In a technology-driven world, marketing has evolved from traditional printed ads to email outreach and social media marketing campaigns. Though social media has risen in effectiveness, email marketing remains a top contender for generating traffic and boosting sales. According to an Orbit Media Studios study of how bloggers market their content, 61% of bloggers create an email marketing campaign to increase the number of views on their blog.
One of the most popular ways business owners use email to keep in touch with customers and grow their businesses is through drip campaigns. A drip campaign is a marketing technique that lets businesses build a rapport with customers and prospects through a long-tail process involving multiple emails with content, conversations and calls to action over an extended time period.
We'll walk you through creating a drip campaign to increase customer engagement using the following steps:
- Cultivating a high-quality lead list
- Creating stellar content for distribution
- Split-testing your email copy
- Using customer service to keep customers engaged
What is an email drip campaign?
A drip campaign is an automated email series designed to nurture your leads and prospects, communicate with customers, or reestablish a relationship with customers who haven't recently engaged with your business.
When you're using an email drip campaign to nurture leads, it's almost like dating. You'll want to introduce yourself, make yourself seem interesting and worthwhile, and then ask your crush out on a date.
The actual drip campaign is a preset email series that you've automated and scheduled to go out to targeted email subscribers. Your messages are personalized toward your recipients. Because drip campaign emails are automated, you don't have to create new email content or worry about when to send out your messages.
How to create an email drip campaign
When creating an email drip campaign, you'll use many general email marketing best practices to send a strong message and maximize your return.
1. Start with a strong lead list.
The first factor you must consider when starting an email drip campaign is your lead list. Every niche has a different customer persona, and you'll likely have multiple personas you want to target under the umbrella of one company.
For instance, if you own an online pet shop and want to create a drip campaign, you likely want to start with different pet categories based on consumer purchases. You'd create a list for the people interested in dog content and design your emails around that niche. Similarly, you could strategize emails for people who have purchased cat products, bird accessories, rodent supplies – the list goes on. The more you fine-tune your email list, the more likely subscribers will enjoy and engage with your brand.
You'll have a better chance of generating sales leads if you begin gathering email subscribers as soon as possible. Some business owners gather leads when their website goes live; others collect leads at the start of preproduction with a "coming soon" page. If you create a coming soon page to let potential customers know you exist, let them sign up for your email list for future content and offers, which you can deliver through a drip campaign.
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2. Create content with substance.
Content is one of the cornerstones of a high-quality drip campaign. It's nearly impossible to convince a subscriber to become a customer without first offering them something in exchange for their time.
When creating your campaign, lead with exclusive content that complements the theme of the emails you'll send to customers. Let's go back to the pet shop example. If you were going to create a targeted list for dog owners, you would want to create content with topics like these:
- 11 Dog Behaviors Explained
- Best Feeding Regimens for Dogs (by Size)
- Guide to Puppy Shots for the First Year
These three examples are likely to keep customers engaged because they cover topics of interest. But the stakes get higher when you consider the knowledge customers can gain by reading each piece of content. Notice that the first two articles apply to virtually every dog owner. If you want to successfully convert your leads and keep them engaged, you have to deliver valuable content to their inbox consistently.
3. Split-test your email copy.
Your content needs to be valuable, but your email copy must be approachable and to the point, and contain an enticing call to action. Most drip campaigns take two to three months to execute and usually include approximately seven to 10 emails.
Here's what the email flow typically looks like:
- Email 1: Welcome subscribers to your email list.
- Emails 2-6: Build a rapport with content and information.
- Email 7: Establish a problem.
- Email 8: Offer a solution in the form of your product, service or premium information.
Research by Boomerang suggests that the best length for an email is 50 to 125 words. Emails of this length have a 50% click-through rate, but it's almost impossible to include all the information you find relevant with such a tiny word count.
You can improve your email marketing campaign by split-testing your email copy for different customers. A split test is when you change one aspect of a campaign and measure the results to see if that one change impacted the total number of conversions.
Because most drip campaigns consist of about 10 emails, you'll have plenty of opportunities to tweak your email copy to discover the text that yields the highest conversion rate.
