When I first built my email list, I was ready to create some drip campaigns. Just one little problem: I didn't know what to say. I felt like a salesperson with this perfect prospect, but I couldn't find the words to convey how I could change this person's business.
What is a drip campaign?
An email drip campaign is a form of automated sales outreach. It’s composed of a series of emails automatically sent to a specific audience after they take a specific action. For example, if a lead downloads a whitepaper on recruiting best practices, they might be placed in a drip campaign sharing relevant recruiting content. The final email might include a CTA to request a demo for your recruiting software.
You can make a drip campaign for anything: to nurture a freemium customer, to convert a blog subscriber, or to deliver relevant content to leads from a certain industry. There are no limits to the type of campaign you can create, although there are a few common types. I go over them below.
Types of Drip Campaigns
Let’s take a look at some of the drip campaigns you can create to nurture prospects and leads.
Onboarding Drip Campaign
After a lead submits their email through a form, it’s time to welcome them to the business by sending them content that would interest them. An onboarding email sequence should provide value, entice leads to keep engaging, and prompt them to speak to your sales team.
In an onboarding drip campaign, you can send leads:
- A list of blog posts and case studies that would interest someone in their niche
- A unique welcome coupon they can use for a limited time
- A curation of products that they’ve already looked at (signaling purchase intent)
Retargeting Drip Campaign
A retargeting campaign targets users who’ve engaged meaningfully with your content. They downloaded a white paper, visited the same page multiple times, or downloaded an ebook.
To bring them back, you serve them even more specific content that can help them make a purchasing decision. You can also find out what they thought about the resources they accessed.
In your lead nurturing emails, you can send your prospects:
- A fillable workbook for the recent guide or ebook they downloaded
- An email directly from a sales rep asking to set up some time to chat
- A feedback request about the resource they downloaded
This would apply mainly to the tech industry, where sales reps often provide product demos to prospects and leads. But if you offer any product that can be demonstrated live, this type of drip campaign would work for you, too.
After a demo, it’s important to re-emphasize the value of your product and bring in success stories from other companies. You can also send guides on how to get higher-ups to buy in.
Here are some content ideas for a post-demo campaign:
- A list of video testimonials from past clients
- A list of tutorials on a feature that the lead was specifically interested in
- Access to an exclusive free trial offer that you extended while on the phone
I started chatting with a few of my friends in sales to learn more about their best secrets and corresponding open rates, and David Sneider, Sendbloom's former head of growth and current CEO of Expand, provided the following quote:
“Introductory email messaging is the ‘tip of the spear’ for starting business relationships. The copy you write needs to be sharp yet sincere, showing that you can provide value without inundating them. Ultimately the recipient should feel as if all you want is to improve their day and their business.”
This made sense to me. If I'm more authentic, then the engagement and longevity of my relationships should strengthen. I prodded David further, and soon uncovered his top tips and best practices for creating a drip campaign — plus his three most successful email templates.
How to Create a Drip Campaign
- Choose a drip campaign software.
- Identify the goal for your drip campaign.
- Determine how someone ends up in this campaign.
- Decide how many touches your drip campaign will have.
- Create the content (and personalize it).
- Know when to take someone out of the drip.
1. Choose a drip campaign software.
To send drip campaigns, you’ll first need a sales automation tool that allows you to schedule the emails in advance and target them to different segments of your lead base. For example, you can create and send email drip campaigns with Sequences, a tool in HubSpot Sales Hub.
The drip campaign software should integrate seamlessly with your CRM and offer real-time performance metrics that will allow you to tweak and update your campaigns as needed. It should also enable deep personalization — no two leads should receive the exact same email. At the very least, the greeting should address the person who’s receiving it.
Last, your software should be user-friendly and easy to adopt for all of your sales reps.
2. Identify the goal for your drip campaign.
Are you trying to reengage dormant customers? Nurture new leads? Cross-sell existing customers?
Decide what action you want your reader to take at the end of the drip and determine a road map to get there.
Ask yourself which of the following goals is most aligned with your own:
- Promote a new product or service
- Increase brand awareness
- Gather customer feedback
- Generate revenue
- Boost user engagement
- Drive registrations for an upcoming event
Once you've determined your goal for the campaign, think through who will be segmented into this drip. Which brings us to our next section ...
