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How to build a drip marketing campaign

What is drip marketing: marketing professional in office using laptop

Key takeaways

  • A drip marketing campaign takes a prospect through the different stages of the sales funnel, from awareness to making a repeat purchase 
  • Segment your email list by interests, buying history, or demographics (like age and income) to increase engagement with your content
  • Use A/B testing with your email subject lines, body copy, or call to action to determine which versions lead to better results

Drip marketing is a strategy that sends valuable content to your target audience, thereby moving them down the sales funnel. Drip marketing operates under the assumption that most potential customers are not primed to buy when first introduced to a brand. A drip campaign helps you stay top-of-mind with prospects until they’re ready to make a purchase.

Within a drip marketing campaign, business owners will “drip,” or release different pieces of content over a specified amount of time, thereby building trust with potential buyers. Learn more about drip marketing, how it works, and strategies you can use to launch your first drip campaign.

What is drip marketing?

Imagine this scenario: You’re a small business owner, and a new customer walks into your store. How would you approach this individual? Would you start shoving new products in their face, asking if they’re ready to check out? Probably not—because if you did, the potential buyer would likely immediately exit your store.

Instead, you’d introduce yourself and ask about the shopper’s name, interests, and pain points. You’d ask what brought them in and how you can best be of service. After you lay a foundation, you’d suggest products or services the customer would find valuable. If the shopper leaves without buying—no problem. You’ll recall what you learned at a later date, gradually building rapport with your prospect.

Drip marketing campaigns—sometimes called lead generation or lead nurturing campaigns—implement this scenario on a mass scale. Drip marketing is a content marketing strategy that usually takes place over email. You treat every new subscriber in your email list as you would a new store customer—introducing them to your brand, learning about their interests, then gradually explaining your competitive edge. 

Put simply, a drip campaign is a series of automated emails that moves a prospect down the sales funnel—through stages of awareness, growing interest, evaluating options, and finally making a purchase.

How does drip marketing work?

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To implement a drip email campaign, you’ll need two things: an email automation platform and a general understanding of the sales funnel and how it influences buyer behavior.

You’ll want to use a dedicated email marketing automation platform for several reasons:

  • Convenience: Email marketing software makes it easy to send an automated campaign versus scheduling content one-by-one through your regular email account.
  • Reporting: An email automation platform tracks the success of each piece of content sent, including open rates (percentage of those who opened your email), click-through rates (percentage of those who clicked at least one link in your message), and conversion rate (percentage of those who completed a desired action, such as making a purchase). These metrics help you tweak your messaging for future sends, thereby leading to more sales.
  • Segmentation and personalization: According to research by Salesforce, 66% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique needs and interests. Email marketing platforms allow you to build segments, or groups based on user data—like demographics (age, occupation, income), past buyer history, interests, or geographical location. You can then send targeted emails to each segment, making each email more personal instead of sending a general email blast to your entire subscriber base.

The stages of a drip marketing campaign based on the sales funnel

The sales funnel is a sales and marketing model across all industries that takes a prospect through the buyer’s journey. This customer journey is broken into several stages. Depending on who you ask, it can be as few as three stages or as many as six or more. Regardless of the exact number, the goal is the same: to get a potential buyer to make a purchase and become a loyal customer. 

You can use each stage as a step in your drip marketing campaign. As such, a six-step sales funnel becomes a six-part email drip campaign.

1. Awareness

The top of the funnel starts with the awareness stage, when a new lead is first introduced to your company. In an email drip marketing campaign, you’ll send a first email, sometimes called a welcome email or onboarding email. This email welcomes a new subscriber to your list, gives an overview on your product or services, and offers a preview of the types of relevant content they can expect in the future.

2. Interest

The interest stage refers to some of the initial interactions between the prospect and your company. This is when they want to learn more about your brand and offerings. As part of your email, you can offer a list of your top five most-shared pieces of content, whether they’re blog posts, social media posts, or webinars.

3. Evaluation

The evaluation stage is when prospects compare your offer to those of your competitors. Within your series of emails (sometimes called a workflow), consider sharing case studies, customer reviews, or even industry news where your brand is mentioned. Doing so allows readers to gain trust in your product through a third-party testimonial.

4. Negotiation

During the negotiation phase, customers are primed to buy, but they might have reservations about price, terms of purchase, warranties, or other factors. Consider enticing potential buyers by emailing them a special coupon code toward their first purchase.

5. Sale

During the sale stage, the potential buyer makes their first purchase at your company. If your email marketing tools are integrated with your ecommerce platform, you can use this stage one of two ways. If the prospect completes their purchase, send a follow-up autoresponder (automated email) with their receipt thanking them for their support. If they add an item to their shopping cart but fail to buy, you can retarget them by sending an abandoned cart email that reminds them of their desired purchase and the value it would offer.

6. Repeat purchase

This final stage is where you transform a one-time buyer into a loyal repeat customer. This could represent a one-time email or a multi-part re-engagement campaign where you recommend complementary products, offer promo codes on potential products of interest, or ask for a referral.

Tips for implementing a drip marketing campaign

Small business owner working from home using a laptop

The content within your first drip marketing campaign will vary depending on your industry, business model, and competitors. However, as you build your email list, there are a few general guidelines to help launch an effective campaign.

Try A/B testing

It may take a few tries to determine which language resonates best with your audience. Try A/B testing with your subject line, body copy, or CTA (call to action) to determine which versions lead to an increase in opens, clicks, or conversions.

Segment your workflow

It’s unlikely that all subscribers will have the same user actions. Some may be actively engaged (clicking or opening every email) while some may be slower to convert (rarely clicking a CTA or deciding to unsubscribe altogether). Segment your list by engagement, then create two separate automation workflows for each.

Leverage third-party resources

Third-party recommendations can help move prospects down the sales funnel. Customer reviews on platforms like Yelp allow prospects to see what type of experience they can expect from your business, and they also get to see what other satisfied clients have raved about. Add or claim your Yelp Business Page so happy buyers have a place to review your company (plus you’ll also be able to respond to those reviews).

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Adjust your cadence

There are over 333 billion emails sent daily. Respect subscribers’ time and inbox space by placing an appropriate amount of time (such as 3–7 days) between each message rather than bombarding them every 24 hours. If you see a drop in engagement or a spike in unsubscribes, slow down your cadence to every 8–14 days.

Launch your first drip campaign to attract new buyers

A drip campaign is a type of email campaign that encourages new leads to slowly move down the sales funnel. These marketing efforts help build trust with potential buyers by sending valuable content, third-party testimonials, and even special promotions.

As you begin to build your drip campaigns and try different templates with A/B testing, review these six email marketing tips for small business owners to effectively integrate them into your overall marketing strategy.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.