How to Boost Sales with a Drip Marketing Campaign

Sometimes, slow and steady marketing is the best way to win the race.
A successful drip marketing campaign determines a goal to lead customers toward. (Photo: astephan/Shutterstock)

Every business wants to be the go-to brand consumers think of when they’re in the market for the products and services it provides.

While you may not be able to plant your brand into consumers’ subconscious, you may be able to “drip” your way in. Drip marketing is an approach used to nurture leads and build brand awareness by “dripping” a series of pre-planned messages to customers based on their interactions with your brand.

Here’s how it works.

Why drip?

The phrase “drip marketing” finds its roots in the agricultural practice of drip irrigation, which “drips” small amounts of water over long periods to grow the crop. Drip marketing campaigns are used to nurture leads and engage with consumers over time to grow the relationship with your brand.

While an ask is definitely part of the plan, it doesn’t come until late in the campaign, after you’ve built rapport with the customer, according to Rodger Roeser, CEO of public relations firm The Eisen Agency.

The elements of a drip campaign

A drip campaign involves a set of marketing messages, usually sent via email or sometimes by direct mail, that are triggered by actions your customer or potential customer takes.

Related: 7 Common Email Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The goal. First, identify your ultimate goal: what action you want the customer to take as a result of your campaign — for instance, making a purchase, attending an event you’re hosting or writing a review on Yelp or Google for your small business. For each “drop” in the campaign (each email, postcard, etc.), include a call to action — a push to visit your website or a blog post, for example, said Roeser. Then see if there’s a corresponding uptick in visits.

Rodger Roeser

“Drip marketing can be used effectively in virtually any marketing medium.” -Rodger Roeser (Photo: Rodger Roeser)

The trigger. With your campaign goal in mind, consider what customer actions will serve as triggers to start the drip. Once someone completes one of the actions — such as filling out a form on your website, following your brand on social media or purchasing a specific item or type of item — the drip campaign will be activated.

The flow. When building out your campaign workflow, determine the series of messages you want to include. Based on the trigger action(s) you’ve chosen, create a string of “drops” that engage with the customer and guide them toward your goal for the campaign.

The timeline. Determine the length of the campaign and how frequently your “drops” will go out. “Typically, a timeframe is established, such as six months, and you work backwards to reach out to these prospects to establish awareness, create trust, then offer a buy,” said Roeser.

The ask. The final piece of a drip campaign is the ask. Without it, your campaign will be a waste of time and money. Roeser shared this story as an example: “One company did a drip marketing campaign on us. After all three of the pieces came, I waited for someone to call me to ask for a meeting. No one did. So, an expensive campaign never led to anything because no one actually made the ask.”

An automated approach

“Drip marketing can be used effectively in virtually any marketing medium,” said Roeser. Email and direct mail, however, are likely your best bets since they are the easiest to automate.

Related: 4 Statistics That Prove Business Owners Shouldn’t Ignore Print Marketing

Many email marketing solutions offer free or low-cost options for automating drip campaign messages. Similarly, vendors such as AmazingMail, Lob and Boingnet can automatically send postcards to specific contacts based on campaign criteria. Low-cost automation options like these keep campaigns simple (and affordable) by sending the same series of messages to any customer who performs the trigger action.

If you’re able to spend more, robust marketing automation software like Marketo, HubSpot and Infusionsoft can help you build highly customized drip marketing campaigns. Using decision-tree workflows, they adjust the “drops” based on how the customer interacts with each one. Unfortunately, these options get pricey quickly, ranging on the low end from $200 per month and rising steeply from there.

Because drip campaigns are so easy to automate, they can be a great solution for small businesses with limited staff. Instead of remembering to manually send a series of follow-up emails to a customer, drip campaigns let you plan out your messages in advance so you can focus on running the business.

Related: Where to Allocate Your Small Business Marketing Dollars

Give it time

The most common drip campaigns are designed to increase familiarity with your brand and build trust over time. Often, a company will use a drip campaign to build relationships with consumers who may not be actively looking to buy. But if they’ve been engaged with an effective drip campaign, your business is more likely to come to mind when they are ready to make a purchase.

These campaigns are a long game. They don’t provide immediate gratification. “Drip marketing campaigns can take months, if not years,” said Roeser.

Jumping the gun and asking for a buy in the initial message “reeks of spam,” said Roeser, and will likely backfire since you haven’t established a trust relationship. Instead, take your time and win customers over with a slow, steady drip.

Related: What Small Businesses Need to Know About Permission Marketing

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