5 Elements to successful drip email campaigns

Email is still the most powerful tool a marketer can use. 

Even though more companies are making the shift to social media to engage with their customers and prospects, and even using social media as a marketplace, email is still the most reliable and cost-effective way to communicate with your audience.

However, email campaigns can really only be successful if they are properly planned and executed.

For instance, you would never manually email each of your contacts as they continue down your sales funnel. Well, you could, but it would be tedious and time-consuming, and you would be wasting valuable resources and man-hours. It would also, unfortunately, lead to diminishing returns.

If you’re serious about your emails, you need to set up automated and personalized workflows that are sent to your contacts at different stages of their buyer’s journey in hopes of triggering an action, whether that’s a purchase, referral, review, etc.

You need a successful drip email campaign.

Why successful drip email campaigns are important

Drip email campaigns are essentially pre-written and planned out messages that you want to send to your contacts.

Rather than sending an email to your entire audience at once (which is generally not the best practice because even when segmented, the contacts on your email list are at different places in the sales funnel), success drip email campaigns will automatically send relevant information at relevant times.

For instance, if your company is involved with rental properties and you know the average customer takes about 60 days from the start of their search to moving into their new apartment, you might set up your campaign so customers get emails with information about finding the right apartment in the beginning of the drip campaign, emails about moving costs 30 days into the campaign, and emails about setting up utilities 45 days into the campaign.

If done correctly, drip email campaigns can be very successful and beneficial for businesses. Open rates and click-through rates for drip campaigns tend to be significantly higher than single-send emails. Considering this, it’s no surprise that 320% more revenue was generated in 2015 by automated emails compared to non-automated emails.

Running a successful drip email campaign

Just like any campaign, you can’t rush into it and just assume it will be a success. Careful planning, strategy, and revisions are necessary in order to run successful drip email campaigns.
Here are six major elements you need to follow to ensure your automated emails are a success:

1. Build a campaign around your goals.

You can’t determine if your drip email campaigns are successful unless you determine what you hope to accomplish. Do some industry research to determine what’s realistically attainable for your campaign. Just remember, the benchmark may differ based on a variety of factors, such as industry, company size, B2B vs. B2C, and the specific product or service.

Based on your goal, you’ll also need to determine the type of drip email campaign you want to run. You have a handful of options, including:

  • Welcome: Welcome campaigns should be used for every new contact or subscriber to your email list. Successful welcome drip email campaigns include a small series of emails that introduce them to your products or services and sets the table for what they can expect to receive from you.
  • Webinars or online courses: This type of drip campaign would send a confirmation message after someone signs up for the webinar, plus several relevant messages leading up to the online course with reminders and information the participant would need to know. This type of campaign might also include a follow-up email with a recording of the session and a push to attend another webinar or to take another action.
  • Retargeting: This type of drip campaign can really be used for a variety of instances. You might run a retargeting campaign when a customer abandons their cart or signed up for a lead generation form but took no action.
  • Re-Engagement: Similar to a retargeting drip email campaign, a re-engagement campaign is used to try to get old customers to make another purchase. Remember, it’s 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer compared to keeping a current one.

2. Automated customer journeys

Once you know the type of email drip campaign you want to build, and which segment of your audience you want to send it to, you need to start building your automated customer journeys.

Automated journeys are the workflows that your drip campaigns will follow based on the actions your customers take. For instance, if you send an email with a call to action asking your audience to download an eBook and a customer completes that action, then the next step in their journey might be to receive an automated email with additional information they might find useful based on the eBook.

However, if they do not download the eBook, they’ll move into a different journey where they might receive another email a week later asking them to download the eBook again.

Automated journeys are essential to ensuring your drip campaign has a more personalized touch, because they allow you to customize the messages your audience receives based on where they are in your campaign.

3. Nail the first email.

You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.

That’s why it’s so vital that your email drip campaign has a compelling and informative welcome email. According to Entrepreneur, open rates for welcome emails are 86% higher and click rates are 196% higher than bulk marketing emails.

There are a few essentials you should follow when creating your welcome email that will have a big impact on the success of your overall drip campaign:

  • Time matters: The moment your new contact (or existing contact) enters a campaign, the automation should begin with the first email. Customers will expect a message after signing up, and the longer you wait, they less engaged they will be.
  • Personalize it: It’s about them! Include their name or something about their specific needs in the messaging.
  • Clear message: Explain what they’ll get as part of your drip campaign and why it’s beneficial to them. Be honest and clear so there are no surprises (and spam complaints).
  • Don’t go overboard: Keep the email short and simple. You don’t need to bombard recipients with product info or tips just yet, they’ll be getting supplemental emails as part of your drip campaign with that information.

You have a variety of options for the look and feel of your email. Take a look at this welcome email from the BBC:


Source: reallygoodemails.com

This email does a great job of using clear and easy-to-read visuals and outlines exactly what they’ll be sending and when. It also includes a note that informs the reader that the more they use the service, the more personalized the suggestions and emails will be.

But you don’t need to use fancy graphics for an intro email. Consider this simple welcome email from Harvest:

Source: reallygoodemails.com

This email is simple and clean and provides the user with everything they need to get started, plus it offers a way to contact someone with questions. It also provides a great opportunity for a follow-up email if the customer doesn’t log in after a certain number of days or click on the "Create a project" button.

4. Find a cadence that works for you.

This is where things can get a little tricky because there’s really no right or wrong answer. Depending on your audience, business, and goals, you could have a different email cadence for each of your campaigns.

For example, new nurturing or welcome email drip campaigns could start at about six emails over 30 days before shifting to something that better aligns with specific buyer’s journeys or decision-making moments.

Another option that also helps personalize emails for users is to allow them to customize the frequency at which they receive communication.

It’s up to you to test and determine what works best for your audience.

5. Testing and revisions

And speaking of testing, if you aren’t tracking the performance of your emails, then why even send them? Managers of successful drip email campaigns are always evaluating their open rates, click thru rates, and unsubscribes so they can make changes to optimize their campaigns.

One of the easiest ways to test your email performance (and any automated email provider will offer this element) is to run A/B tests. You can compare performance on anything from subject lines (which will help determine open rates) to content within your emails (which will help determine click-through rates).

Keep testing and making changes based on what is working for your audience, and you will begin to improve your email performance and ROI.

Wrap up

While it’s not difficult to create a drip email campaign and it can more challenging to create a successful drip email campaign. The problem is what works for one company may not work for another, or even amongst two segmented lists at the same company.

It’s helpful to review the best practices and essential elements and tools that will help you develop successful drip email campaigns, but in the end, it’s up to you to tinker with your strategy and execution to find what works for you to reach your goals and boost your sales.

About the Author

Lane Harbin

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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