It’s common to hear marketers talk about the value of quality content, but getting that content in front of your prospects’ eyes is just as important. A strong email marketing drip campaign will allow you to provide timely information for your prospects, nurture them through their path to purchase, and allows for easy automation.

Drip campaigns are different that a monthly email newsletter; according to this infographic from Email Monk, drip open rates are about 80% higher than single sends, and the average click through rates are 3 times higher. Setting up a drip campaign requires a great deal of thought and planning, so you can’t dive in head first: in this article, I’ll talk about the 6 steps you should take in order to set up a successful drip campaign.

Step 1: Define Goals

At the start of any campaign or project, it’s best to identify goals so everyone involved is on the same page. Defining a goal also helps with the setting up of the workflow.

When I’m attacking a new drip campaign, I first define a broader, single goal for the campaign. This goal will then determine what kind of drip campaign I want to run: Top-of-mind, Educational, Re-engagement, Competitive and Promotional.

Depending on which type of drip campaign I want to implement, my goal becomes clear.

  • With a top-of-mind campaign, my goal is to keep my client’s brand and messaging at the forefront of the prospects’ mind as they journey through their purchasing path.
  • With an educational campaign, I may want to simply educate current customers or very hot leads with why they should purchase and/or engage with the product or service.
  • A re-engagement campaign is designed to target cold leads in the effort of winning them back.
  • Whereas a competitive campaign targets customers of any competitor in the effort to portray the benefits of switching to your product or service.
  • A promotional campaign is great for any company that offers regular incentives, specials or promotions with the goal of enticing the prospects with a great, timely deal.

Once the type of campaign is identified and thus that broader goal, more specific, quantifiable goals should be set. It’s important to make sure those goals are quantifiable so there is no room for any negotiation. For example, setting a goal to increase open rates is a great start. But, how much do you want to increase it by? What is the goal open rate? Be specific as well. Perhaps you have a certain open rate goal for one type of campaign and a different rate for another.

Step 2: Compile a List of Assets

Once goals are defined, it’s time to figure out which assets could be used for your drip campaigns and which assets may need to be built out. This list could be comprised of content, lists/segments, landing pages, URLs, calls-to-action (CTAs) and templates. If you’ve determined you want to create a top-of-mind drip campaign with specific goals of increasing email click through rates and website conversion rates, you would want to make sure you have identified and segmented the list of contacts this type of campaign would be appropriate for. Next, you need to combine a handful of engaging pieces of content (articles, white papers, videos, etc.), imagery to support that content, and stand-out CTAs to entice the reader to click through. You also want to make sure you have a well-designed landing page to which that traffic would be directed.

Step 3: Layout Workflow

Laying out your workflow is arguably the most important aspect of setting up a drip campaign. This is the roadmap for the journey your prospects or customers are about to take and often times is the most time consuming and detail oriented aspect of the build out. I like to take it offline at first because this helps me visualize the paths. Whether you do decide to map it out on a whiteboard, or use an online workflow tool, take your time during this step. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple (4-5 emails per drip), especially at the beginning. There’s always room to add emails and triggers after you have let it run and analyzed the campaign for a bit.

In this workflow, you will want to start from the top and add details as you go. For example, I recently set up a drip with 5 emails, each promoting an educational piece of content and a call-to-action. I first laid out my 5 emails and the segment I wanted to send these emails to. Then, based on the content and CTAs within each email, I added my triggers and paths. Often times, certain triggers led a prospect out of the current drip and into another. If this is the case, it’s best to layout all the drips together to see how they interact and to make sure there aren’t any overlaps.

These workflows should include as much details as possible including time sent, any tagging you want to do, specific goals and tone of content. I’ve learned to vary the start dates of multiple drips to prevent sending too many emails to a single prospect. The frequency of which prospects receive emails really depends on the industry, how you receive the list and many other factors. But as a rule of thumb, touch your prospects at least once per month and no more than twice per week.

Step 4: Build Drips in Your Marketing Automation Software

Once the workflow has been worked, reworked and tweaked again, it’s time to implement it into your marketing automation software. This process varies significantly depending on the type of software you use, but if you’ve built out a detailed workflow and have a good working knowledge of the platform you are using, it should go fairly smoothly. The key to having a successful build out is testing, reviewing and testing some more. Engage a few team members to help test out the flow as well.

In the world of digital marketing, A/B testing can statistically prove higher performing content and email marketing is no different. Each email sent should consistently be testing different variations for anything from subject lines to colors to tone of content. In addition to A/B testing, it’s best practice to set up a follow up email to anyone who didn’t open the initial email, trying out a new subject line. You’d be surprised how many additional opens you can get from this practice.

Step 5: Review & Tweak

Once you have pushed your drip campaign live, it is time to sit back and watch your prospects engage with your content. After a good sample of prospects have journeyed through the different paths, it’s best to review the numbers and make tweaks accordingly. For instance, I recently noticed that there was a lot more engagement with a video in my client’s email when we listed out the top things the viewer was going to get out of watching the video. We then tweaked any other emails with a video to include that type of list.

Step 6: Evaluate Results

Whether you are a marketing professional in-house for a brand, or work at an agency, there is always someone you need to report results to. Being able to effectively evaluate and learn from the data once your drip campaign has been running for a while is extremely important. This will allow you to measure against those goals you identified in step 1 and will give more insight into how to further the drip campaign and make tweaks to the current content. There are a ton of resources that provide average open and click rates per industry, which can be used as a great benchmark for your campaign. Reviewing, tweaking and evaluating results should never stop. To have the most successful drip campaign, this process never ends.


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