3. Determine how someone ends up in this campaign.
You want to make sure that the right people are getting the right message at the right time. So, who will be opting in or being segmented into this drip campaign? Ask yourself the following questions to find out:
- What action did the audience take to find themselves in this email drip campaign?
- What are their pain points?
- What are their goals?
- What will get their attention in the middle of a workday?
- Why would they delete an email from this campaign?
- What do I hope the audience will do after reading one of these drip emails?
Once you've answered these questions, you should have a good idea of who you'll be targeting, how you'll segment this audience, and how you'll best reach and provide value to this audience.
4. Decide how many touches your drip campaign will have.
You can send more emails than you think you should. Customers want to hear from you — they just want the right content delivered when they need it. With that in mind, you can schedule one email per week. B2C companies can get away with sending a little more, but B2B companies should resist sending more than five emails every month.
Your drip campaign can last from four to eleven emails that are sent four, seven, or fourteen days apart. Decide how many touches you need to effectively nurture your audience and prime them for your offer.
5. Create the content (and personalize it).
A misconception about drip campaigns is that they're mindlessly sent mass email that's neither relevant nor tailored to their audience's needs. While there are certainly drip campaigns that deserve this classification, this shouldn't be the case with your drip emails.
It's possible to create relevant and personalized content that you can send to certain segments in your drip campaign.
Let's say, for example, you have a drip for businesses that download your company's case study featuring a customer whose Midwest SMB benefited from your contract accountants. Set up your campaign so that anyone who downloads this case study is automatically entered into a drip you've customized for Midwest SMBs seeking seasonal accounting help.
Include a fresh piece of content for your prospects in each of the drip emails you send. For example, you might follow up their initial case study download with a friendly email like this:
Tax season knocking too soon?
I see that you recently downloaded our customer case study featuring [Customer name]. I hope you found it helpful.
I thought you might also like this blog post on "Six Simple Things SMBs Can Do Today to Make Tax Season Painless."
Let me know what you think.
6. Know when to take someone out of the drip.
The worst experience for a prospect is to take your desired action without being unenrolled in your drip campaign. Let's say a prospect is enrolled in a drip campaign with the goal of getting them to schedule a demo.
If they schedule a demo on a Tuesday and get another email on Thursday asking them to schedule a demo — that's a terrible customer experience.
It looks even worse when the drip campaign has been altered so that it looks like you’re sending the emails. This makes it appear that you either don't remember who your prospect is or have been a fake the whole time.
Know when to take someone out of your drip. Set up a trigger that will unenroll a prospect the moment they complete the action you've goaled your drip campaign on.
Feeling ready to create your drip campaign? I’ve compiled a few best practices to ensure each email is in its best shape.
Email Drip Campaign Best Practices
- Be informative, but keep it short.
- Include a CTA button or question at the end of every email.
- Send your emails on Fridays.
- A/B test send times.
- Track open rates, click-through rates, and click-to-open rates.
- Implement a follow-up sequence after no response.
- Ask for feedback if your drip campaign is unsuccessful.
1. Be informative, but keep it short.
There are a few types of emails where including long-form content is actually useful. For example, if your lead is specifically interested in how you founded your company, you can create an email drip campaign with the story. At the end, you can add a CTA for them to join a webinar on how they can found their own company.
Unless it’s a case like that one, however, you want them to get to the CTA as quickly as possible. That means keeping your drip campaign emails two to three paragraphs long.
2. Include a CTA button or question at the end of every email.
Whether you want the lead to schedule a call, tell you who to reach out to, or sign up for a free trial, you’ll need to include a CTA at the end of every drip campaign email. Leads should know what they should do at the end of every message.
The CTA should be tailored to their stage of the buyer’s journey. If they’ve only recently signed up, you can ask them to follow your company on social media. When they’ve reached the consideration stage, you can send them a white paper or a case study.
3. Send your emails on Fridays.
There has been much debate on the best time and weekday to send emails — lookup “email frequency” or “email cadence” in Google and you’ll see what I mean.
Research by Campaign Monitor demonstrates that Fridays have the highest open and click-through rates at 18.9% and 2.7% respectively. Its research also shows that Saturdays should be avoided.
While the research can be a nice guidepost, your cadence will ultimately depend on when your leads most interact with your emails. So keep a close eye on performance metrics so you can determine what drives results for your business.
