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From Leads to Sales: How Drip Marketing Email Campaigns Work

Unlike mass messaging methods, drip marketing delivers a sequence of targeted, personalised messages to prospects or customers over time. [Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images]

When done right, drip marketing campaigns can help you build customer relationships that last. Here’s how you can get started.

Influencing an audience to take action is tough business. Often, leads aren’t ready to buy, and when they are, it’s a challenge to keep them engaged. Thankfully, email makes it possible for you to gain influence with your desired audience over time. And with drip marketing, emails don’t have to live on an island unto themselves. 

A marketer’s job is to find and understand high quality leads, then help convert them to sales. Drip marketing is a solution for that, since it focuses on “dripping” emails into inboxes over time. And according to our research, email is still an extremely popular form of messaging. In fact, its use has increased year over year, accounting for 80% of all outbound messaging.

In this piece, we’ll give you a clear understanding of drip marketing and how you can use it. We’ll dive into how you can build drip email campaigns that build on themselves organically and make your customers feel like every message they get is relevant for them. 

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50 ways to send better emails

How do you get readers to click and read your emails? The answer is easy if you take it logically, with these best practices.

What is drip marketing?  

Drip marketing is a strategy that uses a series of automated, targeted emails to nurture potential customers. Content is pre-written or dynamic, based on the maturity of the company using drip marketing. The way these messages are sent out, or “dripped,” is usually tailored to match the behaviour or status of its target recipients. A drip marketing campaign aims to influence its target market over time, delivering a series of messages that follow a predetermined course. 

Successful drip marketing requires personalisation. Once you get your leads, you can figure out how to provide relevant content over time, which helps you chart and respond to the different stages of your customers’ journey. When you tailor messages based on customer behaviour, you can more easily segment your audiences. 

For example, your ongoing emails can take advantage of when a prospect abandons a web page. When someone leaves a product page without making a purchase, filling out a form, or watching a video, you can message them with product updates, offers, or ads that are relevant to the specific item or site the prospect was interested in. 

Other examples include when:

  • A marketer promoting a software platform uses a series of emails to guide its new users through their platform’s key features, perhaps providing them with a free tutorial video. 
  • A marketer focused on online shopping offers personalised product recommendations based on a lead’s browsing and purchase history. 
  • A marketer promoting a new application engages customers with free trials demonstrating how the app works. 

What works well for one company may not be applicable to another. Understanding your target audience is the biggest challenge.

Why use drip campaigns? 

Once you write up your messaging and schedule it through automation, you’ll really see how drip marketing can help. Within that efficiency lies the potential for your customers to take a direct action – a response like opting in to your email list or visiting your landing page. 

Consider the many ways drip marketing campaigns can keep your customers engaged:

Personalisation: Drip campaigns allow for highly personalised and targeted communication. You can tailor content based on the recipient’s behaviour, preferences, and interactions with previous emails. It’s this personal touch that fosters a stronger connection between you and your customer. 

Automation: Your series of emails are designed to be sent at predetermined intervals or triggered by user actions. This consistent communication enables you to stay top-of-mind with your audience without all the manual effort. 

Nurturing leads: The content in an email drip marketing campaign, while part of a series, must also be able to stand on its own. For example, if a prospect doesn’t open the first two emails, but engages with the third, they ought to be able to understand the CTA regardless of the email they open. Don’t assume a subscriber reads every email in a series of emails; rather, ensure every email expresses context and relevance. That way, you’ll gain the trust and credibility required to nurture leads.

Segmentation: You can segment drip campaigns based on criteria like demographics, behaviour, or previous interactions. When you’re able to send targeted content to specific audience segments, you know that recipients get relevant information according to their needs. 

Behavioural triggers: Drip campaigns can be triggered by specific actions like clicking a link or downloading a resource. If a user clicks on a particular product, subsequent emails can provide more information or special offers related to that product. 

