June 04, 2014

How to run a drip campaign, Part I


{This is Part 1 of a four post series on writing a drip campaign. If you're ready to skip ahead, click here to see Part 2, here for Part 3, or here for Part 4.}

Who can benefit from running a drip campaign?

Sometimes, the process of turning a contact into a business transaction is simple and short. You want to sell your car. Your cousin has a friend who needs a car. You email him, describe the car, and tell him the price. He agrees to buy it.


Unfortunately, most transactions -- heck, most THINGS -- aren't that simple. If you have something uniquely valuable to offer people, it usually takes to time to explain what it is, why it's valuable, how it works, and more. That's pretty much impossible to do in one sitting, even if you know exactly what you're going to say.

So what IS a drip campaign?

Enter... the drip campaign.

Drip campaigns work by slowly, methodically making your argument in a series of messages, with a healthy (but not extreme) amount of time in between each one. To fit the analogy, if your total sales & marketing effort for a given customer is a bucket full of water, the drip campaign allows you to slowly expend that effort over time, drip by drip, patiently, consistently, and effectively.

High value sales, like houses, or big contracts, often take the longest to close. These are big decisions for customers, and they aren't made lightly, or without sleeping on it. Of course, in the real world, that means distractions, other projects, other needs, and plenty of reasons to postpone the sale. This is the classic challenge of staying "top of mind" with leads and contacts -- you and your business are NOT the most important thing to customers (even if they're the most important thing to you). The trick is to space your communication out over time, so that when the time does come where someone is ready to make a purchase, chances are they've heard from you recently.

When done well, this is what the drip campaign provides -- a tiny series of positive interactions between you and a prospective customer that keep you (and what you're offering) in the minds of your audience. At some point, they're going to make a decision, and a drip campaign increases the odds that when they do, you'll be in the middle of it.

How is this different from just emailing people?

Remember -- it's called a "drip" campaign, not "spraying customers with a hose". The last thing you want to do is flood people with spam, repeating messages, or anything that's going to cause resentment. Being annoying is generally not a good business practice, and the point of relationship marketing is to build positive relationships, not ones where everyone hates you and wishes you would go away.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="603"] I don't know, Calvin. I don't know.[/caption]

Aside from being annoying, emailing people at unplanned intervals isn't especially efficient or effective. You know the problems -- you forget about people, you repeat yourself, you make mistakes, and basically add lots of human error to what is basically a mechanical process. With a good drip campaign, you make sure that all customers are getting the same information, in the same way, in the same order. When you regulate your marketing efforts like this, it's a lot easier to learn how your campaign could be more effective, and to implement those changes quickly.

Another key aspect to drip campaigns is responsiveness. The best drip campaigns don't shout into the dark -- they're activated in response to a specific action from a customer, like meeting you at a certain trade show, inquiring about a certain product or service, or connecting with you through a certain channel. If you meet someone at a event about lawn & garden equipment, you may have a whole set of information to convey to them about lawn & garden related services you offer, which may be less relevant to people you meet through LinkedIn, or referrals to other parts of your business. That's the kind of person you put on a lawn & garden focused drip campaign.

This particular interaction with a prospective client activates my "awkward introduction" drip campaign.

Here's an example.

In a previous life, I used to make product videos for people, partially because I'm not too bad at it, and partially because it seems like everybody wants a product video. Generally, I'd charge about $2,000 for a video -- some people were okay with that price, some people thought it was a great deal, and some people needed to be built up to it. In fact, many people who would initially approach me did so grudgingly. They knew -- or felt like -- they needed a video, but they just wanted to "check the box" with the cheapest possible thing. The idea of paying $2,000 wasn't something they were prepared for.

In other words, these were classic long-term leads -- they were great candidates to benefit from what I had to offer, and they kind-of-sort-of understood that, but they weren't going to buy impulsively, and they could probably use a little convincing.

Foolishly, I never built a drip campaign. Instead, I handled each communication case-by-case, constantly and awkwardly reintroducing myself, repeating my arguments, and letting countless quality leads go without nuturing until they inevitably died.


Here's what I should have done.

  1. First email - "Hi, here's my consulting company. We make great videos. They look like this."

  • Second email - "Did you know that companies with videos generate X% more revenue? Here's an example of a company like that. I made their video! It looks like this."

  • Third email - "Do you know the difference between a good company video, and a good product video? Here they are. And here's one of each that I made!"

  • Fourth email - "How do you know if you have a bad video on your site? Here's a bad one. And here's a good one, that I made."

Given how many times I've done this, and how similar a lot of my clients were, I probably could have come up with another five or six email topics just like these, and built a solid, repeatable campaign. Then, I could have looked at who responded to what, and adjusted the campaign as I learned what worked and what didn't. No missed opportunities, no forgetting about my amazing abilities (says me). And that's just a general interest campaign; I certainly could have built one for medium-sized IT companies, or people I met through other channels.

Contactually can help.

Automation doesn't happen by itself, of course. (Is that ironic? I'm going to say it is.) There are a lot of great tools to help you with this kind of thing, but a lot of them are hard to justify learning & paying for if you don't have a lot of experience building drip campaigns. Contactually makes it really easy to get started with this sort of thing without using any other dedicated tools -- you can mix drip campaigns with your regular, ad-hoc correspondence very easily, and sort of dip your toe in the water of automated marketing.

Next week, we'll go over exactly how to do this, and you'll be ready to build your own campaign in no time.