns are so popular: In marketing, like so many things, timing is key. Send a message too early? Your prospect isn’t ready to convert. Too late? They’ve already gone to your competitor. Drip marketing campaigns are an extremely valuable addition to the marketer’s toolbox. According to DemandGen, B2B marketers who have successfully deployed lead nurturing programs (a popular type of drip campaign) average a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads versus non-nurtured leads.

Drip marketing simply means sending marketing messages in a specific tempo. Like the drip irrigation systems they’re named after, these messages land right where they’re supposed to go, over time, with a minimum of waste. They can span all kinds of time periods, from daily reminders and weekly specials to monthly updates and yearly renewal notices. Each message should stand alone, but they should also build on the messages of the past and set the stage for what’s to come.

Drip marketing campaign

This kind of timed-release marketing is great for products and services with a long selling cycle, but it can also be used for upsell and cross-selling and developing customer loyalty – no matter what industry you’re in. Let’s take a look at 10 important best practices to keep in mind when developing a drip campaign for your customers and prospects, and see what it takes to keep prospects and customers engaged over time.

1. Make sure to cover the basics first.

Before you set up your program, outline your goals of your campaign and identify success metrics. And get to know your customers and prospects before crafting your messages. What search terms did they use to find your site? What pages did they visit, and what did they download? Do you have a persona outlined for this audience segment? Who are they and what are they likely to respond to? Segment your lists by interests, geography, responsibility – any factor or combination of factors that makes sense in your business model – and drip out content and offers they’ll care about.

Remember, there’s a reason why there’s a torture named after drips of water that never seem to end. A constant flow of messaging that’s not related to the interests of your audience is more likely to be an annoyance that anything else. And annoyed customers will shut off the spigot in a hurry.

2. Use multiple channels to connect.

People often think of email campaigns when they think of drip marketing, and while it’s true that email drip programs can be extremely effective, they don’t need to be the only way you connect with customers and prospects. Consider using timed social media posts, SMS text messages, direct mail such as letters, postcards, brochures, and printed newsletters, as well as phone calls. Better still, test a combination of formats, along with emails, to see what works and what doesn’t.

3. Nurture leads to warm them up for sales.

Lead nurturing is an excellent tactic for capturing the attention of someone who might be interested but not quite ready to buy. High-ticket products or complex services are prime candidates for nurturing campaigns. You can deliver a progressive set of messages as the prospect proceeds through the funnel. Nurtured leads become sales-ready with deeper knowledge and insight – and they tend to make larger purchases, too. With drip marketing, you can deliver the right information at exactly the right step in the buyer’s journey.

4. Close the deal after the trial.

Free trials are a great way to get your solutions into the hands of your prospects and to become indispensable to them. But if they don’t work as advertised, they can alienate your potential customers as well. Using a series of messages to help prospects get the most out of your product or throughout a trial period will improve the odds of closing the sale. Provide them with a series of tips, best practices, and how-to webinars. Give them the opportunity to join an online community or to share their experiences on a message board. Notify them when the trial is about to close. Be sure to build in a step that makes another offer if they don’t respond.

Drip marketing campaiagns

5. Bring them further into the fold.

Once your prospect has become a customer, use the opportunity to provide helpful information to them on a regular basis. A purchase could trigger a thank you email, followed by an ongoing series of messages asking them to provide a customer review, take advantage of upsell and cross-sell promotions, or watch a series of instructional videos designed to help them get the most out of their new product or service.

6. Keep up with the buying cycle.

Drip marketing is especially effective if you know where your customer or prospect might be in the buying cycle. Many products, like mobile phones, appliances, and cars, are replaced every few years. Loyal customers who are kept in the loop about current products and offers are more likely to buy from you again. If you have a “lead that got away” for a yearly contract (say, for something like software or insurance), set up a campaign to target them with a series of messages leading up to the contract renewal date. If they’re not happy with their current service, they may be in the market to make a change.

7. Re-engage inactive prospects and customers.

Keep those leads that don’t close in a segment and do a drip nurturing campaign to keep them warm. When they’re finally ready to buy, you’ll still be on their radar. And reach out to current customers who haven’t been in touch lately. Try using drip campaigns to upsell them to bigger and better products, cross-sell related products and services, or ask them to recommend your company to friends and colleagues. Be sure to give them an incentive to re-engage.

8. Get creative to drive engagement.

A series of unexpected – and delightful – messages can be a great way to keep your brand top-of-mind with your audience. Use social media to push out “something of the day” to your followers. It can be a word of the day, a photo, a joke, a special deal, a series of tips, or anything else. It doesn’t even need to be related to what you’re promoting, but it’s always nice to align with your brand identity. A pet supply company can get away with sending a kitten a day via Facebook, but a mortgage bank might raise a few eyebrows for doing the same thing. Then again, it might be a huge hit. This is why it pays to test your drip marketing strategies on a smaller group first.

9. Ensure readiness and build excitement.

Are you launching a new product? Renovating your website? Opening a new store? Promoting an upcoming event? A series of messages informing customers about what to expect can be a great opportunity to improve their overall satisfaction and drive conversion, too. A teaser email, followed by a formal announcement and a series of educational messages will help get customers through the entire process with a minimum of disruption. You can schedule event reminders, follow-up thank you notes, and surveys asking about their experience with the process.

Automated drip marketing10. Automate your drip campaigns.

It goes without saying that sending a series of emails at certain intervals is a labor-intensive process – that is, if you do it manually. This kind of campaign is where marketing automation really shines, especially when it comes to reducing costs and effort and boosting overall results.

For example, LearnPad, a developer of classroom tablets and tools, wanted to do a better job of getting educators to adopt their technology. Using Act-On, LearnPad’s marketing team created and executed a 10-step drip email campaign that systematically engaged with every one of their subscribers. Learn more about how automated campaigns helped them rapidly increase qualified leads, and to do it faster than ever before. And find out how easy it can be to set up automated drip and lead nurturing programs that get results.

Act-On’s mission is to make you a better marketer. Check out all the things you can learn in the Act-On Center of Excellence.

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  • Carrie Scheetz

    What’s the best practice method for a company (like ours) that has a LOT of different products (probably over 100 products–we have 4 different divisions that all sell different products–window frames, thresholds, window spacer, etc.). Do you set a general one up? Set one up for each product? What’s the best practice for this?

    • http://www.r2integrated.com/ Adam Blake

      Carrie, my advise would be to first look at the content that you already have, and where the gaps are. Identify different pieces of content that you can re-purpose, or re-package based on various segmentation.

      With that many products, including your different divisions, it would be very easy to get in over your head. When I first started I used a white board to map out campaigns based on the services we offered. Then segmented by industry by re-packaging content that we already had. I continued to create segments based off of the behavior users took.

      Hope this helps,
      Adam

  • Tim

    Janelle, very good post. I think the concept of drip campaigns are is much easier than the execution. I really appreciated the samples you gave. I think many companies new to automation need assistance with setting up good campaigns.

  • Todd Lebo

    Thanks for the post Janelle. Developing a lead generation and nurturing strategy and then leveraging automation is critical. Unfortunately many marketers have yet to automate their lead generation campaigns. From the just released (and free) Lead Generation Benchmark Survey, 44% of marketers say they have limited use of marketing automation for their lead generation. Yes, there is lots of work to be done to optimize those funnels! If you are interested, you can download the free report: http://ascend2.com/home/report-archive/