The most crucial factor to tinker with when you're split-testing a drip campaign is your call to action. Your CTA will vary from email to email. In most cases, it will convince subscribers to read your content by clicking through the link in your emails. As the campaign comes to a close, you'll want to bring customers to the end of the sales funnel by offering them a product or service from your website.
4. Use customer service to build momentum.
Your customer service team can help you build momentum when you create a drip campaign. There are quite a few ways to use your customer service team and tools to your advantage. For example, chatbots are commonly used on blogs and e-commerce storefronts. In many cases, the chatbot will pop up with a prompt before the prospect even asks a question.
If you use a customer support team with live people, you could encourage them to ask prospects if they're interested in signing up for your email campaign after someone contacts them for information. Generally speaking, if a customer is interested enough to reach out to your support team, they are a good candidate for your lead list.
How email drip campaigns can help your business
An email drip campaign can benefit your business in many ways, including helping you attract new customers, build trust and boost engagement.
1. They attract new customers.
Email marketing campaigns allow you to customize which subscribers receive certain emails and how often they receive them. This lets you personalize emails and use customer data to send relevant content.
First, however, you need to know your customer base and what they're looking for. Once you have an idea, you can sort your subscribers into different groups and send messages related to their interests and online behaviors, which is considered a segmented email campaign.
You may send messages that reference content a subscriber is interested in, make a note about a product or service they recently purchased, or provide recommendations. These types of campaigns can bring in about 18 times more revenue for businesses.
2. They build trust.
Because they're personalized, drip campaigns create space for you to connect with your customers on a deeper level and show them they're valued. Who doesn't love getting an email that addresses you by name, discusses relevant topics, and promises to send information you'd be interested in?
Emails can build off each other, giving you the chance to continue conversations with customers over time. Part of these conversations may involve making promises about content, deals or upcoming products. The process of using drip campaigns allows you to deliver on those promises.
Once customers see that you keep your word, they'll be more likely to trust you. Consistency and honesty are keys to gaining their trust and building customer loyalty.
3. They boost engagement.
Since most subscribers are already interested in your business and what you have to offer, you're already starting with a certain level of engagement. When sending out emails, be sure to make customers feel appreciated, thank them for showing interest and invite them to engage.
Make it personal and show that you respect your customers' time. Research by email marketing company Emma shows that drip campaigns with personalized messages can generate a 119% increase in clicks. [Learn more about this company in our Emma review.]
Some ways to personalize your campaign are by emailing customers when they've abandoned items in their shopping cart, when items they had an interest in become available and when there are upcoming sales.
Email service providers to consider
The best email marketing services are easy to use and affordable, and help you create attention-grabbing content. Here are some of the top providers to consider.
For business owners trying out email marketing for the first time, Mailchimp is a platform that's easy to learn and offers a free plan of up to 10,000 monthly sends and 2,000 contacts. With its multiple plans, you have plenty of options to choose from and can try out different features, such as A/B testing, publishing pop-up forms and using Facebook ads. Read our Mailchimp review for more information.
Small businesses will find Constant Contact useful for email marketing. Its plans vary based on number of subscribers but allow for unlimited emails – something not many other platforms provide. Plans start around $20 per month, with a 60-day free trial, and provide features such as an image library, customizable templates, a mobile app and tracking. Read our Constant Contact review for more information.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a great choice for larger businesses, thanks to its top-tier features and customization options. The starting price is high at $400 per month; however, the price speaks for the quality of the service you'll receive. Salesforce provides an Email Studio tool to personalize messages using customer data, create campaigns for any size audience and customize your workflow. Read our Salesforce Marketing Cloud review for more information.
The art of drip email campaigns
Creating a drip campaign for your blog or e-commerce storefront takes time and effort. You should always work to develop a reliable and robust lead list before starting a campaign. After you've accumulated a fair number of leads, you can begin delivering thought-provoking and engaging content.
Use your social media platforms and your customer service team to identify and convert prospects who could benefit from your content and offer. Always seal the deal with a fantastic CTA that readers will find irresistible. As you develop multiple campaigns, go back and split-test different aspects of your emails to increase your conversion rate and generate more traffic to your website.
Like many forms of marketing, drip campaigns are an art. If you have the right tools and talent, you'll have no problem creating a killer email drip campaign from scratch.
Sean Peek contributed to the writing and research in this article.