Drip Campaigns Explained — Foundation Series — Part One

Drip Campaigns Explained

This post is the first in our new marketing Foundation Series, which is designed for folks new to marketing, or who might be looking to expand their knowledge a bit further out from their current speciality. The series will take you through the basics of marketing terminology and practices, tips and tricks for your plans, campaigns, and strategies, and helpful advice for the marketer still getting used to their role or responsibilities.

First in our Foundation Series is Drip Campaigns Explained. Have you heard about Drip Campaigns and are ready to give them a try? Or are you just hearing of them for the first time? Either way, this post should help you take the next step:

What is a Drip Campaign?

Photo by Nadore/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Nadore/iStock / Getty Images

Consider, for a moment, the venerable coffee maker — not one of those (wasteful) modern single-cup ones, but the classic model, our beloved pour over. The slow dripping of hot water through the filter yields a cup of beautiful coffee. Even though it will take longer, the results speak for themselves. 

Marketing drip campaigns work with the same principle. The idea is to slowly build awareness, interest, and knowledge about your business, products, and/or services, and gradually lead up to a purchase point. Why? Well, it’s kind of the same principle as the coffee: some things take time. It turns out, you can get a lot of customers if you lightly connect with them a few times, rather than an in-your-face ad once. And it’s a lot cheaper to nudge someone into a purchase and retain a customer with light touches than it is to buy a brand new customer through advertising every time you make a sale.

A quick aside: according to Wikipedia, “drip marketing” is derived from “drip irrigation,” and not necessarily from drip coffee. If you feel the need to mentally replace all our references to coffee with irrigation, that’s your right.

If drip campaigns are so effective, does that mean you shouldn’t advertise? No. You should be trying a lot of things — some will work, some will not work. Advertising works. Drip campaigns work. Both of those things can be true at the same time. Will either or both work for you? Now that’s the question, and the only way to know is to try!

Where should you start? Drip campaigns have traditionally and most often been done through email campaigns. Done properly, this can be a very rewarding approach — it’s tried and tested, it’s automatable, and it allows you to gain meaningful measurements and metrics in real time. That’s where you’ll want to start. Marketing automation is a big category, and it’s one we’ll touch on over a series of posts.

For your first drip campaign, think about how you currently generate email leads, and new approaches you can take to expand that list. As your list grows, you’ll send out content that’s interesting and useful to your contacts. As contacts interact with the email and its content, you can drop the next “drip” of content, this time with a stronger sales approach, or perhaps a promotional deal or discount. The people who interact with this email may get one final sales push, and an incentive to make a larger purchase than they may have otherwise (another discount, free shipping above a certain value, etc.).

There are countless ways to run drip campaigns, and they can be useful for any type of organization, not just those with e-commerce platforms or products to sell. It’s the principle: sending follow-up messages to interested people, building a relationship over time.

There also is a difference between a promotional email and spam — both ethically and legally. When customers and potential customers give you their email address, you must respect that. You have been given personal information and the opportunity to grow, what could be, a strong customer relationship. Give them content they want, will enjoy and can benefit from.

Tips for Strong Drip Campaigns

1) Understand the legislation and legal requirements for email marketing in your jurisdiction.

In Canada, this is the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). It establishes a set of rules for who you can send communications to, how you can verify their consent, and what you must include in your communications. It’s manageable stuff, and it will be much, much easier to get this in place at the start.

In other jurisdictions there are similar rules in place. It’s equally important to know the rules for the point of consumption as it is point of distribution.

2) Know your raison d’etre and what your goals are. Ask yourself: Why are we doing this?

Maybe you’re trying to promote a new customer experience. Maybe you’re trying to explain the fundamentals of your product. Maybe you’re educating customers on your great social/community work made possible by their patronage. The point is, you should be clearly defining why you’re emailing your audience before you get started, because they’ll be asking the same question and they expect and deserve a clear answer.

3) Get your contact list in order.

You should know who is on each of your distribution lists and have their explicit consent for communication, #CASLcompliance. Then understand that everyone on your list doesn’t want everything you have to offer, nor is everything going to be relevant to everyone. Break your lists up into shared-interest groups.

4) Set your goals.

You’ll need short, medium and long term goals. And then set your measurements. This is a marketing effort, so it should be measurable. A year from now, how will you determine whether this was a success or a waste of time?

5) Determine the value proposition for your audiences.

Why should they read your materials? What will they get out of this? This should be clear in every communication you issue in your drip campaign(s).

6) Get creative!

Your audience gets a lot of email, every day. Yours needs to be visually appealing, easy to read, fun/funny/clever — whatever is appropriate to your brand. Design it for your audience, not for you. Think about responsive design needs — most email is read on mobile devices, so that’s where it should look its best.

7) Choose your platform.

How you disseminate your drip campaign has an impact on how easily you measure progress and manage the back end. Automated platforms such as MailChimp or HubSpot can take care of most of the work for you. You can send through Outlook or Gmail, but privacy errors can happen and evaluation is much more difficult.

Marketing Fundamentals: The Drip Campaign

The Internet and Amazon have brought well over 100 years of marketing strategy and advertising techniques to our finger tips. We just need to take the time to read and learn, and apply those lessons to our work today.

Bob Levenson wrote some of the most famous advertisements of all time, including the “Think Small” ad for VW. He was known for his simple, approachable style and colloquial, personal expressions.

His secret? He once said: “Before I start, I write Dear Charlie at the top of the page. Then I write the copy. Then I cross out Dear Charlie.”

When you write the content for your drip campaigns, remember that you’re not writing to a list. Or to a group. You’re writing to one, single person. When you write your first draft, address it to a friend or coworker you respect. You might be surprised how much more interesting, engaging and, more importantly, effective your communication will be.