Gradual relationship building: Instead of filling customers’ inboxes all at once, drip campaigns deliver content in a sequenced manner. This helps build interest and engagement over time, inspiring a meaningful and lasting relationship.

Optimisation: You can easily adapt drip campaigns based on performance metrics and customer feedback. Ongoing analysis helps you refine your strategy, improving the relevance and effectiveness of your drip marketing emails. 

How do you get started with drip marketing?

An effective campaign strategy is only as good as its strategic foundation. Here’s how you can start a winning drip marketing campaign. 

First, have an outline of your campaign objectives. What is it, specifically, you want to achieve with your automated emails? 

Second, define your audience. Do you have a strategy for finding their demographics and behaviour? 

Next, research how to select the right marketing automation tools. (More on that later.) 

Even with those steps in place, you still need to pay attention to best practices. 

Let’s take a look at online shopping again. In terms of workflow, a drip campaign would begin with a welcome email, followed by product education or special offers. An automation trigger like a user sign-up sets the next stage of the customer journey.  

You will get much closer to guiding your lead toward conversion by making sure the content in each email is aligned with your brand messaging. Remember, establishing the trust and credibility of a prospect means building each email to be sequential but also with relevant, contextualised content that can stand alone. 

The consistency in your messaging throughout this journey reinforces your identity, making it no question who you are and what you offer. Tracking key metrics such as engagement and conversion rates helps you identify which emails resonate most with your audience. When you regularly test, you can make informed adjustments throughout the drip sequence.

You’ve identified the goals like trigger-based emails, personalised content, and analytics tracking. The question remains: How to select the right automation tools? 

A few questions to consider as you do your research: 

Integration capabilities: Does the automation tool integrate seamlessly with your existing customer relationship management (CRM) tech, email platform, and other relevant systems to centralise data and streamline workflows?

User-friendliness: How intuitive is the interface? Will it facilitate easy campaign setup, monitoring, and adjustment? What kind of learning curve will your employees face and how will you address it?

Assess scalability: Can it scale with your growing needs? Will it accommodate an increasing volume of leads and allow for expansion?

Review analytics and reporting: How robust are its analytics and reporting features? Remember, you’ll want to track key metrics, analyse campaign performance, and make data-driven optimisations.

Personalisation options: Does it enable you to tailor content based on user behaviour, demographics, or other relevant factors? Using new generative and predictive artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are an option.  

Security: To what degree does it comply with data protection regulations? Will it safeguard sensitive customer information throughout the automation process?

How do you optimise drip campaign performance? 

Think about how much easier it is to personalise messaging when you actually know something about the person you’re addressing. To make your drip marketing campaigns on email even better, you should analyse user behaviour to understand how people interact with your brand.

The first-party data you collect from website visits, clicks, and product or service usage helps you craft targeted messages or re-engage users who have shown interest in the past. You can collect data about demographic information (age, gender, location), behavioural data (purchase history, website interactions), and psychographic details (interests, values, lifestyle) by using analytic tools and CRM software.

If your product or service has regional variations or if you want to target specific locations with location-specific content or offers, geographic segmentation can be valuable. Use surveys, social media monitoring, or customer feedback to gain a deep understanding of your audience’s interests.

Often, a combination of segmentation criteria provides a better view of your audience. For example, you might target young professionals in specific industries who have shown interest in specific product categories. Evaluate and compare performance within each segment so that you know your personalised content resonates with the right segment. 

Your drip campaign’s success relies on other metrics, like engagement rates – the percentage of recipients who open and respond to your emails. 

