Buyers today expect engaging and personal brand experiences throughout their relationship with a company. They are used to connecting on social media, getting replies to tweets, having immediate access to customer service chats, and more—all in an instant.

Your outbound marketing campaigns have to keep up.

Consistently engaging leads and customers to stay relevant and build interest is critical, but having one-on-one conversations with every member of your audience is very difficult to scale. That’s where drip marketing comes in. An effective drip marketing strategy can nurture leads, drive conversions, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and make life easier for everyone—from your audience to sales to your marketing team.

What is Drip Marketing?

Drip marketing is an automated communication strategy that delivers targeted content to prospective, current, and past customers over a period of time to nurture brand relationships and generate sales. Communications may span email, social media, mobile, and other channels.

A drip marketing campaign is usually triggered by an action the user takes—filling out a form, downloading content, making a purchase, etc. Content is strategically chosen to help guide prospects through the buyer’s journey, and the prospect’s response to those messages dictates which stream of communications she receives.

How to Start a Drip Marketing Campaign

Drip marketing campaigns are personalized, targeted, and highly strategic. The first thing you need to do is identify your targets and goals. Do you want to nurture prospective customers to purchase your product or service? Do you want to maintain a relationship with new customers so they become repeat customers? Do you want to respond to needs they may have based on their behavior on your website? Or maybe it’s all of the above.

Write down the scenarios where you think a drip communication could offer value. The scenarios might include:

  • Inactivity: If a subscriber isn’t opening emails, browsing your website, or downloading your content, a drip campaign might include reminders and special offers to encourage follow-through.
  • Purchase: After a purchase, a follow-up drip campaign might offer educational content for increased adoption or cross-sell/upsell offers for add-ons or upgrades.
  • Inquiries: If a prospect asks a question, fills out a contact form, signs up for notifications, or downloads an app, a drip campaign might offer relevant additional information, encourage next steps, etc.

Drip messages differ from other communications such as email newsletters because they’re more personal and direct. When you create a typical drip communication, it should feel personal because it is relevant to the specific activities and content they have consumed in contrast to the more generic feel of most newsletters.

Choosing Content for Drip Marketing Messages

Effective drip marketing is not just about getting your brand in front of an audience over and over again. Drip marketing should move decision-makers through the buyer’s journey and turn customers into brand advocates. Each message delivers the content your audience needs, when they need it—moving them to the next stage in their journeys.

A stream of content for a new lead or contact—one who hasn’t indicated any specific interest or need—might look like this:

  • Top-of-Funnel Content—Start by delivering ungated, easy-to-consume content that addresses the prospect’s pain point or helps him diagnose the solution to his problem.
  • Mid-funnel Content—After a few introductory content pieces, or after the prospect indicates interest by clicking or filling out a form, try presenting more detailed and strategic content. Give the user “How to” articles and some gated ebooks or webinars.
  • Bottom-of-Funnel Content—If the prospect downloads content and follows through on your calls-to-action, the content stream should switch to more sales-oriented content. Start providing them with case studies, third-party reports that compare your company to competitors, price charts, etc.

Consumer drip campaigns differ from B2B campaigns because the goals are usually simpler and shorter-term. Where B2B campaigns are trying to nurture leads to close deals on business purchases that require larger purchasing team decisions, more responsibility for ROI, etc., consumer campaigns, specifically retail, are usually selling a small number of low-investment products.

A shorter, consumer-oriented drip campaign, then, is usually much simpler. If a customer abandons a shopping cart, for example, you might send one or two reminders, followed by a testimonial or review from another customer, followed by a discount offer or coupon code to seal the deal. One caveat, for large consumer purchases, like a car or a life insurance policy, a long-term nurture may make more sense as the consumer takes longer to consider the purchase.

Choosing which content include in your drip campaign messages assumes two previous actions have been taken:

  1. You have the customer lifecycle clearly outlined and understand your prospects’ needs and pain points along the way.
  2. You have a library of content that answers the questions your audience is asking at every point in their purchase decision process. (If not, it’s time to start creating and repurposing content to meet this need.)

Conversion points and streams of strategic content assets are the foundations of an effective drip campaign, but the details can make or break drip campaigns. As you get ready to launch, make sure you’re not making any of these common drip campaign mistakes:

1. Generic Messages

The purpose of a drip campaign is to nurture relationships, so no bland, boilerplate messages. Each communication should speak directly to the user as an individual in a specific point of his or her purchasing decision. Make sure each message is tied to a buyer’s journey and a piece of strategic content. Also, don’t be afraid to get personal! If you can, call out past actions like a previous asset download or page visit so that it shows that you actually know them. All of this can be done at scale if you use personalized tokens.

2. Sender is Vague or Inauthentic

Oh, look! You just got an email. But wait, it seems sketchy. It’s from John at [email protected]. How could it be from John if I can’t even email him back? Both a company without a name and a name without a company can put off potential customers in their inboxes. Instead, combine the first name with the company or department name. The message will feel personal, but won’t make them feel like you’re trying to dupe them into thinking it’s a non-business email. After all, you are trying to drive revenue!

3. Unsegmented Audiences

Thinking your entire audience is at the same buying stage would be as silly as everyone in the world going to the DMV at the same time. People have different needs at different stages, so it doesn’t make sense to lump them all together in your marketing efforts. Your entire audience is not in the same stage of the purchasing decision, does not work in the same industry, does not have the same authority at his/her company, etc. The more specific your audience segments, the more personal and impactful your messages will be.

Start by segmenting your audience according to their role on the purchasing team. If your content and drip strategy is tied to buyer personas, this puts each persona on a specific track. Then, decide where each lead can be found in his/her journey. This might be determined by actions they have taken on the site, or conversations they have had with sales. A good engagement platform will let you score leads to keep track of where they are in their buyer journeys.

4. Ignoring the Metrics

Setting up a proper drip campaign can take an investment of time and effort up-front, but that doesn’t mean it’s fool-proof or that it doesn’t need to be monitored. Too many marketers are eager to finally release their drip programs and fail to follow-up with the metrics and analytics. No matter how carefully you set it up, it’s never perfect the first time. Monitor, measure, test, and tweak.

Opens and click-throughs are two key metrics to monitor throughout the buyer journey. Since the emails themselves are targeted to personas and stages in the journey, opens and clicks will always tell you if your messaging is hitting home. If a message gets lower than average metrics, reconsider where it belongs in the drip strategy or if it even belongs at all. If a prospect starts disengaging, reconsider where he is in the journey.

5. Boring Subject Lines

Don’t start creating click-bait, but do make sure your subject/headline is compelling enough to make people want to open an email. Focus on the value you’re offering to the subscriber, instead of the features of a product or service. Try including emoji, special characters, or other text options to stand out in a crowded inbox. Use powerful adjectives and start with a verb. People also really love lists and numbers. And make sure, again, that you’re A/B testing subject lines and learning what works.

Everyone Wins with a Good Drip Marketing Strategy

An effective drip marketing strategy is a substantial investment to set up, but once it’s in place, the results are inspiring. Your audience will be much happier to receive relevant messaging instead of batch-and-blast emails that mean nothing to them. Your sales team will appreciate more qualified leads. Your marketing team will have more time for other tasks as your automated program nurtures leads and keeps them connected with your brand.

If you don’t have personas, buyer journeys, sales funnels, and content outlined and put together, start there. You will need those insights and tools to create a truly effective campaign. Then, make sure your existing program can facilitate the kind of automation required. Once your drip campaign is up and running, you’ll start seeing the benefits very quickly.