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Drip Email Marketing Explained (with 11 Examples)

Email marketing is all about keeping in better touch with your customers. The bigger and more engaged your list becomes, the more revenue that can be generated for businesses in all industries. But how can you repeatedly engage with your users in an authentic, personalized, and helpful way?

The answer is using a powerful feature of email marketing: Drip Email Marketing. In this article, I’ll talk about what drip email marketing is, and how it is important. Then, we’ll look at 11 examples of this technique. You can easily use any combination of these drip campaign types to achieve better sales numbers.

What is Drip Email Marketing?

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Simply, drip email marketing is the sending of pre-planned and programmed emails to your clients and email prospects over time. We call it this because the emails “drip” in rather than being sent all at once. Individual emails can be “triggered” in several different ways. For instance, a lot of companies send out a birthday email with a coupon or special gift offer. The key to these emails is that they contact your email contacts several times over a period of days, weeks, or months. 

Keep in mind, there are two basic ways that drip email marketing messages can be “triggered.” Some are automatic, like holiday sales and birthdays. Others result from consumer actions, such as welcome emails and purchase confirmations. In addition, the amount of personalization can vary between email batches. I’ll get into these distinctions a bit more as each type of drip email is discussed below. 

How Does It Improve Your Email Marketing?

Drip email marketing has many benefits to your overall email marketing efforts. Not only does it give you an opportunity to communicate with the customer, like with transactional emails, but it lets you build a relationship. Once you consider the benefits of email marketing in general, and the boost that drip emails supply, it’ll be easy to know why there’s a superior ROI for email marketing overall.

Improved Automation

One of the things that we marketers often struggle with, especially for small companies, is keeping up with repetitive tasks. However, with drip email marketing, we can “set and forget” at least the bulk of our emails. For instance, if you want to send a “thank you” to every customer that buys something, it’s easy to set up an automatic email for each purchase. Then, you only need to think about potentially rewriting or revising your stock email on occasion, because times do change.

Further Reading: What is Email Marketing Automation and How Much Can You Actually Automate?

Easy Audience Segmentation

Especially if you have a wide range of products, you should segment your email marketing. With drip email campaigns, you can easily send the right email to the right group. For instance, a clothing company that sells outfits for men and women could send some emails to the customers that buy men’s clothes, and other emails to those who buy women’s clothes. In the middle, you’ll see households that purchase both lines. Your email automation can be set to market the right clothes to the right customers with minimal effort.

Better Audience Engagement

Another benefit of drip email marketing is improved audience engagement. Here, I mean interaction with your brand. For instance, the right email campaign will encourage people to view your product and service offerings by clicking through. If you offer a coupon, for instance, customers will often look at the products included in the promotion. And, this is one place where segmentation really works: while it’s impossible to always know which customers want or need a certain product, you’ll have a good idea through browsing habits and other analytics. So, with a segmented email campaign, you can try to match these interests with a promotion.

Likewise, drip email marketing can encourage people to spread the word about a product or service. In some cases, customers will forward an email to their friends or family who might need something. This way, it saves time over simply telling their friend about your products. And as we know, word-of-mouth marketing is a very important aspect of audience engagement.

Stay Top of Mind

Finally, with drip email marketing your brand can easily stay top of mind. People don’t think about your brand unless you remind them. And while something as simple as their using your product on a daily basis can help them remember you, it’s important that customers know you are still in business. In addition, you never know when customers will need something. When that happens, you need to be top of mind to get the sale.

Further Reading: 6 Steps for Targeted Email Marketing That Delivers High ROI

11 Examples of Drip Marketing to Implement

A lot of email marketing software, with the exception of Drip, of course, doesn’t give you instructions on how to do drip email marketing or even have the term “Drip” in their menus or user interface. That is because the functionality is already built into most major email tools using names like “email sequences” or messages that you send as part of automation. In other words, drip email marketing has become so important to email marketing as a whole, that it is ubiquitous.

With that in mind, you might already be doing drip marketing without knowing it, but just in case, here are 11 specific examples of drip email marketing that you should consider adding to your automation today. Depending on your brand and product, some are more important or appropriate than others. For that reason, not every brand needs to do all of these drip email marketing types.

1. Welcome Emails

Welcome Emails

Truth is, most of us send welcome emails. And if you aren’t sending a welcome email when customers sign up for marketing emails, you’re doing it wrong. Welcome emails are simply a “thank you” for subscribing to emails, whether the subscription is a response to a coupon offer, automatic from purchases, or simply spurred by interest. In other words, these emails are sent to each email address once, and never again. They come in a wide variety, from coupons to branded humor and exclusive content.

2. Lead Nurture

Drip email marketing isn’t always about selling right now. Lead nurture emails are intended to keep your brand top of mind for when the time comes. In particular, these emails build brand affinity with a wide variety of methods. For example, a craft or home improvement company might send out tutorials. These tutorials fulfill multiple purposes, such as telling customers what they can do with something they buy. Alternatively, a tutorial can demonstrate to someone that a particular product is a solution to whatever problem they have.

Another example of lead nurturing might be a newsletter. These are very popular with influencers, nonprofits, and creatives. However, traditional for-profit organizations also send out newsletters. In some cases, these include product announcements and changes in key personnel. At the end of the day, the options for lead nurture emails are endless.

