February 24, 2017

How to Build Your First Drip Campaign

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Drip campaigns are an easy way to nurture leads, which is essential to growing your customer base. Automated drip campaigns do take planning, but once you get your most important data and content in place, they require very little maintenance. 

Of course, email drip campaigns are designed to move your leads toward a goal: engagement with content, subscription to the product, appointment for a sales call, or deeper use of your product. But on a broader level, think of your drip campaign as a way to trade content for engagement. You have to offer your customer something of value before they will give you what you want.

ALSO READ: 10 Lead Nurturing Software Tools for Any Smarketing Team

Start with a plan. You don’t have to account for every detail, but it’s good to have a map for structuring campaigns and targeting the right audience. 

Build Personas to Target Content Needs

If your team hasn’t built any customer personas, stop right now and do that. You can find some great (free!) sources around the web on how to build those personas, but I personally love HubSpot’s marketing persona templates and blog resources, if you need guidance.

Your customer personas will go a long way toward helping you decide which pain points or challenges to target with your drip campaign. In addition to your persona’s educational and sales-related pain points, you might be trying to:

  • Deepen a current customer’s use of the product
  • Re-engage of a cold lead that showed earlier interest
  • Engage new email list sign-ups with an introduction to your product or campaigns
  • Launch a new product or offering

Each of these customer or marketing department needs will require their own email cadences and supporting content. 

The value you offer to your customer generally comes in the form of content: videos, whitepapers, infographics, downloads, blog posts, etc. Sometimes you can offer discounts or special terms, but most customers are looking to gain knowledge.

Planning your content also empowers you to think about brand engagement. How are you going to get your customers to engage with your content through clicks, views, or downloads, and how will you measure that engagement?

Write Your Content

Yes, your emails are part of your content. If you don’t have confidence in your writing skills, outsource the writing to your content team or other professionals. Once you’ve got a version of the email, cross-reference the content of those emails with your customer stories and personas to ensure there is continuity from email to email and with each targeted persona.

Pardot suggests six different types of content to consider for your drip campaign, from sales-focused to educational:

  • Top-of-mind
  • Educational
  • Re-engagement
  • Competitive
  • Promotional
  • Training

Pick the content type that works best for this particular campaign and focus on that. Mixing too many content types will muddle your message and confuse your leads.

Email Examples and Suggestions

Wishpond suggests a 4:1:1 structure for your emails — four educational emails, one transitional email, and one closer. The educational emails offer immediate value in the form of a blog post, video, or some other small piece of content. The transitional email attempts to engage the lead with a larger piece of content like a whitepaper download. The closing email sets up a sales call. An important takeaway here is that you aren’t trying to close a deal; you want the emails to ready the lead for sales.

HubSpot suggests a three-point email campaign to warm leads up for a sales call. Each of these emails should be short, informative, and increasingly urgent.

3 email campaign

InsightSquared has had success with a cold lead follow-up built upon confirmations for a “lunch meeting.” This drip campaign makes the assumption that if you talk like you scheduled the meeting and just need confirmation, people can’t say no. I don’t like this approach, because the sneaky psychological tricks may turn customers off in the long-term, but it seems to work in some scenarios. Use with caution.

Email Writing Best Practices

Employ all of your best customer-content writing practices here. Short sentences, short emails, bullet points — you should be using these for your content anyway, but really pay attention to them here. These emails strive for peak engagement with an audience that can easily skip your email. You’ll only have about 10 seconds to get someone’s attention before they move on.

In addition, consider writing your emails all at once, as Neil Patel suggests, to give them a unified feel. Building all your emails for a single drip campaign at once will help you build a consistent voice and maintain the same level of intensity.

Segment Your Lists

Your customers come to you for different needs, so the emails they receive should address those pain points. Customers disengage quickly when the emails they receive don’t pertain to their interests or needs. Use those customer personas you built to help you segment lists into your major customer types, or use micro-segments to hone in further.

Once you’ve made your segments, you can start plotting out your UTM codes to track engagement with CTAs and links. Write your codes based on the campaign type, source, and medium, and then use the utm_term parameter to signal the content type you used.

Note: UTM codes and landing pages (the next step) don’t work unless you have analytics set up on your site. If you don’t already use Google Analytics or something similar, now is a great time to start. 

Build and Track Your Landing Pages

You don’t have to have a landing page for every part of the campaign, but you’ll want to know who visits your site from email and what content they click, download, or engage with. Landing pages with content make it easy to see how much time a customer spends on page, and downloads (of course) show customer interest. From these two metrics, you can segment your list even further.

Use Custom Triggers and Autoresponders

Most every major email marketing tool provides some sort of automation or drip campaign capability. You can use an automated workflow to move leads toward conversion without a whole lot of manual intervention.

Automated email workflows require you to think about timing and the actions you want customers to take. You don’t want all the posts to spam your customers at once or within a 24 hour period (that’s just creepy), but you still need to capture and sustain attention.

Start small and easy with your automation and build out from there. Perhaps you can set up a workflow that sends a welcome email when someone enters their email address for newsletter sign up, then follows up in two days providing a piece of educational content. Since the customer has already signed up for your newsletter, you can hold off sending any more emails to this particular lead until they interact with content in your newsletter.

Give Your Leads a Break

A great automated drip campaign includes an either/or set-up that pushes leads toward more content or less content, depending on how they interact with your content. Decide how many times you will send an email they don’t open before you decide the lead’s gone cold and you will not follow up with this level of engagement.

If the customer doesn’t answer two emails, they’ve proven a lack of interest in the content, so store their contact info in a cold lead segment to be followed up with later. Keep in mind that at every stage in your campaign, you run the risk of leads pulling the “unsubscribe” ripcord.

If you find you have unresponsive leads, try a “breakup” email that acknowledges their lack of interest but keeps the door open. These emails show the lead you haven’t forgotten about them, and you can engage that cold segment of your lists with educational content in the future.

Measure and Test

Use UTM codes so you can measure which of your emails are working toward conversion. Check your website analytics, and consider building out events and goals to track the number of times a lead clicks, downloads, and engages with your content. Check those open rates and click rates within your email marketing or marketing automation platform, and compare that data with what you collect from your UTMs to understand your real impact.

A/B test all the things.

  • Subject lines
  • Opening lines
  • Levels of personalization (finding that sweet spot between friendly and creepy is tough)
  • Call-to-action paragraphs
  • Content types
  • Landing page text

Employing a systematic approach to A/B testing your content will help you decide which tactics work best. Once you reach a conversion or interaction level that makes you happy, move on to another test.

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Create automated drip campaigns in your favorite email marketing or marketing automation software. We’ve got lots of choices for both in our Product Selection Tool. If you need to talk through your needs, our Technology Advisors are available for a free consultation.

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