4. A/B test send times.
What’s the best time to send drip emails? The data suggests that the early morning hours (even as early as 4 AM!) are highly effective, since most 9-to-5 office workers check their emails in the morning.
However, the best time for your company will depend on your leads specifically and not on published research. Where is the grand majority of your customer base located? What industry are they in? Do they work from home and tend to work odd hours? If they commute in the morning, do they prefer checking their email during their lunch break?
Like in the previous best practice, you’ll want to use your leads’ engagement behavior to decide when you should send your emails.
5. Track open rates, click-through rates, and click-to-open rates.
In your drip campaign tool, you should be able to see open rates, CTR, and click-to-open rates. This last one is especially important because it tells you the percentage of people who actually clicked through after opening the email.
Tracking this information not only allows you to determine the best time and day to send your emails, but it also allows you to A/B test the wording, positioning, or design of your CTA. You can also A/B test the effectiveness of your subject lines by looking at open rate.
I’m focusing on these three metrics because they’re usually simple and easy to find, and are most relevant to improving your drip campaign. But if you want, you can track other email marketing metrics, such as unsubscribe rate, to gauge performance overall.
6. Implement a follow-up sequence after no response.
Has your lead not responded? This isn’t the time to back down and assume they’re a lost lead. Send a follow-up email — again, again, and again. You’re not being annoying. Remember, a drip campaign always aims to offer value, and the truth is you have something valuable to offer. You’re never bothering. You’re trying to help them improve a process at their business.
If you fail to reconnect after several attempts (I recommend trying at least two times), you can then send a “breakup” email and remove the lead from the sequence.
7. Ask for feedback if your drip campaign is unsuccessful.
If a lead fails to convert — i.e. they don’t schedule a demo, call the sales team, or sign up for a webinar — send a survey link to the lead. Looking at the metrics is one thing. Hearing straight from your leads on what you can do better is another.
Create a survey and try to understand why the lead wasn’t interested. Was it simply not the right time? Did they go with a competitor? Armed with these answers, you can create a better drip campaign that engages prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
The following drip campaign templates show these best practices in action. Take a look and get inspired.
Example Drip Campaign Templates
Drip Email One
My name is [Name], and I'm the founder at Shipping Company. We work with organizations like Sears and Target to hold FedEx and UPS accountable.
We track all your shipments, identify late deliveries, and file claims on your behalf. You only pay when package tracking is credited to your account.
What would be the best way to get 15 minutes on your calendar to explore if this would be valuable to [Company]?
- Open Rate: 44.3%
- Reply Rate: 33.3%
- The introduction is quick and honest, taking up no more than one sentence.
- The second sentence is also quick and to-the-point, explaining what the business does without a five-paragraph pitch.
- The concluding CTA is a simple yes or no question. That makes the effort required to respond much easier.
Drip Email Two
My company, [Shipping Company], gives you real-time visibility into your shipments, lets you know when any have been delivered late, and tracks packages on your behalf.
You pay for performance, so if we don't save you money, we don't get paid. Who would be the best person to speak with at [Company]?
- Open Rate: 61.8%
- Reply Rate: 35.3%
- The subject line is a reply to the first, making it familiar. I've found this helps increase open rates.
- The second sentence refines your original pitch to try and use new messaging that resonates with what your recipient cares about.
- The closure to this drip email is quite magical in my opinion. Asking for an introduction to the right person at the organization significantly helps improve response rates.
Drip Email Three
I wanted to make sure you saw my earlier message. I'd like to learn about the pains of package tracking at [Company].
If you are the appropriate person to speak with, what does your calendar look like early next week? If not, who do you recommend I talk to?
- [Your name]
- Open Rate: 42.4%
- Reply Rate: 22.9%
- The introduction of this email makes it clear you are just checking in on the status of their email.
Learning from David's examples, I've concluded that my drip emails should each follow a few key points.
Time-wise, each drip can be sent anywhere from two days to a week after the previous message.
Create Drip Campaign Emails that Convert Leads
With the tips, best practices, and templates I’ve shared, you’re well on the way to creating a drip campaign that engages and converts your leads and prospects. By consistently delivering value to your contacts, you can ensure they get the exact content they need to make a purchasing decision. This will help your team sell effortlessly, exponentially increasing revenue at your company.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 19, 2021 1:30:00 PM, updated May 19 2021