A longtime staple in digital marketing, email campaigns remain an effective tool for driving subscribers to take action.
Automated email drip campaigns are a strategic tool for helping brands reach their business objectives allowing you to build a sustainable email strategy around specific conversion goals and drive results by delivering relevant information at the right time.
In this article, I’m going to quickly go over how to set up a drip campaign and provide some examples from real brands so you can see what a variety of successful campaigns look like in action.
What You’ll Learn:
- What is an email drip campaign
- How to create an effective drip campaign
- How to nail your email copywriting
- 13 examples of awesome email drip campaigns
What is a Drip Campaign?
An email drip campaign is an automated outreach strategy comprised of a series of messages that are sent, or “dripped” to an audience based on a specific action.
Email drips are pre-written marketing emails that focus on moving customers toward a final conversion goal, one step at a time.
Drips differ from other types of campaigns in that they rely on behavioral and time-based triggers, though it’s worth noting, campaigns can range from a super simple sequence to complex workflows based on a series of rules.
Case in point, this lead qualification flowchart found on Aritec’s blog:
How to Create an Effective Drip Campaign
According to MarTech Zone, drip campaigns often see open rates up to 80% higher than one-off emails.
However, if you want to get these kinds of results, you’ll need to start with the right foundation.
Before I go over some specific examples, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how you might set it all up.
Define Your Goals
Like any marketing strategy, the first step toward any successful campaign is starting with a clear objective. What is it you’re trying to accomplish with this campaign?
- Are you trying to increase the number of checkouts?
- Drive engagement among subscribers?
- Warm up new leads?
- Drive adoption through an effective onboarding process?
Be specific and focus on one goal per campaign. Once you’ve determined your goal, you’ll then want to consider how someone might end up in this campaign.
Who is Receiving this Email and Why?
So, the goal here is going to be making sure that the right people receive the right message at the right time. As such, you’ll need to establish who will be segmented into this particular campaign.
To do this, work through the following questions:
- What action did someone take to end up in this campaign? Did they subscribe to a newsletter? Make a purchase?
- What challenges and pain points does this group face?
- What are their goals?
- What will it take to capture their attention?
- What do you want the reader to do after opening each email?
From there, you’ll also want to define your target segment. This might include new customers, blog subscribers, free trial users, or people who downloaded a specific resource.
How Many Emails Will You Send?
Your next move is determining how many touchpoints you’ll want to include in this series.
According to Coschedule, more than 60% of consumers want to see emails from brands on a weekly basis. Though it’s worth noting that this applies more so to B2C brands. B2Bs should err on the conservative side and avoid sending more than five or so emails a month.
However, the number of touchpoints and cadence depends heavily on your campaign goals. What topics do you plan on covering throughout this series?
Real quick; here are a few different examples of how you might map out your campaign based on your objective.
Abandoned cart emails are triggered by the customer’s non-action. In this case, you’ll set up a sequence based on timing, which might look like this:
- Follow up six hours after abandoning cart with a message that taps into the reader’s sense of scarcity.
- Send another email the next day offering a short term offer–think free shipping or a small discount.
- At the 72-hour mark, follow up again with a last-chance offer. Naturally, you’ll want to offer a larger discount than what was presented in the previous email.
Onboarding or Educational Campaigns
With an email course or onboarding series, you’ll want to break up your campaign into a series of short lessons. Here’s an example of how you might structure an onboarding flow.
Notice that while this is pretty linear, you’ll want to set up two tracks–active and inactive–to drive adoption. With the active group, you’ll focus more on guiding users toward success, whereas inactive users might receive a reminder or an offer to help.
Lead Nurture Campaign Flow
Lead nurture campaigns follow another approach, one defined by several triggers and actions based on how customers interact with your content.
Nail Down Your Messaging
The next step is determining what information to share in your email campaign.
Make sure you give yourself adequate time to write this content; otherwise, your efforts could backfire (bad emails land in the spam folder, enough said).
Email copywriting is a whole topic on its own, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you write each email.
Write with the Reader in Mind
Again, remember who you’re writing to.
Consider the relationship this segment currently has with your brand. Are you making an introduction, checking in with long-time users, or making a last-ditch effort to prevent customers from leaving?
Someone who just signed up for a SaaS tool should receive different information than someone who shops an e-commerce site semi-regularly. The point is, you’ll want to craft your messaging based on where this person is in the customer journey, and what information is most helpful at that stage.
What Do You Want them to Do?
You’ve defined your goal and figured out who you’re talking to. Now, you’ll want to tailor your content around your desired action.
- Driving blog traffic? Explain why these articles are relevant to the reader. What can they expect to learn? Why should they care?
- Showing off a new feature? Show readers how easy it is to log in and what they can do inside the platform.
- Boosting sales? Highlight relevant promotions and new items based on what you know about this audience.
