If you have been using the internet for a number of years, you must be able to recall a point when, for a specific time period, you received a succession of emails and notifications from a certain retailer, seller or brand, providing bits of information about this or that product or service they are offering.

You may have noticed that these messages are sent to you like clockwork, and you may have even started identifying a certain pattern in how they time the sending of the messages.

Drip Marketing 101: Definition, Benefits and Best Practices

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You have just been on the receiving end of that company or brand’s drip marketing campaign.

DRIP MARKETING DEFINED

There are many direct marketing strategies employed by marketers in order to increase consumer awareness about a product, service, brand or company. Some of these strategies have proven to be very effective in delivering what is expected of them, while others fall short. That is why you cannot blame marketers for picking one, two or three direct marketing strategies, and focus much of their efforts on them.

One of these often utilized strategies is “drip marketing”, which involves the communication of information to nurtured leads or prospects, using a steady stream of marketing messages that is sent out over a predetermined time period or duration, following a schedule. Compared to traditional advertising, it may seem more arduous, requiring more work and, no doubt, may take a while to earn a return on your investment.

However, if you ask consumers, a majority of them (73%, according to a Hubspot study) prefer to learn about a product or brand in trickles or drips, over getting all the information in one humongous package, and in one fell swoop. IBM’s study seemed to corroborate that data, showing that companies employing drip marketing are likely to enjoy a 48% average increase in repeat sales from converted leads.

Take note that the target of drip marketing campaigns is not the company’s target audience or identified leads. The company, through a series of activities that include demand generation and lead nurturing, will come to the point when it is able to identify the high-quality prospects or leads (meaning those who demonstrate a great probability of moving on into the company’s sales process and purchase the product or service being offered). It is these prospects or leads who will be subjected to drip campaigns.

Drip marketing derived its name from the method of sending out the marketing messages, which is frequent, consistent and steady, much like how water drips from the tap. However, the phrase is mostly attributed to the agricultural concept of “drip irrigation”, where crops are sustained by consistent, steady and balanced watering or irrigation, in small amounts, so they will thrive without drying up or becoming too saturated.

Drip marketing operates on the assumption that customers are more likely to purchase from a company or brand that they know and trust, and so the marketers will make it their objective to ensure that the customer knows the company, and will eventually get to trust it. Basically, through drip marketing, they will continuously “water” the customer’s awareness and trust.

It’s about providing the right amount of water, at the right time and pace – which is exactly how the marketing messages will be communicated to the customers: the right marketing message and the right deliver method, at the right time and pace. It is frequent enough to keep the prospect aware about the product or service, but not too frequent as to overwhelm him, to the point of becoming an annoying disturbance.

This type of marketing is seen to be most effective for businesses engaged in the direct selling of products or services, either to customers (business-to-consumers or B2C) or other businesses (business-to-business or B2B). It is especially recommended for businesses that offer seasonal products or services, or with offerings that are purchased infrequently, resulting in relatively long sales cycles.

These types of purchases usually requires a lot of thought and consideration on the part of the prospect. He is likely to take his time before making a decision on whether to buy the product or not, and that is where drip marketing will be put to work.

Examples of businesses that will benefit greatly from a drip marketing campaign are:

  • Real estate agencies
  • Insurance companies
  • Car and heavy machinery dealerships or distributors
  • Retail businesses
  • Event planning and organizing companies

Types of Drip Marketing

For the longest time, drip marketing has been almost exclusively associated with “email marketing”, largely because most of the companies that use drip campaigns opt to deliver their marketing messages via email. However, marketers have come to realize that other modes and means of communication may also be used. The messaging tools often used in drip marketing nowadays are:

  • The marketing messages are crafted in an email format, usually through the use of automated services, and are sent to the prospects’ email addresses.
  • Social media. Status updates, tweets and other posts on various social media platforms are also used widely in drip marketing. These social media posts are usually published in a regular but well-timed and paced manner.
  • Web insights or web presence. Many marketers also make use of drip programs that direct prospects to relevant landing pages and engaging blog posts or other similar content online.
  • Phone calls. Large companies acquire the services of third-party call center service providers to execute their phone call drip campaign, personally phoning the prospects according to a planned schedule to deliver the relevant marketing messages.
  • Postcards, flyers and brochures. These promotional materials may also form part of a drip campaign, distributing them to the prospects over a certain period of time, with the messages showing a progression mirroring the prospect’s buying process.
  • Newsletters and other printed publications. Usually, these types of publications are released, following a specific schedule and pace. It could be weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or quarterly. This regularity works and fits in the overall concept of drip marketing, making these publications ideal as vehicles for delivering marketing messages to prospects.

