Call Them Drip Campaigns, Nurture Campaigns or Persistence Campaigns
Drip marketing gets its name from drip irrigation, an agricultural system that applies carefully metered amounts of water to the root system of plants. It’s a good analogy. By delivering just the right amount of water to the critical place on each plant over time, drip irrigation gets the maximum results in terms of growth with the minimum amount of resources. In the same way, a carefully selected series of messages delivered to the customer by direct marketing methods, such as email or regular mail, can place the right amount of communication to your customers with minimal effort on your part.
By applying messages over a prescribed period of time in calculated intervals and in a progressive sequence, drip campaigns help build and maintain customer awareness of your company and products and systemically move the customer into an active sales cycle when they are ready to buy.
These campaigns offer two outstanding benefits. First, their response rates almost always exceed single event promotions or campaigns. Second, they can be executed with very little effort. It takes time and effort to plan the campaign, craft the messages, schedule the deliveries, create the content assets and the like, but once the setup is complete the campaign can pretty much be put on autopilot. At each of your scheduled intervals you touch the customer in a low-cost manner without further effort on your part.
If you are considering implementing these multiple flight campaigns, also consider the following three essential principals.
Target Highly Specific Audiences
The first step in a drip or nurture marketing campaign is to identify a specific target audience – and the more specific the better. Your customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you identify, categorize or segment target group recipients. Identifying target audiences by multiple variables, such as a combination of persona, buy cycle phase and industry, will increase engagement and conversions.
Some campaign types or lines of business are better candidates for drip marketing than others. In general, drip marketing works best when you’re dealing with high-value items purchased at infrequent intervals or where there is a long sell cycle. In business-to-business marketing, capital expenditure items like computer systems, technology software solutions or heavy machinery are often sold with the aid of drip marketing.
In the consumer industries, businesses such as car dealers and real estate agents are good fits for drip marketing.
Architect a Message Sequence that Resonates
Although you could send the same or similar messages repeatedly in your drip marketing campaign, that’s generally a waste of resources – and customer attention.
Ideally the messages in a drip or nurture marketing campaign are like a novel or a symphony. That is, they have a beginning, a middle and an end and they build for an overall closing effect on the customer. Drip marketing experts apply specific themes to their outbound messages where each successive message builds upon the prior message and the final message reaches a crescendo effect.
The more tightly you have defined your target audience, the better you can target your messaging. Consider a real estate agency which has decided to target first time home buyers. As a group first time home buyers are very concerned with price and secondarily with location (close to good schools, etc.). The messages in the campaign might build on the primary theme that now is the time to buy.
Messages for this demographic might include starter homes the agency is handling, first time buyer incentives, mention of government programs to further help first time home buyers, talk about the tax advantages of home ownership and other topics that specifically relate to first-time buyers. Each message should end with a call to action, such as the delivery of more specific content or inviting the potential home buyer to contact the agency to see what programs are available to the buyer candidate.
Create the Campaign Plan
Drip campaigns are different from just contacting a customer repeatedly. In drip marketing each message is part of a carefully choreographed effort to produce a desired result with the least effort.
Your drip or nurture marketing plan includes the schedule of contacts as well as the sequence of messages and supporting content assets. You want to hit each customer an effective number of times at the appropriate interval. You may want to vary the frequency of your outbound touches.
In the beginning when the lead is fresh you might want to hit them weekly, or even near daily. Then later you may back off to once a month or so. Alternatively if you're trying to motivate the customer toward an event on a specific date, you may want to start with less frequent contacts and then touch the customer more frequently as the date approaches.
All of this is a good deal of work if you try to do it manually. But with a CRM or marketing automation system you can automate the process as well as more easily determine or refine your target audience. In the case of an email marketing campaign this can be as simple as setting up the distribution schedule of which message you want to send to which customers and then configuring the CRM software to send them automatically.
CRM systems also help you collect the results of the campaigns, evaluate where each customer is in the sales cycle and use the real-time information to make course corrections and launch further marketing programs. For example, a car dealer might have a separate follow up campaign for customers who have come in to take a test drive. This might be a first contact by a sales person, then a special offer, or another, more specialized, drip marketing campaign.
This is especially helpful since you are probably going to be running more than one campaign at a time. A medium sized business may have dozens of drip or nurture campaigns going simultaneously. That is nearly unmanageable without something like a CRM system to track, manage and measure them all. Even with technology, many small businesses outsource the effort to marketing-as-a-service specialists.
Please Don't Spam
Lastly, be sure to differentiate your drip marketing emails from spam. Make sure your customers have opted in to your program or you have an ongoing business relationship with them. Give them an opt-out in every email and be sure to respect their wishes.
If they don't want to receive your emails, they're not likely to respond to your campaign. Don’t be too quick to give up on them, however. Many customers, especially older ones prefer not to be contacted by email. They may however respond through another channel.