Jeanne S. Jennings

Email Marketing: Drip Campaigns Drive Revenue

October 20th, 2010

I always love attending MarketingSherpa events – the presentations are not only enlightening but also entertaining and the networking between sessions rocks! This year’s B2B Marketing Summit in San Francisco was fabulous — and for those of you who missed it, we’re doing an encore performance in Boston October 25th and 26th 2010 .

My contribution to the event was a one-hour session on effective B2B drip campaigns which was very well received. It included seven case studies of successful B2B drip campaigns from my consulting work for clients and the MarketingSherpa archives. While I don’t have space to give you all the details here (join us in Boston if you need to know!) I wanted to share some of the keys to success.

But first: are you currently doing drip email campaigns? How many of you don’t even know what a drip campaign is? About a quarter of the audience responded affirmatively to the first question – and another quarter raised their hands when I asked the latter question. So, just to get us all on the same page…

Drip campaigns take their name from drip irrigation, which saves resources by allowing water and fertilizer to be consistently delivered directly to the roots of plants. There’s less waste than with sprinklers and topical fertilizer application; drip irrigation also provides a consistent level of moisture to the soil, rather than the “soak and dry” experience that sprinklers provide.

Drip marketing campaigns are most commonly delivered via the email channel because of its short turn-around, quick delivery time and cost-effective nature. A drip campaign involves a series of messages that are sent or “dripped” in a predefined order at a predefined interval. Each message in the campaign stands on its own but also builds on the missives that have come before it. A drip campaign is a response to a specific behavior or status of the recipient – and it encourages a specific action.

Drip campaigns are most commonly used to nurture leads – they often use education, testimonials and other tactics to move prospects through the early part of the sales cycle and take them from “less than hot” to “hot,” or at least “very warm.” As with drip irrigation, drip marketing campaigns are a resource-efficient way to serve a large group of constituents.

I shared seven case studies with the audience in San Francisco – here are the key takeaways:

1. Define your Goal(s): Know what you’re trying to achieve going in – and go further to define what specific action(s) you want the recipients of your drip campaign to take.

2. Understand that Content is King: When people contact me about drip campaigns, they usually want to talk about the timing and frequency of efforts. But those factors have much less impact than the content of your program. And once you’ve fleshed out the content, the timing and frequency fall in line naturally.

3. Develop a Message Map: The first cut of this should be a brainstorming session to determine the key messages which need to be conveyed to get recipients to take the action desired. The second cut is to figure out what real-life examples you can use to illustrate these key messages.

4. Bucket your Content: After your message map is done, it’s time to separate this information into a series of efforts. There should be some content that appears in every message; but each individual email needs to focus and go into detail on some aspect of your message map. It’s not a drip campaign if you send the same information over and over again. This exercise will determine how many efforts or individual sends are in your drip campaign.

5. Decide on Your Email Format(s): Although the majority of drip campaigns utilize letter-style email messages, but newsletter, short-form editorial and other formats can be just as effective. Don’t limit yourself to one – make the format support the content.

6. Utilize Design Strategically: Typically the copy is front and center in drip campaigns; design and images should be used to support, but not overshadow, the copy. Video and other interactive media can be effective as well, but only if they support the business goals.

7. Adding Segmentation to a Drip Campaign can Increase Its Effectiveness: Creating sub-campaigns which are based on lead quality, behavior or other actions increases the relevancy of your efforts and will increase overall campaign performance when done properly.

8. Detail Your Efforts in Advance: Developing a decision tree and/or flow chart of your drip campaign provides a blueprint for implementation and will help keep you in line with your business goals.

9. Use Social Media to Drive Acquisition: Social media allows you to communicate a single message to a large group – use it to entice people to opt-in to your drip campaign so you can deliver more relevant, targeted content to specific segments of your audience.

10. Look at Overall Campaign Performance: Obviously you’ll look at standard metrics like opens, clicks and conversions by effort and then look at the average of all efforts. But be sure to take the next step and evaluate the cumulative unique campaign metrics. A key link in a recent campaign garnered an average 25% increase in unique opens send-over-send. The unique clicks on the key link increased by more than 100% after the second send; after the sixth and final send, nearly five times as many unique recipients had clicked and visited this key landing page.

Jeanne S. Jennings

About Jeanne S. Jennings

Jeanne S. Jennings ( is an email marketing strategy consultant with over 20 years of experience in the online/Internet marketing realm. She will is leading the MarketingSherpa Email Essentials 2010 Training Workshops at locations around the United States and Canada. Jeanne works with medium- to enterprise-sized organizations, helping them become more effective and more profitable online. Her direct response focus gets results for her clients, which include Hasbro, The Mayo Clinic, The National Press Club, Network Solutions, Verizon Communications, and Weight Watchers International. Jeanne’s book, The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible, was published by SitePoint. Since 2001 she has authored a twice-monthly column on email marketing for ClickZ Experts. Jeanne is a frequent contributor to marketing publications as well as a sought-after speaker on email marketing topics.

Categories: Business To Business, Email Marketing Tags: ,

  1. October 20th, 2010 at 12:32 | #1

    Very good article on how to and what you need to consider for your next campaign.

  2. October 20th, 2010 at 21:30 | #2

    Enjoyed the post Jeanne. We also attended the San Fran event. Your best practice recommendations are solid. While these practices may seem fundamental, email marketers should never lose sight of the foundational aspects of their campaigns. I’d like to supplement your information with another fundamental marketing practice that should always work in tandem with email drip and nurture campaigns, and that’s real human touch (i.e., good old-fashioned voice-to-voice conversations). While email drip campaigns can be an efficient and powerful marketing technique, they can be much more effective when augmented with dialogue-based marketing to validate the prospect’s digital behavior, collect additional intelligence, and correct the next digital moves a marketer should take. In a B2B marketing environment that is becoming more dominated with digital approaches, these days the phone call stands out and can be equally if not more powerful.

  3. October 21st, 2010 at 09:08 | #3

    This is a very helpful encapsulation of not only how to create a drip campaign but why.

  4. October 22nd, 2010 at 16:46 | #4

    Hot stuff!!

    I would suggest that sales/opt-ins/revenue be added.

    Need to make the cash register ring.

  5. Randy Laub
    October 25th, 2010 at 21:42 | #5

    Great summary. I’d add “Match Your Tools to Your Capabilities and Resources.” It’s easy for a business new to nurture to get in over its head early with applications that are too complex. A business should develop a road map for deployment over time, starting small with early wins and building from there. If systems and tools are deployed without proper resources or skills to use them, programs can quickly fail and lose opportunity for adoption or executive support. With careful planning, drip/nurture can provide a great program for lead conversion and increased sales.

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