Write for the Scanners
While emails don’t come with the character constraints of say, Twitter, that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with the text. Your email should be formatted for easy scanning–with subheads, graphics, and plenty of white space.
The examples featured down below show formatting best practices in action, but if you’re not sure where to begin, you might want to perform some competitive intel. Look at how other companies in your industry typically format their emails–how much text is there, what kinds of imagery do they use?
While you’ll want to create emails that match your brand’s look and feel, you’ll also want to design your emails so that they fit in with customer expectations.
Email Drip Campaign Ideas
Because the one thing they all have in common is that they’re all automated, drip campaigns can take many different forms. Even within a category like onboarding emails or re-engagement campaigns there’s a ton of diversity.
Here are some examples of how brands are using drip campaigns, broken down by goal.
Right off the bat, Glitch captures your attention using color and appealing graphics to welcome new users to the platform. The email offers a basic overview of what you can find on the site, suggesting a few areas you might want to check out.
Full disclosure: I’m not sure if this example was used as part of an onboarding series. However; something like what Litmus has done below could easily fit into a welcome campaign based on introducing features in bite-sized lessons.
Another strong onboarding example comes from CampaignMonitor. Here, you’ll notice that they’ve done a nice job emphasizing the desired action. You’ve got the headline that reads, “create your first email in minutes,” reinforced by the “create your campaign” CTA.
Rudy’s abandoned cart reminder email is simple, light-hearted (gotta love that headline), and it contains an offer code to sweeten the deal.
While I’d recommend adding a specific expiration time to further build on that urgency, the overall effect is really solid.
Whisky Loot a whisky subscription box takes a different approach to the abandoned cart. They’ve done a nice job using humor to make the case for conversion, then toward the bottom, they’ve included some FAQs.
Subscription boxes often require a bit more information to move the sale forward, and this email offers potential customers the information they might need to make a decision.
Here’s an example from Audible designed to talk the recipient down from the ledge by offering something of perceived value. While sure, giving away free audio files won’t cost them anything, it does incentivize the user to give the subscription service one more chance.
Keep in mind, this strategy depends heavily on timing. Here’s an example from Sleeknote that shows some of the email triggers they use to prevent customer churn.
In the example below, Dropbox highlighted a handful of features that the reader might not have known about to get them to come back for another chance. What’s great about this example is it keeps the copy to a minimum, it’s easy to scan, and the CTAs are crystal clear.
Here, Resy approaches re-engagement a bit differently than the previous examples. In this case, they’re reaching out to existing subscribers to introduce a new feature.
They’ve done a nice job showing users exactly how to get started, with two CTAs that let them get started ASAP.
Further down the page (not pictured), you’ll find links to the App Store and the Play Store to drive downloads and images from their Instagram feed. Sent to the right segment, this approach could drive more user activity by making it easier for people to track their favorite restaurants and reserve a spot.
Online education platform, Skillshare uses the following email to promote its premium service. The email rounds up a series of recommended courses that someone interested in business might want to check out. What’s more, the brand uses urgency to
Lumi, a packaging supplier that sells to e-commerce brands and subscription box companies is technically using this newsletter to upsell customers on a full packaging solution.
However; this email focuses mostly on educational content and finishes with a subtle plug for their podcast. In all, it reads more like a series of helpful tips and content recommendations than a sales pitch.
Newsletter Drip Campaigns
Grammarly sends about 16 emails a month to their subscribers, which focus primarily on sending fellow writers links to articles that offer actionable advice.
In this example below, the brand uses graphics and white space to draw the eye to recommended articles–all aimed at helping their audience become better writers.
For another approach, here’s an example from HubSpot used to welcome new subscribers to the blog. The plain text and personalization give this a more personal touch than some of the other entries on the list.
While marketers have been debating for years whether polished templates or plain text is best, I’d recommend using this approach if you’re in B2B sales or you’re creating a drip campaign to promote a personal brand.
Use Email Drip Campaigns to Grow Your Email List
Another email drip campaign idea is to create an email series designed to drive subscribers. Before you write this one off for violating explicit consent rules, it’s worth noting that this strategy can work really well for e-commerce platforms.
In this case, you’re targeting customers who have purchased from your website but haven’t subscribed to your newsletter. For example, if you look at Lululemon’s checkout page, the brand makes it clear that they’ll be sending order updates:
If the customer doesn’t opt into newsletter updates, the following sequence can still be used as a drip campaign:
- Confirmation email
- Shipment notification
- Delivery confirmation
- Follow up
Hopefully, the email drip campaign ideas above offer some inspiration that can help you develop your own laser-focused campaign.
Email drip campaigns might seem intimidating at first, but they’re an essential part of any marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get more Instagram followers or nurture B2B buyers toward closing a massive deal, email marketing requires big-picture planning to get results.