What Is a Drip Campaign?

A drip campaign is a sequence of emails that are sent out according to a pre-set schedule, developed to target a particular marketing goal. Some drip campaigns nurture new prospects, while others encourage one-time buyers to become repeat customers. Essentially, you “drip” emails into an audience member’s inbox at just the right time and with just the right content, sharing only what’s relevant to them at that moment.

One thing that most drip campaigns have in common is automation. Marketers create the whole campaign, including individual emails, before it even launches. Each email gets matched to certain conditions — when a customer makes a purchase, whether or not they responded to the last email, and so forth — and a marketing automation system automatically sends those messages accordingly.

The Benefits of Automated Drip Campaigns

Drip campaigns exist so that brands can stay in contact with leads and customers without crossing the line into overbearing territory. A campaign is tailored to each recipient and where that person is within the buying journey.

As every email marketer knows, personalization is critical for success in today’s market.

  • 80% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that personalize the shopping experience
  • 72% of consumers only interact with personalized marketing messages
  • 79% of digital retail marketers are investing in personalization

Drip campaigns are great ways for marketers to personalize. They’re easy, they’re relatively hands-off, and they’re targeted not just to the customer’s profile, but also their behavior.

Customers respond to this level of personalization. They read the emails more often, take action more reliably, and most importantly, make more purchases.

  • Drip emails generate three times more click-throughs than other types of marketing emails
  • Great drip campaigns cost 33% less and drive 80% more sales
  • Drip emails get opened 80% more often than one-off marketing emails

Also, even when a customer doesn’t interact with one email within a drip campaign, they’re building the kind of connection that is more likely to pay off down the road.

Running an Effective Drip Campaign

When a customer receives a drip email, it’s because they’ve interacted with your brand in a certain way. For instance, a brand might schedule a drip campaign to launch as soon as someone signs up to receive an email newsletter.

The first message might be a thank you with an offer attached. The recipient will do one of four things:

  1. Ignore the message
  2. Open the email but not click on the offer
  3. Click on the offer but not use it
  4. Use the offer and make a purchase

The customer’s choice of action will determine what message they get next, how soon, and what that message will say. For example, one customer that doesn’t open the message might get another one in a week that says:

“Hey there, we noticed that you haven’t taken advantage of your 50% off coupon yet. Here are some ideas we think you'll love."

Those who saw the offer but didn’t use it might get a similar message, whereas the person who took advantage of the offer might get this follow-up after they receive the product or use the service:

“Thanks again for your purchase! We’d love to hear what you think. Recommend us to a friend and get 10% off your next order.”

Make sure you have emails designed, scheduled, and timed for every possible customer action. You don’t want to neglect customers who miss emails or don’t notice when emails go to their spam folders; there might be more than a few loyal customers in that cohort.

Best Practices for a Powerful Drip Campaign

Not all drip campaigns are created equal. They have to be based on customer data, personalized to suit specific profiles, and analyzed regularly to make sure they’re getting the desired results. Here are a few of the most important best practices:

Have a Goal in Mind

The best drip campaigns are focused on a specific customer action, whether that’s to download an ebook, visit a targeted web page, or make a purchase. Decide on one goal for each campaign, then customize it to a particular customer profile.

Remember, people do things because they want something. Drip campaigns get better results when they’re geared toward a particular customer segment.

Picture a drip campaign that’s geared toward encouraging leads to make their first purchase. To design an effective campaign, the marketing team needs to know what the audience’s pain points are, what problems they need the company’s products to solve, and whether the audience will be more effectively persuaded by high-end features or discounts.

Make the Most of Customer Data

For a drip campaign to work, your marketing technology stack has to be set up to collect, organize, and analyze customer information. That means having a single place that members of a marketing team can go to find up-to-date and accurate data.

From this single source, team members can evaluate what types of consumer data are available. There should be demographic information available, as well as information about each customer’s previous interactions with the company. That includes data on what the person needs and how far they have traveled along the buying journey.

Measure Results

Data collection should take place at the campaign level as well as at the email level. To design future campaigns and revise current ones, marketing teams need to know how customers have responded. That means:

  • Measuring open rates and click-through rates, and comparing the two
  • Testing one subject line or image against another to see if there’s a difference in responses
  • Tracking audience member journeys after they click through (or don’t)

It’s not just about finding out how many emails it takes for the drip campaign to have its intended effect. It’s also about what the prospect or customer does after that interaction is complete. If the goal of the campaign wasn’t to drive a purchase, how many touches will it take for the average prospect to come back and buy?

Even when a customer does make a purchase, marketing teams need to know what happens next. There should be tracks of future interactions, including any calls to customer support and responses to future drip marketing campaigns.

The drip marketing campaign is a powerful use of marketing automation technology. It allows teams to personalize messages based on the most current available customer data, and the information they provide can support further customization and targeted outreach down the line.

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