Setting Up Drip Marketing

  • Goal-setting. From the outset, you have to be clear on what you want to achieve with your drip marketing campaign. What is your end goal? Do you want to simply aid the lead nurturing activities of the marketing team? Is your focus on maintaining a strong relationship with your prospects? Or maybe your goal is to convince them to purchase your product or service.
  • Content creation. Drip marketing puts emphasis on the “right information”, which means you have to make sure that you will offer great content in the body of your marketing message. Never forget that the heart of your marketing message – and of your entire drip campaign – is the content that you will deliver. The content must be relevant and useful, meaning it should offer something of value to the prospect. After reading the information, the recipient should feel that he learned something new, something good, and something that will convince him to consider buying your product or paying for your service.
  • Identification and segmentation of audience. Drip marketing also entails getting to know your target prospects, especially their buying decision-making process. After all, they are the target of your drip marketing. They are the recipients of the messages your will create, so you have to keep them in mind every step of the way. To facilitate the conduct of the drip campaign, segmentation of the audience, which is composed of qualified leads identified through lead nurturing, into smaller groups. Marketers make use of various parameters in their segmentation. Some may base segmentation on the needs and wants of the prospects. Others may use factual data, such as demographic data and geographic location, to name a few. This will aid the marketers when creating content, since they can parallel the content to the distinct characteristics of the segment. It will also be useful when it is time to send the marketing messages, especially if the process is automated.
  • Automation of drip campaign processes. The messages in drip campaigns are pre-written, so all that is left will be sending them out. If we are talking about just ten to fifty prospects to target with your messages, manual execution of the campaign may be doable. But what if there are hundreds or even thousands of target prospects? It is certainly going to be a lot of work, and may even become chaotic. The solution is to automate how these messages will be sent. Normally, automation will focus on the timing and frequency of sending the messages. Some companies also opt to automate how they monitor responses to the sent messages.
  • Tracking and Monitoring. You will never know whether your drip campaign is effective or not unless you have a tracking, measuring and monitoring plan in place. Some of the variables that are measured are the open rates of emails, the click-throughs made by the prospects, and the rate of clicks on links included in the message. These results must be analyzed and evaluated, and will serve as a guide in improving the drip campaign. For example, you may realize that the content is not as effective as you thought, so you can tweak it accordingly. You may also find out that the timing and frequency of sending the messages is seen as inconvenient by some segments. Monitoring and tracking will allow you to take the corrective actions and make the necessary adjustments.

KEY BENEFITS OF DRIP MARKETING

The short-term objective of drip marketing is to provide the right information, at the right time, to prospects, with a long-term view of keeping the nurtured leads or prospects engaged and successfully leading and getting them through the sales process.

Below are the key benefits that a company can obtain from drip marketing campaigns, and their implications.

Drip marketing helps cement the company’s position in the market and industry.

One indication of the success of a business is its longevity, or how it is able to operate for a long time. The more solid footing a business has, the greater are its chances of lasting long in the industry.

It is a given that businesses that are profitable due to a strong marketing strategy will have greater chances of being around for years and years to come. This “solid footing” can also be cemented further by building and maintaining good relationships. Other businesses and key industry players are more likely to maintain connections with a business that is trusted by customers, and that is what can be accomplished through drip marketing campaigns.

Drip marketing keeps the company in the forefront of customers’ minds.

This is something that companies aim for, especially during those down times, or when they are not actively selling a product or service in the market. Quick recognition and recall will guarantee that the business will remain relevant, and drip marketing will provide these “reminders” for the customers.

  • Increase of brand awareness of customers. By keeping the company and the brand in the forefront of the minds of customers, even through small amounts of information at a time, the curiosity of the customers is likely to be stirred, and they will go out of their way to do their own research on the company, in addition to the information already being regularly provided in “drips”.
  • Increase in conversions. By the time the prospect decides that he is ready to engage, or he becomes sales-ready, the first place he will go to make his purchase is the company or brand that he remembers and even trusts. Drip marketing allows the business to keep in touch with the customer and, in the process, establish a positive relationship with him. As a result, the company will be right there when the prospect is ready to buy.

