Businesses began to use email marketing in the mid-nineties. It remains one of the most powerful marketing tools today, although, as with any technology, the way we utilize the tool has evolved. One-off emails can be effective for immediate purchases, but when you are trying to sell professional services, the decision-making process takes a little longer and simple email campaigns may not hit the mark. One interaction is simply not sufficient to develop a long-term relationship. Enter drip marketing.
To successfully fill your pipeline and keep it flowing, you need to help prospects through the buying cycle by providing relevant information at the right time. Nurturing your leads will involve multiple communications, each containing the appropriate information in the form of relevant content.
Implementing smart, strategic and sensitive drip campaigns can help move a prospect through the buying process and dramatically increase the effectiveness of the email marketing strategy you already have in place.
What exactly is drip marketing?
The term “drip marketing” comes from the irrigation process of dripping water on crops over a period of time. Let’s say that you dump a bucket of water on a tomato plant. The plant will drown and die, without ever growing a fresh, juicy tomato. But if you give the plant enough drops of water over time, the plant will get the water it needs without becoming doused or overwhelmed, eventually sprouting tomatoes ripe for the taking.
Drip marketing follows the same logic. By sending regular messages at appropriate intervals with the proper content, your prospects won’t drown in your messaging or become overwhelmed. Meanwhile, you will successfully nurture each one until they’re ready to buy what you’re selling. If you have the right tracking tools in place, you’ll know when it’s time to harvest your home-grown, drip campaign leads.
Not only does a well thought-out and planned drip campaign help you to nurture your prospects, it also reduces the amount of time spent by sales people educating and persuading your prospects, motivates your prospects to consider and evaluate your products and services, eliminates repetitive work by your marketing department via pre-designed and automatically-scheduled campaigns (based on whatever criteria you set), produces more leads with less effort, allows you to track and improve the effectiveness of your campaigns, and opens the door for additional opportunities and feedback. What’s not to love?
Types of effective email drip campaigns
Weekly, bi-weekly and monthly email newsletters constitute one form of drip marketing. The newsletters you send out full of informative content on topics of interest to your recipients are fantastic for maintaining brand recognition, staying top of mind, and identifying potential leads. But the best way to truly nurture prospects and develop new business is to supplement those newsletters with personalized, customized and targeted drip emails.
There are dozens of drip campaign subjects, topics, methodologies and objectives. Here are just a few examples of commonly-used, yet highly effective, email drip campaigns for professional service providers:
- Welcome new newsletter subscribers
- Promote an event, from initial invitation through post-event recap and highlights
- Establish thought leadership by providing relevant content on hot topics in your industry
- Answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your products/services
- Share client testimonials, case studies, interviews and reviews
- Introduce new services or products
- Educate contacts on lesser-known value-added services/products you provide
- Ask prospects or clients to join your social media communities, participate in surveys or other interactive activities
- Provide additional information on a topic of interest (as indicated by click through activity or other subscriber behavior)
- Distribute relevant and timely blog posts, articles, whitepapers or other engaging content
- Welcome new clients by introducing their key team contacts, what they can expect and next steps
Designing a compelling email drip campaign
Email drip campaigns can be effective in achieving many things: building relationships with prospects and clients, increasing client retention and increasing sales (including cross-sales and up-sales). But it can be challenging to find the right balance of frequency-message-target to avoid annoying your leads or drowning them. Drip marketing can actually be a delicate process. You have to understand your target markets, know what your audience wants and needs, and give it to them without coming across as pushy, salesy, aggressive, or just super annoying.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your email drip campaigns:
1) Identify your target audience(s) – the very first step in developing a drip marketing campaign is to identify a specific target audience. The more specific your list, the more effective your campaign will be. Use whichever demographics or data is at your disposal to segment your target audiences into groups. You may have more than one target audience, indicating the need for more than one drip campaign. Go with the flow: one drip campaign per target audience.
2) Plan your campaign – repeatedly sending an email to a contact does not a drip campaign make. Strategy should be involved in the planning process. Each email in your drip campaign should be able to stand on its own, while simultaneously building upon the emails that precede it. All of the emails are strategically thought out, sequenced and timed. The goal of a drip campaign is to encourage a specific action. Keep your key objective in mind when planning your campaign… Is your goal to remain top of mind? Or raise brand awareness? Or guide the prospect through the buyer’s cycle? Or sell supplementary services? Or educate contacts on what you can do for them? Or warm up a lead? Your key objective will steer the plan and the messaging accordingly.
3) Solve your prospects’ problems – the very best way to ensure that your messages elicit the response that you want is if those messages actually do something for the prospect. If you truly understand your prospects and the problems they face, you’ll be able to connect with those individuals on a much deeper, more emotional level. While your competitors hawk their products and offer random news, you will actually be helping your prospective clients manage their business better, make and save more money, live life better or whatever else your business does.
4) Hone your messages – not every drip campaign is appropriate for every target audience on your list. However, regardless of which “type” of drip campaign you send out, the messages in your drip campaign should tell a story. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They build up to a climax, at which point the prospect (ideally) makes the decision to move forward and contacts you. Even if your campaign’s objective is to promote thought leadership, there is always the underlying objective to get a sale, so apply the story theme to your messaging. Design your emails so that each successive message builds upon the prior message and the final message reaches a crescendo effect. Make sure the information you send is meaningful and relevant to the group you are targeting.
5) Time your messages appropriately – you don’t want to inundate your recipients with too much information too quickly. If your drip campaign supplements another email campaign (for example, your monthly email newsletter), be sure to take the newsletter delivery into account when scheduling your drip messages so that they complement one another rather than compete. The most effective drip campaigns occur continually over a long period of time, consistently providing value, regardless of where your prospects are in the sales cycle. Your prospects may, over the course of your relationship, receive numerous drip campaigns as you will constantly woo and nurture them as their status and relationship to you changes over time. They will only receive one campaign at a time, of course, but over the span of five years, they may receive five or more different drip campaigns based on their interests, behavior, and progression through the buyer’s cycle.
6) Provide benefits with your messages – make sure your drip campaign includes benefits for existing clients as well as for prospective clients. You might include articles or whitepapers that help them operate their businesses more efficiently or save more money on a monthly basis without losing available pocket cash. You want your prospects to look forward to your communications, and dripping them with relevant, helpful and informative content that provides them some kind of benefit will do just that.
7) Avoid too much automation – one of the keys to a successful email drip campaign is to not let the recipient know that it’s an automated campaign. If your drip campaign sounds robotic, you skipped too many of the above tips, starting with the very first one. It is essential that the content you distribute to your contacts through your various campaigns is targeted specifically to the recipients’ needs and interests. If the content isn’t relevant or beneficial, you are likely to lose the relationship. Possibly forever. Make sure that what you send out in your messages nurtures and engages your prospects rather than turning them off.
An email drip campaign can be an excellent business development and lead generation tool to help you grow your business. Use drip marketing to promote value-added service offerings, promotions, thought leadership, expertise in a particular subject matter, or reinforce your brand and watch your pipeline of warm leads grow fertile and flourish.
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