3. Abandoned Shopping Carts

Did you know that almost 70% of carts are abandoned? These abandoned shopping carts are especially troubling for e-commerce websites because it means that people have changed their minds about buying something. And, because it’s hard enough to get people to visit an e-commerce site, those “almost” sales should be salvaged if possible.

Getting people who “almost” bought to pull the trigger is the object of abandoned cart emails. And in many ways, this is one of the more valuable drip email marketing options, because people who abandon their carts have some interest in your brand. You can take a few different approaches to these emails, including reminders (what are you waiting for) to coupons (here’s an extra reason to buy). Coupons are especially effective when the cost of shipping is high or you are trying to get someone to try your products for the first time.

Further Reading: 9 Types of Transactional Emails Every Marketer Should Know

4. Follow-up Emails to Educate and Onboard Your Audience / Tutorials / Tips

After a purchase, customers often enjoy tips and tricks. The same goes after they subscribe to your emails, for whatever reason. One common approach is to send people a link to a tutorial. This can be in conjunction with an influencer marketing campaign where the influencer made a “how-to” video. Or, you could send a manufacturer email that shows people how to operate something. 

These follow-ups don’t need to be straight tutorials, though. Some products can be used for things that people don’t initially expect. In this case, you can give people a helpful tip on alternative uses. And finally, tips can touch on ways to, for example, make something work better than it would otherwise. All of these tips are appreciated by people who use certain products.

5. Promotions / Limited Offer / Free Trial Campaign

Promotions / Limited Offer / Free Trial Campaign

Most of us are very used to these drip email marketing campaigns, especially around holidays. Sometimes the promotion is something simple, like 20% off or buy one, get one. However, not all promotions are this simple. You might talk about a limited offer like a gift with purchase or throwing in free shipping. Finally, free trials are great for subscription services of all types. Ideally, you’ll send segmented promotional emails to your audience because it’ll increase the effectiveness of the campaign.

Further Reading: How to Leverage Ecommerce Email Marketing to Increase Your Sales (with 14 Examples)

6. Re-Engagement

No matter how you cut it, customers are going to “disappear” somewhat regularly. In particular, people will buy from your company once or maybe a few times, then stop. This is where re-engagement emails are useful. This drip email marketing technique involves sending a reminder, such as a coupon or other offer, to someone who hasn’t bought for a while. The idea is to get those people to buy things once again. Or at least, let them remember that your brand is still around, so they can recommend you to someone else.

What’s so awesome about re-engagement? Simply put, you can reduce “churn,” or the extent to which you need new customers to replace old ones. While you won’t succeed in recovering a company 100% of the time, you can at least keep more customers than you would otherwise. At the end of the day, this also saves marketing money.

7. Webinars / Events

Webinars / Events

In this case, the drip email marketing campaign announces your webinars or events. Virtual events are quite useful in our context of reduced travel, and these include webinars. These events can be anything from a discussion of products and services to a more generic industry-wide topic that helps your customers understand more about your business. Similarly, events that you advertise through drip email marketing can be online or offline, such as trade shows, conferences, or hobby events.

8. Upsell/ Cross-selling Drips

Just because a customer wants to buy a particular item doesn’t mean it’s the best one for them. Likewise, if somebody buys something, they might find that the item works better if they have something else to go with it. Or, a particular product/service package might be a better value overall than the product someone intends to buy.

Sending an upsell or cross-selling drip email marketing message is one of the best ways to capture this extra money. Customers don’t always realize that there are better options than the ones they might have settled on. Or, they may not realize that they can get the most out of their purchase with a better one. For example, someone might buy a laptop stand without realizing that the stand they’ve chosen works better if they have an external keyboard and mouse. By sending those emails, you get the opportunity to harness more value out of each customer.

9. Purchase Confirmations / Thank You Email

Purchase confirmations are one type of drip email marketing you might not think of as marketing. After all, someone who gets these emails has just made a purchase, and you’re mostly sending them the order information. However, these purchase confirmations have some value for marketing because they express gratitude and give a good impression. 

10. Renewals

If you have any type of subscription service, this kind of drip email marketing is a must. You need to let people know when their subscription will be renewed if nothing else. You can also use this as an opportunity to offer a special deal, like two months free if they pay a whole year in advance. This kind of creativity lets people feel good about renewals and helps you retain customers.

11. Birthday Drip Campaigns

Birthday Drip Campaigns

Finally, we have a type of drip email marketing that people love: birthday emails. Many loyalty programs ask members for their birthdays when they join. In addition, some professional services need that information for other reasons. Either way, sending out some birthday cheer, either with gifts and coupons, or just greetings, is a nice gesture. People remember this kind of considerate behavior, even from brands. Plus, they’re often looking to spend money and treat themselves.

Drip email marketing is increasingly a part of every marketer’s life. In some ways, it’s also an old-fashioned way of reaching customers while still remaining a good way. Email is far from dead: in fact, emails remain one of the best ways to reach most people. If you aren’t doing email marketing, you should be. And once you start with this kind of marketing, drip campaigns are a must.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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