Drip marketing contributes to the company’s bottomline or profit.

There are two ways for profit to increase, and that is to increase sales, and decrease costs. Drip marketing can help on both counts. As mentioned earlier, prospects are more interested in relevant content provided to them in drips, so these drip campaigns have higher response rates than traditional marketing methods.

  • Increase in sales leads generated. When carried out simultaneously with lead nurturing tactics, drip campaigns can help in generating a higher number of sales leads. In essence, the role of drip marketers is to cultivate these high quality leads or prospects for the sales teams.
  • Low investment cost. Application of drip marketing certainly saves a lot of time and cost since, instead of creating separate additional plans purposely aimed at sales lead generation, the company is already maximizing the results provided by its drip marketing efforts. Maintaining good relationships with prospects and consumers will also go a long way in helping the company implement much of its marketing programs and accomplish its goals without a lot of expense.

Drip marketing preserves the quality and integrity of marketing messages.

It is always a challenge to come up with advertising content that will remain fresh in the minds of the audiences and, more often than not, the drop in the quality of the marketing messages will have an impact on leads and the potential for sales.

In drip marketing, everything is planned and has a schedule: what message will be sent, how much of it will be sent, when it will be sent, how frequent the messages will be sent, and how long the intervals between each sendout will be. This allows a lot of room for marketers for flexibility, since they can effect changes when they notice that something is not working.

At the same time, it also offers a guarantee that the information or content that will be sent as marketing messages will remain relevant. In other words, the quality of the marketing message will not suffer greatly.

BEST PRACTICES IN DRIP MARKETING

Make sure you cover all the bases.

Imagine going into battle. If you want to survive – and maybe even come out as the victor – you have to be well-armed. You have to make sure you are armed with all the right weapons that you will need.

It is the same thing in drip marketing. Before you can start your campaign, make sure you have already covered the basics, and nothing can be more basic than your target, or the recipient of your drip marketing tactics. You should know who your customers and prospects are, and you know who to target in your drip marketing efforts. From there, you can proceed to creating content and formulating the plan on how the drip campaign will proceed.

Utilize multiple tools and market in multiple channels.

Earlier, we have identified the various tools or modes – apart from email marketing – that can be used for drip marketing. Marketers, in a bid to reach as many of their qualified leads as they can, use a combination of these tools and channels to drip out content. Aside from sending out drip emails, marketers also send postcards.

Clothing brand Mango, for example, sends drip emails to its identified prospects in the form of sale announcements, styling tips using Mango clothing pieces, and profiles of Mango models and brand ambassadors. In addition, they also mail out physical mini-catalogues of products to the prospects every time the brand launches a new collection of clothes.

Keep reeling them in.

Prospects that have been successfully converted into buying customers by drip marketing are prospects worth keeping. Just because you succeeded in making them buy your product or service does not mean that your work is done. Drip marketing should still continue, this time with the objective of bringing the prospect further into the fold, and turn him into a repeat and loyal customer.

An online retail store, for example, will send an email thanking the customer for his recent purchase, and asking him to rate the overall experience of buying from them. Several days later, it will send another email asking the customer to provide a product review of the items he recently purchased. These will be followed by a series of emails providing information or content that might interest the customer. The choice of the content or information will be based on the decisions the customer, as reflected in his purchase or transaction history.

The job of a drip marketer does not end when a sale is completed. It will still continue, over the long-term.

Do not completely rule out inactive prospects.

Along the way, you can expect several prospects to “disappear” or go inactive. Does that mean that you should give up on them?

You shouldn’t. Just because they may not have been as responsive as other prospects does not mean that they are a lost cause. In fact, you should still continue to apply drip marketing tactics on them for re-engagement purposes. Granted, you may have to be more careful when sending drip messages to them. Take it slowly. You do not want to be “in their face” about it; instead, you want to establish a non-intrusive presence. Instead of taking the company completely out of the picture, you want to remain on their radar.

Marketers also take the extra step of analyzing why they lost that prospect in the first place. It may provide them with pointers or clues on whether they should tweak the message or if they have to change something about how the messages were delivered.

Personalize the messages – and the campaign, as a whole.

Marketers make it a point to customize the messages so they will be able to connect faster and easier to the target prospect. This is why it is important to perform segmentation as one of the steps of your drip campaign, since it will help you in the customization of your marketing message. In fact, the more segmented it is, the more refined your prospect’s grouping will be, and tailoring the campaign to each segment will be much easier.