A few other tips for improving your drip marketing results: 

  1. Pay attention if your recipients are unsubscribing or if your emails bounce. You want to address deliverability or content issues quickly so that your communication is effective and well-received. Maintaining a responsive email list is good hygiene.  
  2. How long does it take for a lead to move through the drip campaign and convert? Understanding the average duration for a lead to progress through the drip campaign helps refine your strategy, and data-driven adjustments along the way can enhance the campaign’s overall effectiveness.
  3. If your drip campaign spans multiple channels (email, social media, etc.), you can measure engagement on each platform to identify the most effective channels.
  4. Calculate the return on investment by comparing the revenue generated from the campaign against the costs incurred. This provides a clear picture of campaign profitability.
  5. Conduct A/B tests on various elements of your drip campaign (subject lines, content, CTAs) and analyse which variations perform better. Apply successful elements to future campaigns.
  6. For post-purchase drip campaigns, measure the impact on customer retention rates. Assess whether the campaign contributes to long-term customer loyalty.

Most important, remember that audience preferences and behaviours change over time. You’re going to need to regularly update your segments based on new data and feedback so your drip campaigns stay relevant.

What’s the appeal of drip marketing vs. traditional email marketing?  

Traditional email campaigns are often used for announcements, promotions, or general communication. Broadcast emails, for example, are those one-time messages sent to a large audience. They are great for time-sensitive announcements, promotions, and newsletters. 

In contrast, drip marketing takes a more personalised, gradual approach, providing relevant content at specific intervals. It builds a coherent and engaging narrative, which inspires stronger relationships. Leads are more likely to convert to sales with this kind of structured, thoughtful plan.

There’s also a distinction between drip marketing and paid advertising. Paid advertising takes a broader, outbound approach, using display ads, search engine ads, or social media ads for exposure. Drip marketing, with its targeted communication, reflects an organic, relationship-building approach. 

Unlike these mass messaging methods, drip marketing delivers a sequence of targeted, personalised messages to prospects or customers over time. With it, you build and maintain relationships, and adapt content based on individual responses. 

Combining drip marketing campaigns with social media efforts can amplify reach and engagement. Sharing drip campaign content on social platforms extends the message’s visibility and encourages audience interaction. 

The key advantage of drip marketing lies in its ability to deliver relevant information at specific stages of the customer journey. 

What does the future of drip marketing look like?  

New privacy concerns are making third-party data feel obsolete. Drip marketing campaigns, with their sequential and targeted nature, allows you to build a narrative for individual customers. This storytelling approach invites audiences to safely share their preferences – adding to a robust array of first-party data your company collects directly from your audience, whether customer, site visitors, or social media followers. Marketers using drip campaigns should communicate the value of first-party data sharing and give consumers control over their preferences.

AI is revolutionising how you can predict customer behaviours, and drip marketing that adopts AI for personalisation gives you the best of both worlds. The same is true for taking advantage of AI’s capability for adapting content based on customer behaviour. It’s vital that marketers communicate to their customers how they’re harnessing AI in order to further gain their trust and address their concerns. As with any new technology, continuous monitoring will be key. 

Other future-forward drip marketing predictions for consideration: 

  • Drip marketing will incorporate more interactive content, such as interactive videos, to enhance engagement. 
  • Drip marketing will integrate omni channels, including social media, chatbots, and messaging apps. Adapting content for each channel’s attributes and user behaviours will be vital.
  • Drip marketing will optimise content for voice search, considering the conversational tone and concise messaging. 

Consolidated interactions across the customer journey will help marketers tailor campaigns. For instance, in the prospecting phase, a unified profile helps differentiate between leads in the awareness and decision-making stages, ensuring prospect drips are finely tuned to specific preferences. 

As customers progress through the lifecycle, the unified profile guides the transition from onboarding to retention drips, with behavioural triggers dynamically adjusting content based on engagement. 

Drip marketing is uniquely valuable in that it’s an extremely effective tool for both gathering and acting upon first-party data. Being able to gather and incorporate that high-value data while still functioning as a strong conversion tool gives drip marketing an important role in this privacy-conscious age of digital marketing. 

Start sending better emails today

Want to grow and engage your audience through email? Check out the interactive elements available to you within Marketing Cloud and start sending emails your customers will love.

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