Customization of the message largely pertains to making sure that the message or content is relevant to the specific person or prospect that you are sending it to. Let us use, as an example, a company that produces and sells a line of skin care products. A Latina in her late 20s, and living in Mexico City, will not be receptive to emails that talk about how to care for Asian skin, or what skin products should be used during the cold winter months. Similarly, if the company sends emails about anti-aging skin products and how to manage wrinkles to prospects that are in their teens, it is to be expected that the emails will be ignored and unread, then immediately deleted by the prospect.

If you want your messages to attract the prospects that you are specifically targeting, make sure to customize the messages and make them relevant. Tailor the campaign to all the targets in the segments.

Apply creativity and variability in your content.

Never forget that content is a very important aspect of marketing, so you have to make sure you give it a lot of attention. You should also care about its presentation, or how it would look in the eyes of the recipient.

Prospects may ignore a drip email if they find it difficult to read, or it looks too plain and, therefore, not interesting at all. So, yes, email design is something to consider. More than the look and feel of the message, however, you should take note of the type of content you share. There are a number of different formats that you can play with, and content types or formats you can incorporate into the message. Including images and videos to your text is sure to boost the content quality, and the response rate.

Monotony is something you should avoid. If you sent an educational drip previously, outlining the features of the product, followed by another email talking about its benefits, you should avoid going on the same vein, following the same pattern, for the succeeding emails.

Mix things up. You can share customer testimonials on your next email, and a how-to-use-the-product guide on the next. You do not want to bore the prospects with the same content. You want to keep them wondering what information you will share next.

Hype your prospects up.

Curiosity killed the cat. In this case, curiosity just might enable the cat to get the canary. When a prospect’s curiosity is piqued, it will build anticipation, so he will be looking forward to – and even waiting for – the next drip email.

An example of how marketers do this is by sending drip emails that are designed to be teasers. After a couple of teaser emails, an email with a formal announcement will follow. For example, a band’s recording label sends teaser emails containing a short message about an upcoming album to be released. Another teaser email will be sent several days later, containing the track list of the album.

The next drip email will contain the details on when the album will be released, as well as how to purchase the album or the music, and where. There may even be emails about upcoming events for the band’s album promotions.

In this manner, the marketer is able to capitalize initially on the prospect’s curiosity, then fed it further with the succeeding drip emails. By the time the album is released, the prospect may decide to buy it.

Put technology to use.

Technology has been instrumental in improving how things are done, and providing more conveniences for everyone. You, too, should take advantage of technology in your drip campaign.

We’ve touched on this earlier, but a classic example of technology playing a major role in drip marketing is through automation. Not only will automation make things easier for the marketing team, but it will also save time, money and other resources that may be redirected to other marketing activities. Considering how many companies have reported how automation resulted to an increase in qualified leads (and potential sales) of up to 33%, taking that route definitely deserves careful consideration.

Through technology, marketers can set up the timing of sending pre-written messages to prospects, in accordance with a previously drawn schedule or timetable programmed into the system. Autoresponders may also be put in place, for example, to welcome new members or new customers who just signed up for a new account.

Technology is also used by several businesses in tracking, monitoring and measuring the results of their drip campaigns. It eases the process and significantly cuts the time it would usually take to monitor, track and measure without the help of technology.

Perform continuous evaluation of your drip campaigns.

Marketers have access to various metrics and measurement tools to test the effectiveness of the campaign, but when should testing be conducted?

Drip campaigns are conducted on an ongoing basis. There really is no definitive end, since marketers simply modify the campaigns as needed. That means testing should be done all throughout the execution of the campaigns, and evaluation should be done continually. In fact, marketers find themselves performing re-evaluations often.

Clearly, automation does not entirely do away with the human factor. Programs and systems may conduct key functions in tracking, monitoring and measuring, but the analytical part will still fall on the shoulders of the marketers.

Optimize your drip campaign for mobile.

This is something that more and more marketers are putting more focus on, considering the rapidly growing number of mobile users. Consider the emails you send, and the other drip messages that you share with the prospects. Are they optimized for mobile?

This may require marketers to rework their messaging and the presentation of the messages, so that they can still reach the prospects who happen to use mobile. Who knows? The reason behind those “lost” leads or inactive prospects that you have identified earlier and grouped in a separate segment may have been due to them shifting to mobile. You can correct that immediately, and proceed to re-engaging them.

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